The runner’s high. If you have pushed your body during a run you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is a truly amazing feeling. I’ve been a runner, and while I was never a marathon runner, I did my fair share and put many miles on my shoes. I have earned almost every type of Nike Running Club badge you can earn and have smashed my personal records. So believe me, I understand why running can be so appealing. During those long distance runs, I would put in my headphones and tune out anything that was bothering me. It didn’t matter how awful school, work, or anyone was—I could, metaphorically, run away from my problems. In high school, this made soccer and lacrosse much easier in the final minutes of games because I could keep up, but the beginning of every game was slow for me. I had so much endurance, but I felt weak and slow compared to the other girls on the field. I now realize that I was.
My first year of college was my first experience in an actual gym with actual weights and lots of people that had way more experience than I did. I was scared out of my mind, so I stuck to what I knew. I ran, and my idea of “expanding” my workouts involved using every single piece of cardio equipment the gym had to offer. Looking back, for someone that was supposedly “working out,” I was watching an awful lot of Netflix. The more I think about it, the people that predominately used the cardio equipment and some weight machines also watched an alarming amount of Netflix, and often looked miserable or just stared mindlessly at their phones while moving at a snail’s pace on a treadmill. This may just be because this was a college gym and everyone is on their phones all over campus, but it makes me think, Could I really have been benefitting from something that I was able to do so mindlessly? The people that looked the happiest and the most alive at the gym were those that were lifting—especially the women that were lifting. They looked happy and confident, and I found myself wanting that so badly.
At the end of my freshman year I was battling major stress and depression, and running did not help. I was able to escape my problems while I was running, but once I stopped they caught up and felt worse than before. It was like I couldn’t outrun my problems, stress, and depression no matter how hard or far I ran. The harder I tried, the worse my physical health got. I was stress eating because the running no longer helped and my knees started to creak with every step that I took. All the muscles in my feet hurt from slamming against a treadmill or the sidewalk while I ran. The worst part of it all was that I wasn’t losing the fat that I wanted. In fact, I looked bigger than when I started college.
As I began my sophomore year of college, I changed my major and took a leap of faith. I went from a major that was split pretty much 50/50 in terms of male to female students to a male-dominated major called Fitness Development. This major was designed for people that wanted a degree that would help them enter the fitness industry. At this point I had little to no idea what I was doing. I was about 90% clueless on how to use free weights. I could pretty much do a bicep curl and maybe half a shoulder press. I was scared to death of two things: looking like a fool and looking bulky if I lifted too heavy and too often.
I quickly got over my fear of looking stupid when I realized that complete strangers were willing to help me if I simply asked. The part that took a little longer was getting over the fear of being bulky from lifting heavy. Lifting became so appealing to me because I started to realize that no matter what type of body I was predisposed to I could change it and make it look better and move better. You can either accept what kind of body that you have been given and enhance it or let it destroy you.
Lifting actually started to balance my life out. Tasks and events that once seemed impossible became easier because I thought to myself, “If I can lift all that weight, how hard can [insert difficult task here] be?” Another benefit to lifting is what it does to your body after you are done and the lasting changes that can occur. Once a week I will “cheat” on my clean eating and eat something like Five Guys or pizza and I don’t feel guilty about it because I know that my body can handle small amounts of bad food. I am in no way saying that you can out-lift a poor diet or extra cheat meals. Everyone’s body is going to respond differently to different types of food and it’s about figuring out what works for YOU, not for a fitness model on a magazine. The whole point is that I get it when it comes to the runner’s high and I get that doing something new is scary. If you find that you have been running a long time and you don’t look or feel the way you want, it might be time to give heavy lifting a try and see how it makes you look and feel.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.”