10 life lessons I’ve learned from running

What running has taught me about life.

Disclaimer: I was inspired to write this post after reading some #runchat comments between a couple of bloggers, check them out here> http://www.happyfitmama.com/life-lessons-running/ and www.pavementrunner.com.

It’s definitely a list that I’ve thought of over the last several years, and resonates with me in daily life.

  1. “Be Somebody”.

    "Be Somebody"

    “Be Somebody”

    This is what ultramarathoner Scott Jurek signed in my copy of Eat & Run. I met him a couple years ago for a fun run. When you read the book, he talks about his running coaches and pals who have said this to him along his way. Really, are you going to go out there and simply pound the pavement, or can you really ‘be somebody’. Always leave a dent, make an impact, make yourself better every time.

  2. It’s okay to leave your gadgets at home. I ran my fastest 5k unplanned, no watch, ran on feel and surprised myself. Sure it’s great to run with a Garmin but trusting in technology takes away from being in touch with yourself. Lose the gadget, free yourself. Disconnect from technology every day; turn your phone off after a certain hour, don’t be used by tools.
  3. You reap what you sow. When you toe in at the starting line, there is nothing but your training (or lack thereof) that will make or break you. Much like life, what you put into your life comes back to reward you. Work smart, get rewarded.
  4. Always have a plan B. Start a run strong, cramp up, trip, slow down, bump into a friend, whatever it is that stops you from what you initially intended to run cannot be the ‘end all’. Always have a plan B and be okay with it. This has spilled into my life as an educator for the Epilepsy Foundation – the first training I did was in a special needs room with a sight dog barking and running around the room and the L training buzzing by every five minutes. It wasn’t my ideal situation, but I adapted to something just as perfect.
  5. Don’t give up when life presents you with a challenge, you are about to make a breakthrough. You know this when you are planking and are about to collapse – don’t! It is said our true character shows when we are facing hardship or difficulty – that is when we are making a breakthrough. Be your best self when it counts the most. No one regrets trying their hardest.
  6. Injured? Figure out what happened and prevent it next time. I can’t say this enough as a public health practitioner. There is a public health impact in everything, and I approach my life this way. My goals are to prevent disease, increase awareness and promote health education. My brother recently ran the Chicago Marathon and developed a meniscus tear at mile 25. Diagnosing his knee means understanding the mechanics and kinesiology of the knee, basically going deeper into the injury. Life lesson? We have to take that extra step to solve problems. I’ve written a lot on the negative impact of media on girls’ self esteem, which basically puts the onus of responsibility and accountability back on corporations, movies, and the music industry. Why are they interested in selling a concept of weak women and images of photoshopped girls and women? Who is their audience? There is always a cause and effect. I could go on…
  7. Start what you finish. This is so hard for me as an aquarian (yes I read those signs from time to time).
    Still don't know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!

    Still don’t know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!

    Can’t see the pavement because of yesterday’s blizzard? Well, just do your best and have fun with it. As someone who has multiple interests, it can be overwhelming to get it all done. But in general, we should always strive to finish what we start, hopefully at 100%, but sometimes it at less.

  8. Be empowered. Embrace your strengths. Being a mid-distance runner has somehow elevated me among my acquaintances and friends to a different echelon of ‘fitness people’, hardcore, they say. I don’t know how it happened, I hit the perfunctory 5 mile mark one April day and knew I was in a new club.  From that day onward, I started going out for 10 mile runs no big deal. If you find yourself saying to someone, “I only ran 5 miles today”, then you know what I’m talking about. You’re a beast and you know it (at least now you do). Life lesson here (and verse from the Qur’an) is we are always capable of more than we think we can handle. Stop that negative self-talk and rise above it. (I love Runner’s World’s columnist Marc Parent’s article on getting to five miles).
  9. Running is for me, myself and I. I love to run alone on the pavement. But I do enjoy running with company, and do so 1-2x a week. We build our self efficacy when we are alone, and increase our self esteem when we join others. We feel good about ourselves when we do something good together.
    races are always more fun with friends

    races are always more fun with friends

    Consider volunteering, it is always more impactful to the community or organization in aggregate, and we get to hang out with family and friends. However the true benefit you get from making a difference is an individual experience. In the end, YOU have to feel good about yourself when giving YOUR time to a cause, not the time of your friends or family.

  10. Have a sense of humor. Seriously, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re fooling yourself. Yes you are important but there are bigger things to worry about around the world.  Life is too short and unpredictable, make the best of every day, count your blessings, and be good to others.

    It's totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.

    It’s totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.

Peace out.


Layers of Self Esteem

Originally appeared on The Skinless Project Blog

Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem

Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem

When I start a unit on self-esteem with young girls and women, I talk about factors that impact it, positively and negatively.  And the group comes to the conclusion that aside from the obvious factors such as media, friends, and peers, there are others that subconsciously affect our self-esteem, and those factors can be the most important: a void.  When Gloria Steinem talks about self-esteem[1], she mentions two components, akin to two rivers that converge into one large body.  From birth into infancy (and possibly very early childhood), we experience an unconditional love from our parents.  We are loved and are lovable ‘as we are’ and are genuinely happy: she defines this as ‘core self esteem’.  While babies may not receive rewards for rolling over, walking or popping out teeth, we give them smiles, kisses, hugs, and take photos.  They know they did something truly amazing, and seek to inspire that love and affection again by repeating whatever it was they did.  It’s a mutual sense of satisfaction and achievement.  However as infants become young children and grow older, she describes a different type of self esteem she calls ‘situational self esteem’.  Here is where I believe culture can clash and create systemic issues that can impact girls and boys alike into adulthood.  And here is where our self esteem is dependent upon something else, an idea that we are good at something or that we meet society’s expectations of something.  It is a time when we can discover new abilities, new talents and being successful at something new improves that sense of self worth (self-efficacy).  We are excited to grow and try new things, color our hair, learn skateboarding, whatever your heart desires!  Lets consider where culture can potentially clash here.  For example, imagine a conservative culture towards girls. Let’s suppose she’s encouraged to stay indoors and not play outside in order to keep her skin color light (I’ve actually heard this from a friend!) or because ‘girls don’t play outside’.  Yet she has a yearning to be outside, play, or run the backyard races with her neighbors.  She’s inherently taught that her own desires are not worthy of her time and that she’s better off inside.  Since this decision was made for her, she will have lost the ability to decide for herself among choices presented to her in the future, good or bad, and she has lost the opportunity to trust her own instinct.  Thus a false sense of self is created and she is discouraged from exploring and developing any sort of inner strength.  Because her culture has a taboo on girls playing outside, maybe with boys and possibly getting dirty, she has an internal dilemma.  When families don’t foster that initial core self esteem, of loving and valuing their child as they are, and they portion out this secondary, situational self esteem, the child is made to feel as if something is inherently wrong with their own likes, desires or abilities.  Children then look to their peers and community at large to fill that void, and that can be either a positive or negative experience (youth groups, faith centers, or gangs).   Continue reading