Recently, I’ve seen a lot of running-related posts on Instagram that have upset me. And, more often than not,this has then translated into feelings of frustration and anger. Why? Because it seems to have become the norm to promote unhealthy relationships with running, food, rest, and everything in between. As runners, I think we all have a responsibility to resist this trend – hence this post. My aim isn’t to “name and shame” anyone, just to encourage a better attitude to running in us all.
The “runner’s body”
And why it doesn’t exist. I’ve seen emaciated runners, strong runners, big runners, small runners (*me*), tall runners, skinny runners. There’s no such thing as one perfect runner’s body. Sadly, all too common is the idea that runners need to look a certain way and be a certain weight in order to be successful. In order to have legitimate claims to the term “runner”. It can feel uncomfortable when you don’t seem to “fit in” with this ideal. Trust me, I know – I was told a lot when I was younger that I didn’t look like a runner. My legs weren’t long enough, I wasn’t lean enough, I was too weak…
But, as long as you are at YOUR healthy weight – I repeat and emphasise the YOUR – then it doesn’t matter how you look. And, as I’ve learnt recently, being a bit heavier is always better than being a bit underweight. I have PB’d in both my 10K and half marathon since restoring my weight, so I speak from personal experience.
Spreading body positivity
The reason why I’m so passionate about this in particular is because I understand the effects of seeing hundreds of successful runners who all look a certain way. I have felt the pressure to conform to this, to be as light as possible to be as fast as possible. However, there is a breaking point. Everyone has it (read My Wakeup Call). The low weight will catch up with you and your body will no longer be able to cope with that training load, at that weight and lack of fuel. I hope that my own negative body image has never impacted any of you, and if it has – I’m sorry. Hopefully, in sharing this post and my photos/ captions on Instagram, I can try to promote a healthier relationship with our bodies.
First off, I want to point out that no two runners are the same. Therefore, necessarily, training should be unique and adapted to the individual. Comparison of training sessions, especially with strangers online, should be avoided. However, I get that a) it’s not that easy, b) we like to get inspiration and c) we want to see what the best are doing to try and be as good (if not better one day). Since comparison is inevitable, I think we should all train sensibly so that we can encourage a similar mindset in others. For some, a double day is normal/ necessary, but for many of us, it isn’t. Doing a swim, gym session and hill sprints is (in my opinion) ridiculous, and publishing this can encourage over-training in others. If anything, we have to be mindful of our (potentially dangerous) impact on others.
The interest of rest
A rest day is a weekly occurrence for me. I’d even call it a necessity. It enables my body and mind to have a break from the intense week of training and go into the next one refreshed and ready. I’ve seen all too many runners forgo this, or promote a “rest day” that is filled with gym sessions/ swimming/ yoga etc. But that isn’t resting! You are still breaking muscle fibres and thus not promoting recovery. I know it can be hard to reconcile yourself with taking a rest day, but it’s so important – for you and others. I don’t know about you, but I want to be running into my old age 😉. And that won’t happen if I destroy my body now. There’s a bigger picture here.
Eating in abundance
Training at this intensity is a runner’s choice. So eating in abundance should be ingrained as a necessity. I’m guilty of underfuelling for a long time, and am only now realising the extent to which I was doing it. Simply put, I was eating enough for someone who did no sport to maintain their weight. But I do a lot of sport – so my body has always been under strain. I’m trying now, more than ever, to encourage this idea of abundance on instagram.
Yes, eating – like training – is individual to everyone, but there’s a difference between that and restrictive eating. Yes, my foodshop has gotten more expensive. Yes, I snack three times a day (on top of my three meals). And yes, I have more energy, feel better (mentally and physically), enjoy training and am getting faster. The “food is fuel” mantra is great, except for the fact that a lot of people who preach it don’t practice it. If you’re ever in any doubts, go see a registered sports nutritionist and get the necessary information to fuel yourself properly. You won’t regret it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post, and if you have anything to say/ add, please don’t hesitate to message me. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have a lovely Easter.