Why do you run?: Building a healthy relationship with running

Content: running and weight loss, food, disordered eating

Why do you run? Why did you start to run? Have you changed your ‘reason for running’ over time? How do you navigate these changes and maintain your love for running? These are some of the questions I’ve tried to answer for myself over the last few months. 

Why do I run?

I found running a couple of years ago. At the time, I had never run a day in my life. I hated it at first (don’t we all), but soon became ‘hooked’. When I started running I was struggling with disordered eating habits and weight gain, and I would be lying if I said my reason for running wasn’t motivated by weight loss. Now, two years later, my love for running has only grown, but what motivates me to run is unclear. This used to make me anxious. Shouldn’t I know why I’m so driven to run? Is it bad that I don’t?

What I’ve come to realize is that as time passes: bodies change, our mental health fluctuates, major life events may wreak havoc; all of which may alter one’s relationship with running. As I’ve accepted this, and as I’ve detached my body and weight from my motivation to run, my relationship with running has become healthier – although I’ll admit, I still have no idea why I run. And this is okay. It is okay to not have a reason to run.

Running, the body, and food

Running is inherently tied to the body, and because of the relationship between food and the body, running can become tied to food. While it’s important for runners to be educated on effective nutrition habits to maximize performance, for others like me, it’s about removing food from the equation. I had to learn how to remove the link between food and running, and now that I have ‘healthy’ eating habits, how to re-connect that broken link. Here are some of the things that have helped me over the last few years as I have tried to navigate the body, food, running relationship!

To remove food and the body from their relationship with running:

  1. Acknowledge the relationship you have with running, with food, and with your body. Acknowledge if the relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or if you’re burnt out. Continue to check in with yourself periodically as your mind and body navigate these relationships.
  2. Focus on the environment during your runs instead of your body. Using the senses you’re able to – think about what you can either see, hear, and/or smell.
  3. Try something new on your run – try a new route, don’t plan your route ahead of time, draw run route art, or take note of cafés or bars you want to add to your bucket list!
  4. Learn to appreciate and value recovery days. It is okay to be fearful of rest days. It is valid to feel guilty for not moving your body. But it’s also important to rest and recover. Overtraining is something any runner can experience – not just elite athletes. Try to plan a different sedentary activity for during the time you’d typically run (e.g., read a book, do a craft)!

To bring food back into the equation:

  1. Forget about food rules – no food is good or bad. Some foods are more micronutrient dense than others, but that doesn’t attach a moral value to the food.
  2. Listen to your body, but fuel after a run regardless of hunger cues. It’s common to feel satiated (not hungry) after a run, but it’s important to replenish carbohydrates immediately!
  3. Eat more frequently on run days (especially longer runs). Avoid gaps longer than 3–4 hours between meals!
  4. Pay attention to how foods make you feel – physically and emotionally. Check in on your emotional response to different foods after you eat them, and over time. 

Running is only healthy if it makes you feel good! At the end of the day: you don’t need a reason to run as long as your relationship with running is one that makes you happy and healthy.

Here are some people/resources that have helped me navigate my relationship with running:

Rachel Hannah, Registered Dietitian and Runner: 

https://www.instagram.com/rachelhannahrd/?hl=en

Emily Moore, Running Nutrition Coach (Dietitian, Personal Trainer):

https://www.instagram.com/thedietitianrunner/?hl=en

Self-Promo: https://www.oneathlete.ca

https://www.instagram.com/one_athlete/