The sun fell into the Louisiana bayou, as my husband and I ran side by side on an evening run. The sky was an amazing fluorescent pink and purple and the crisp fall air was simply perfect. We pushed our son in his stroller as he clutched his beloved golf club and juice cup in his tiny hands. Tonight’s seemingly insignificant Sunday run turned into another extraordinary recovery moment that took my breath away.
It was once said to me that “exercise should be play.” Funny, because the ‘old me’ always thought exercise was punishment. Punishment for the food I ate and torture for the imperfect size I wore. Exercise as play? Such a foreign concept. The exercise piece of my eating disorder was a very tricky one (as it is for most people). To the outside world I was deemed healthy, with strong will power to exercise and the ability to ‘watch what I ate’. But inside my mind was a violent storm: eat this, not that; run further; you’re a bad runner; swim longer; you’re slow; bike faster; you suck; calories in, calories OUT. Exercise was anything but play.
Body movement. That is what they called the group at the Carolina House. Body movement: an hour dedicated to learning to be in your body again. And of course, I thought it was ridiculous. Why walk when you can run? Why jump rope like a first grader when you can jump singles and burn more calories? It just did not make sense to me. In my mind, I did not have exercise issues, but as usual, the staff disagreed (rightfully so).
It has taken me nearly three years in recovery to find a healthy relationship with exercise. I always thought ‘exercise addiction’ meant sneaking out the window at 3:00am to run ten miles. Once again I had an extreme standard that I held my own issues and anxiety up to. The truth was and is that I struggled with exercise just like I severely struggled to find a healthy relationship with my body and food.
Since the birth of my son I have slowly gotten back into
exercise playing. I do what feels right and I listen to my body. I HONOR my body, whether it be through movement, eating or rest. When I was 10 years old, I remember a voice in my head telling me I was ‘bad runner’ and I believed that voice for a long time. Running was torture because I thought I was never good enough. Today, I know that speed or time or miles do not make me a ‘good’ runner. I am a good runner because I choose to lace up my shoes and RUN. I am a good runner because I love it. I am a runner because it is my play.
I am a spirited and active woman – always have been. I am naturally athletic and have finally found peace in honoring that part of me. I am proud to say that I cannot remember the last time ‘worked out.’ Since the birth of my son and being a coach of Girls on the Run, I no longer work out. I PLAY.
Over the past couple of months my husband and I have talked about running in the Louisiana Half Marathon on January 19, 2014. I have been very hesitant to declare it and put it out there (because you know nothing is official until it appears on Facebook). Tonight after our beautiful and peaceful run I knew we could do this, together.
So here is my declaration: Come Sunday, January 19th, you can find Jordan and me at the starting line (barring any unexpected pregnancies, injuries, etc.).
I am not running to prove anything. A finish line will not prove my health, my strength or my recovery. I am recovered. I am healthy. I am running simply because it sounds fun. Running is my PLAY. I love it. I love the pavement under my feet and the wind in my face. But most of all, I love playing with my best friend by my side.
Body movement comes in all shapes and sizes. And those of us in recovery and fighting our way to recovery need to be patient and open to discovering what our body craves. Body intuition is a practice. Be silent. Be still. Be patient. And soon you will find your PLAY.
With love and PLAYfulness,