Run Strong, Run Happy

I love sarcasm. I practically speak it as a second language. Just ask my children. My sarcastic nature was forced on them at an early age. “Mom, you’re not serious are you?” “Mom, you don’t really mean that. — Do you?” But there is a place and time for it.

Yesterday runner and writer Matt Fitzgerald posted this sarcastic tweet:

MF Tweet

Now, he was joking. He does not think he needs to lose weight. However, just the posting of this photo and the joking around about weight rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it is because I am sensitive about this issue that I was unable to find the humor in his joke.

I would like to back up and say that I am generally a fan of Matt Fitzgerald. I have read and learned from many of his books, I follow him on social media, and I think that he has done a lot of good for runners and the running community. However, some of his commentary, particularly those in regard to Racing Weight have led me personally down a dangerous path, and I believe they could do the same for other runners as well.

As runners it is easy to get caught up in the idea that less weight equals faster times. Indeed, this is often true. However, it can also equal injury, long term health problems, eating disorders, unhappiness, and all sorts of negative things that you do not want in your life. And you know what weighs a lot that you do want on your body? MUSCLE. So I love you Matt Fitzgerald, but I reject your Racing Weight idea and everything that goes along with it. I think our energy is better focused on Racing Strong and Racing Happy.

Rather than focus on a magical number that may or may not be attainable, work on getting stronger. Work on muscular imbalance. Work on your mental game. Read Matt Fitzgerald’s book How Bad Do you Want It? which is full of stories where runners gave up mentally long before their bodies physically gave up.

We are all unique and strong and capable, just as we are. There is no magical Racing Weight number, and if we go searching trying to find it we are wasting precious energy and perhaps setting ourselves down a path to injury and unwellness. Instead, work on unlocking the strength and power that is already within you.

Out of the Darkness

I’ve been quiet for months and to my two readers, I apologize. Let’s just say it’s been a rough winter and spring didn’t quite bring the quick relief I was hoping for.

December was a rough month for me. I got injured during my goal race at the start of the month and about a week later some events occurred in my professional life which brought a great deal of stress into my personal life. I am still dealing with the impact of those events today. Without my usual coping mechanism of running I felt the effects of those incidents even more. And then there are the holidays which bring the shopping stress, parties and family drama. I was looking forward to all of it being over and having a chance to decompress.

For most of us January 1st brings hope. It is the start of a new year, a clean slate and a change to start over. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

I woke up on January 1st in a fog of depression. Instead of feeling a sense of renewed hope, I felt a sense of dread. Instead of feeling peace and quiet, I felt anxiety and panic. I felt the old demons rising up. To compound issues, we experienced an unusual amount of snow this winter. Typically, I would make the most of it by getting out and skiing, but skiing was out due to my femoral stress reaction. I increased my medication. I tried to stay active in other ways. I tried to reach out to people in my support network. None of this was easy, however. I felt exhausted all of the time. I snapped at my family, the people who l love and who love me the most.

As the snow melted and the flowers began to peek up through the earth, I felt moments where the fog would start to lift. Simultaneously, my femur had healed and I was able to return to running, albeit slowly and very gradually per my coach’s instructions. I shared the story of my winter depression with some of those around me and learned that I was not alone. Often when we struggle we do so in silence, fearful of the judgment from those around us. But when we share our struggles with others we learn that we are not unique in our suffering and we are not alone. Sharing helps to normalize our struggles. If you are feeling lonely and depressed, please talk to someone. It is more common than you think. If you tell someone who does not understand, try someone else. There are so many people out there who do understand and who want to help. If you are on the receiving end of someone who is talking about depression, please listen. Just listen without judgment. You could be the light in that person’s darkness. I’ve learned through my struggles that I don’t always have to try harder, but sometimes I have to try differently. The same is true for running. Maybe I don’t need to try harder in my training, maybe I just need to try differently.

A runner who I admire and follow on social media (@paceofme) posted a photo of a Spiral of Healing recently with the following explanation:

The spiral of healing. 🌀

This image and concept resonates so deeply with me, on so many levels, and has for all my life though I didn’t really recognize it in this way until very recently.

I drew this in my journal the other day and keep coming back to it, feeling thankful for the symbolism and for what it represents to me.

When we embark on our healing journey (whether this is from a physical injury, or a broken relationship with someone you love, or patterns of thinking or behavior that are causing you pain and truly don’t serve you well, etc), we begin with awareness (often painful) at our low and as we do the work to heal, we SPIRAL UP. It’s not a straight line and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really have an endpoint really. And as we go and we grow, and learn and build strength and create a better way for ourselves, with certainty we will have moments where we stumble or fall or simply just feel like we have plummeted into complete despair.

But look, we hold on, and we spiral back up and we keep going! We aren’t where we began. We are better than before. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a process, and to give ourselves space for the down-dips and trust that there is a purpose to them – they can almost act as a spring to catapult us up even farther I believe.

So I want to share this with you, because maybe it will resonate with you, too. We are all in this together, this beautiful messy thing called life. 💗🌀

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Her words and this image resonated so much with me that I wanted to post them here as well. Progress is not linear and just because I am not moving in a forward line (with running, with my mental health, with my career etc.) doesn’t mean that I am not making overall positive gains. No matter how many times I fall down, I know that I have the tools to continue getting up and moving forward.