What I wish I had known as a high school/college runner.
1. Reject the “race weight” mentality. You do NOT have to be a certain weight to race, your “race weight” is whatever weight you happen to be when running a race without manipulating your body. You do not need to change your body in order to race because guess what? It can have disastrous consequences. I mistakenly thought that I needed to change how my body looked, what I ate, and how much I weighed. In the end, I developed an eating disorder and was undernourished, not performing as well, at an increased risk of injuries, depressed, extremely anxious, feeling I had no worth/value as I wasn’t competing to the standard I thought I should. And then I had to take years off from running in order to recover, ending my college running career as a sophomore. The restriction was not worth it. And anyways weight is affected by so many factors and is not meant to stay at some arbitrary point, it fluctuates even throughout a single day!
2. Resist comparing yourself/your body to any other runner (professional runners, Olympic runners, even other runners on your team or in your conference). Many runners have come out recently as struggling with eating disorders/disordered eating. You can’t determine someone else’s health, or their struggles based off of their bodies or even their running performance. Also, everyone’s body is different and unique and is not meant to look like anyone else’s. If you run and have a body, you have a runner’s body.
I had one of my fastest races at one of my highest weights, I felt strong and was smiling through the entire race because I felt strong, nourished, and energized. Then mistakenly got pulled back into the lie of “racing weight” and tried to get to the arbitrary number that I had decided was my ideal race weight and guess what? My next race was not like the one where I was nourished and strong, the race months later was horrible. I felt so exhausted and undernourished and wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the race and guess what? My weight was LOWER and I ran SLOWER, I didn’t have the nourishment or energy to maintain my previous pace because my body did not have enough energy to do so. Please do NOT give into the lie that you need to lose weight.
3. Performance has so many other factors beyond weight- things like sleep, recovery, hydration, mental preparation, visualization/mental imagery, injury prevention, stress levels, strength training, adequate energy intake, etc.
Check out Rachele Schulist, Allie Kieffer, and Kara Bazzi all of whom have worked on their struggles, gained weight and ran faster. Your best bet for running is to have a strong, nourished, hydrated, rested body so that you have the energy and strength to run, get your period, and enjoy your life.
Kara Bazzi: https://www.opalfoodandbody.com/the-appetite-fast-anorexic/ (one of my favorite articles/podcasts of all time!)
Allie Kieffer: https://www.self.com/story/my-weight-has-nothing-to-do-with-how-good-a-runner-i-am (trigger warning-talks about unhealthy behaviors in a generalized way that she did prior to when she started to nourish and be kind to her body)
Rachele Schlist: https://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/michigan-state/2016/12/19/rachele-schulist-msu-track-body-image/95605886/ (trigger warning- images of her and talks about specifically how much weight she gained)
4. Practical tips:
Know that you are loved and worthy and deserving even if you never run another step again, even if you never run another race or PR, you are still loved, worthy, and valuable and needed in this world
Find interests outside of running, you are more than a runner!
Take regular breaks from social media, be mindful of who you follow
Refrain from looking up images/pictures of other runners, your body is unique and not meant to look like anyone else’s
Be mindful if on running message boards
Avoid watching what I eat in a day videos, each person’s body has unique energy needs
Run without your watch
Run “weird” distances- 2.3mi, 3.7mi, 4.2mi you do NOT need to run those “even” numbers like 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles.
Keep variety in your routes
Know that each part of training is equal, rest/recovery days are equal and as important as the hard workout days or long runs because you can’t do the hard workouts or long runs without the rest days
Eat enough, give your body the nourishment and energy it needs! And eat a wide variety of all types of foods (no food is good or bad or off limits!)
Take regular time off from running to prevent burnout
Root your identity and self-worth in Christ and not in running
Sign up for UTC-Every an online Christ centered program for athletes on learning how to glorify Christ with athletics https://athletesinaction.org/camps/utc-every/
I had the best run of my life last week. I didn’t run my fastest, or farthest, and I was not at my lowest weight (at my highest probably but I don’t weigh myself). Why was it the best then? Because I felt strong, and beautiful and energized and nourished (with all types of foods), so proud of my body, and I felt free. It is possible to find the joy in running again, you can overcome being a slave to running, being a slave to the scale, being a slave to body image and you can be free. It takes time, tears, and hard work but it is fully possible. I know that with 100% confidence.
Stay strong and keep fighting everyone because you are worth it. 💕
“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, stand firm then and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
Megan Ludke is a woman of God, Founder and Executive Director of Live RecoverED (formerly RecoverED Athletes), a school-based physical therapist, and a current PSU graduate student (M.Ed. Health Education & Promotion concentration in Eating Disorders). She is recovered from anorexia, orthorexia, depression, OCD, and social anxiety. Megan is deeply passionate about her work at Live RecoverED, having felt the pain and darkness of struggling with an eating disorder. When not working, Megan loves spending time with her boyfriend and family and loves being outside- hiking or reading in a hammock.