Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Running Story: Overcoming The Monster In My Mind

Stretching Before a Run
The year I turned 40, I rethought my life. After having had five back-to-back pregnancies, I had let myself become overweight and sedentary. My eating habits were poor, and my health was beginning to fail. I was a feeble example to my five young children, who were beginning to emulate me. I did not like what I had become.

On New Year’s Day 2013, I purged my home of all junk food, vowed to no longer eat take-out food, limited my intake of processed food, and monitored my portion size. I vowed to exercise for at least one hour daily. I stuck to my plan and lost 80 lbs and 5 clothing sizes. I had returned to my former high school size.

Soon afterwards, I felt powerful, and out of the blue decided to start running. This was a tall order for me, as I had never before run in my life—not even as a normal-weight child. Past attempts had left me winded, or with a stitch in my side. I put on my running shoes and psyched myself up, but could only make it to the end of my short street. I was breathing hard and could not push myself on. The pit of my stomach was sore, and my legs felt heavy.
Lacing Up 
I did not give up, and on the next try, I made it about one kilometer to my childrens’ school. I was red and winded, but felt so proud and accomplished! I kept up my attempts, until in just a few weeks, I was able to double my distance and make it all the way home from my run, without stopping mid-way. In short order, I had tripled my distance and was running for 30 minutes at a time.

My newfound success made me question what had held me back from running my whole life? For example, why could I do one hour on the elliptical trainer and treadmill at the gym, but not have enough stamina to complete one simple run? Why could I swim for one kilometer in the pool, but initially not run the same distance?

After some thought, I concluded that it was the monster in my mind that was telling what I could and could not do. It was the monster in my mind deciding if I could or could not succeed. To overcome this mentality on my runs, I would clear my mind and create simple rhymes or phrases to push myself onward and forward:

“I run, I run for fun. I run, I run for fun.” 

Cooling Down After The Run
The simple rhymes would block out my self-negativity, and help me keep rhythm. The rhymes would help me focus on my forward motion, and ignore my too-heavy limbs, hot body, dry throat and chapped lips.

“Up up, going up. Up up, I am up.”

On paper, they look like Seussisms, but these simple words encouraged me up and over a menacing hill during a run. They also distracted me, and helped me ignore the monster in my mind.

“Home home, going home. Home home, almost home.”

And these words reminded me that my goal was in sight: home, and gave me the inspiration to continue running without stopping short and disappointing myself.

Unlaced After the Run
After I had successfully completed several runs, I was delighted that my 9-year old son had shown an interest in running with me. I told him that yes, he could accompany me on some runs—and he loved it! Then my 6-year old son also caught the running bug:

“I run, I run with mom. It is fun, to run with mom.”

Now running truly is a family affair, and there is no room to bring along the monster in my mind.

19 comments:

  1. lol cute, they actually do sound like a Dr Seuss book! Good for you though, very inspiring. I find running so hard, I get winded very fast. My parents were heavy smokers when I was growing up and it left my lungs very weak.

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    1. Mom Vs. The Boys: what physical activities do you find work best for you? Are you able to comfortably go for a walk, or enjoy a slow-paced swim?

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  2. Congratulations and good for you! There are so many more women running now than ever before. It's no longer just a sport for guys or uber athletes - it's great to see more people doing it.

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  3. Jenna, you are awesome!!! I loved your story. I run all the time and when I started, I couldn't believe how hard it was. It does get easier, as you now know. Whenever I have a rough patch while running, I say to myself, "keep going, don't stop" over and over AND "this is not the hardest thing you have ever done" over and over. I'm running a 10K race on Mothers Day this year and I can't wait. Keep running Jenna! You look awesome as you must feel. :)

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    1. Thanks Cheryl! I like how you encourage yourself to keep going, because some days there are rough patches. Congratulations on your upcoming 10K race on Mother's Day, which will be a fantastic achievement. I can't wait for my very first race, which I hope is one day soon.

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  4. Thank you for this post. I have never been able to run either, not even as a kid. I did a track and field type race once during a special school event and won third place, because there were only three of us. I was so pathetically behind everyone else. I have let myself go majorly over 4 kids and I want to do what you did and make major life changes and lose a large amount of weight. Good for you! I'd like to be able to run after my kids someday soon, let alone do a race! Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Kathleen, one of my favourite expressions: "A journey of a hundred miles begins with just one footstep." Sometimes I find that it's easier to start implementing the "easiest" life change, like adding in a daily walk. This is a great way to ease yourself in to a different routine.

      Kathleen, I know you can do it, just take it one day at a time, one achievement at a time. I think it's all about keeping going and not giving up, even when I really want to.

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  5. Congratulations Jenna, you are a true inspiration! It is even more amazing that you have your kiddos going with you. Good for them!

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  6. Good for you and great that you're able to model healthy active living for your kids too!

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  7. You are kicking so much booty! For my past 3 years I keep trying to get into to running, I have yet to make a full 5K ;) I'm hoping this is the year - I have been so close!

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  8. I love that your son now runs with you sometimes,makes for a enjoyable run I am sutre

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  9. Running with Kids - so awesome! I attempted to go running with my 11yo prior to 'track and field' starting at school, but fell off the wagon quickly. So motivated now, thanks!

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  10. Just a nice time for bonding,spending time like this together

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  11. Way to go Jenna!! I'm so happy for you, you are setting a wonderful example for everyone. BF has been pushing for me to run, and I too never took up running before (except in middle school). I'm slowly working on that

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  12. You are a strong woman to make these choices and still with them and you look amazing !!!!!

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