Trigger Warning: This post contains descriptions of a negative body image from my personal experience.
When I first started running I was overweight and very self-conscious about my body. I was too embarrassed to run outside because I thought I was fat and disgusting (that’s harsh, but how I truly felt).
My mind was always flooded with intrusive thoughts about how big I looked, if my pants were stretching at the seams, if my skin was jiggling, etc. I could NOT imagine doing any sort of exercise in public where those things would be on display.
Just thinking about that is intense because I remember how bad I felt. My thoughts were unhealthy, unhelpful and a result of years of exposure to an unrealistic ideal of beauty and fitness. But at the time I truly believed every single negative thought.
The summer after I graduated high school I really wanted to lose weight, since I was too embarrassed to exercise outside or at a gym I used to go to my grandma’s and use her treadmill. I used it for months. Eventually I saved up and bought my own treadmill for my room.
I ran on a treadmill in my room for a very long time because I was too ashamed of my body to run outside or at a gym. (Jump to 2022 – I’ve run 32 marathons – so I’m comfortable running outside now.)
On my run today I thought about that girl, ashamed of her body because it didn’t look like the runners in ads or magazines. She only had that small, unattainable expectation because she didn’t see runners of all different sizes, shapes, ages, colors and abilities.
I’ve gained weight over the last 2 years and sometimes it makes me self-conscious while running. But now I think about it differently.
Today I ran by a little girl holding hands with her mom walking on the path. As I ran by them I realized one of the best things I can do to redefine what a runner looks like is… RUN. Every time we run outside or at the gym there’s a chance for someone to be inspired or empowered to think – ‘If they can do, maybe I can too’.
I wish I was exposed to runners of all different shapes and sizes when I started so I didn’t waste so much time ashamed of my body. But I don’t have a time machine (if you do, please DM me).
What I do have is the ability to lead by example now. I’m a representative of running every time I run. And so are YOU.
If you struggle with body image try to focus on how you can be a light for someone in a dark place. Every time you run down a busy street, around your neighborhood, at the gym, on your treadmill and share it on social media – YOU are leading by example.
I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve been inspired by tons of runners I’ve seen irl and on Instagram. Those people have no idea (you might be one of them & I thank you).
The moral of the story is: The next time you’re thinking about yourself in a negative way… hit pause. Remind yourself that runners come in all shapes, sizes and abilities… and we need you to represent.
Do your best in whatever situation you’re in today. Then, do your best tomorrow. Repeat.
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