Lessons learned from running again.
A couple months ago I put Jo to bed and mentioned to Andrew I was going to jog to the end of our street and back (a couple tenths of a mile). It was my first run in 3 years. (You can find more on my history with running here.)
I enjoyed the couple of minutes I was moving and feeling fresh air in my lungs, but I noticed a couple things about me and running as I sprinkled in similar distanced runs over the next couple of months. These were realization I hadn’t had when I was a runner for 8 years because I was so disconnected from my body.
The first thing I noticed was that post-run I felt disconnected from my hunger and fullness cues for the next several hours. Perhaps since exercise decreases ghrelin (our hunger hormone)? I had the realization that certain types of movement may disconnect you from your hunger and fullness cues and that may be reason enough to stay away from them.
A second thing I noticed about running was that to satisfy a running craving I didn’t need to run that much. A less-than-a-quarter-mile jog could be plenty to satisfy the craving/scratch the running itch. I’ve decided I like a teensy-tiny bit of running sprinkled throughout my life with multi-month long breaks in-between runs.
The final aha moment from the runs was that I noticed I had poorer body image on the days I ran. I think a lot of this was because running has always messed with my GI system and made my stomach hurt/be bloated. When your stomach is irritated your attention naturally is drawn towards your stomach area, which isn’t really a part of my body I want to spend my day thinking much about. I already have anxiety that I feel a lot in my belly area, so I don’t need anything else in my life that hurts my stomach. Another strike against running (for me and my body).
When I was in my disordered eating and exercise days I found it hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t having to actively choose to not run, but now I don’t want to run. There are so many enjoyable ways to move a body and running doesn’t need to be part of my life anymore. For a long time my identity was tied up in being a runner and the most fit person and I’m glad that’s not me anymore. Now I’m a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, a small-business owner…all identities that are more meaningful to me than being a person who spends her morning running or stressing about not running. Running for me always came from a place of self-hate and never brought me anything lasting, except lasting and unrelenting self-hate.
In summary, for me frequent running still hurts my knees and lower back and prevents me from feeling well enough to do other forms of movement that I like to feel well enough to do. The biggest thing I did to become an intuitive eater was to quit intense, gut-jostling, high-impact movement and instead shift to gentle movement such as walking, yoga and pilates. If I wouldn’t have cut out harsh exercise I wouldn’t have been able to break the restrict–>overeat–>exercise because I feel guilty about overeating–>restrict cycle.
Below is an activity that I mention in the course and I frequently do with clients to increase awareness about what types of movement are healthy for you. This web is assuming you’ve done the work to heal your relationship with movement and now movement is able to be done in a way that rejuvenates you, not numbs you out and away from your problems. That work may look like taking a multi-month break like I did to allow yourself to learn different and more healthy ways to cope with the discomforts of life. Just like emotional eating shouldn’t be one’s only coping mechanism in life…exercise shouldn’t be your only coping mechanism. Exercise is not a solution for all mental health problems.
If you haven’t done the work to heal your relationship with exercise and you feel your need to take a break from movement but JUST CAN’T DO IT, here are links to a few past articles on compulsive exercise. Exercise isn’t good for everyone in every season of their life.
Have you taken a break from exercise? What’d you learn? What type of movement harms your body? What type of movement makes you feel rejuvenated? Let me know if you make your own web!