how running, not yoga, taught me to love my body

with every mile I ran, I found myself a little more.

Nancy Chen
Jul 28, 2017 · 3 min read

There’s a lot of hype surrounding yoga and body positivity. And while I’m a 100% yoga lover, it wasn’t a positive impact on my body image. On my peace of mind, sure, but on not how I viewed myself.

Why?

In a heated room where everyone is in their sports bras and there are mirrors all around, it’s easy to pick apart the way your body looks. The way that your belly folds when you twist in certain poses.

Yes — those are folds that everyone has, folds that are natural, folds that are beautiful, but sometimes, that’s hard to remember.

It’s addicting, almost. I look in the mirror to check my form, but also to admire my arms and suck in my belly.

But when you run, it doesn’t matter. You can’t see yourself; no one cares how you look. You’re running too fast to think about if your stomach jiggles or your thighs rub together.

It makes you feel alive. You feel every part of your body moving, every muscle working in tandem to carry yourself forward.

Running shows you that your body is capable of amazing things. That you’re strong. That your legs can carry you through miles and miles, that they hold you up, that they can still move when everything in your body is screaming “no.”

It’s deeply uncomfortable. It brings you to the end of your comfort zone, dangles you off the edge, and lets you push yourself over the edge. You test your limits, find you breaking point, and you improve. It’s kind of peaceful past the limits of your comfort zone, really. You find a quiet sense of clarity.

Running and yoga bring me a different kind of peace.

With every step I run, I lose myself and I find myself.

My legs have carried me to new places, carried me further than I have ever been. I’ve been mentally pushed to the edge; miles 20–25 of a marathon are hands down the most painful and brutal thing I have ever endured.

But running showed me that strong legs are necessary for propelling yourself off the ground with each step. That my body will do what my mind tells it. That I need to take care of my body, to rest it, to nourish it, in order to fuel those long training runs.

It made me proud of what I can accomplish, made me thank my body for enduring all I’ve put it through.

It’s been with me through my lowest parts and my highest parts. When it was all I could do to get out of bed every morning, running gave me something to look forward to.

Running the B.A.A. Half Marathon course along Jamaica Pond, the same way I used to carpool to work when I was struggling with body image, happiness, life, and balance, was a commemoration of everything I had survived. Back then, I didn’t believe I could run more than 4 miles, let alone 13.1.

So when the rain came pouring down on that early Sunday morning, I let it hide my tears. Training for that half marathon (and later, a full marathon), taught me more about myself than I ever knew, and brought me more peace and self love than I had ever imagined.

I changed from one of those people who said, “I can never do that,” to one of those people who said, “I can, and I will.”

That’s why, this year, I’ll be running my second B.A.A. Half Marathon along the same course — here’s to memories, to progress, to loving yourself more with every mile you run and finding peace and clarity with every step you take.

Even now, when I need to clear my mind, when I need to think of nothing and hear nothing but the steady beat of my heart and the pounding of my footsteps, I lace up my shoes and I run.

It’s freedom. It’s as close to flying as I’ll get, racing along the Esplanade. I am air, I am wind, I am weightless.

Inhale, exhale.

It’s the same as yoga, really — the connection of mind and body and breath.

Inhale, exhale.

Peace.

To read what I learned from training for (and running) a marathon, check out my blog post on Approaching Paleo.

Nancy Chen

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wellness blogger | psych/human behavior nerd | email marketing @perfectketo | I get weirdly enthusiastic about productivity ideas www.nourishbynancy.com