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There is no better time for early-morning walks than this time of year. Each morning the sun rises a smidgen sooner, and there is something so satisfying about standing in the bathroom at 5:20 a.m., brushing my teeth in the faint glow of the sky starting to illuminate without the need to flip on the light. The sun is my beacon, and as soon as it starts to rise, I feel like an anxious kid who needs to get outside an plaaaaay already.

I have been sleeping past my normal wake time this week and thus haven’t had a chance to fit in a walk with all of my other morning prep rituals, but yesterday (and today) I was up in time. However, once I was up and stretching and preparing my lunch and stirring the coconut milk creamer in my coffee, I decided to switch things up and leave the house for work 30 minutes early and stop at a nearby park, to do my walk immediately before going into the office. That way, instead of going right from sitting in my car to sitting at my desk, I could come into the office fresh from a sunny walk!

Yesterday morning was just the epitome of a beautiful spring day. Temps in the low 60s, white puffy clouds among a bright blue sky, birds chirping, planes descending into the nearby airport, and cows (regular one, not those punkish Scottish Highland ones) from the adjacent farm mooing. A quick 20-minute walk in surroundings like that–plus my coffee and a bowl of Kashi Go Lean with fresh strawberries at my desk–was a great way to start the work day. (Note: I did the same routine today but it was overcast and not as Disney-esque. And I needed a jacket.)

Speaking of walking, I recently realized that I am obsessed with watching other people walk. Like, really watch them walk. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the fact that I practice yoga and understand the art of good posture, or that I have so many issues myself with my feet and hips, but when I’m walking around the mall or downtown or behind someone at work on their way to the bathroom, my eyes immediately zone into their feet, hips, and back, and not in a “Wowee-wow-wow, look at those Shakira hips!” way but in a “Wow, those high heels are making your ankles collapse in, and your shoulders are all hunched up by your ears! You’re going to be in so much pain when you get older!” way (says the wise, knowledgeable 30-year-old).

Maybe in my former lifetime I was a salesperson at a specialty running store and watched people’s gaits for a living and determined whether they were pronators, supinators, or neutrals. But seriously, I love looking at feet. (I recently declared to my husband that I should have been a podiatrist…to which I responded, “Ahh, nevermind. Then I’d have to clip old people’s toenails.”)

I was horrified last weekend when we were walking through town and I noticed a woman in front of us wearing those damn Shape-Ups. With each step she took, the woman’s ankles were completely rolling in. It was so significant that even my husband, who doesn’t care in the least about other people’s biomechanics, noticed. Just another reason why I think Shape-Ups are the Devil’s sneakers.

All the time, I see people running with the most awkward strides and foot motions, and I feel the need to comment (to myself, of course. Or my husband). One time we passed a guy with a knee  jutting out, his foot all floppy, and his torso all loosey-goosey. “How is it that he’s not in physical therapy every day?!” I asked incredulously. “Just wait!”

On the flip side, my heart flutters when I see someone with perfect posture and balance. Take the famous yoga teacher Angela Farmer:

She was a presenter when I was at Kripalu; I didn’t take any of her classes, but just passing her in the hallway was satisfying enough for me. Angela was as poised as a Greek goddess, her body practically floating down the corridors. Even the way she lifted her hands at the cafeteria buffet was a dance, each finger curling and extending with the most graceful act of mindfulness. It wasn’t pretentious either—not the least bit of “holier than thou” attitude. It was pure elegance and total body awareness. I never once spoke with her, but man, I totally want to be like Angela when I grow up!

I try hard to maintain a steady posture and stance when walking (forget sitting…I turn into a slumped sack of potatoes when proofreading),

Slumped over like a pug with poor posture

to the point where several people have asked me “Are you a dancer?” in non-dance settings, including on the weight floor at the gym and in a pizza shop when I was 13.   I had always taken pride in being asked that, even as recently as last year, when I wasn’t taking technique classes anymore but I guess still maintained that “look.” So I was devastated when, after I first busted my hip last year, my yoga teacher watched me walk across the room and told me I have a limp. ?!&$*&@&!! Now *I* was the one with the goofy-looking gait! And then, during my physical therapy sessions, my PT noticed that I tended to walk with my hips shifted to one side. Who am I?!?!?

It is reassuring, then, that one of my coworkers in the marketing department, who works specifically with PT textbooks and several on gait analysis, told me that no one has a perfect gait (except maybe Angela Farmer). There are a million factors that contribute to gait (toes, ankles, knees, hips, core, shoulders, so on and so forth) and when just one is “off,” there goes the picture-perfect anatomical model who walks with everything in line. What that means is that even in my dancing heyday I was never perfect, I’m not perfect now, and I never will be. Even so, that won’t stop me from being overly curious and fascinated with other people’s bodies and the way they carry them. And I’ll never stop hating Shape-Ups.

**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.

Despite the elation I felt last night after finally getting up into forearm balance, I left the studio in a bit of a slump due to something the teacher said after class. It was such an innocent, meaningless, trying-to-be supportive comment, but it took me from 10 to zero in a matter of seconds.

“This was the first time in years I got up into forearm balance!” I said to her. “Practicing dolphin all this time has really helped me, and I can totally feel the difference form when I first started!”

::beam beam beam::

“That’s awesome!” she said. “I’ve been noticing you experimenting with lifting you feet off the ground while in dolphin.”

::beam beam beam::

She continued. “I just wish we could get those hips of yours to open.”


I went from experiencing a major victory in my yoga practice to being reminded that I still can’t do pigeon. Or baddha konasana without blocks or blankets under my knees. The teacher doesn’t know it, but my hip was one of things holding me back from doing forearm balance. You gotta swing those legs up there somehow, and months ago I was terrified something would snap if I did so. So last night’s inversion was technically a hip-related accomplishment, but the teacher’s little “hope for more” was such a killjoy.

What’s frustrating is that my hips are open. In reality, I’m very flexible in the hip area, and that’s how this whole mess started. I hyperextend; as a result, everything gets loosey goosey and tendons start to move out of place. I don’t NOT do pigeon because I have tight hips; I refrain from the pose because I can do it too well, and the moment my front leg drops down, the tip of my femur jams into the loose cartilage in my hip socket, and there is pain.

I know the teacher meant no harm, and I’m not mad at her in any way. Just observing how sometimes a comment can be so innocuous yet so loaded.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!



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