Tag Archives: Running

Restoration

This past weekend was the Illinois Marathon, an event that I used to run every year.  It was a tradition to do the 5k, 10k, or half-marathon with one of my best friends.  We would train and encourage each other from a distance (we live 150 miles apart), eagerly anticipating the uninterrupted “girl time” that we would get to share while running together on race day.  It was always a fun race weekend and a family affair, but I haven’t run it in 3 years…

I chose to quit due to an eating/body image disorder and a wrecked thyroid.  Running had taken a front seat to everything else in my life, and it became a trigger for binge eating and body shaming.  I was stuck in a bizarre dance with several elements:  the euphoria of accomplishment; “rewarding” myself with sugar binges after long training runs; appeasing the massive running-induced appetite increase with indulgent foods; intense regret from binging on said foods; starvation, obsession, and over-exercising to regain “control” of my body; relief when the number on the scale came back down…and then the crazy cycle would start over again.

I needed to face the reality that was driving my behaviors.  My body image and insane exercise regime had become an idol in my life, which was a difficult thing to admit.  I didn’t want it to be true!  How could this have happened?  I tried to get off of the crazy train many times, but the anxiety of giving up “control” had me quickly jumping back on board.  I was stuck, and it was time to honestly answer some questions.  Did I really want to be free?  I mean, really?  Was I truly ready for radical “heart” surgery, and willing to do whatever it took to be free?

In order to reset my life, it would mean giving up the things that I was clinging to – for as long as it took, maybe even forever.  It was time to stop trying to white-knuckle my way through the mental battle.  I didn’t have the strength for it anymore.  I decided to let God in on my secret…I needed rescuing.

It didn’t happen overnight, but freedom came after I surrendered control.  There was something different this time. I traded my weakness for God’s strength, and before the fight began, I boldly claimed victory because it had already been won for me.  I laid down the many things that were tripping me up, like running, and trusted that there would be something far better waiting for me when the radical work in me was finished.

Seeing all of my friends’ Facebook race posts this past weekend caused me to pause and consider how I’m feeling 3 years later.  What have I learned, and will I ever run again?

The enemy had distorted a perfectly good thing, like running, in order to trap me.  The experience rendered me totally ineffective for living out God’s purpose for my life.  Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice…well, you know the rest.

But did you know that God is in the business of restoring?  All throughout the Bible, there are promises and stories of restoration.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

God has restored my health and given me balance.  If I run again someday, I must do it in light of all that I have learned.  Otherwise, it will make a mockery of what God did for me in that season of radical heart surgery.  I have scars, but they are no longer wounds. They serve as reminders, but they don’t hinder me.

I truly miss running with my friend.  I miss the thrill of the accomplishment.  I miss the girl time!

Running will look very different for me in the future.  My focus will be on the freedom I have in Christ, and honoring my body as His temple.  This allows me to embrace what was restored; my peace, joy, and freedom…as well as my passion for fitness.

Do you have something that needs to be restored in your life?

My words of encouragement are this: be brave enough to let God do radical heart surgery on you.  If there is something in your life that needs to go, don’t be afraid to let it go.  Something better will be returned to you!

 

Re-Prioritizing Running

DSC05139I remember a time in my life when I thought that running was THE ultimate form of exercise.  If I could master running long distances, then I would “arrive” as an extremely fit person.  My sense is that this attitude is still out there, but it isn’t entirely accurate.

I spent a lot of years running various distances from 5Ks to 10Ks, and half-marathons.  I enjoyed it, and finishing races within my time goals gave me a sense of accomplishment.  But as I got older, I began to notice that running was taking a toll on my body.  Of course there were the nagging injuries over the years, mostly plantar fasciitis (the kiss of death for runners), and random calf, hamstring, and knee issues.  Less expected was the weight I was gaining, despite running for hours.  How could this be?  I also noticed that my level of fitness was what I would call one-dimensional.  I could run, sprint, and do great speed drills, but after trying a new “non-running” workout program, I found that my balance and flexibility were horrible.  My stamina for lifting weights and doing intense cardio wasn’t great, even though I had been cross-training.  What was the deal?  Running is THE best exercise, right?

When I don’t understand something, I research it.  A lot.  I discovered that running long distances can inhibit thyroid function.  That wasn’t good, considering I only had half of a thyroid and a thyroid disease.  Specifically, running reduces the amount of t3 hormone, which is responsible for our energy, metabolism, weight maintenance, and feeling good.  Long distance running also increases cortisol, which is our stress hormone.  Yes, running for long periods of time is stressful on the body!  A body in a stressed state holds onto weight, especially fat.  It’s a survival mechanism, so these two factors combined certainly could explain why I was gaining weight with running.  In addition to the weight gain, I had a significant increase in my appetite, which triggered disordered eating patterns of binging…guilt over said binging…and restricting food as a result.  (I will save those details for another post, but it is worth mentioning here.) Clearly, running was not my friend.

Given this knowledge, I had some choices to make and some questions to answer.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, consider asking yourself:

  • What are my fitness goals? How does running fit into these goals?
  • What priority do I place on other aspects of fitness such as strength, core strength, balance, and flexibility?  How does my current performance rate in these areas?
  • Am I running in order to get fit or am I getting fit in order to run?

After answering these questions for myself, I decided that running was something that could be a “side dish” rather than the “main course.”  I really valued being a well-rounded athlete in terms of strength, cardio fitness, balance, and flexibility.  When I spent most of my time running, it took away from these other aspects of fitness.  I found a program that addressed all of these areas and decided to take a break from running just to see how my body would respond.  It was a tough transition at first.  Despite running half-marathons, I found myself struggling through a 30-minute high intensity interval (HIIT) cardio routine.  It was ugly, but I stuck with it.  In time, I improved in all of these areas and found my level of fitness to be more multi-dimensional.  My body also started to let go of the signs of stress and overtraining that I had been experiencing while running.

I still run occasionally, but I train daily so that I can do whatever I’d like to when the opportunity strikes, whether it is running, rock climbing, mountain biking, tennis, basketball, etc.  This is what works for me.  Everyone is different.

Please don’t misunderstand; if you are running and it is working for you, that’s great!  However, I’ve met many people, especially women, who have become discouraged with running.  It doesn’t have to be a source of frustration; you just might need to be intentional about your fitness goals and listen to what your body is telling you.  In the end, do something because you enjoy it and your body thrives doing it.  Life is too short to beat yourself up.  Happy Training!