I like to put myself into neat little categories. In fact, I like to put everything into categories. Ever since I was little, I’ve been putting things into lists (no joke, one of my favorite pass times when I was little was writing lists… ask my mom), into compartments, separating things.
I’m an athletic trainer. I’m a Mainer. I’m a Northeastern Husky (Husky pride!) I’m an Emerson Lion (Rawr). I’m an athlete. I’m a blonde. I’m a 30-something. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter.
I get frustrated when I can’t put myself into a category, like realizing that I fall somewhere in the middle of being introverted and extroverted. Why don’t I fit neatly into one or the other?
I’m a weight lifter.
I’m a runner. (*cough, cough*)
But I can’t really be both, can I?
I’ve been lifting weights seriously for about 4-5 years now, and I love it. I love everything about it, from the anticipation of a big lift to the feeling after completing a dead lift PR. I love the weight room, the strength progress, and the powerful feeling that comes from lifting almost twice my body weight from the ground. I love the feeling of the barbell in my hands, the weight of a heavy set of dumbbells. This summer, as I was running and training for Falmouth, I missed the weight room dearly. I was able to do some strength workouts with the equipment that we have at home (Kettlebells, pull up bar, rings, sand bag), but it just wasn’t the same as hitting the weight room.
And then this month I finally got back in there. I eased in with some upper body and full body lift days, nothing too heavy as I was getting closer to my race and needed everything in me to finish seven miles. Last weekend I finally put the bar across my back for some extremely light barbell squats, and I could hardly walk the next day. The pain was both exciting and humbling, as I was finally lifting again, but my work sets were done with a weight that is less than 50% of my max. (Yikes).
And then what did I do the next day? I went for a run. I am no longer training for a race; I no longer have to run during my free time on the weekends. Yet this past Sunday, I woke up and headed out for a 4 mile run, because it just felt natural and felt like what I should be doing. What I had been doing all summer. I’ve realized that I kind of like running, to a certain extent. I like getting out there on a beautiful day to run 3-4 miles. I find it calming and energizing at the same time, which is pretty awesome. I’ve developed a new appreciation for it — maybe that will last, and maybe it won’t, but for now I’m enjoying runs every now and again.
And then this week at stadiums, I crushed my PR for a full-stadium run by almost 3 minutes. That was all due to the run training I’ve been doing all summer. I feel lighter, I feel faster, and I feel good. But I don’t necessarily feel strong right now, and I miss that.
This has all left me with a bit of a fitness-identity crisis. I’m not quite sure where I fit in, or where I want to fit in. I know very well that distance running takes away from muscle and strength gains, an I don’t want that. But I also know that going back to just weight room workouts (which I pretty much need to do if I want to train for a powerlifting meet) may leave me feeling slow and labored at stadium runs, and I don’t want that either. So there’s got to be somewhere in the middle, but I’ve spent so long on the strength training end of the spectrum, it’s difficult for me to creep back toward the middle.
I’m never going to be a distance runner, training for marathons and casually going out for 10 mile runs, but as a weight lifter/future power lifter, is it ok if I occasionally want to go out and run 3 or 4 miles? I know that it’s okay, that there are no rules governing what I do for my workout, but this is a different mind set than I’ve had for the past few years. For me, running has been hill sprints and stadiums, that’s it. And I do love both of those, but I’ve had some fun adding in traditional running as well.
And as I said before — this feeling may not even last, not when the roads turn icy and my safest option is the treadmill. At that point, 4 miles probably won’t seem quite so appealing. So while I’m not really sure what exactly I want to do at this point, I know that what I don’t want to do is pigeon-hole myself into one category just for the sake of it. I am a weight lifter. I also enjoy running sometimes. And until one severely takes away from the other, I think I’m ok with being somewhere in the middle.
I’m a fitness enthusiast. I’m a strong woman. I’m competitor.
One of these days, I may compete as a power lifter. And at that time, I might have to stop running to compete at my highest level. Then again, maybe next summer I’ll train for Falmouth again, and lean more toward the running end of the spectrum. I’m okay with leaving things up in the air, because in the end I think the most important part of fitness is doing what makes you happy. Doing whatever feeds my hunger for competition and success is what I will stick with. For now, that’s a combination of strength training and running. And that’s ok.