Ch-Ch-Changes

Four months ago, I wrote a whole blog about my experiences finding my inner athlete and how important that has been for me, for my healing. I meant every word.

I called it Athlete, Interrupted because my story really was of how the innate joy of being in my own body had been interrupted in my childhood.

I discovered running while I was on a quest that had begun in 2011 to “rediscover my inner athlete.” From July 2014 until around February of this year, running, training and races were a huge part of my life. If you’d have asked me a year ago if I would ever consider stopping running, I’d have said, “No way!”

I can’t believe it, but something has been shifting in me, and I’ve found it confusing.

It began with the last half marathon I trained for. I trained for 10 weeks, and loved it. On the morning of the race, it felt like any other. I had no idea what was coming.

It was a gorgeous but chilly January day in Central Park. I found my corral, and the race began. This particular race was two laps around the park.

Towards the end of the first lap around, right at the half way point in the race (6.5 mi,) I suddenly realized that I didn’t;t want to run any further. That I truly didn’t care if I finished and had no desire to do so.

Now, over the course of the years since 2012, in training for two marathons, and countless half’s, I’ve had the desire to stop while running. That comes up a lot. You push through, and you are usually the better for it. Sometimes, you really might need to stop, especially if you have the tendency to overtrain (as I have had.)

This was not one of those situations.

I felt so compelled that I ran off the path and let myself stop. I immediately felt overcome with emotion. Something in me was finally being given my own attention, and was so grateful.

But I felt guilty too. And sad. What was happening to me? How could my desire and commitment change so radically?

But was it truly radical? If I’m honest, looking back, I had been pushing myself to keep on running as intently as I had been for at least a year.

I had gotten so caught up in the running culture. It had given me so much joy, and such a respect for my body and its abilities. Awe for my own will and what I can accomplish if I decide to.

How could i be considering letting that go? To what? Run just to run? No more longer distances? No concern for pace?

Who was I to go from 5 days and 30 miles a week to 3-4 and 10- 18 miles? Wasn’t I going to go to hell in a hand basket? How could I change now? What if I reverted to before?

Yet, my spirit wanted other things. I was wanting to bring more creativity in my life. Not revolve my life around my training and running anymore. I felt a drive to write, to create more and revolve my life around that.

I wanted to simplify. I found myself craving other kinds of movement: Gyrotonic, Pilates. I had let those things fall away the last year.

My body was revolting! Calling me to wake up.

I fought the messages it was sending me. I didn’t trust them. What if it was laziness?

But I wanted to move, so it couldn’t be laziness. I even still wanted to run. Just not like I had been since 2012.

My body had to literally break down in order to get my attention. That is another blog when I have more distance. Suffice it to say that this was The Summer of Being Slowed Down. My body made it so that I had to listen.

I am still unraveling why I found it so hard to listen and trust my body. Why I held on so hard to running’s place in my life.

There’s always a part of me unconsciously looking for a formula. If I find something that creates happiness in my life, I want to keep doing A+ B to equal that C. As if as long as I just keep doing A+B, I’ll get C.

I think it has to do with my relationship to change. I mean, I know cerebrally we are supposed to change and grow. Still, some part of me gets scared that in letting go of something good, I will lose the good I have gained.

I guess that reveals a scarcity mentality. Some part of me fears losing what little good she has managed to get, so she thinks she can never change, or else she risks returning to the misery of before.

I am trying to work with the fears of that part of me. Help myself trust that change is good. That I am still being athletic, but in a different way.

And new – different – is good. It brings new – different – experiences. And that brings new information.

And through the new information gained in the experience, I become different. More.

I will help myself meet the change with trust and excitement instead of resistance and fear.

It means I am a living thing, that change-induced growth. Not a computer that can be programmed and set to repeat.

After all, I am always a work in progress. And that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: athletic

Athlete, Interrupted

Growing up, I was that kid who hated gym.

I’d try to hide when it was side-picking time. I’d try to avoid someone passing the ball during basketball. I’d get in the far outfield in softball. Volleyball? It was simply terrifying. There was nowhere to hide.

I could barely run a lap. I couldn’t do one pull up or push up.

I had zero confidence in my self. I was awkward physically, and had no sense of athleticism.

I decided early on that I did not have the right body for sports like running. I was too shapely and too heavy.

I tried. Boy did I try. Despite my social shyness, my physical awkwardness, my lack of self-assurance, I scraped together what pluck I could and tried to be on teams anyway.

They were a series of humbling failures.

As a very young girl, I had loved to move. I took ballet, tap and jazz from ages 3 -6, and I loved it. I danced all around my room at home, choreographing dances to well-worn albums of my parents’.

But after a move and a series of significant events in my sixth year, I became disconnected to my body. I began to live in my head, in a fantasy world created to blot out a reality that I was not equipped to handle.

And I turned to food as my, well, my everything. It numbed me out, it made me feel good, it comforted me, filled me, calmed me, excited me, made me feel safe, made me feel a part of something. It was my weapon, my barrier, my mode of expression. It was a mood stabilizer and alterer. My best friend, my lover, my family. My church.

So no wonder I became uncomfortable in my own skin and body and had trouble being in the world within it.

Mix in the social world of sports, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Later, after I lost weight rapidly on an extreme diet one summer when I was 12, I started exercising compulsively. I didn’t realize it at the time. I justified it. It was healthy, after all, to work out, right?

I lost and maintained a new, better looking weight, but I was just as disconnected from my body. As a matter of fact, though I knew I looked better to the world at this lower weight (suddenly I got positive attention – people wanted to know me,) I did not love myself any more than before. I actually became even more critical of my body. You could even say I hated it on some level.

It was never good enough. I wanted my body to look like the models in the glossy magazines I grew up reading. To be like the women in the movies and on TV. Like the girls at school that were popular and voted Most Beautiful. I compared the way I looked to world I was surrounded by in the media, and I always fell way short.

I concluded that in order to be lovable, I needed to look like them. Since I didn’t, I was doomed to a lonely, loveless, “loser” life. In my emotionally immature logic, I decided I had two choices: kill myself or reinvent myself.

So I turned to exercise as I had to food. It was a great way to numb out. A great thing to become obsessively-compulsive about. It’s much easier to disguise a disordered relationship with your body by working out too much. Most people think you are “just fine.” Our culture supports the idea of killing it at the gym: “No pain, no gain.” “Transform your body, transform your life.”

At my worst, I was working out 3 hours daily. My body ached, but I seldom noticed. My periods stopped and I felt exhausted all the time. My hair and skin looked awful.

There came a time when I realized that I wasn’t comfortable being around other people unless I had worked out for three hours. I started to understand that something was still way out of whack between me and my body.

Eventually, my world came to a crashing halt. My body simply could not withstand the way I was treating it.

I now understand how amazing the human body is. That it innately seeks healing and balance and has an intelligence far superior than that of my mind. My body called a halt to the imbalanced, disordered behavior, and demanded that I examine and re-approach my relationship to it.

Fast forward many years of therapy and recovery. I eventually have come to a place of understanding and connection again with my own body. A place of loving it as it is, even. (That journey is many blogs’ worth. Today I wanted to share about some of the fruits of that journey so far.)

After much healing, I started to work out again, but with the sole intention of doing it for my health, and for the pure pleasure of moving my body. I learned to listen to my body, giving it rest and recovery when needed. I found that early girl’s love of moving and I gave her plenty of space to play.

And at a certain point, after all those years of telling myself that it just wasn’t in the cards for me, I started to run.

In 2012, just after I had set a New Years’ intention of finding my inner athlete, I heard of an app that helped you go from “couch potato” to 5k runner. I was very inspired hearing about how well it had worked for a friend of mine. In June of that year, I started using it, and within a month, I was running 5k distances with ease.

And I found that I loved running! I started running 5 days a week, and it quickly became a major area of focus in my life. I ran a 5k race towards the end of 2012 on a lark, and discovered how much I loved running with a herd of other runners.

From that 5k, I ran a 10 miler, followed by a half marathon in Jan. 2013. I ran more half marathons in 2013, loving the training process. Training and racing became an important part of my life. I trained no matter what, and really began to feel like I had finally found my inner athlete.

And then, in 2014,  I ran my first marathon: the NYC Marathon. Crossing that finish line was a personal triumph for me for so many reasons. Not only was it an amazing accomplishment to have trained for such an iconic race and to finish it.

But to have brought myself through full circle from a child at home in her body, loving using it, to being completely shut down to my own physical life, to brutalizing it with disregard in order to become someone more lovable, to acceptance for and love of, to testing, training and ultimately celebrating the abilities of my own body.

I wept, as so many do, as I crossed that finish line. For the girl I had been before being interrupted. For the girl who got so lost and misdirected. I cried out of grief for all that they had lost. And I wept with joy for all I had come through, and for where I had brought myself to.

Today, I still love running. But I have continued to listen to my body, and today, she wants some different kinds of movement. I still run, but am not training and racing. I love those years where it held such prominence in my life. It was a five year span of joy, and I  learned so many things about how strong I am, and what amazing discipline I am capable of. But I’m seeking other experiences now.

I’ve been taking tap, which has been amazing to rediscover. (My inner 4 year-old is very happy!) I’d like to start taking ballroom dancing too. I am listening to see what is next. I trust my body will lead me where I most need to go. I know I will be moving, somehow.

My inner athlete is ever alive. Now that I found her, I will never let her go.

#itsnevertoolate #runforlife #running #runner #innerathlete

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: triumph