Evolving Running Relationships: A Runner's Journey of Passion, Resilience, and Self-Discovery

Running has the remarkable power to transform not only our physical fitness but also our entire outlook on life. For Lauren, a former NCAA Division I runner and the mastermind behind The Personalized Running Doc, running is not merely a sport but a deeply ingrained part of her identity. Her journey from striving to prove herself to embracing her intrinsic motivations has been nothing short of extraordinary. Today, Lauren uses her experiences and evolution as a runner to help others as a physical therapist, runner rehab specialist, and coach. 

From Proving Herself to Embracing Intrinsic Motivations

In her early days as a runner, Lauren was driven by the desire to prove herself – to her coaches, competitors, and even to herself – and seek external validation. The pursuit of personal records and medals, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon in her first ever marathon, fueled her passion, but as time passed, she realized that these external validations weren’t enough to sustain her in the long run. With experience, she discovered the joy of running for herself, the feeling of freedom as her feet hit the ground, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from conquering new challenges.

Rethinking Running Identity

As an accomplished and competitive runner, Lauren’s identity was inherently tied to her athletic achievements. Ultimately this backfired, and when the pandemic hit and races were canceled, Lauren was forced to rethink her relationship with running. She realized running was adding stress and anxiety to her life instead of relieving it, and, plagued with injuries, Lauren took a step back. It was during this time away that Lauren realized that her worth extended far beyond her running accolades and her running motivations were no longer serving her. By varying her movement, changing her approach to training, and talking with a therapist, she began to redefine her running identity. Embracing the role of a doctor of physical therapy, runner rehab specialist, and running coach, alongside her own personal training, not only enriched her experience but also allowed her to help others find their stride and overcome obstacles.

Taking Breaks from Structured Training: The Importance of Listening to Your Body

For many runners, running serves as a stress relief and an escape from life’s demands. However, Lauren sheds light on the potential downsides of constant, structured training. The repetitive stress on the body and nervous system can lead to burnout, mental and physical exhaustion. She advocates for normalizing the idea of taking breaks when needed, giving both the body and mind the time to rejuvenate. This pause can be instrumental in rediscovering one’s love for running and avoiding the pitfalls of overtraining. 

The Impact of Experience and Training Age

With thousands of miles under her belt, Lauren reflects on the concept of training age, emphasizing the importance of experience in determining running capacity. Runners with more years of experience are able to ramp up their training after breaks quicker than newer athletes, allowing them to handle higher training loads sooner, using their accumulated running history to help guide them. Additionally, while personal records might be harder to come by as a runner progresses, experience brings wisdom, resilience, and an appreciation for the journey rather than just the destination. Embracing this perspective allows runners to focus on self-improvement rather than constant comparison to their younger selves.

Normalizing Therapy 

Lauren acknowledges the undeniable link between the mind and the body, recognizing that what happens in life can significantly affect our performance on the run. Work stress, family demands, anxiety, and mental health struggles can, and do, all manifest in our running experiences. To counter this, she advocates for seeking help from therapists or mental health professionals to address underlying issues and create a healthy balance between life and running: running is not a replacement for therapy.

Lauren’s journey as a passionate, driven, resilient, and loyal runner is a testament to the transformative power of running. Through her experiences, she has evolved from seeking external validation to embracing her intrinsic motivations. Her insights into the importance of taking breaks from structured training, the impact of experience on running capacity, and the normalization of therapy in running are invaluable lessons for every runner.

As we lace up our shoes and hit the pavement, let us remember that running is not just about the finish line or time on the clock, but about the entire journey of self-discovery and growth that unfolds with every stride. By embracing the evolving relationship with running and prioritizing both physical and mental well-being, we can truly unlock the full potential of our running experience. So, whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting your journey, remember to run not only with your legs but with your heart and soul. Happy running!

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