Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learning to Love Myself: One Step at a Time

Image via footage.shutterstock.com
My sweet friend Sarah Kagan (who's becoming a regular contributor around here) has so kindly offered to step in today since I am rockin' and rollin' this week with health coaching and workshop prep!  She just spent the last few months dealing with a training injury that taught her a very valuable lesson.  Thank you, Sarah, for being brave enough to share your personal reflection with us today!


I decided I would run 1,000 miles in 2013. It was a respectable number, but one that would ultimately be more a test of my determination than my ability. I had been getting more serious about running over the last few months, and I knew I could physically handle it as long as I was committed.

In order to hold myself accountable, I started writing my miles down on a calendar. Similar to a food journal, I could see how many miles I had run and on how many days each week, and I kept a running total [no pun intended] at the top of each month to track my progress.  

At first, it was empowering to see my calendar littered with tallies. But then there were a few days of bad weather, followed by a few days I was on vacation, followed by a few days when I was just plain busy. I was slipping behind, and finding it increasingly more difficult to catch up.

So I ran harder. I was turning my rest days into run days, and even staying in on Saturday nights in order to get up early and log more miles on Sunday. I started to develop, by all accounts, an unhealthy relationship with my goal. No matter what number stared back at me, it never seemed to be enough. I pushed through pain and fatigue, determined to reach my benchmarks no matter what.

Until one day about two months ago, something happened. One minute I was fine, soaking in the early spring sunshine as I rounded the final corner towards home, and then just like that, I wasn’t. Within seconds, I found myself in more agony than I knew how to handle. And still, with tears streaming down my face, I ran. After what felt like an eternity, with pain radiating from my back, hip, and side, I hobbled through my front door, grabbed a pen, and logged my miles. I promised myself a rest day to follow, but assumed I would be back in my sneakers in no time.

Within two days, I was limiting my movement to accomplish only the bare necessities. And then I wasn’t really moving at all. And finally, when even the idea of moving brought me tears, I called my family for help. My brother drove up from Philadelphia and took me home to my parent’s house, which is where I spent two weeks laying on the floor, unable and unwilling to move.

Image via community.mainlinehealth.org
I was frustrated, confused, and angry. As a health coach and cooking teacher, I pride myself on being healthy. I know all the rules, eat a clean diet, and exercise regularly. Doctor after doctor, I longed for answers…. but somewhere between their indifference and my overwhelming frustration I knew exactly how this happened to me. The need to be seen as a runner, to align my own self worth with a physically demanding goal, to ignore my instincts and body for the sake of putting numbers on a chart is how this happened to me. I let running and meeting my goal become such a part of my identity that I stopped listening to my own needs, and stopped identifying with my body. It was a very, very painful reality check.

It took two weeks and an injection in my muscle before I was able to walk again, and it was another month before I finally laced up my sneakers. I never thought a mile could seem as far as it did that first day. But now, rather than beat myself up for not running farther, faster, or more often, I am celebrating myself for ever step. I am grateful for every minute I am able to spend outside, pavement under my feet, slowly building my mileage. I know that reaching my 1,000 mile goal this year is out of the question, and I am okay with that. But life is like that. Sometimes you reach the finish line, meet your ideal weight, or land your dream job… and sometimes just being able to put one foot in front of the other is enough.

Working as a chef on an organic farm in Costa Rica, Sarah Kagan discovered her passion behind the stove and around the dinner table. She moved to Brooklyn last fall and currently serves as the Director of Wellness + Food Education for Butter Beans Kitchen, where she teaches tiny tots the joys of getting messy in the kitchen. You can follow Sarah’s kitchen chronicles on her blog, www.beyondthebatter.org, or spend some one on one time with the girl behind the batter at a private cooking class or party. From pancakes to tier cakes, Sarah loves all things food related, and she loves sharing her passion with others.

No comments:

Post a Comment