When Learning Self Acceptance Challenges Your Body Confidence

Hard truth: recently I’ve been struggling in a muck of self doubt in the confidence department. Remember Atreyu dragging himself through the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story? (RIP Artax.) Like that, but with body stuff—my athletic ability, my direction, and insecurity’s all-time greatest hit: my appearance.

I still see all the tricks of living in the diet Matrix. All of the confidence and self love I’ve wrested from the claws of bullshit diet culture is mine to keep. But lately, there’s been a new, harrowing motto: but you could be so much more.

You’re a runner BUT you could be faster.
You’re fine as you are BUT it wouldn’t hurt to just be a few sizes smaller…
You’re cute, BUT don’t you wish you looked more like…?

This is hard to admit—not only to myself, but maybe to world at large. After all, confidence is respected, coveted, and has been declared the secret ingredient to being attractive in every Cosmo survey I ever read growing up. That’s the promise, right? If you’re confident, funny, and memorize their top 200 new spicy sex tricks by heart, the world is yours to conquer.

Inviting in the vampires

Declaring you’re having a stint of bad confidence is not something confident people tend to do. In the more progressive or body positive parts of the fitness community, people talk a lot about how they used to feel and brush over anything to the contrary with a zippy “some days are harder than others!”

I get it. Saying you don’t love your everything 24/7 kinda feels like opening the door to vampires—life-sucking doubts that just might make people suddenly see you the way you fear you are. So when you suddenly find yourself in a very real den of monstrous insecurities, the impulse to pretend nothing is wrong is strong.

The Art of Re-Traumatizing Yourself

This has been going on for weeks. Maybe even a month or two—feeling not good enough, like the marathon I ran and the training I do doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it started when I was weighed at the doctor’s office, and then measured during a personal training assessment at my gym in the same two week span not long ago.

Maybe it’s this year’s choral refrain of “bathing suit SZN” beginning to swell over the other social media noise. I’m not sure.

I’ve ignored it because I thought that if I just kept doing what I do, the whispers would go away—but they haven’t.

For awhile I couldn’t figure out why the proverbial blood just kept draining—until I listened to an episode of Food Psych about marketing and diet culture. It brought up the notion that if you’re branding yourself as someone who has overcome your trauma—that also means you may relive it every time you use it to make a point.

You run the risk of resurrecting your demons when you try to make their skeletons work for you.

I don’t think I’ve made a point of discussing solely body image on my Instagram or here on the blog. I intentionally stay sports-focused. BUT I do know that engaging with body positive content, Health At Every Size activism, and other facets of this work mean I’m thinking about it ALL. THE. TIME.

Any choice I can make seems to be plagued with “this is against diet culture” and “this conforms with diet culture.” Eating, sleeping, dressing, moving—these filters can shade everything I do.

Ain’t it strange that sometimes, on a mission to embrace ourselves, shit gets worse before it gets better?

WTF Comes Next?

The point of this post, at the end of the day, is to assure anyone else who might be feeling this way that it’s OKAY to not be a self love unicorn 24/7.

The goal is to aim for WAY more good days than bad ones, and taking care of yourself even on the days when you don’t like yourself. For me, this looks like a mix of movement (hellooo trail running!), nourishment, and vetting what media I take in and when. If I’m having a bad day, I might skip out on that article or podcast until I have another one where I’m angry and ready to engage.

I keep on going—not because I could be better. But because it’s the best way to remind myself that I’m already enough.

Hey—let’s yell about this together. Drop me a message on my Instagram, EBC’s Facebook page, or even in in the comments below.

Race Recap: Hamilton's 2019 Around The Bay 30K

Around The Bay 2019 is OVER… like—way over. I’m already in the middle of an existential reel as I attempt to figure out my next move.

BUT, I wrote my way through many. Weeks. Of. Training! I owed it to myself to churn out some thoughts on the experience, and to document it—especially for any middle or back of the pack runners like me who are curious but cautious about entering this legendary Canadian race.

Around The Bay RACE RECAP:

all the physical challenge of a marathon without being so far from the finish line you question whether you’ll ever see your family again

1 - 10 KM: The Most Hamilton Race Ever

• This is the race’s 125th year, which is… pretty wicked. Swag in my race kit included a baseball cap, long-sleeved tech shirt, a special ATB magazine and a copy of iRunNation, Aveeno and Roc samples… who care let’s get to the running part.

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• Mid-run thought: Around The Bay is the most Hamilton race that ever raced because you start in the hip downtown, and then run away from the safety of 15 brunch places through the industrial district. Some people poo-poo this part, but honestly, running past the factories and the junkyards in a huge pack of people on a cold, grey March morning made me feel like a character in a dystopian novel. #KatnissEverrun

• The media will tell you this section of the race is flat, but I’m here to give you the truth—ATB keeps it spicy with a few overpasses that you have to haul up and over on your journey through to 10K. A nice little appetizer for your calves and thighs.

• Shout outs to the kid in the lawn chair playing the tuba.

• Overheard in the pack, “I figured if I run 100 miles in a week, why not run 100 miles in a day?” Uhhhhhhhhhhhmovingon.

11 - 17 KM: In Which I Also Feel “Older Than Boston”

• This is the TRUE flat section of the Around The Bay course. The wind coming off the waterfront made it chilly, but some people lined up with signs, or beating pots and pans with wooden spoons to cheer on runners and it kept the cold at bay.

• Was that a castle?

• The course offered lots of water stations. I’m not sure how long they were kept up for slower runners or walkers—people further in the back of the pack.

• Another note, this course doesn’t offer gels. Which is… kind of odd. I figure it’s some sort of “Hamilton is hardy” and “we’re older than Boston” tradition. I should Google this. (I won’t Google this.) BRING YOUR OWN GELS.

At this point I was beginning to resent the relay runners who were zipping by with Fresh Legs(tm).

• Running over the lift bridge at the half way point was dizzying and exhilarating. Not only are you half way to your goal, you’re running on a steel grate over water. So uh… Don’t look down if you have a fear of heights.

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18 - 26 KM: The Hills Are Alive (And They’re Coming To Get You)

• Around The Bay is infamous for its final leg being hills for DAYS.

• Did I mention the hills?

• There are some hills. Even the greyhound-human hybrid whiplash people who I follow on Instagram were complaining about ‘em.

• I pictured vast rolling monsters, but the reality is that many require a long, slow, dedicated ascent that had my calves screaming like Alexisonfire. They do provide some shelter from the wind, and you warm up quickly here after the Beach Boulevard stretch.

• It’s also a bit of a trip to look across the water and see the industrial district you just ran through on the other side of the bay as you run… Around The Bay.

• There are a few more aid stations and spectators along this stretch of the course. Some people had fruit or pretzels, along with the usual water and gatorade—race day angels!

• Heading off North Shore Boulevard, you run past lots of graveyards… just in case you decide finishing just isn’t an option.

• By this point though, you’re close to 25 KM, which is far enough that you can feel the rumble of the finish line in your bones and it starts to drown out any discomfort you might be in.

27 KM - Forever: THE HILL

• A woman at my work has done ATB ten times (literally) and told me once you make it past the Valley Inn Road hill, you’re good to go. She was right. After that point, the course is basically flat and or downhill.

• But here’s the thing.

• You have to get up this hill first… and it’s a HILL, right when you don’t want there to be one.

• Breaking it down: It’s a two parter, an upward grind with a flat section in the middle and then a slightly steeper incline that will have you panting to get to York Boulevard.

• I’ll say this: if you’re thinking about running this race, but you’re hesitant—don’t let the hype scare you. It’s just a hill. It’s got a bottom and a top and it does end. EVENTUALLY. I promise. Take it from another slow runner who doesn’t take any step for granted… you can do this!

• There were plenty of people on the hill to cheer the runners on the way up! (Shoutouts to Rachael and Nick! HEY!)

• Once you make it to the top, there’s a heady sort of delirium that takes over. You pour onto York Boulevard and it’s time to change gears for the last 3k.

27 - 30KM: The Home Stretch

• Heading back into the city you see the Grim Reaper, the gruesome mascot of the race. He had kindly put out signs like “The End Is Near.” He’s also on the race swag which is… pretty cool.

• Should have stopped for a photo. Didn’t stop for a photo. Too busy chugging along to the finish. Guess I’ll have to run it again sometime.

• To cross the finish line you run down a ramp into the FirstOntario Centre stadium, which was COOL. For those of us who never ran in competitions, or who will never make it to the Olympics (sad but true), you get a once-in-a-lifetime feeling of running into an arena full of people cheering for you. IT WAS WICKED.

Around The bay: The Aftermath

• Calves and thighs definitely feeling the work, more than after the Scotiabank Marathon in Toronto.

• John Stanton pulled me aside to interview me in front of the whole stadium, so that’s fun. I follow him on Twitter.

• I had to wander a long way down the finisher’s chute to get it the medal, but it was finally worth it.

• Shoutouts to Merit Brewing for making and giving me a delicious beverage. #Startedfromthebottomnowwebeer

• I would definitely run this race again. Just… maybe not next year, and with even MORE hill training in my program. It’s a challenging, fun run at a middle distance between a half and a full marathon!

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Quartet Photos: @joshteewhy

It's Time To Marie Kondo Our Health And Fitness Routines

Joy-Sparkler-Body-Positive

Since Around The Bay (final race blog pending) I’ve been doing what I seem to do after every big race—resting, recovering, and digging into my future goals. What do I want to do with my body next?

This is a big question—and one that has been especially top-of-mind after listening to Jillian Murphy’s recent Food Freedom/Body Love podcast episode: “What’s your motivation to move?” (Spotify) (Apple).

In the episode, Murphy asks her listeners to examine their reasons for engaging in exercise and movement. She also brings up one often overlooked aspect of moving your body: joy.

This Is Your Life On Marie Kondo

You can see where I’m going with this, right? It’s not a particularly limber mental somersault. If you’ve been on the internet in 2019, you’ve seen the memes and you’ve heard Marie Kondo’s iconic question: “does this spark joy?

In the same way that you can get rid of those anonymous tangled power cords for long-lost electronics in the Rubbermaid in your basement, so too can you decide that you hate spin class and ditch it to try Zumba, or rock climbing, or aerial yoga. You can stop cutting carbs if it makes you miserable. You can opt out of the things you hate, and try things you love.

In fact, you should—for your health.

 
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Kondo-ing Your Movement Choices

It stands to reason that if you hate doing something… you hate doing it. It also stands to reason that you aren’t going to want to do things you hate, and they won’t make you feel good.

Doesn’t it make sense to give up hot yoga if you hate sweating like a gatorade commercial and you’ve always been curious about pole dancing? Or to join a softball league if you’ve been grinding out runs by yourself and getting furious about it? You might find it easier to move your body if you find the way your body loves to move instead of focusing on suffering to get the most calorie-burn for your buck.

I’d love to think we’re in an age where we’re all choosing exercise that we like, with the motive of keeping us happy and healthy. Then I remember diet culture still exists and that some idiot on the internet tried to fat shame Rihanna once. So, yeah. If you’re out there, scraping through workouts and hating every second, ask yourself why. Does this exercise bring me joy? No?

Time to try kickboxing. Or surfing. Or quidditch.

Kondo-ing Your Food Choices

Have you decided to try going low carb or gluten-free, or raw vegan or Paleo or Primal or pegan or vegan or vegetarian? Are you suffering through South Beach, Atkins, WW, Wheat Belly, Whole30, Keto, the Master Cleanse, the Screaming Apple Diet or any other trendy diet on the market?

Is it bringing you joy? But if you’re suffering trying to eat with self-inflicted restrictions that have you stressing out about the grams of sugar and carbs in carrots… It’s time to toss those restrictions out the window and start consuming joyfully. Life’s too short to skip all of the birthday cake, or avoid bananas for having “too much sugar” or cry over missing out on cheese.

Kondo-ing Your Social Media

I’ve seen a post a few times on Instagram that pretty much hits this sentiment on the head, “you can unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about your life.”

If the clean-eating influencer crowd makes you get down on yourself, or someone’s weekly weigh-ins make you grumpy, it’s time to Kondo those accounts, baby. Time to hit unfollow. You can control your digital world, why not make a you-topia of people who genuinely inspire you?

The bottom line here is that we often force ourselves to take on “healthy” habits that promise future happiness—and we hate these habits in the meantime. We think when we’ve restricted enough and sweat through enough squats to make it to the land free of cellulite, where celery juice flows like rivers, we will be worthy. We will be happy.

The truth is that the healthiest habits are the ones that bring us joy in the process.

So, what’s sparked you lately? Let me know on Instagram or Facebook!

Around The Bay Training Blog #4: Nine Days and Counting

By this coming Monday morning, I’ll expect to be feeling the early buzz of race week for Around The Bay in my bones.

If it’s anything like my pre-marathon jitters, my nearest and dearest are in for a potentially wild ride. That’s when I decided it was high time to take up sewing, terrified a Running Room employee on the hunt for chews, and sang Freddie Mercury’s AYYYYOOOOOOO loudly in the car on the way to the hotel… and for… the whole night before the race.

This past week I did some work to try and eliminate the anxiety and stress I’ve experienced during training brought on by weather, mental health issues, and good old fashioned race anticipation.

My brother-in-law and I actually went out and drove the course to see just what I was in for (spoiler alert: hills). I’ve never driven a course before, but Around The Bay’s notorious rolling course was becoming mountains in my mind and I had to cut the nightmare off somewhere. The upside: I’m not afraid of the hills! Downside: I realized 30k is like… FAR, y’all.

You don’t realize how far something is until it takes you 30 minutes to drive it.

The next day, desperately craving a change of scenery and wanting a bit of a test for myself, I headed out to the course again and parked at Dundurn Castle for my long run. I plotted to go 8 km out and 8 back, but ended up doing 18 kms in total.

It was wicked. I saw birds of prey and took on the hills, I waved to my fellow trainees—the only other woman I saw running gave me a high five as we passed. Lately I’ve been struggling to keep up with running, and I think running in a completely new location made me realize I’m just… bored. The missing ingredient to the sauce right now might just be changing it up.

This next week, I’ll be trying to take my sleep and nutrition as seriously as I can. The countdown to Around The Bay is on, and I plan to be as ready as I can be for whatever race day brings.

Around The Bay Training Blog #3: Surprise Dogs and Wind Storms

The countdown continues: only 20 days left until the Around The Bay race. I’ve officially entered the phase where I begin to mentally prepare myself for a DNF (Did Not Finish) or at least some physical and mental anguish — this week, training put me through some seriously pained paces.

From what I can tell, DNF’s are a fact of running life when you’ve been out there long enough—not just for middle and back-of-the-pack people, but the human-gazelle hybrids leading the races too. Whether it’s injury or brutal conditions, many frequent racers have probably, at some point, racked up a DNF. I’m not planning on making ATB mine, but I’m trying to prepare for everything. I try not to take any run or any race for granted, just in case.

On to this week’s training recap!

Bark! A Vagrant

In the middle of hill repeats on Thursday, I was interrupted by a huge brown shape bounding out of the darkness into the streetlights, heading right towards me. It moved fast enough that I only saw “dog” and didn’t have time to register anything else about it before I screamed. The big thing ploughed clean into me and I cringed, waiting for teeth in an arm or a leg. All I got was a giant curly brown mop of a dog jumping up on me while his owners called him from the porch. (I wish I could remember the dog’s very human name, but let’s call him “Owen”.)

One of Owen’s owners came to helpfully lead him out of the street and explained the door had been opened at the wrong time and he had bolted when he saw me. I wish I could have snapped a picture with him, but I was still reeling from having not been bitten feeling a little foolish and a little relieved. Note to self: look up dog safety tips for runners. Usually I’m careful seeing large and small dogs when I’m out running—and this incident was definitely enough of a system shock to bring on some research.


A Windy Long Run

Have you ever been on a run so intensely difficult because of the weather that it made you mad at nature? Sunday’s long run was one of those. It was a literal wind storm outside, cold and drizzly. I’m talking 70-80 km gusts of wind that meant giving it your all and going almost nowhere — running in place.

It was resistance training and long run conditioning all rolled into one. I’m not going to lie, with every loop I completed, it was very tempting give up and go inside — but I didn’t. I kept going, even when my legs got tired, when the wind was cutting, and when people warned me they had seen a coyote near the road I was running on. Somewhere in the third-and-final loop, my headphones started conking out, so all I could hear was the wind roaring in my ears and the growing discomfort in my shoes and my eyes watering.

When I finally got inside, my legs were freezing and aching and I honestly can’t remember ever feeling less relieved after a run. The grim satisfaction that I had stuck it out for 24 km—with hills to boot—did not make me feel strong, it made me feel exhausted and grumpy.

I feel like all the joy and momentum I gained after last week’s run kind of evaporated, so I’m hoping to spend the next 2-3 weeks using all my hard-earned grit to push hard, look after myself, and bring back some sterling positivity.

Around The Bay Training Blog #2: The Definition of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and blah blah blah—you know the quote. Well, this week, I put this adage to the test as I completed my Saturday long run by traversing the same loop over and over…and over. You know what? It felt great. I got in a decent amount of hill work.

Insanity is underrated.

In other news related to losing my mind, breaking the run into loops actually turned out to be an incredible mental trick. In my last blog, I wrote about the running dread that was shaking my confidence in taking on the Around The Bay race—Saturday’s run gave me a little of that confidence back.

The sky was overcast, the snow was falling in big flakes, and my socks got soaked in the slush and puddles as I went running. The hills on the route got more challenging with each loop but, somewhere in the wet March weather, I found a little bit of my running magic again.

I breathed deeply for what felt like the first time in months. My legs felt strong. I temporarily coached my ears down from their usual winter hunch up by my shoulders. I felt the drain of working hard, but did not feel exhausted.

What’s more, after the run, I felt more sure that I could handle the race’s cut off time. (That’s caused me just a little bit of pre-race nerves since I’ve been adapting and adjusting my training schedule.)

I have plans later this week to go for a drive and see exactly what I’m up against when it comes to the course, and I am hoping that looking at the obstacles first hand will help get rid of that lingering fear. Around The Bay is notorious for close to the last third of the race being ludicrously hill-ridden, which is generally the last thing you want when you’ve been grinding out roughly 20km or so.

I knew about these hills when I signed up for the run back in October, so maybe that was the crazy move on my part.

Current conclusion: insanity got me into this mess, and with a little luck, it’s probably going to get me out.