embrace

My Journey to Self-Love as a Runner

Can I get a little personal today? Some of you may know that I started this blog as a freshman in high school… at the age of 14, I knew I wanted to help empower women (men are welcome too!) on their fitness journey. Part of helping empower people is by helping them feel more confident which means learning to love yourself just the way you are. With that, today I wanted to share my personal journey to self-love as a runner.

I grew up running around a track, some of my biggest goals are running based. Running is a sport I’ve fallen in love with, but it’s been a rocky road with running. Even though I love my sport today, it wasn’t always so simple.

Despite growing up running, I wasn’t always thrilled about having a “runner’s body”. When I began to truly focus on improving in my sport, instead of focusing on improving my time, I could only focus on how my body looked. To me at that point, it didn’t matter that I could keep up with and beat others my age. It only mattered that I had larger quads and calves, strong arms, a defined back and core, but none of the other girls did. That for some unknown reason I was a distance runner with “thunder thighs”.

These thoughts weren’t limited to my early teenage years either; they were there up until I ran my first half-marathon just a few months ago – roughly 5ish years. It was at this point I was pushed athletically to limits I partially didn’t know existed. My entire life I was a 5,000-meter runner, with an occasional 10K thrown in, but it never occurred to me that it was because of my strong body, including my “thunder thighs” that I was able to quickly run these distances comfortably.

It’s been almost a year since my mentality of hating my muscular thighs, arms, back, etc switched to learning to love it. It’s because of my muscles that I can run.

My “thunder thighs” have helped finish numerous 5 and 10Ks and two half-marathons; plus running however many miles in each training cycle. Have pushed through however many 200, 400, 800m repeats. Lightly danced up a hill at the end of the race when you have nothing left in the tank. Somehow manage to keep pushing through even though your mind gave up a half mile ago.

I grew up not liking the way I looked because it wasn’t normal in my sport to look strong. Despite all distance runners being strong, it almost felt as though everyone else on the track could look strong but we couldn’t. The acceptance we see today is very new, but I’m glad that our sport is evolving. However, this acceptance goes beyond our sport. It’s becoming more prominent in other areas as well such as the fashion industry. A prime example is True & Co. who’s goal is to create bra’s that help women feel confident in their own skin.

Hopefully, with the evolution, our sport is going through, it will help give confidence to those young girls (or boys) coming up in our sport to love the way they are built even if it isn’t like their teammates. Despite the importance of that, I also hope it helps any of you out there whether you’ve grown up running or just picked it up a day ago, that no matter where you start you’re a runner. I see so many women constantly put themselves down in our sport.

Either because they have strong runner thighs, or because they “don’t look like a runner”. The beauty of our sport is the true diversity in it. I’ve toed the lines at many 5k, 10k, and a couple of half-marathons; I’d say 90% of the people there didn’t have what you would consider a “runner’s body”. It doesn’t matter how you look if you love running, yoga, powerlifting, whatever. Quit beating yourself down for not looking a certain way, learn to embrace your body.

Embrace it and learn to love it by understanding that without your “thunder thighs” you couldn’t properly perform in your sport. Without broad shoulders, keeping yourself balanced would be tougher. The list could go on, but you see the point I’m making. Your body is built the way it is because it adapts to the stress you put it under whether it be running, cross-country skiing, etc. I know it’s tough, but you can do it; you can learn to love your self just the way you are. Just takes looking at what you consider “flaws”, in a different light.

Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.

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