My running “career” has made up of a backwards checklist of sorts. I began with a marathon, followed that one with a half-marathon, then a sprint-triathlon, then a 10k, 8k, 5k and then some fun runs. Yep, I was THAT runner – the one after the medals and bragging rights, but behind the scenes, hating every minute of racing. I suppose hate is a strong word – let me revise and say I severely disliked racing. With each race, long or short, I dreaded the starting gun. That audible “BANG” always sent me into a tailspin of “Why am I even doing this?” and “Who are you even racing?!”
Training was great – I did some of my best thinking on my training runs. I liked the solitude and rhythm of pacing a long run. I loved getting to know my city from the pavement level, appreciating the resources that I had in front of me, just a few steps away. I loved the feeling of accomplishing something for me – no medal required. It wasn’t surprising that I stopped racing a few years after I started but kept the running for me, the city of Chicago and my ipod.
After my c-section recovery, along with the demands of new motherhood, I was a bit desperate to be purposefully active again. Sure, running around and meeting the every beck and call of a newborn and infant was activity, but it required presence and patience. It was NOT an escape. I wanted an escape. I needed an escape – just for a little bit. So I decided to run again. I bought a second-running stroller, laced up my kicks and started my couch to 5k journey towards an escape. The short story: It sucked. All of it. Running hurt and then it hurt more. I was out of breath. My hips ached. My back ached. My son cried. I cried. This was not what I was looking for. I tried to keep it up, but the pain never subsided. I kept walking, but slowly found myself giving up on my dreams of running as an expression of my movement. I no longer desired to be expressing pain. I was sad.
I have a very good friend who tends to bring the exact teacher into my sphere at exactly the time I need him or her. The conversations usually start with “You should really check out xxxxx.” Then I follow up with “Mmmmm, I dunno.” Then she nudges a bit and ultimately says “It’s up to you, but I think you would really enjoy xxxxx.” I’m so grateful for her nudges as without them, I would have missed out on some amazing teachers. Coming from a dancing background and having some not-so-savory engagements with Pilates pros, I am reluctant to put all of my student needs into anyone’s basket. I am most comfortable training alone. While alone provides a veil of safety for me, it’s not always progressive. That’s the benefit of having a friend who understands your history and also what might benefit your growth. And who nudges…
When this friend suggested that I try out the Runity program with Juan Nieto on Pilates Anytime, I responded with “I don’t run.” She said “Trust me – you’ll get it.” I trusted her. I got it. Runity was the first program that had suggested that there were other considerations outside of walking to attend to before running. Don’t get me wrong, I knew all about cross training, and elements of movement that were beneficial for runners, but this was the first time I had heard a comprehensive philosophy about preparing the body for running with ease. I recognized that I had never prepared my body for my postpartum runs. I had asked a lot of a body that had been through a lot and the she protested! Why wouldn’t she? I apologized to my body and worked my way through some of the exercises. I felt better.
If you’re keeping up with me, you’ll know that I am about 7wks post-hysterectomy surgery. The pain that showed up around the time of my post baby running endeavors had gotten worse over the past few years. I know now that this was due to severe endometriosis as well as adenomyosis. After my first virtual engagement with Runity, I never found the courage to test out my running – mostly because of fear of more pain. I loved the movement, but couldn’t fathom taking it further than the prep work. It’s no coincidence that during the time I was getting reacquainted with my pain-free pelvis that I would receive an invitation to attend a live workshop with Juan Nieto.
It was going to be 8 hrs of running conditioning, consideration and more. I was timid and a little scared, but I knew Juan through interviewing him on Pilates Unfiltered and understood that he was a whole body/whole self practitioner. I walked in to a room swarming with people. I spotted Juan and gave him a hug. “I’m here.” I said. “Let’s move.” He said.
What ensued from there on out was a mixture of play, task completion, tissue reintegration, fear-banishing and embodiment. Yes, this program was designed with the runner in mind, but more than that, it considered the human who runs, or who desires to run.
I had multiple “Wow! I can do this!” moments. I smiled, I laughed, I enjoyed fatigue. I did have one “whoa nelly” moment where my body protested and I listened. But overall, it was a complete joy that took into account the entire experience of the human mover. I’m so grateful to have been reintroduced to this strong and capable body of mine. She’s excited about moving with intensity and though she has some work to do, she’s ready to embrace the journey of pushing boundaries with consideration. She doesn’t need a medal. Her full spirit is reward enough.
This post is not about teaching tips per se, but more about the experience of being with a conscious, considerate and passionate teacher. It used to be that continuing ed focused on a subject that you would learn, practice and put to the test. More and more, I see the trend moving towards the experience of the teacher in his/her own body and the encouragement to share that experience with others. Gone are the days of fool-proof formulas. We welcome this age of discovery with curious muscles and open hearts.
I want to urge you to seek out the teachers who challenge the very best parts of you. The ones that hold the space for you to listen to your own body and who are also prepared to help you work through your doubts and fears. The ones who are willing to have fun with you and who value a positive experience of discovery over “getting it right.” HUGE thanks to Juan Nieto for offering this experience to me. I’m forever grateful and excited for the day when I put my new enthusiasm to the test! Stay tuned :).