Some goals I’ve had in my life were pretty simple: get recruited to play college basketball, be the first person on my mother’s side of the family to earn a college degree, and always stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle after I’m done with college sports. Little did I know it wouldn’t be as easy then when you have an elder adult screaming at you to run faster and lift heavier. How would being healthy look for me moving forward.
I have always been interested in health and wellness and always knew about the new trends. I also was very good at watching hours of Netflix and experimenting every wing night in town. It’s called balance, right? One thing I always knew was I HATED running. Couldn’t understand how people could run for miles on end and enjoy it. I envisioned running to Hell every time I would step on a treadmill. This would all soon change.
The life changing moment happened after my mother passed away from cancer. I was obsessed over eating cancer fighting foods and increasing my cardiovascular routines for heart health. It became a crutch for me to focus on while grieving.
In September I decided to channel this energy into training for my first half marathon. I would run it as a fundraiser for my mother and have donations go to The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. I posted it on social media so I couldn’t back out. I immediately received so much positive feedback and immediate donations. Training would start September 1, 2019.
I chose a Nike Training Club running plan and swore to stick to it. I would run two recovery runs per week, a speed run, and then a longer run at the end of the week. I would increase mileage progressively as the 14-week plan went along. I incorporated some strength training that I would do in college and a lot of stretching. I also changed my diet to include more carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables for energy. Water and electrolytes would play a key ingredient in hydration as well. I would complete the Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2:17 on November 23, 2019.
It seems pretty simple, right? Follow a plan and see results. However, we are led to believe that one plan fits all. If you follow this plan a Boston marathoner did, you will run a half in under 1:30. Finishing this race was a huge mountain for me. I thought once I completed it, I would become this intense runner who would catch the running fever and never stop. It is not that simple and I can confidently say I will not be running a long run race this year. And here is why.
I was lucky enough to have a good job to support the resources I needed such as food, a gym membership, and outdoor running clothes I needed to brave the colder temperatures. Like I said before, there is no one fit all approach or program to running your best half marathon because it is different for everyone. I can say I did not miss a scheduled workout. Even when I would get hurt, I would lower the pace, incorporate some non-impact cardio, and ice to get back quicker. I seemed to make healthier choices throughout the process with this race in the back of my mind. I had to have my focus on energy and production over looking good in my jeans. Being consistent with my training and diet, I quickly started to see changes in my body. I developed leg muscles the size of Saquon Barkley (not really, but close.) But with the new leg muscles came new problems. For the last 5 years, I was more concerned about achieving a certain aesthetic. I ate and exercised to look good in my clothes and to feel good mentally. When I started training for the race, I started to feel anxious, like I was back in college playing basketball again. I would panic if I didn’t finish my run in a certain time. I felt if I skipped a workout, I was letting people down who were supporting me and my mom. Some days I wanted to take a bike ride to help me feel better, but I couldn’t because I had to get in my 3-mile run. This was very difficult for me.
Even post-race, people assume I’m a runner now. They think because I ran 13.1 miles, that I run all the time now or that I already signed up for another race and this is not the case. This can get uncomfortable at times since all I want to do is go to a soul cycle class or, God forbid, not go to the gym for a day and have an evening out with friends. There is still a lingering expectation of me to be a runner.
Any sort of mental or body anxiety, I feel, hits ten times harder for women in this social media, influential world we live in today. It was very hard for me to battle these insecurities for 2 months. Body image is the very forefront in our society, positive and negative. I always was body positive, because it was always the same. When I started to notice changes, my anxiety went through the roof. I knew I could finish the race, I was a college athlete before, but I was not prepared for the mental toll it took on me.
I will say the aftermath is not all bad (besides not being able to walk for two days after the race.) I have never felt more accomplished in all of my life than when I ran across that finish line. I have also felt a want to run more. I haven’t run more than 4 miles since the race but now I routinely run 2-3 miles a few times a week. Before training, I would run 1 mile once a week. Running is a great exercise you can do anywhere for free. There’s no excuse not to get a short workout in when you don’t have time to make it to the gym for a full workout or are out of town on a trip. It is something I have grown to enjoy in small dosages.
All the health and wellness advice out there teach you how to physically achieve your goals. It doesn’t always necessarily teach you how to handle the changes, the societal pressures, and how to handle life after the goal is reached. It is not always positive. We experience highs and lows throughout any journey.
If you take anything away from this article, focus on being healthy, whatever that means for you. I challenge you to educate yourself and experiment with different health ideas to see what you can incorporate and what works best for you and your health routine. The biggest value is your mental wellness. You have to enjoy the process of a healthy lifestyle. Yes, you need to push yourself in those workouts and do some you may not be up for that day as planned but not every day in the cost of your sanity. For me, my 2020 goals are to worry less and focus more on living good. I’m worried less about how I look in a pair of my favorite jeans and more about trying that new, fun HIIT class in the city. I don’t want any major medical concerns in the future and I want to live a long and happy life with my family and friends. I am setting my own standards and will follow through with them happily.