It’s finally happened. Brace yourselves. What I’m about to say will shock some of you.
I stopped running.
WHOA there, Jill. WHAT???
I know. To those of you who know how entrenched in that habit I’ve for more than a decade and how much of a part of my identity it’s become, this will certainly come as a surprise. And, let’s be honest. For those who are REALLY close to me, this will be a relief if not a celebration.
Now before you get too excited, this isn’t permanent. I don’t think. I guess it could be. But that’s not for me to decide anymore. Here’s the story. . .
Ever since I got out of eating disorder treatment, it’s been in the back of my mind that I should lay down the running habit for a while. Maybe not forever, but just for a time to see if I could get to a place where it didn’t own me. But for a variety of reasons I’ve never done it—mainly fear and control. How will I burn calories? How will I eat if I don’t run? I’ll gain way too much weight. There’s no other form of exercise I like. I have to run to stay in shape and healthy. I’ll lose every ounce of fitness I’ve worked so hard to maintain. I don’t want to have to buy bigger clothes. I could never live with myself if I wasn’t somehow burning away the calories I put in my body. There’s no way I can ever stop. I’m just going to have to do it forever.
Now, I know running is a health-producing activity for most people. But when it gets to the point that you have to have it in order to function, it’s not healthy. You’re no longer controlling your run; your run is controlling you.
This whole thing started a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I were visiting his old church and listening to his buddy Allen preach. It was a heck of a sermon—so great that I can’t remember a thing of what Allen said. J What I do remember, though, is the big nudge the Lord gave me during service.
For a while I’d been losing weight again. My doctor found out my body can’t tolerate folic acid, which is in just about every processed food, so I’d had to give up cereal, bread, pasta, etc., unless it was organic. So, I lost some weight, which, unfortunately triggered some of my old eating disorder behaviors. I started to enjoy losing weight and wanting to see the scale go lower. I became more and more attached to my running and more rigid with my routine because I could see that this was my chance to get skinny again. It wasn’t totally conscious, but it wasn’t unconscious either. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but I sure was enjoying it, and I wanted it to continue.
So, sitting in church, whatever Allen preached on prompted me to begin admitting to the Lord the road I’d started down once more. But as I sat there, I also had to admit that it was a road I’d never fully left to begin with. Yes, I’d made HUGE strides and come a long way in my dealings with food, but I’d never let it all go. I’d kept a few things so that, just in case God’s healing and restoration didn’t work out the way I’d wanted it to, I could still manage to keep myself in check. (i.e. Just in case God’s plan for freedom included me getting bigger than I wanted, I could still make sure that didn’t happen because I’d keep running. I’d let God work, but I’d make sure His plan succeeded the way I wanted it to. You know, just in case His plan sucked.)
Funny story…The next day I felt a little freedom from my running rigidity and decided that I was going to give myself an unplanned day off. I was starting to fight back against the old Ed mentality, so I just thought I’d be lazy for a day.
Even funnier story…The next day I did my normal run, but I started to feel an ache in my IT band.
The funniest story…The day after that I get a full-fledged IT band syndrome attack.
So, if you’re not a runner, IT band syndrome is pretty much the most annoying thing you can go through. It’s an injury that won’t go away with just rest and time off, you actually have to rehab it actively or it will just stay injured. And it’s an injury that can take anywhere from 1 week to 1 year to heal. It just depends on your body.
Hoping I was in the 1 day category of super-healing humans, I went to my FIT Clinic doctor who heals me from everything and had him treat me. I took the rest of the week off, was really angry and frustrated, and then tried to run again the following Monday.
Boom. The IT band was officially at the point of no return after that. I saw my doc again that day and he treated it again. The next day I did the elliptical machine and could barely walk after. The day after I rode a stationary bike, and it wasn’t much better. I saw my doc again that day (Wednesday), and he gave me the words I never wanted to hear: NO EXERCISE unless they’re rehab stability exercises.
In God’s fun timing, this was Ash Wednesday. I’d been halfheartedly considering giving up something for Lent, but I hadn’t settled on anything. I told my husband what my doctor’s orders were, and he joked, “Looks like you’re giving up running for Lent.” I about slugged him.
There was still no way I was going to give up running without a fight. I was determined to find the magical cure that would put me back on the road in as little time as possible. One week, maybe two. But that was it. I was going to kill this thing before I gained weight and had to go back to my bigger pants.
But here’s the thing. I followed the doc’s orders and didn’t do my morning workouts. Instead, I spent time with the Lord and really began to journal and process. I was angry and sad and frustrated at first. And I was in despair for a while. But after a few days, the Lord really started to work on me as I listened to Him. And, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I finally admitted that running was an idol to me.
It may have been obvious to you, but I never would have said it out loud. I protected running by putting it under the eating disorder umbrella. Anytime someone would say running was an idol (something that takes the place of God in your life) I would say, “It’s not running. That’s just one part of the bigger eating disorder issue.” Um…that’s not really true.
What I discovered through time with the Lord and another powerful sermon from Matt Miller at our own church was that running had, in many ways, become my Jesus. Things that I should have been getting from Jesus like peace, stability, security, validity, identity and value were coming from running first. If I didn’t run, I had no peace. If I didn’t run, I couldn’t function as well during a day. If I didn’t run consistently, I began to lose who I was. If I didn’t run and gained weight, I lost my worth and value.
But see the problem with that? Running is inconsistent. I get hurt. I get old. I get slow. I get whatever, and running is over. Because so much of my security is wrapped up in that, it’s failing and my sanity is failing with it. At least it was. But now, I’ve made a decision—one that needed to be made a long time ago: I’m laying it down.
Thanks to a good conversation with my wise friend Trista on Saturday who walked me through what we call the learning circle in which you employ strategies to discover what God is speaking to you and asking you to do when something significant happens, I finally acknowledged what He’d told me two weeks ago. I was to purposely give up running for the 40 days of the Lenten season.
But, Jill, you’re hurt. Didn’t that make the choice for you?
Well, it could have. But if I didn’t lay running down and agree to give this up for the time, I would still be out there trying to beat my leg into healing. I’d be on the elliptical trying to maintain fitness until it healed. I’d be going to the FIT Clinic 5 days a week to get graston treatment on it. I’d be fighting against God’s plan—His GOOD plan. His protective plan. The gift that He’s given me in this injury. Instead, I’ve accepted it, embraced it and am now working WITH Him to let Him work out of me what I’ve been holding onto for entirely too long.
So, there you have it. I’m not running. I’m surrendering. I’m agreeing to let Him take it and apply freedom to what I’ve been holding onto.
Please pray for me if you think about it. It’s scary, I admit it. I’m not without fear in this. I’m scared of gaining weight and getting out of shape. I’ve identified myself by my looks and performance all my life. But it’s time to find out what it really means to be identified as a child of God first and to place my security in Him—the only thing that will never change, break down or leave. The only constant.
Thank You, Lord.