I knew I was in over my head when my fit army veteran friend literally pushed my rear end over an eight-foot wall. I had already ripped my pants on a school bus, jumped off three stacked shipping containers onto a stunt landing pad and had rope burn on my hands. I was also enjoying every minute.
Just a year before, I was unhappy. Still carrying some baby weight despite my previous diet and exercise efforts, I knew it was time for a radical change. Something I had never done before. So on this November morning, as I was participating in my last of seven races for the year, I was elated to even be there.
You see, I am not built for running or obstacles. With allergies, asthma and easily sunburned skin, sometimes things can be a bit tough for me. And with a toddler at home, it was hard to find the time. Slow on the mile and lacking upper body strength, people breeze by me. So even harder than the chilly early morning runs and the various injuries I racked up was, quite simply, my own mind.
The list of can’ts and don’ts was a mile long. Aside from my obvious worry of time, I thought about how I didn’t look like other racers. Or how easy it would be to just stop when I was crying over early signs of compartment syndrome, a painful pressure building in my legs. I didn’t look like that girl running in a sports bra or place in the top ten of my age division. I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t experienced-only having run a few 5k races in the past, pre-baby.
I started with the Heart Mini 5k in March, then worked my way up to the Flying Pig 10k in May. I did fairly well in both. Then, my friend asked if I was interested in Cincinnati’s first Color Run during All-Star Weekend. I loved the wacky novelty of it–and something clicked for me. I realized the key to getting my confidence and strength back post-baby meant I needed to get outside of my comfort zone. Better yet, I needed to take my comfort zone and kick it straight out the door.
Loud events with booming music and crazy getups have never been my thing. Having spent the previous couple of years pregnant then working, nursing, getting little sleep, having no social life, doing endless laundry and only marginally taking care of myself meant that I was also not keen on attracting attention. I was the walking cliche of yoga pants and a ponytail.
So I decided to flip that on its head, even if it made me uncomfortable. If that was my current MO and I didn’t feel great, I figured the opposite just might work. Just a few months after the Color Run, I was on a mud obstacle course in a short sequined blue skirt, screaming with glee as I careened into a pool of muck in front of a crowd of spectators. Months after that, I completed (albeit slowly) the Loveland Half Marathon. When I completed Urban Trials in November, I wore my bruises with pride. I was no shrinking violet and everyone in Target who saw me in my “Finisher” shirt could see that.
For some, participation in these events is about personal records and medals (totally cool, by the way. I respect that). For me, I knew I was not going to be the fastest, the fittest or look the best in running clothes. What these gave back to me was the ability to conquer fears and be comfortable in my own skin. I went from someone who avoided social events for over a year to someone who was dancing to the music at the finish line and putting a medal around my son’s neck when I returned home from being a badass for a few hours.
If you’re stuck in a rut–whether it be mental or physical–please, PLEASE take my advice. Think about what you want to change. For me, the weight loss that started as my main goal took a backseat to the benefits I never even expected (though the weight loss made me very happy). I found my confidence again. I found that the people I was once intimidated by are actually super encouraging and supportive no matter your ability level. And I discovered all of this because I was willing to ignore those voices of self-doubt and step way outside my comfort zone. Add in a helpful husband (thanks honey) and supportive family, those miles and mud pits don’t seem so crazy anymore. What’s next?