Grateful for Every Mile

Photo by Nathalie Désirée Mottet on Unsplash

There is no feeling quite like it. After pushing my body for about a mile or so, my muscles have loosened up and my lungs have opened. I breath in and feel the pavement passing below my feet as my muscles tense and release. The wind blows, cooling my sweaty face. I’ve made it past the initial hump, and my body and mind are ready to run. I feel alive, strong, and free.

Discovering running during my freshman year of high school made a huge impact on my confidence and ability to cope with my depression. I had dabbled in running a bit, going on short runs by myself around my neighborhood, but I had never considered the possibility that I could run any significant distance. One day, I saw an older girl I admired running in my neighborhood. She informed me she was getting in shape for track season. I was looking for an activity to do in the spring, and decided I would give track a try. How hard could it be?

Turns out very hard. Running takes an enormous amount of physical and mental discipline. After my first track practice, I sat on the floor of my room with my math book in my lap, fighting to keep myself from tipping over, feeling very proud. I had pushed my body further than I ever had before, and I survived. My depression had me convinced that I was weak, but now I knew just how strong my body and mind are.

Running requires patience and persistence. It takes time to get to a point of fitness were you start to enjoy the run. You need to start small, but push yourself a little more each time. I don’t remember exactly how long it took before I was fit enough to not be completely worn out after practice, but it was worth it. Each run became a reminder of my strength and grit. Plus, the endorphin high is quite nice.

Running has been one of my greatest joys. However, seven years ago I had to give it up. I was having pain in my hip that no one could explain. The only thing that made it go away was not running. I took up other forms of exercise, but nothing provided me with the same feelings of freedom and confidence that I had found while running.

A few years later when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), I had a wonderful revelation: I bet that is why my hip bothers me.

Once my RA symptoms were under control (a long a difficult process), I enthusiastically decided to try running again. I knew that I would not be able to run the same distances that I did in my past, and that was okay. Having RA has taught me to be grateful for every movement by body can make without pain. Every step, every city block, would be a gift.

I started running and walking short distances in my neighborhood. Even during my first outing I almost cried with happiness as I felt the familiar exertion in my legs and heavy breathing fill my lungs. It was difficult, but I was rediscovering a part of myself. My body, while different than it had been ten years ago, had not lost its strength.

I have gradually worked up to being able to run for about 30 minutes, and this is where I will stop for now. I also don’t run every day and do other activities such as yoga, HIIT Workouts, and strength training. The hip pain has not returned. Gone are the days of two hour runs, but here are the days of honoring and nurturing my body.

Interested in running?

If your doctor says it’s okay, go for it! All running requires is a decent pair of sneakers and some appropriate exercise attire. Start small, be patient, and work your way up to the level you would like to be at. Create goals that challenge you, but honor your body’s abilities. Don’t worry about what others have accomplished. This sport is all about you!

When you start, don’t worry about getting fancy gear. There is a lot of cool stuff out there, and I know it is tempting! But the truth is, you do not need it right away. Wait to see if running is right for you and then consider what you will need. If you decide you like running and want to continue, good running shoes are a must. They are essential for keeping joints healthy.

Run wherever is best for you! Some people prefer running outside, some prefer running inside. I run inside during the winter because cold air is hard on my lungs, but I prefer to run outside so I get sunshine and fresh air.

If you can find a group to run with at your level, that is awesome! Running in a group is a great way to socialize.

Strength training and stretching are very important for keeping joints healthy. Below is a yoga video I like to do on my rest days.

Yoga With Adriene

Remember, this is your running practice. It can be whatever you would like it to be. Nurture yourself, have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously!

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