As many of you know, I recently completed a marathon (yes, I promise, I’ll stop talking about it soon!) and posted something on Instagram about my new focus on feeling strong and powerful in my body. I am so looking forward to that journey — mostly because I’ve been down that path before in an unhealthy way, and now I get to look at it through a new lens. I get to do it out of love for my body instead of hate or fear.
It had me feeling nostalgic for so many things. My first marathon, when I loved my body and the brand new limits I was pushing it to. And then I thought about the post-marathon blues I had felt immediately afterwards. I was injured and it was the holiday season and I was using sugar to ease the thoughts of not being able to run, not having any new goals to set, and not appreciating what I had accomplished. It led to a little weight gain and that was okay.
So finally, time had passed and I was getting back to my “old self” I could run again, was eating the way my body deserved, and was looking for a new challenge. So I found another race, of course!
When I signed up for my second marathon, I was waiting for life to get back to the way it was during the first…and a funny thing happened: it never did.
But I was just looking back on all the great, effortless runs, all the food I could eat with everyone still telling me I was getting abs, and all the support everyone was giving me. I was remembering how easy it was to eat the right foods and still enjoy the occasional beer, and I remember my relationship with food improving SO much during that time. However, nostalgia is a funny thing. It romanticizes the best of times and lets you forget your woes.
As many of you DON’T know, I kept an Instagram account for my running adventures during the first marathon. It was private, and I just wanted to document a little of what was going on. It was inconsistent and more of a journal to myself. I looked back at that recently and couldn’t help but laugh at myself.
The posts were mostly about the hard times I had repressed, that had been shadowed by all the good. It was about days where I felt like I was eating too poorly or too much, or had runs that felt hard and I was slogging through. I wasn’t being very kind to myself.
My first marathon wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, and my fiancé reminded me of that recently.
He told me this marathon was so much better for me – I was less strict and stressed and seemed more confident. I didn’t let training take over my quite life as much, even though I was logging more miles and cross-training more. I was shocked when he told me he saw it that way!
But that’s nostalgia for you – I was remembering all of the best times and forgetting what I was doing to myself and others when times were hard.
It got me thinking of mindfulness and living in the present, and how I’m looking to practice that more and more. It’s great to look back and have fond memories of the past, but what does that do to the present? I think I appreciate the present a lot less because of my tendency to romanticize the past or be anxious about the future.
I’ve noticed I provide a lot of distractions for myself when I’m living day to day. My phone is always in my hand and I’m scrolling through social media while having conversations with others. I also have a terrible tendency to twirl my hair – that is out of both habit and anxiety. I’ve noticed that I hate being vulnerable in social situations. I sometimes choose to stay in bed on weekend mornings even though I want to go outside and live, but I just am not appreciating the fact that I’m alive and have that choice to do it right then and there.
Mindless eating is another big one for me. As I mentioned, my first marathon helped me a lot with that. I had learned a lot about nutrition and what my body actually needs while training, and I was more conscious of that rather than just wanting a snack and eating it. However, I do have a tendency to rationalize what I eat by telling myself it’s good for me so it’s fine to overeat it (false), or that it’s not good for me and it’s okay to have it once in a while (true, but can lead down a slippery slope of many not-so-optimal choices).
So what’s next?
I’ll work on these things. I have been more mindful of whether or not I’m truly hungry, or eating out of habit or boredom. Is the food I’m about to eat going to serve me in some way, or is it just convenient? Am I turning to food to ease stress or be comfortable in a situation?
When I ask myself these questions, I can choose other paths at that moment. Instead of letting the food in front of me control me, I will choose to be in control of what I put in my body. If I can in the moment, I will breathe, stretch, go for a walk, or make some tea to relieve stress. I will write something down I’m grateful for and keep a log to refer back to. If the food keeps calling to me, I can drink a giant glass of water and then ponder on if it’s really hunger, or is it thirst or boredom? In times of boredom, I can choose another path. Call a friend, find a new recipe to make later when I truly am hungry, do something I’ve been putting off for a while.
I will allow myself to feel the discomfort in social situations and assess why I’m reaching for the guacamole and chips instead of having a conversation with those around me. I will be vulnerable and put myself out there by striking up a chat instead of heading back to the bar for another brew. I will put down my phone and stop twirling my hair when I’m in a group of people and truly enjoy and engage in the experience.
As I said, my new training plan will be focused on strengthening my body. Maybe this will also be a practice in strengthening my mind and soul. I will live in the present and enjoy the flow of life that comes my way. I will stop being anxious of what’s to come or what others might think of me. I will stop looking to the past for the “better days” that weren’t really better. I will enjoy each day and moment as it comes – and I can’t wait to see what comes from that.
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