Growing up I was known as a swimmer. The first thing people asked about when they saw me was how swimming was going. I was proud of my accomplishments as a swimmer but was even more proud of the person I was because of swimming. When I had to quit swimming I felt lost, like I didn't know who I was anymore. I went from being the girl who woke up at 5am in high school to go to practice and the girl who could do more pushups than all the guys at my school, to being a regular teenager.
All of the things that gave me confidence were suddenly gone. Couple that with a surgery that left me unable to exercise for 4 months with the weight gain that goes with no working out for 4 months, and I was miserable. I felt like someone else. I felt trapped. I started running as a way to try to gain back some semblance of my old identity. I wanted to feel like myself again and running seemed to be the only option left.
For months I liked the idea of running more than actually running. I didn't know what I was doing and never saw any real progress. More importantly, I didn't feel like a runner. In my mind, to be a runner you needed to run something like 60 miles a week, have a BQ, actually know about running. Despite running four half marathons and one full marathon I still didn't feel like a runner. I felt like a poser probably because I was such a newbie, especially compared to the 10 years I swam for.
Over the winter I gained for weight than I would like to be carrying around. I spent months feeling like my confidence and ability was dictated by my weight. I had this idea in my mind that real runners were stick thin with hardly any body fat. Well that is not the body that I have. Even at my skinniest I am still not a stick. I remember at the starting line of the Nike Women's Half Marathon being surrounded by women who were super skinny. I felt like I didn't belong.
During the race was when it hit me how strong my body is. I spent 13.1 miles passing all of those girls who looked like "runners." When I crossed the finish line in a time that I had only dreamed about my mindset started to change. I started viewing my body as more of a way to achieve my goals rather than something that dictates how I feel about myself.
As part of my quest to find happiness, I started lifting again this week. As much as I love the endorphin high that running gives me, nothing compares to how good being strong feels. Not only will lifting help keep me injury free, but it will also improve my abilities as an athlete. More importantly, I want to feel strong again. Because strong is beautiful.