When I decided to stop running long distance due to injury, I was terrified about how my body would respond. It was the fear of staying small and skinny that kept me running through pain. I started lifting weights, I was a cardio queen. I loved the thrill I would get when my feet hit the pavement, mile after mile.
The mind clearing effect of running 10 miles to nowhere wasn’t something to be overlooked. Also not to be overlooked was the impact it had on my body: both good and bad.
Earlier, I shared a blog and in it, I argued I knew the best workouts to do to help people achieve fat loss and build muscle. I shared brief snippets of the time in my life when I was an endurance runner, clocking in 15-20 hours a week.
What I didn’t share in the blog though was that when I was running and when I quit running, I was terrified of what would happen to my body.
Would I gain weight?
Would I look less fit?
I’d been running for so long that I didn’t know how my body would respond if I stopped.
But I stopped running anyways.
A bit of that was a result of circumstances: I’d suffered serious LCL knee injuries and resulting pain from all the pavement pounding I’d done.
I was hurt and trained through the pain but once the race was over, I stopped.
My time as an endurance athlete left me with 15% body fat and Amenorrhea.
Amenorrhea happens to female athletes when they 1) drop below a certain body fat percentage that’s specific to each individual body and 2) there’s a lack of energy balance in the body.
Think, running, running running until you’re running on fumes – that’s energy depletion and an environment ripe for breakdown.
(This was me at my height of training. This was the skinniest I’d ever been. I wasn’t confident in my body AT ALL and my body was pissed at all the training miles I was putting on it (hence the bruises all over my legs from muscle treatment).
That’s actually when I started weightlifting and strength training. I started off doing mostly machines and circuit training and found it really enjoyable. I liked the variety of training methods and workouts and the pump and rush I felt during and after the workouts.
Prior to lifting weights, I thought the only way to get an endorphin rush through working out was by through cardio.
But I was TERRIFIED of my body changing.
I grew up with a curvy frame.
My household nickname that eventually went public was thunder thighs.
I was a chubby baby, kid, and teenager. I remember being told “Sara, you won’t ever be skinny, you’re not built like that.”
I was told this during a time in which I DESPERATELY wanted to be skinny like everyone else, so desperate that this comment sent me into a mild, thankfully very short lived eating disorder (because I like food WAY too much and found out that eliminating it wasn’t my cup of tea..)
When I stopped doing cardio and started doing weights, I was terrified of my body getting bigger.
I was scared to BE bigger – I was scared to be seen.
I had learned to like my small frame that I’d achieved from pounding hour after after on the pavement every day.
Yet here I was, making a lifestyle choice to eliminate long-duration running and opt in to lifting weights.
I was also terrified that if I started lifting weights and got bigger, that people would notice me more. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hide myself in the corner of a crowded party or in other areas of my life…That men and women would see me walk into a room and think to themselves “she lifts weights.”
Guys, all of this scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want my body to change, I wanted to stay skinny, I wanted to stay small and comfortable with my body the way it was and not attract any attention in my life.
I started lifting weights via machines a few days a week and became fixated on learning how to do a pull up (like many of you!). I wanted to learn how to do all the cool weightlifting tricks I saw the guys doing.
What started out as a casual jaunt in the gym to the machines turned into a full-fledged iron love affair.
Guess what, my body DID change.
I got bigger muscles.
My stocky, tiny-framed body packed on pounds of muscles. My legs got bigger as well as my butt, arms, shoulders and back. Men and women also took note of this. Some turned into haters from jealousy & comparison, while others celebrated the change and congratulated me.
In this time, I also changed the way I viewed my body. No longer did I desire to remain small: small in my body and small in life. The reality is that my body WASN’T small, and I was trying to shrink myself by staying small, especially as a woman.
Lifting weights made my body grow, but it also helped me live a bigger life.
Instead of being comfortable with my petite frame and body, I grew larger into my body, and into my life.
I become physically and emotionally stronger and able to weather the inevitable storms in life.
When I quit running, I was scared of the way my body would change. I learned that there was so much more to health and fitness and living a fuller life, than staying SMALL.
Building muscle felt good, building muscle burns more calories than running and steady-state cardio, and it enables me to carry my bicycle up 3 flights of stairs in my city apartment, as well as haul groceries.
Building muscle and getting strong has helped me live a stronger life: it wasn’t easy at first and the physical and mental changes I went through were challenging and many times I considered getting back on the running bandwagon. I am SO glad I didn’t.