**Disclaimer: If this post were to be reincarnated as a food, it would come back to Earth in the form of sour grapes.**
I eat healthy, drink and indulge in desserts in moderation, do some form of yoga almost daily, use dance as my artistic expression of emotion, swim twice per week on average, walk 30 minutes every day during lunch and up to 2 hours on the weekend, ride the stationary bike at the gym, start my days with 100 crunches on the Bosu, can do a fair number of “guy” push-ups, stretch for 20 minutes each morning, use the weights at the gym, and always “take the stairs” when I can.
Despite all of the above, I’m having a hard time accepting myself as a healthy, fit, and active woman, primarily due to one word missing from the previous paragraph: running.
It seems these days that everyone with two feet (and with increasing technology advances, even amputees) has suddenly decided that life is not complete without a 5K under their (Spi)belts. People who openly abhor running still get up at 4:30 every morning to do so. Reader comments on fitness blogs say things like, “I HATE running. I’m starting the Couch-to-5K tomorrow!” Status updates from my Facebook friends have turned into proclamations about mileage and run-walk ratios. Most recently, my mother-in-law, already a fit and toned woman through regular walking, biking, and hula-hooping, has declared that she would like to run a marathon for her 60th birthday. What happened to old-fashioned bucket list goals like visiting the Grand Canyon or taking a month-long European cruise? (Side note: I’m not ragging on my MIL at all; she’s a freakin’ ninja.)
The more I am faced with everyone’s running resolutions, the less I feel like a complete human being. “Anyone can run!” many fitness resources proclaim, as if not doing so makes you a lazy, incompetent Homer Simpson-in-training. “If you can walk, you can run!” (Well, thanks for making my vigorous 6-mile Sunday walks feel completely inferior.) The truth is, I can run…but it would be followed by several months of physical therapy, more ice than the North Pole can offer, and enough ibuprofen to create some serious stomach ulcers.
Before I injured my hip, I had a consistent running routine, averaging 16 to 25 miles per week. When it became clear that surgery was my only key back into running (and after doing the research, I was adamantly against it), I gradually began accepting the fact that my life would have to go on without running. I went through all the stages of grief (twice, after each round of physical therapy), felt like I lost my identity, and dealt with a period of anxiety and depression that had me taking Ativan before bedtime. But through this loss I gained swimming, and my yoga and dance/movement practice became even more sacred.
What’s funny is that when I evaluate myself alone—without comparing myself to others, whether they be real-life friends or 2-D blog-world acquaintances—I’m ridiculously happy and feel pretty darn good about myself. I feel strong when swimming, and sometimes a simple forward bend in yoga class makes me feel as blissed out as a headstand. But then I open my eyes a little wider and see what everyone else is doing—and suddenly I feel like nothing I will ever do will be as praiseworthy as making the commitment to run. It’s not in my nature to post on Facebook, “20 asanas in 30 minutes—whew!”, yet I twinge with jealousy when people get props for declaring they’ve run half a mile. I will never get a medal for dancing my ass off and heart out for 2 hours straight, and walking briskly for 90 minutes while listening to NPR podcasts won’t earn me a ribbon. I’m living in a world where all personal feats are suffixed with either a “K” or a “thon,” not “Ommmmmm.” I don’t run, therefore I am not fit, active, or human. At least that’s what my ego is telling me.
And once again, it all comes back to the principles of yoga. (Oh, those yamas and the
papas niyamas.) Most important, Ahimsa/nonviolence: I don’t run because it causes harm to my body. Satya/truth: I have to stay true to myself and value what I love and do. Just because the rest of the world loves Zumba doesn’t mean I have to be a fan. Aparigraha/nonpossessiveness: I have to let go of Running Jen. I didn’t care about people running before I ran, but the moment I couldn’t do it anyone, everyone’s running was in my face. Running Jen was an important part of my life, just like College Jen and Community Newspaper Jen. But I can’t cling to them forever. Santosha/contentment: Honor what I have. How fortunate I am to have access to twice monthly 5Rhythms classes, even more if I commuted to the city. My gym has a pool. A yoga studio exists two minutes from my workplace. These are all wonderful things.
I totally, 100% realize this is MY problem, not others’. My husband only decided to like running after I hurt my hip; yeah, that was a bummer but I’m certainly not mad at him. I do sometimes question people’s motivation for doing something they hate when there are so many other forms of pleasure out there, but I’m not really one to talk: After all, I am the person who will leave a half-read book on my nightstand for months because I just don’t like it yet I’m too stubborn to let it go and start a new book I actually do like.
In the meantime, I will bookmark this link, written by a blogger who runs marathons but does a fine job explaining why endurance events, and even running in general, isn’t for everyone. My husband can keep 5Ks; I have my 5Rhythms. Together, we’re a perfect 10.