Let's Start Running

August 2021 I was going about my morning. I had just finished doing some strength training, or maybe it was a HIIT workout, and I was cooling down when my loving voice chimed in and said “Let’s start running”.

So, I listened.

Because I didn’t have a treadmill and my daughter was (and still is) too young for me to leave her at home by herself as my husband leaves for work quite early, I designed my own little track at the back of my house, running the length of the patio and around to the side where it was (thankfully) all concreted.

I was slow and it felt awkward at first but there was something about it that made sense to me. A knowing that this was good for me. Right for me. I wanted this to be a part of my life from now on. Forever and ever.

The usual determination kicked in and I set about making a plan to run regularly. Fantasies filled my mind of becoming fast and fit. I imagined myself to be one of those cute and bouncy runners I admired from afar. I’d get beautifully skinny, wear sexy running clothes and be smug with the wonderful feeling of it all.

Unfortunately, my mind was not going to allow this to happen quite so easily as I would like it to.

In high school, this was when the weight really piled on. By the time I graduated year 12, I was massive. And, I had slowly let go of everything I loved to do physically. Netball. Tennis. Gymnastics. Riding my bike. The only thing I kept was walking. (I can, and will, walk almost anywhere. I don’t care how far).

Running was never in my repertoire. Yet, the few times I had to do it as part of physical education classes, I secretly really enjoyed it. Not necessarily longer distances but sprinting. The feeling of moving my body at a great speed was exhilarating. I felt free. My whole body was pumping with endorphins. I loved it.

My size, though, immediately cut me off from pursuing it on a regular basis.

The next few years went by in a haze of hatred and self-loathing. I became lazier and lazier, not wanting to move my large and depressingly heavy body. My body wanted to move so badly. There were failed attempts at working out. Buying silly machines from infomercials that were used a handful of times, then shoved into a cupboard and eventually thrown in the bin. Workout classes with friends that I put a stop to quite quickly because I was too fat to do them. Workout videos with the latest workout star instructing my fat ass to move it and lose it.

As the years passed and I moved away from home to be an au pair in America and then live and work in the U.K., my body began to move more. Lots and lots of walking, a change of scenery and a small change of mind gave me an ounce more confidence in myself and my body.

It was all so hit-and-miss, though. I’d go through periods where I would move my body consistently, doing things that I loved such as kickboxing, and various cardio classes, I used the gym equipment at the gyms I joined and did some home workouts, too.

Toward the end of 2003 when I arrived back in Australia from the U.K., I was thirty kilos lighter. My confidence had grown some more and I was riding high on the life I had just lived for the (nearly) four years in London. Coming home, though, was heartbreaking and distressing. I had to move back home until I figured out my next move.

My mother was still sharp and intrusive with no real tenderness or support. Not that I could see anyway. I wanted out. I had to get away from there. My life had taken a massive stumble backwards and I hated every minute. Mercifully, I found a live-in nanny job within the month, so off to a new life for me!

And, a new life it was. Combined with the life I allowed myself whilst living in London, this life became something else. I became something else.

But, yet! (There is always a BUT) My mind followed me everywhere.

A few memories surface of moments when I wanted to run. To feel that freedom and exhilaration I remembered from high school. But, my bloody fat body was not capable of running anymore than ten or twenty metres without giving up and giving out.

However! The feeling I felt in those few metres took me back to something I wasn’t aware I was missing. Sadly, the feeling was fleeting as my mind took over and convinced me I was too fat, too slow, too hopeless, not good enough and not allowed to do these things that I enjoy. Frustratingly, I believed every word. Every. Single. Time!

Which is why I gave up moving my body. It was easier to stay in the misery of it than to fight with myself every single time I wanted to get up and move my body. I relented. I gave in. I quit on myself.

So, it was a surprise, after moving to Queensland, that I got to my skinniest weight since I was thirteen years old.

There were a few things involved in this loss of weight but I want to only focus on how I was moving my body and whether I was enjoying it or not.

The Wii was popular at this stage so I got myself one and bought some workout games and a few other ones that looked fun. I bought myself a bike and began riding a few times a week. I walked and walked.

Even with all of that it was very intermittent. Some days I would and some days I wouldn’t.

It all depended on my state of mind.

Without giving you an even more boring account of my exercise and workout history, the years up until now went pretty much the same as every other year of my life. Some days I did. And, some days I didn’t.

It all depended on my state of my mind.

Didn’t everything?

Fast forward to 2021 to the beginning days of this new move my body adventure and nothing had changed. Not in my mind anyway.

My body changed again after having children but the desire to be what my body wanted to be was still the same as it has been since I was a teenager.

What I couldn’t see then was that my body wasn’t desperate to be skinny. That was me. It was my mind giving me an unrealistic illusion I had to fight to live up to. I never won that fight.

With the vantage point of hindsight I can clearly see now that all my body was asking for was strength. It wanted to feel strong and powerful. It wanted to feel free and exhilarated. Those temporary durations of time were the real me. But, because they felt good I couldn’t allow myself to have them for long. Giving in to the shitty and hateful thoughts and feelings that consumed every waking second.

And, here we are in 2024 and this bullshit is still controlling my life. Yes, I have garnered control of so much these last few years but this one remains. Now it is time to tell it to fuck off because I want that strong and powerful body. I want to feel free and exhilarated.

Running does that for me.

Two months after I got the nudge to begin running, my mother passed away. The strained relationship we had right until the end led my grief into a small box hidden away, where it was locked shut. It was a weird time. The death of someone I feel like I barely knew. The woman who raised me with anger, resentment, detachment and some love was no longer there. Its sad to admit but it was not much different to when she was alive.

Everything took a back seat as I did my best to reevaluate all that I knew.

At some point the need to run took over. I was excited to get out there and be that strong and powerful woman, whose body loved the freedom running provided.

I ran a park run or two. I looked at races in my area and made plans with a friend to enter some of them. 10k here we come.

With my training schedule ready to go, I went about my life in the same manner as I always have. With hope, determination and an unwavering yearning to reach this decades and decades long goal of having the body I knew I could have.

Until.

Until my state of mind got in the fucking way.

The hope, the determination and the unwavering yearning were thrown to the edge of my desire where they were held forcefully against their will. I used all the strength I had to reach them. Reaching out my arms to grab a hold of them and bring them back into my desire. Every so often I was successful. My hands held on tightly and we, once again, felt good together. Back where we all belonged.

July 2022 snuck up on me. Race day was approaching fast, in a blur of anticipation and fear that I was not going to make it. Two weeks out I came down with the flu. Training interrupted. Not that my training had been consistent leading up to this point. The only consistent part of my training was the workout my mind was getting from yelling at me every single fucking second of the day to remind me I wasn’t GOOD ENOUGH!

I may not have been physically exhausted but fuck I was mentally exhausted.

Here was another thing that I really, really, really wanted to do but I was incapable of doing because I was always being alerted to the very unreal facts of my hopelessness. I was aware of the different voices in my head by now but because I was so convincingly convinced of all of my inferiorities it took more time than I would have liked to have realised what was actually going on.

I did it, though. I completed the 10k. I was slow and I wanted to quit with every breath and every footstep on the pavement. But, I didn’t.

Running those first few hundred metres was overwhelming. If I wasn’t in a massive crowd of people I would have cried. I got choked up. I was so proud of myself for doing it. In whatever capacity that was. It didn’t matter. I was fucking doing it and my shitty voice did not talk me out of it.

Then the running stopped. I may have won the battle that day but I still had a war to fight.

I have won many battles since that day but the war isn’t over.

My stupid, fucking, shitty voice has continued to dominate.

If there was something going on in my life that pushed me into my hole then there was no way I could run. I’d, once again, remove myself from those things that I loved doing and just stay in my miserable misery until I was strong enough to pull myself out of it.

You’ve got to love my determination, though. Because I am still giving into this idea of running. That same feeling I felt when I was fifteen years old returns with every run that I finish. However long I may run for. I covet that feeling. I want it back. I want it to remain.

Depression is not an easy thing to get out of. Fear and anxiety can be so much stronger than the good feelings. I have battled these emotions for over thirty years. My strength eludes me some days. And on other days I am as mighty as Hercules.

Thankfully, I have ammunition tucked into my armour. The saying goes the “pen is mightier than than the sword” or from the powerfully quavering voice of Cher “words are like weapons, they wound sometimes”. Words have power. And, the words zooming around my mind have always had the most power of all. Their strength is undeniable.

Words can wound or they can heal. Words can destroy or they can repair. Words can distress or they can comfort. They can be gentle and kind or hurtful and harmful. The emotional wounds associated with mean and horrible words produce scars that take much longer to mend.

The best thing I can do for myself each and every time my shitty voice wants to ruin this thing that I love is to not listen. I don’t have to listen to a word it says. I can insert kind words into my thoughts any time I like. I don’t need anyones permission to be kind to myself. I don’t need anyones permission to give that to myself. I don’t have to ask anyone else if its ok for me to like myself. I don’t have to ask anyone else for their opinion on how I should like to feel. I give myself all of the permissions to be that for myself.

If I want to run then I am going to fucking run! Whether I am slow as fuck or as fast as I possibly can be, I am going to keep doing this thing that I love. I am going to keep feeling that freedom and exhilaration. Because no matter what, my body IS capable. My body may not be that cute, little bouncy body that I have longingly adored since I was a teenager; and that is more than ok. Because it is strong. It is powerful. It is deserving of all that it knows it can be. It is my job to make that happen no matter what.

So, even though, as I write this my running is still intermittent because of one ridiculous thing after another, I am holding tightly to hope, determination and my unwavering yearning to feel so good in my body that I never think about how awful it is ever again. The hate and self-loathing are gone. Replaced with those feelings I want to feel forever.

I just keep working it out as I go. I keep listening to my Self and my body every day to know where we are at, where we would like to go and how to get there. Every day is different. Life can interfere with plans and training schedules for a short while. Its when that short while turns into a long while that it becomes an issue. And, if I am caught off guard and start believing my shitty voice again, then all I need to do is remind myself that those words are not true. So, I go within to find the absolute truth of me and who I am underneath all of that bullshit. That is what I listen to. My truth.

My truth says that I love running. And, running loves me.

If I can conquer this mountain then the war is won. A few battles may pop up from time to time but my ammunition is powerful. So powerful that I am able to relax. Feel free. I trust that I can, and will, live everyday with a more loving and kind state of mind.

Running helps to bring all of that together.

Running is a point I am making to myself. If I can keep going with this thing that I love and reach that desirable end I so genuinely want, then I have proven to myself that I do have the strength and the power within me to conquer anything.

This isn’t just about physical strength and power, it is about mental strength and power. The physical side of me has had this all along. It is the metal side that has let me down. Let us all down. That is the mountain I must conquer. The mental mountain. I can see the top. I am holding on for dear life.

If I can keep the vision of the woman standing there waiting for me in my mental and emotional capacity, I will catch up to the physical. I feel her. I feel her pulling me, encouraging me. She has been waiting so long for the day to arrive when I meet up with her and we finally merge as one.

That day is close. I am close.

The more my state of mind interferes with the run up the mountain, the longer this endeavour takes. But I keep going. Held firmly by my hope, determination and unwavering yearning. We hold each other strong as we move quickly, then slowly and then quickly again, battling only myself along the way.

I believe I can. So I do.

As always, when my shitty voice likes to tell me I can’t, I simply yell back it “Shut the FUCK UP!”

Your exercise for this week is to ask yourself if your state of mind is encouraging the things that you love or taking them away? What is your mind saying to you in either case? Is this really how you want it to be? Now ask yourself what you can do to change those wounding words into more powerful and loving words? Listen to your own loving voice for the answer. It is within you. Only your loving voice knows the right answer for you.

If you’d like to share your answers, then I would love to hear them.

Lets start running

I did it!

This Body of Mine

A poem about the hate, love, hate relationship I have had with my body

read it here

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