Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
This past weekend I ran in the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain State Park in New York. My team, “Team Melwebgorelli,” ran the Marathon Relay event. Not only was it a fun and challenging run, but I really enjoyed sharing the experience with my teammates Andrea, Laura, and Nicole. It was a great reminder that connecting with other women in physical pursuits can enrich our experiences with our bodies.
When we take to the pavement (or the terrain, in this case!) together, we are able to support each other and hold each other accountable. We challenge each other, and we are also able to share in the pains and the gains that come with regular exercise.
Competitions like this relay race are great as well because they reinforce the community aspect of running. My team and I didn’t finish first (not even close), but it didn’t matter because we were there to enjoy the day and to connect with each other and the other runners. And we had a blast doing it.
I wasn’t always willing to be social in the way that I train and experience running. When I was recovering from my second back surgery, I was ashamed that I wasn’t the elite female athlete that I had once been. I had gone from being an NCAA Division I Varsity Crew athlete to struggling to get up the stairs, let alone walk the half-mile distance to the gym. I isolated myself in my efforts to get back to full strength so that no one would see the feeble, overweight, and discouraged version of myself that I had become. When I had a bad day of training, instead of being able to laugh it off with someone, it just sent me deeper into my shame spiral. As a result, getting back into shape probably took me a lot longer than it needed to, and was a whole lot more emotionally taxing than it needed to be.
Sharing your experience with your body not only helps you, but also other women because you’re giving them something to identify with. Other women will feel less alone, and more empowered, by hearing what you’re going through, and vice versa.
This is one of the reasons that I share my story now through the #healthyatanysize community and encourage others to do the same: we give ourselves and other people a great gift by sharing our experiences with our bodies. Sharing consistently and with like-minded people creates community, and communities are where magic happens! Like going from someone who considered the walk to the gym a struggle to someone who can run 6 miles through the mountainous terrain of Bear Mountain like a nanny goat.
Related: Why Every Body Can Be A Runner
If you aren’t already involved in a group exercise organization, make today the day that you investigate some options in your area! Whether you grab a friend and go for a walk, join your local running club, or find a great group training community like the November Project to get involved with.
As you work through your exercise routine, don’t be afraid to open up to others about what you’re going through. You can share the good, the bad, and the ugly by reaching out through social media, having a chat with a friend over coffee, or by seeking out people from your fitness group that are open to this dialogue. Over time, you might even make yourself available to other women who are getting started, or who are hitting a rough spot in their training.
We’re all better off when we share our experiences with our bodies, and show our bodies love through movement together!