Adjusting to different seasons – not necessarily calendar seasons, but perhaps changes in work / family balance, or reducing your workouts due to injury or ill health – can cause a bit of a disturbance in the Force, and like Yoda*, I’ve been a bit twitchy lately.
(*Alright I don’t know for sure who said that. It may have been Darth Vader, and he’s a (morally ambiguous and ultimately redeemed) baddie, in which case it doesn’t work quite as well here. But you get my point.)
I’m running really just once a week right now, and I’ve noticed a gradual motivation creep, where I’m a little less inclined to get out there, to monitor my diet for healthy fuelling, to take the stairs rather than the lift, to grab the opportunity for a gym class or weights session if the timing isn’t ideal…
This is unlike me. For over ten years I’ve gradually and deliberately re-scripted my identity from someone intimidated by exercise to someone who embraces it. I’ve rejected the lie that some people ‘just aren’t sporty’, and understood that fitness and physical activity are inherent to everybody’s overall wellbeing, and a normal, natural, vital part of everyday life.
But I’ve simultaneously kept a careful watch on my mental health – not relying too heavily on finding self-worth or strength in ‘being sporty’. Going from one artificial definition to another won’t do my spirit any good, even if I do get lower cholesterol or stronger calves as part of the deal. So I’ve tended to be a little reluctant to refer to myself by what I do (rather than who I am). I am hesitant to call myself a runner – not because I think I would need to have a rack of marathon medals or IronWoman shirts to prove it, but because I am me. Sometimes I run, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I write, sometimes not so much. In fact I run and write most of the time, but neither activity defines me.
And yet – as my weekly mileage has plummeted (involuntarily but necessarily) lower than at any time since I first began to run, I realise that being a runner can be a powerful declaration, rather than a limiting self description.
I had a great run last week, the best in ages, and I found my internal monologue boldly yelling “I’m a runner! I’m running and I love it! I’M A RUNNER!!” (I didn’t make this an external bold yell as it was (a) dark and there were numerous dog-walking senior citizens within terrifying-distance and (b) I was going faster than I had for months so my cardio capacity was somewhat compromised…)
Sometimes you just have to declare it. Fake it till you make it – this is real body language, where you speak something to your body! Tell yourself how it is, and then run into it, one step at a time.
Even though the dodgy knee is still dodgy, and I’m still figuring out how to work through this injury, it is helpful to me to know that – amongst many other things – I am a runner. That doesn’t depend on my mileage, speed, race participation, or how much I spent on gear lately. Running is a great form of exercise, and it’s a great mindset: to be pushing hard, in pursuit, training, able to encourage others, and able to shut out distraction and doggedly run, run and run. Forget the cold, forget the busyness, lace up and get out there.
Call yourself a runner.