In the last two posts I wrote about new Rules to follow for weight loss in 2016. One of those rules was to “take at least one long run” once a week. This decision came after a long history of extremes that I wanted to share with you today because I think it paints a picture of the process we are all going through as we aim to lead healthier lifestyles.
In 2007 I joined a group of coworkers and trained for a 10-mile race in honor of a coworker who had died of cancer. I trained hard for 6 months. Initially I couldn’t even run a mile without feeling like I was going to pass out but I pushed through it and eventually I made it and I finished the race. When I finished that race my first thought was wow, I did it. My second thought was I never want to do that again. And it was followed by a month long hiatus of no running. Then slowly I started running again and what I realized was that training for the ten mile race was what I needed to do in order to get to a place where I could naturally just “go out for a run” and for me that “run” translated to about 4-6 miles.
But with that knowledge that I could run whenever I wanted came a responsibility to run in a healthy, responsible way but it would be 6 more years before I realized that.
As the years went on I continued my weight loss struggles and I had some significant losses but I started using exercise to compensate for overeating. Running became a huge part of that. I soon realized that I could “diet” and then cheat during some of it as long as I compensated for the cheating with more exercise. By 2010 I was running 6 miles at a time 3-4 times a week in addition to a bunch of other exercise. It was excessive to say the least. But I had tricked the system – or so I thought.
Eventually I wasn’t able to keep it up and I was overeating even more from the stress of life and not stopping to deal with my problems. By 2014 not only was I running like a maniac but I wasn’t even losing weight. I was gaining!
Last year I put an end to that cycle. In 2015 I got determined to figure out why I overeat. I started reading a lot more about emotional eating, I got a new Nutritionist who focuses on quantity control and I started this blog where I could share my thoughts with like-minded people like you. And slowly over the course of last year……. I stepped way back from the exercise. My new focus became:
I work out because it feels good and NOT because I am trying to directly burn off what I just ate.
In other words – NO TRADE-OFFS. You eat what you need for nutrition and energy. You exercise a prescribed amount – for me that would be an intense 30-45 minutes. You do this because it’s good for your overall health and well-being. Any additional exercise you do ONLY if you want to. And that’s that. All this past year, I worked hard to try and live by this philosophy and stop over exercising.
But guess what happened?
In practicing this new mentality in 2015, by the end of the year I realized that I didn’t run at all. Seriously. All year. 2015 – not one single run. I couldn’t believe it. I started to get upset about it, especially when I think back to when running became such an important thing to me and how hard I had worked. But in 2015, I worked on something much harder. I worked on my emotions and my heart. And that took way more work than running ever did.
So now we are in the beginning of 2016 and I realize I do in fact want to get back to running again on a regular basis. But what does that mean?
Running is something that I’m proud I am able to do. It’s something I can use to clear my head and de-stress. In 2015 I stayed on a pretty strict routine of working out no more than 30-45 minutes per day. The workouts were intense but short. They got t to the point. And it was enough. I did not need to run for exercise. So to me, I think that doing one or two long runs of no less than 4 miles and no more than 6 miles per week will prove to be a nice addition to my ever-improving healthy lifestyle.
You could say it took me a long time to get to this point and it did. But none of those steps were useless. Had I never trained for the 10-mile race I never would have gotten to that place of being able to run 4 miles on the regular.
As recovering overeaters we are retraining ourselves. We are at the point where we can acknowledge that what we’ve been doing has been unhealthy, unsustainable and it’s flat out not working. But in the process of retraining our brains and correcting our behaviors sometimes it is necessary to go to the other extreme FIRST, before we come back to what we will now establish as our NEW NORMAL. And that’s okay.
For me, I had to train for 10 miles. And (unfortunately) I had to go through that ridiculous cycle of run, eat, run some more. And finally, I had to stop the running altogether. That was my journey. And now I think I’m at a place where I can say “I do one (or two) really long runs a week”. This will be my new normal. Not because I’m trying to use it to lose weight. Not because I’m using it to compensate for what I ate. But simply because I enjoy it.
So be kind to yourself and be patient. Realize that sometimes on this journey we may go too far, sometimes way too far, to the other side. But it’s okay. We’re just peaking over the opposite side of the cliff to see what’s over there. So then we can say: “ Oh, okay, nice to see. That’s not for me, but nice to know what’s there. I can go home now.” But home has a new destination as well.
Here’s to your journey to finding your new normal. I’m right there with you. Cheers!