Running My Way to Positive Body Image & Self-Love

Melissa from Cook Slow Run Fast running by Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA.

 

Before I became a runner, I used to obsess about how much I weighed, how I looked, and what I ate. I fell into the same mental traps that many women (and men) have battled. My abs sure didn’t look like the woman’s on the cover of Self magazine, and I fixated on how my body would never compare to hers.

At the time, I thought that the best way to feel better about myself was to punish my body. I grew up with an aversion to running (I prayed for sickness every school mile day), so I deemed this as appropriate calorie-burning torture.

However, soon after I bought my first pair of running shoes since high school P.E., and got over the fact that thighs have the tendency to rub together when you jog, I forgot that I started this running thing out of self-hate.

With each run, I found myself focusing more on—and excited about—going just a little further or getting just a tiny bit faster. Rather than simply jogging around the comfort of my neighborhood, I wanted to see if I could make it to the lake without stopping—and in record time!

I forgot to worry about how I looked to people driving by, or how the body jiggles when it moves, or why I even compared myself to that woman on the cover of Self in the first place. Instead, I found myself thinking about how it good it felt to run a little further and a little faster.

I stopped seeing my body as a burden, and realized that it’s a beautiful and miraculous machine. I saw what I was capable of. While my pants got a little looser and I began to see a bit of muscle definition, what I cared about wasn’t the number on the scale. Rather, I impressed myself by shaving a few seconds off my mile time, taking on that crazy-tall hill by my house, or finishing a race with a smile on my face. My accomplishments meant more than my appearances.

I’ve since learned to embrace my body for exactly what it is. I’m on the shorter end of the spectrum, “long” is not the best word to describe my legs, and I was born with curves. And I love it all because it’s who I am. I no longer hate, or even simply accept, who I am. Rather, I’m empowered by it. I’m strong and unstoppable.

I encourage all women (and men) to lean into their current body with gratitude, and running is a great way to do so. Whether you have a beautiful, naturally thin body type, or one that’s composed of gorgeous curves, learn to love it by pushing it physically. Forget the Photoshopped models on the covers of beauty magazines, hit the pavement and chase after your own body happiness and self-love.

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