Bodies and the Things They (Don't) Do

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of learning how your body trains best. We're all built differently, and what yields improvement for one person may end up injuring another. Now I want to expand this conversation beyond running--because if you're anything like me, you may sometimes feel like running isn't even best practice for your body in the first place. There's a preconceived notion that distance runners must be tall and rail thin with legs for days. But if you've ever watched a race, you'll quickly see that talented runners come in all shapes and sizes. For example, Mary Keitany, who has won the NYC and London Marathons, is only 5'2". And Allie Kieffer, who finished 5th in the 2017 NYC Marathon, has spoken out about the backlash against her weight.

Allie Keiffer at the 2017 NYC Marathon (Credit: @gnp_photos)

Allie Keiffer at the 2017 NYC Marathon (Credit: @gnp_photos)

I am 5' tall with an athletic build similar to Allie's (if I'm allowed to make such a comparison). My body is quick to pick up strength but hesitant to let go of fat. I'd have to go to extremes to look like the "ideal" runner... but could easily fit in at a powerlifting meet without changing too much. I also struggle with innately poor form, mobility, imbalances and staying injury-free while logging relatively low marathon mileage. Yet I enjoy eating like a lifter, can deadlift over 2.5x my body weight and do pull-ups with ease.

You see where this is going, right?

When I look at where all the evidence seems to lead, I inevitably find myself thinking that I'm in the wrong sport. That I should be a lifter, because it's what my body is naturally primed for (even though I am sometimes self-conscious about how that translates physically). I like lifting, too. But I love running--even if I have to work a lot harder and suffer more setbacks to be at the same level.

Squatting at the RPS Barno-Newman Classic in February 2018. My first powerlifting meet!

Squatting at the RPS Barno-Newman Classic in February 2018. My first powerlifting meet!

I've spoken to plenty of people who tell me they "could never be a runner." Sometimes it's due to medical issues; other times it's simply because running is hard. When it comes down to it, though, running is really just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn't have to be fast, and it likely won't be at first. That's fine! Unless you're going for the gold, you are the only person you should be competing against. In lifting and running alike, I find it incredibly rewarding to set goals, crush them and continuously surprise myself with what I'm truly capable of.

All of this is to say: do what makes you happy. Do what challenges you. Do something. It can be frustrating when your body and heart don't align, but there's almost always a middle ground. Although distance running and powerlifting (i.e., slow, heavy weight) aren't exactly complimentary, lifting in some capacity is still beneficial. So I'll continue to do both. Maybe that will change at some point. Maybe it won't. Either way, that's okay.

One thing that's helped me better accept my body and its (dis)advantages is finding inspiration in others. Last week I shared a few of my favorite runners to follow on Instagram. In honor of International Women's Day, here are some of my favorite lifters and strong AF ladies: @bicepslikebriggs @demibagby @trooperjro @jessmovold @katrintanja @laurenfisher

I've only ever been impressed with them as absolute forces of nature. And so when the self-doubt and criticisms start to creep in, I am reminded to afford myself the same kindness and respect. Strength is hard-earned. Don't waste it.