Running and I have had a long on and off again relationship. I remember my first run; recently quit smoking and still mourning the death of an incredibly close friend. I was 18 years old and desperately yearning to feel something other than the usual swing between apathy and despair.
Mind you, at this point I had never run in my life. Truly, I hadn’t even run the mile in high school. They let us walk it. My only physical activity was gained from my waitressing job. Fortunately I was easily working 40 hours a week, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with movement. But I certainly wasn’t familiar with the beast known as cardio.
I stepped onto the treadmill of the YMCA and wondered what all the buttons do. I decided to stick with “start”, it seemed the most straightforward. It took me over 12 minutes to run a single mile. I was destroyed afterwards. My heart was pumping frantically to return oxygen into my body and regain a normal heart rate. I felt nauseous, exhausted, exhilarated and for a very short moment happy. After months and months of a bleak disposition, I felt light in my heart.
I recall being stunned by this discovery, that running had truly helped ease my depression, sorrow and heart ache. Even if it was only during the run, I knew I had to keep chasing this.
Now don’t get excited, this isn’t some underdog story. I didn’t end up running marathons, or doing 100 mile trail runs. But I did become a happier and healthier person. I found a lifeline, and a way out of what seemed a never ending darkness.
Shortly after this experience I started to believe there was something here with exercise. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew I liked how it made me feel. It was as if my future self, that already knew the path we were going to take, was dropping hints to me. Sending me intuitions and motivation to keep away from the hole of depression I am always trying to fall back into.
About six months after my first run I moved to Hawaii. I didn’t have a plan of any sort, I just needed a change in my life. Something so dramatically different that I would be forced to face my demons and begin the arduous journey of healing and moving on. I half expected my time in Hawaii to be lonely and challenging, yet it was everything but.
During the eight months I spent living in Hawaii I met dozens of beautiful souls that bestowed all their wisdom and advice. I experienced so much love and compassion that something shifted in me. A raw honesty that wasn’t allowing me to hide behind my false beliefs and self-deprecations. The more time I spent doing yoga, meditating, and admiring the wealth of nature, the more I began to peel away the years of hate and abuse my heart and endured. I finally felt a desire to do something with my life, and more specifically that it would be wellness related.
This is a condensed version of my story, and I hope I have not led my dear readers to believe it was simply one run that helped me find a sustainable way to live with my depression. It was just the first step of many years of hard work and determination to not fall back to those ways.
My point is that no goal is every truly accomplished, no mental illness is cured and there is always more we can do to improve our lives. It is a constant journey, an ongoing path. I have recently struggled with this concept. Feeling that my small relapses towards unhealthy habits is an end all. That none of my progress or success matters because I still sometimes allow my anger to get out of hand, or that I occasionally return to depressive tendencies.
This is not true. Simple as that. There will always be hard days, and moments we are not proud of. Days we feel defeated and that we can’t catch a break. However, this is never an excuse to give up. You must always move forward, try your best and be good to yourself.
I’ve recently felt I am a failure in my attempts to be a better person, in my emotional world and in my fitness world. But today I woke up and decided I didn’t care what I thought of myself. I wanted to go for a run, more than anything I wanted to see the sun gleam in autumn leaves, and feel my muscles burn and ache from physical exhaustion.
For the past few weeks I could barely make 3 miles, feeling heavy and weak. Today I ran 6 miles mostly uphill. I was back.
Afterwards I sat by Kendrick Mansion and gazed at the mountains. I was brought back to a similar moment, sitting at the same bench. Some 6 years ago, when this journey had barely begun. I was just a shell of a girl. But here I am today, a stable and strong woman. Able to run an 8:20 mile, my depression a mere echo of what it used to be, and happy.
I almost lost sight of my journey, I almost allowed myself to hit pause and linger in the “easy spaces”. Fortunately, I have put myself in a profession that will not allow me to forget my beliefs. This, I know, has happened for a reason. I have purposely filled my life with people, professions and hobbies that encourage hard work and perseverance, love and compassion, and acceptance and forgiveness.
Do not give up on the journey, for it is the majority of life. It is where all the good stuff happens and the great people are found.
About the Author:
Alex has her A.S in Exercise Science and is a certified Personal Trainer with the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NSCF) and the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT). In June of 2016 she traveled to India to gain her 200 hr Yoga Teacher Certification. In Rishikesh she studied the ancient practice at its origins. Alex has spent time teaching yoga in Spain while volunteering at a yoga retreat, as well as teaching weekly classes in her hometown Sheridan, WY. She is currently practicing at PURENERGY Fitness where she also teaches a H.I.T.T inspired class three times a week. Alex wants to share with her clients and students the mental, physical and emotionally healing qualities of exercise and movement. She believes everyone should have a healthy relationship with their bodies and strives to thread that concept throughout her career.