Loving Your Body While Working On It
When I started running as a gangly 13-year-old, weight loss was never on my mind. Later when I gained some weight during the dreaded "Freshman 15" period of college, I realized I needed to change my diet. But, being a drastic teenager, I went overboard, running 8-16 miles a day, eating mostly cereal and fruit in our college cafeteria, and cutting down on mixed drinks (well, that part was healthy at least).
Fast forward to post-college, adult years, and my body image is much more stable. But I've still had times of gaining a few pounds here and there (thanks, New York pizza), and had to tweak my diet and fitness routine.
Currently, I am working on getting stronger, especially in my abs and glutes. I like to focus on what my body can DO, and the physical results are just icing on the cake. I've set goals to be able to do a pull-up, be able to climb the pole upside down (in pole dance class), squat heavier weights, PR in the half marathon, run a faster marathon, slay my obstacle course race time, and break a 6-minute mile. These goals are what keeps me motivated and feeling strong and focused. This is when I feel the best about my body, by focusing on what it can do and appreciating each breakthrough.
And in my pursuit of these goals, I want to do anything that will help me along, such as eating more organic foods, incorporating more lean protein into my pescetarian diet, cutting down on my cheese addiction and learning new recipes that use vitamin-rich veggies (thanks to Fabulous Fit Food nutrition coach Nicole for my new eating program, stay tuned for updates;).
Sometimes when people begin a workout program, they think of it as a means to an end. But once you get into it, you realize fitness is a continuous process, which offers never-ending chances to improve and grow. In the process of growing and fine tuning ourselves, how do we love ourselves and not get too hard on ourselves? The biggest help for me has been focusing on my own goals and progress. As a running coach, I also love helping others reach their goals, which always makes me so happy and grateful.
I love all the fitness inspiration on social media, but I have to take a step back sometimes to avoid comparing my progress and results to others. Social media, something I didn't worry about growing up, is now all-pervasive, and can amplify the amazing physiques of others while making you feel like "Why can't I look like that? I workout/run/weight lift etc."
Something that has helped me navigate the sometimes murky waters of following fitness personalities on social media is to remember we all have a unique construction and are at different stages in our fitness journey. Our lifestyle, eating and exercise program are definitely a huge factor, but we are each at different points in our training and we have unique bodies, genes and a one-of-a-kind look.
For instance, I have a long torso, and I've been a competitive runner and athlete my whole life, so my stomach has tended to be relatively flat. My legs, on the other hand, have always been on the shorter, muscular side, so I know I'll never have supermodel, long, thin legs like the images I saw in teen magazines growing up. And I'm cool with this. In fact, I've come to love my strong legs and all the places they've taken me.
In addition to physical differences, I am also at a comeback stage in my training. While recovering from a torn hamstring and stretched knee ligament, I have to be realistic about where I am in my training and what goals I can accomplish. My next PR is still in the works for sure, but the process has been prolonged while I rebuild post-injury and focus on strength and form to come back stronger and a more well-balanced athlete.
I am not saying don't work on your fitness or weight loss goals. By all means, chase those dreams, shatter your goals and break through those fitness plateaus! And as you do, thank your body for each amazing accomplishment it performs as you become the one-of-a-kind, strong, badass athlete you were meant to be. Run on, Runstreet runners, and keep your head up!