I started running just over three years ago. In a matter of weeks I went from a running-hater to a running-lover. (I shared how my journey began here.) Aside from a few injuries that sidelined me, I’ve been running ever since. I still have so far to go, but what matters most to me is that I keep pounding the pavement mile after mile. Because no matter how far or fast I ran last week, running forces me to face myself today. Last week may have been a PR (personal record) or a complete disaster, but today is a new day.
But more than muscle pain in my legs and needing breath in my lungs, running has forced me to confront my fears more than anything. I fear falling the most. Maybe it sounds silly, but imagining myself face-planting on sidewalks or bridges has slowed me down on several occasions.
Knowing I’m not the sixteen-year-old athlete I once was, it’s taken time for me to trust my body to run long distances. To believe my knees won’t give out, my ankles won’t turn, my lungs won’t actually collapse while pounding through my chest. While the fear has diminished, it’s still in front of me every time I run- whether it’s the busy streets filled with traffic, cyclist, or pedestrians walking dogs.
My first mile is a warm-up. It’s the hardest, the slowest, the mile I find my rhythm and remember how to breathe. It’s like a barometer for how I’m doing- both physically and emotionally. I rarely want to be running on mile one, but by the time I hit mile two, I can tell what kind of day it’s going to be.
If it’s a good day (ninety percent of the time it is) after mile one, I’m feeling good. And this is when I start pushing the fear away. I begin running faster and thinking clearer. I’m not wondering if I’m going to trip over the tree roots bubbled under the sidewalk anymore. I quickly maneuver around lawn mowers, wave to the lawn maintenance guys, and jump over the holes on the trails. I’m confident I can do what my body is able to do. Fear is not ruling me anymore. I can feel the difference in my body and my mind, and it feels good- like I’m running (and thinking) the way my body was created to.
I face my physical fears when I run, but as soon as those running shoes come off, I face a whole lot more fear than the fear of falling down. I face the fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being a bad mom, fear of being laughed at, the list goes on.
Facing a physical fear on a regular basis has taught me how to face other internal battles too. It’s trained my body and mind to know when fear is ruling my thoughts and my actions. I can feel the difference in my body and my mind. It’s in how I carry myself, how I give up or keep going, it’s in my mindset.
This is how running has changed my life. It helped me connect my physical realm with my thoughts and emotions, and it taught me how to recognize when I was being controlled by fear and how to push through when all I want to do is give up.
- I don’t want the fear of being a bad mom to be what motivates me to parent my kids.
- I don’t want the fear of rejection keep me from trying something new.
- I don’t want the fear of failure keep me from taking a risk.
I want to live with faith and confidence, not controlled by fear. This is how I’ve learned to control the fear I face daily.
I still have a lot of learning to do, but one thing I do know is that fear doesn’t just go away. Doing nothing is a sure way of keeping it close by.
You may not be able to run and that’s okay, but I encourage you to find a physical way to face something that’s a little uncomfortable for you- preferably something where the variables change, only you are the constant. Facing our physical fears is powerful in training ourselves to face others fears.