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A lot of runners struggle to understand why so many people struggle to embrace the identity of a runner. Or feel like they can be apart of the running community. We live in fear that "real runners" will turn to us and tell us that we don't belong. That we're slow or that we aren't invited to the running party.
And the truth is, those people exist. There's a small portion of the running community that does, in fact, consider themselves better than the rest of us.
And that's OK. Here's what we need to remember, it's a hell of a lot harder trying to belong or prove yourself than it is to give yourself permission to be your best.
You have nothing to prove to anyone, ever. Is it motivating to prove to yourself that you're not a quitter? Or that you are stronger than you ever thought possible? Hell yeah! The only person you're in competition with is yourself.
And should you ever have to come in contact with anyone in that small group who tries to shame you or push you out, hold them accountable but try to remember that hurt people hurt people. It's not a reflection of you, but them.
You belong. You deserve to be here. You have nothing to prove.
This is a comment that was made on a picture I posted to Instagram of myself and two friends finishing the Rock N Roll Philly Half Marathon.
It's scary. It's disgusting. And it makes me sick. The man who made the comment has apologized for making me feel unsafe, and for that I'm grateful.
Threatening to physically harm someone is dangerous, reckless, and it's disgusting. Even if it's a joke (looking at you Donald Trump).
But it is a really important reminder that even though there will always be bad eggs in every community, we need to find ways to embrace them instead of shaming them. We all deserve to belong.
Shame is a dangerous, dangerous thing. I hope everyone tries to remember that regardless of how frustrated you get, there's another human on the other side of the screen. Even if you don't see eye to eye, you can always find a way to speak respectfully to one another.
Name calling and threats are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. EVER.
That's not what the running community stands for.
It was the summer of 2011 and I was sitting in a gym, tricked into a “complimentary” training session with a personal trainer. You know the one, after signing your life away, an abrasive dude comes over and forces you to agree to a tour of the gym and a subsequent sales pitch about why you need personal training.
The first thing this guy asked me what my goal weight was. Not, "What brought you to our gym?" Just, "How much weight do you want to lose?". Then, he made fun of me when I said that I didn’t want to lose weight. I tried to explain to him that I had spent the previous year working my ass off to lose over 75 pounds and I was trying to find a new gym because I was terrified that I would gain it all back. But he didn't believe me. He told me that we could lose another 20 or so pounds.
It's the story of all of our lives. No matter how much weight you lose, you'll never be skinny enough. And it's bullshit.
Before I became a runner, I was convinced that being active and going to the gym was what unathletic people, like myself, were forced to endure in order to lose weight. And as someone who had already lost a significant amount of weight, I can honestly say that those first few months of physical activity suck. And sticking with it is even harder.
That’s why you need a goal that helps you understand how strong and powerful you already are. Yes, you read that correctly.
Not can be.
Here’s the thing, working towards a goal will never not be a pain the ass.
Life is hard. And after a long day at work paired with whatever hell is going on at home, sometimes putting on a sports bra can feel like climbing Mount Everest.
That’s why you have to find ways to get active that motivate you and make you feel strong and empowered despite the inevitable struggle.
Back in 2014, I was two months out from my second marathon when I developed a painful case of runner’s knee. I’d spent months making sacrifices, running down doubt, and facing my New York City Marathon fears. And right when training got exceptionally tough, being made aware that I may not make it to race day crushed me. Sensing my imminent meltdown, my Physical Therapist suggested that I try indoor cycling. And that’s when I found Flywheel.
In the four years that I’ve been in this crazy world of fitness, I’ve never tried a fitness class that I actually enjoyed. But I f*cking love Flywheel. Why? Because having the stats and numbers on Flywheel’s tech pack helps me set concrete goals. I'm not just trying to convince myself to keep going, I have numbers that I know I can hit and if I'm being honest, I get really competitive. And when you go to Flywheel, you can opt for the Torq board which means that throughout the class, your scores go on television screens.
Scores are separated by men and women and I LIVE for kicking the guy's asses. I LIVE FOR IT. The looks on their faces when they see they are getting their sculpted asses handed to them by a girl who doesn't look like she's as strong as she is is one of the greatest feelings in the world. That alone is motivation for me to push myself as hard as I possibly can.
A few weeks ago, I was having a really bad day so I decided to go spin my heart out at Flywheel. Normally, the more rage or sadness I walk into class with, the higher my score is. After class, a woman who was around my age and had a similar body type to mine came up to me. At first, I assumed that she listened to my podcast or read Run, Selfie, Repeat so I anticipated what she was going to say.
But she totally caught me off guard and we ended up having a conversation that made me want to light sh*t on fire. AND it reminded me how much work is still left to do in changing the way we think strength looks like.
First, she asked me how I was able to get the number I scored in class and I told her that I was a runner; so not only was my endurance already pretty strong but my tolerance to pain and discomfort was high.
But she kept asking me questions and eventually, I just asked her, “Do you mean how do I score the number I score and be my size?” She told me that she didn’t mean to offend me and I told her not to worry, I totally got it.
But then she asked me a question that broke my damn heart. She said, “But what’s your goal weight?”.
I explained to her that I didn’t have one. That one of the reasons why I love Flywheel so much is that it's a weekly reminder that I can be my size (a US size 8/10 and about 160-165 pounds) and score 100 points higher than the tiny fitness model who has ripped arms and a six pack. Because strength comes in all shapes and sizes.
She nodded skeptically and went on her way while I sat there feeling defeated. And that’s when I had an idea: I talk a lot about changing the way we see strength. It’s the fundamental principle behind the #SportsBraSquad and I started thinking about how I could use my Flywheel scores to double down on this backward idea we have that if you don’t look like a fitness model, then you aren’t strong, healthy, in shape, or good enough.
So I decided to see how strong I could get if I went to Flywheel 3 days a week for 4 weeks.
It's a challenge fitness editors pursue all the time, right? The only difference is that every time someone else does it, it almost always focuses on weight loss. You know, this article: "I ran for 30 minutes every day for a month and lost 12 pounds!"
But I’m not interested in losing weight. I’m interested in seeing how strong I can get. And the stats that Flywheel and Strava provide are a foolproof way to see just how hard I’m working and if I’m getting stronger.
So how’d it go? Did I get stronger?
TAKE A LOOK!
The Torq board was out for class #4 but going off my tech pack, my heart rate data, and how I felt, I'm guessing I'd walk away with a score of about 160.
BOOM. I AM BEYONCE.
Did I lose any weight? I don't know! I don't weigh myself and I don't care! My clothes fit the exact same way they did on day 1 as they did on day 31. BUT, the numbers speak for themselves and I absolutely got stronger when I set my sights on the goal, showed up, and went for it.
HELL, I BROKE 500 IN A 60 MINUTE FLYWHEEL CLASS! (I almost passed out at the end there and looked insane, BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT.)
Going into my fun month long challenge, I had three goals:
- Make it through an entire arms section.
- Break 500 in a Fly 60 class.
- See how high I can score in a 45 minute Flywheel class. (My high score at the time was 362. Which is weird because, for the past year, I'd scored 362 about a dozen time and never could break past that barrier.)
I made it through the arms section without needing a break ONCE! And I know it's mental because I push through the same pain when I run and ride and give up during arms. Which is frustrating and I really do want to get stronger when it comes to arms (both mentally and physically). So I asked one of my favorite (and most badass) Flywheel instructors, Kate Hickl, what I can do to make it through arms without dying. Here's Kate's advice:
-- Pick the appropriate weight you can work with for the entire arm set. 2, 4 or 6 pounds (both bars). Don't assume you're wasting your time if you only work with a 2-pound bar to start. Get through the whole sequence, feel confident and then the next class, use the 4-pound bar, etc. Progression is key!
-- If any of the movements seem too fast, slow it down to a pace that works for you. Focusing on the muscle block you're working + supporting muscles (including abs/back) will help you build your stamina and endurance.
(Since reading her advice, I've decided not to try to be a hero with both bars and to just focus on 4 pounds. I made it through arms twice without dying. PROGRESS! Build that mental muscle!)
I know indoor cycling can feel really, really intimidating. That same personal trainer I mentioned earlier, during the tour of the gym told me that even though I probably wouldn't be able to make it through an entire spin class at first, it was a great way to lose weight fast. His words instantly put this idea that spinning was terrifying and not for me in my head and I didn't find the courage to give it a shot for WEEKS.
Turns out, spinning is for everyone and it's a really fun way to get a great workout AND build strength!
Still feeling too afraid to try? I asked Kate if she had any advice for first-time indoor cyclists who are feeling nervous or intimidated about their first ride. Her advice?
Get there early, introduce yourself to the teacher and make sure you get a one-on-one set up. Being set up properly is key to maximizing your time on the bike! Make sure you're comfortable and can have a few minutes on the bike before class starts to make any last minute adjustments.
I know when you're feeling nervous or insecure, our impulse is to make ourselves small and invisible. Don't do that! Remember that it's not about how strong and impressive you already are, it's about having the courage to show up for yourself. And showing up is honestly the hardest part.
I've been going to Flywheel for 3 years now and even though I can tell that it helps my running, I didn't really know specifically why. According to Kate,
Flywheel/indoor cycling is a non-impact form of exercise that gives runners a break from high-impact training but still works to strengthen all of the muscles in the legs as well as build cardio endurance (especially with Flywheel being an interval training workout).
If you're a runner looking for an amazing way to cross train or someone who hates the gym, assemble your #BadassLadyGang and GIVE FLYWHEEL A TRY!
If you're a first-time Flyer, GOOD NEWS! I've partnered with Flywheel so that your first class is FREE!!!!! All you have to do is use the code FLYSTRAVA on Flywheelsports.com at checkout!
And if you already love Flywheel and you're looking to save some money, this is huge, Flywheel has gifted us with a special "Kelly Roberts buy 3 for the price of 2 package"!!!!
Just click the link and proceed to checkout!
IT'S LIKE CHRISTMAS!
So set some goals that motivate and scare the crap out of you and get Flying! I'll see you in the stadium!!!
Woops, those photos aren't very convincing...
HERE. LOOK. SEE. FUN. LOOK HOW MUCH FUN I'M HAVING HERE.
THAT'S RIGHT. WE'RE GOING TO HAVE FUN ROCKING OUR FACES OFF AT THE ROCK N ROLL PHILLY WEEKEND!
I know! Talk about a good time!!!
Here's the scoop, the party starts bright and early on Saturday, The party starts bright and early on Saturday, September 16th on the 5K/10K course where we will support the hell out of the runners! THAT'S RIGHT! Get ready to cheer your heads off!
The 5K starts at 7:00am and the 10K starts at 7:30am so here's the deal, we are going to meet at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Sweetbriar Drive at 7:00 AM. (Click here for a link to location or see map below)! after the final 10K runners go by, we are going to run back to the start/finish area! HOW? UNSURE! We will figure it out! It's going to be an adventure!
And just in case that map is confusing, try this one!
Now our exact location may be 400m down Martin Luther King Dr. so just keep your eyes peeled for the screaming badass women with HILARIOUS race day signs!
So find a way to get to Philly, spread the word, RSVP to the event here, and start brainstorming your funniest race day signs!
Now, let's talk Sunday! I haven't run a race since May because the London Marathon broke my damn heart. That's why I'm assembling the #BadassLadyGang to fun run the half marathon! So, if you're looking to start at a 9-minute mile pace and have the time of your life, RUN WITH US!
Regardless of whether or not we all run together, join us at the fountain next to the Washington Monument at 7:00AM for a #BadassLadyGang pre-race picture!
Rock n Roll Philly is going to be a party and our cheer station is going to be off the chain! Do people still say off the chain?
It's going to be lit! How is that? I feel like I'm too old to say "lit".
IT'S GOING TO BE A GOOD TIME. HOW IS THAT?!
IT'S GONNA BE FUN! SEE YOU THERE!
This post is sponsored by Rock N Roll Marathon Series. All the fun is being made possible because of Rock N Roll.
Letting something that feels foreign become a part of who you are, it's one of the hardest parts about running. I don't think anyone would argue that going from feeling like you're going to die trying to run down your street to building the endurance to run your first 5K is hard. But being able to call yourself a runner? Or an athlete? It's really, really f*ckin hard.
For every person who admits that they don't think they're a runner, they're inundated with comments and passionate cries of, "IF YOU RUN, YOU'RE A RUNNER." And I wholeheartedly agree. It's incredibly important that whenever we see someone in our community struggle, to remind them that they belong. But it's important to remember that everyone's journey is different.
It's not about how fast or slow you are, how far you can go, or whether or not you cling to the protective labels of "jogger" or "run walker".
It's all irrelevant. Being a runner is an identity and there's no prerequisite required.
But being able to embrace the identity of a runner or an athlete? That takes time.
The truth is, the hardest part of the entire journey is giving yourself permission to see yourself for what you are. For me, every time someone calls me an athlete, I still fight the urge to explain myself or make myself small. The same thing happened when I struggled to call myself a runner. I remember how uncomfortable I'd feel whenever anyone wanted to talk about my first marathon. They'd exclaim. "I can't believe you're a runner now!", and uncomfortable and insecure, I would respond with, "(awkward and uncomfortable laugh) Oh, I'm not a real runner though. I walked!"
I decided that I needed to prove to myself that I was a runner before I could call myself one. The only problem was that I never specified what that looked like. So I ran and I ran and eventually, over time, I came to terms with the fact that I was, in fact, invited to the "I'm a runner" party.
The only reason I struggled was that I let my own insecurities make me feel like the other. It's the reason why whenever I'm lumped in with a bunch of athletes, I still feel like I need to explain myself. I'm always afraid that someone will voice the cruel things I say to myself when I'm feeling down. That I'm not good enough, strong enough, or fast enough to be an athlete.
That's why it's important that you spend the same amount of time that you do working towards a goal or a finish line to work on your self-confidence. "I'm not good enough" is a knife that we pull on ourselves whenever we're not feeling worthy and it hurts a hell of a lot more when we don't feel confident or strong.
Change happens when you let go of expectations and you give yourself permission to succeed.
The way we see and talk to ourselves is a huge piece of the puzzle. Every day, we're out there pounding the pavement and working towards putting our strongest foot forward. Yet despite the fact that we spend all this time building fitness and strength, we don't put the same amount of time into building our self-confidence. Imagine what would happen if we said to ourselves, "I'm doing this" instead of, "I don't think I can do this"? We'd be unstoppable!
I know what it's like to wait until nightfall to run or show up to a starting line and wish you had an invisibility cloak. But you have to know that you have nothing to prove. The best way to work towards being able to confidently proclaim that you're a runner or an athlete is to give yourself time. Remind yourself that you deserve to be out there and that even though it feels like you're struggling a hell of a lot more than everyone else, everyone struggles.
Start telling yourself that you're strong, you're capable, and that you're a badass. Whenever you catch yourself looking in the mirror drawing a circle around a "flaw", name three things you love or that make you proud. Remind yourself that you aren't just enough, but that you're more than enough. And then remember to tell yourself that you're a runner.
I know it feels weird, but give it a try for four weeks. If you don't notice a change after a month, feel free to let me know that I was wrong. What do you have to lose?
Do not give up.
You can do this.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THS:
DOES THAT "JUST" LOOK FAMILIAR?
Of course, it does!
You use it.
I use it.
We all use it, and it has to stop.
I'm tired of seeing ladies in the #BadassLadyGang qualify their accomplishments. I'm sick of hearing people trivialize a distance or say something like, "My goal is just to finish. I'm not very fast."
I don't care how fast or slow you are. I don't care if it's a mile or a marathon, stop saying "just".
Your goal is not just to finish a Mile/5K/10K/Half Marathon/Marathon. Your goal is to run a f*cking Mile/5K/10K/Half Marathon/Marathon.
It's not up for debate. If you disagree, go write about it on your own platforms but in the world of Run, Selfie, Repeat, the word just will no longer be tolerated.
Kick ass. Take names.
I, like so many others, used to believe that in order to be a runner, you had to be born a runner.
Truthfully, I wanted to be a runner because I thought that running made you skinny. I remember when I saw the movie The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, I thought that if I could run like Bridget (the tall, slender, strong blonde who races her foxy soccer coach on a beach in Mexico), then I would look like Blake Lively and I might finally feel beautiful. So that summer, I decided that I was going to become a runner so that I could look like Blake Lively.
Every day of the following week, I’d try to run around my parent’s neighborhood and after a few minutes, I’d slow to a walk and spend the rest of the mile tearing myself apart because I knew that I would never become a runner.
Different forms of the same scenario played out every summer until I graduated from college, some ten years later. Honestly, I can’t help but wonder why, after a decade of attempts, I finally came to terms with the fact that running is a struggle regardless of your athletic level. I always joke that I was “just desperate enough” to become a runner but truthfully, I think I was desperate for something to work towards and feel proud of. But despite the fact that there were days that felt insurmountable as a new runner, I loved how each milestone made me feel.
But running has always been and continues to be a struggle.
I don't run because it's always this fun and easy way for me to keep my cupcake habit in check or to blow off steam. I continue to run and set intimidating goals because running has taught me more about grit, dedication, and overcoming self-doubt than I ever thought possible. And I hear you, it's just running. How can running change your life?
Well, turns out the magic isn't just in the running. It's in the running community as well.
For an entire year, I ran alone. The story I made up in my head was that runners were an exclusive, cliquey group of people who could smell an imposter in synthetic spandos a mile away. But truth be told, the running community isn’t an exclusive one, it’s the antithesis.
One of the reasons I started a blog was because I felt like there was a portion of the community that wasn’t being celebrated. I wanted to give the gift of running to people who were convinced like I was that they’d never be able to enjoy being active or feel like they belonged in the running world. So I wrote about the struggles and the crazier elements of running that made me laugh. I set out to validate their struggles, set backs, and fears. And most importantly, I tried to spread the word that the only way you’ll fail is if you fail to try because speaking from my own experience, I'd tried and failed so many times that I was incapable even entertaining the idea of success.
But there will always be people who don’t get it. And while the running community is an incredibly supportive and inclusive one, there will always be a few rotten apples.
Example: "When did mediocrity become something we celebrate. I understand she’s relatable to the hordes of medal chasers, but come on."
This comment that was made by one the bad apples about me is the reason I started my blog. (And it’s important to note that the small, exclusive group of our incredible community, isn't the majority.) But what they define as mediocrity, I define as success. Because not everyone runs to be the best, some of us are running to survive. Whether that means finishing four hours after an official cut off time or breaking two hours in a half marathon, there’s nothing mediocre about having the courage to show up.
I haven’t felt like an outsider in the running community for years but a few months ago, I found myself retreating and fighting the urge to wave my white flag and throw in the towel. I was already struggling post-London Marathon and reading some of the things that were being written about me and my family was enough to throw me into a tailspin. That’s when the badass lady gang showed up for me. My inbox blew up with heartfelt, encouraging, vulnerable, brave, and selfless emails from all of you along with emails from my Oiselle Volee teammates, most of whom I'd never met, who wanted me to know that they had my back.
For most of my life, I built walls. I was ashamed of what I'd been through and even though I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a fierce family and community of women who fought to give me laughter, resources, and a future, I fought tirelessly to control what people outside of my family knew about me. I thought it was safer to be alone than it was to trust my friends with my past.
It’s always painful when someone tries to diminish your voice, speak for you, define you, or make you feel small and ashamed. But here’s a gift that the badass lady gang gave me: No matter how hard you fall, there will always be someone there, willing to lend a hand, help you through, and remind you that you matter.
It doesn’t matter if you win races or if you never cross a finish line in your life, running is an individual journey that should be free from judgment. It’s open to people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Running is a source of empowerment and if you’re willing to stick with it long enough, it can teach you how to love who you are.
The running community isn’t a perfect one but magical things happen when we build the sisterhood. We all come from different pasts, athletic backgrounds, and walks of life. Regardless of what motivates you to pull on your sports bra, we’re all running towards the strongest versions of ourselves possible and we’re a hell of a lot stronger when we’re flying together.
A four-minute mile or a twenty-four-minute mile, as long as you have the courage to come as you are, there will always be a place for you in our badass lady gang. I wanted to step back and open up about feeling like an outsider because I know I'm not alone. And without your words and support, and without my sponsor Oiselle, the by women, for women company who stood up for me and continues to believe in the stories I'm telling and the movements I'm creating, I'm not sure what would have happened. No one deserves to feel like an outsider or feel alone.
If you're looking for a tribe of women who will show up for you both in sport and in life, I hop you will consider joining the Oiselle Volee. It's an incredible tribe and sisterhood of women who showed up for me and continues to show up for me in a huge way. We all need a team, a support system, or a badass lady gang. If you're looking for a fierce tribe of women to fly with both in sport and in life, CLICK HERE and check out the Volee.
Let’s build the sisterhood.