During my virtual and in-person breathwork classes, I encourage participants to forge a deeper connection with their bodies. Using different mantras and sayings, I aim to awaken people to how powerful their bodies truly are.
Unfortunately — thanks to the media perpetuated, money-making notion that humans should constantly alter their physical appearance to be worthy — many of us spend way too much time criticizing or even disassociating from our bodies.
Whether you find yourself overeating, numbing with alcohol or drugs, punishing your muscles and joints with overexercising, or any other obsessive behavior — almost always, the goal is to stuff down an uncomfortable feeling. When, in actuality, you’d be a lot happier if you let yourself feel the sadness, anger, or other uncomfortable emotion, so you could then release it and move forward.
Over time, built up resentments, self-righteousness, and self-doubt can — on a minor scale — cause you to take your issues out on innocent bystanders. On a major scale, this ever-present tension can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, and inflammation — which can then cause cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other ailments.
So, how can you nip these nasty emotions in the butt before they become a relationship-ending, life-threatening issue?
Breathwork is a great solution, especially if you want immediate results. Many of my clients experience a relaxed, euphoric feeling as soon as the session ends. This mood shift can last hours or even days. They also report feeling “lighter” and less of a hostage to their emotions. Meditation is wonderful too, and I incorporate it into every Conscious Connected Breathing session — but meditation on its own can take weeks, months, or even years to have an affect.
You can also connect to your body by shaking up your fitness routine. If you don’t have an exercise regiment; start with something manageable, like walking 10 minutes a day. Anything is better than nothing!
For me, physical activity has been a non-negotiable for as long as I can remember. Since running has been my go-to cardio for over a decade, I decided to challenge myself by signing up for my first marathon. I knew the training and race itself would allow me to connect with my mind and body on a whole new level.
For several years, I had toyed with the idea of running a marathon. This dream was brought to the forefront when I made several friends in Los Angeles who happened to be ultra-marathon runners. In case you’re not familiar- these extreme athletes run 50 to 100 mile races. With proper training, diet, and equipment, they complete a feat I previously deemed impossible.
The more time I spent around this badass energy, the more open I felt to challenging myself. If they can run 100 miles, I can run 26.2!
As soon as I signed up for the Atlanta Publix Marathon, I messaged my friend Eimanne, who has completed several 100 mile races. She promptly sent over a training guide, and after pushing through a wall of anxiety, I began my four month journey.
I told myself that if I stuck to the training guide perfectly, I would be safe. All of my doubts would be erased and my body would perform as it needed to.
And I did just that for the first two months of training. I pushed through fatigue, tears, and self-doubt, rearranged my schedule, put on rain gear, climbed on a treadmill, set aside time on vacations, swallowed an anxiety attack, and got it done.
Of course, there were many moments of bliss, too. My 7, 10, and 12 mile runs were beyond enjoyable. Halfway through, my face hurt from smiling so hard. No pain, no boredom, no pooping myself. It was a pure runner’s high.
But my flawless rain or shine record came to a screeching halt when I contracted the Omicron strand over Christmas. For 48 hours, I tried to convince myself my fatigue, congestion, and soreness resulted from a bad night’s sleep. I jumped in a 50 degree pool and barely flinched. I climbed up the side of a dam while my body ached worse than the day after Barry’s Bootcamp.
I was not going to miss my 15 mile run!!!! I WAS FINE.
So, I attempted it that Sunday, and made it about 100 feet before surrendering to the sickness. My ‘push through’ mentality had warn down my immune system to the point that COVID-19 finally got me. After five days of Netflix and hate myself, I took my dog for a 2 mile run. I feared if I didn’t do SOMETHING soon, my body would regress, despite two months of training.
And at first, it felt like it did.
I’ll never forget my first longish run post COVID. My legs felt like lead. My nose was running faster than I was. And my victim playing, self-saboteur alter ego reared its ugly head. I thought, this is it. All of my hard work for nothing!!!
Even though it was only the end of December and my marathon wasn’t until February 27, I was convinced I was doomed.
Luckily, my sane side took over and calmed me down. I went home, regrouped, and tried again. Within a few days, my body recalibrated. I felt like I had never stopped training.
After that speed bump, I began to trust my body a little bit more. I didn’t have to be perfect to train successfully. Whether I was sick or not, my body needed more rest and recovery than I was allowing it. And after that week of downtime, my cardiovascular capabilities skyrocketed. I could run 15 plus miles breathing in and out of my nose almost the whole time (which is beneficial, because it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, keeping you calm and focused — while mouth breathing during exercise activates fight or flight mode – causing tension and inflammation in the body through the release of the stress hormone, cortisol).
Even though I was very grateful for a jumping off point, I decided it made more sense to listen to my body’s signals than an impersonal running chart.
My next physical challenge occurred while visiting Los Angeles in mid-January (for those who don’t know, I lived in LA for 6 years and now live in Atlanta). While running and reading a text (an absolute NO NO), I fell and injured my left hand and my right knee. Luckily, the knee healed quickly, but my hand still hurts to this day. Thankfully I don’t need my hand to run.
Apart from that, I enjoyed several lovely trail runs with the ultra-marathoners, and was feeling pretty confident.
So, upon returning home, I decided to go for an 18 miler.
Since my latest pair of running shoes dug into my ankles and drew blood, I decided to put on my old, worn out sneakers (mistake #1) while fighting through soreness from a recent HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) (mistake #2).
I survived the run — despite going to the bathroom in the middle of the woods near a homeless camp (RIP my favorite pair of gloves) — and enduring extreme foot pain. At first I wasn’t worried — pain is a part of marathon training — but after several days of limping, my anxiety peaked.
I started researching my symptoms online (mistake #3). Once I read that foot fractures can result from worn out shoes and sore muscles that can’t absorb shock efficiently, I was convinced the marathon was a no-go. The recovery period was 4 to 6 weeks and February was around the corner.
I decided to take two weeks off from exercising, which may be the longest I’ve gone in my life. I iced my foot, took cold baths, incorporated Epson salts, and tried to avoid super inflammatory foods.
Out of the blue, a friend of mine in the Atlanta area reached out to see how marathon training was going. He also happens to be a physical therapist that specializes in pain management. I told him about my foot issue and he said he’d take a look. A few days later, I made my way to RockBox Fitness in Sandy Springs.
Turns out, sore calf muscles were causing my foot pain. An issue that stemmed from my strong aversion to stretching. Geez, when will I learn??
But alas, my foot was not broken! I could run again!
At this point, I had experimented with exercise and my foot seemed okay, but still- getting professional clearance lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. He also recommended I buy ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES with more cushioning.
Running a marathon is an investment — physically, mentally, and financially.
The foot pain came and went over the next couple weeks, but never as severe as the 18 mile run. Before I knew it, the marathon was in 5 days. It was time to get all my gear sorted and hopefully ease any remaining anxiety.
After co-leading a hot yoga / breathwork class with Tara Van Dam, (another long distance runner that had recently come into my life), I decided to check out Highland Runners. The store popped up on Yelp and I recognized the name. Pretty sure someone had recommended it.
As fate would have it, I ended up spending an hour and a half in the store, chatting away with the owner about running, breathwork, celebrities, and whatever else. He guided me toward the perfect shoes, gels, compression socks, and lubricant for my first marathon.
I left Highland Runners knowing everything would be okay.
The Wednesday before the Atlanta Publix Marathon, my mom, aunt, and brother came to town to visit and cheer me on. We spent the next few days touring Atlanta, which was a good distraction for my growing nerves.
The day before the race, my friend Chrissy drove from Alabama and stayed over. She was running the half-marathon on the same day.
I tend to be directionally challenged, especially after waking up at 4am, so I was beyond grateful to have her there to help find parking, the starting line, and more. Chrissy is also a breathwork facilitator, so naturally, we did some deep breathing exercises in the car before the race.
However, no amount of aid could’ve prevented my racing bib from falling out of my packed bag. Yeah, that happened. My boyfriend had to bring it to me in the wee hours of the morning — 10 minutes before the race started. A fucking hero!!
Now, it’s 7am. The first wave of runners has taken off. I lost Chrissy in the sea of people. But, I have my headphones, my training, and my compression shorts. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
It’s dark, cold, and rain has been falling from the sky since I stepped outside. BUT THAT’S OKAY.
Fun fact: Rain helps you run faster, because your body doesn’t have to expend energy cooling you down.
Once I pin my bib and turn on my killer playlist, I start to take in my surroundings. I feel excitement emanating off my fellow runners. I make eye contact with smiling faces. I hear the announcer’s cheerful voice.
Let’s do this.
Before I know it, everyone around me is moving forward, and I am too. I fight the urge to cry tears of joy. All of the blood, sweat, and tears from the past four months led me to this moment.
No matter what happens, I know I gave it my all. No one can take that away from me.
I began praying to everyone I know who has died to protect me and guide me. I don’t need to qualify for the Boston marathon, I just need to cross the finish line in one piece.
As I passed each mile marker with relative ease, I kept coming back to how often I underestimate myself, ESPECIALLY MY PHYSICAL CAPABILITIES. My body is fucking powerful. My body is strong. My body is resilient. I am a beast. I am a warrior.
I can’t believe I almost quit training because I feared I would permanently damage my foot. Yet, here I was, rounding mile 20, with no foot pain.
Honestly the worst thing that happened was my bib falling off multiple times (I eventually stuck it in my pocket). And by the end my hands were too cold to unzip my pocket and reach my gels and Advil lol.
With that being said, how many times in my life have I stopped myself from achieving greatness out of fear? How many times were those fears unjustified?
Probably every time.
How many times have you allowed fear to keep you small, comfortable, and stagnant?
Probably more often than you’d like to admit.
I ended up completing my first marathon in 4 hours and 25 minutes; which was 20 minutes faster than I predicted. Despite gaining a good 7 pounds during training, I moved with ease and grace. My foot didn’t hurt at all, and my soreness levels during and after were pretty average. HACK: Take a cold bath the same day as the race to prevent inflammation. And stretch! Even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Having my family there cheering me on when I crossed the finish line – STILL BREATHING THROUGH MY NOSE 26.2 MILES LATER – was priceless. I haven’t lived in Rhode Island (where I’m from) since 2013, so I was beyond grateful to have them there in person for this major milestone.
Honestly, almost every aspect of training for and running a marathon shocked me. What I had in mind going in was not my reality THANK GOD.
For example, I was not hungry at all after the race and the following day. I had to force myself to eat — which is VERY UNLIKE ME. I also felt emotionally depleted and extremely anxious the following day. Hands down, the mental hangover trumped my physical soreness.
I have a new level of appreciation and gratitude for what my body and mind are capable of. Which, in a perfect world, we should carry with us whether we run a marathon or not. But since we’re only human, it doesn’t hurt to push boundaries for that reminder 🙂
TO CONCLUDE: Marathon training & running may seem like a solo endeavor, but it is in fact a team effort. From my friend sending me her training guide, to my boyfriend brining me my bib at the last minute, I could not have done this without other people.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Eimanne Zein- ultra marathon runner with a super helpful YouTube channel for the aspiring or experienced racer
Julio Diaz- ultra marathon runner and amazing sports masseuse
Sean Merck – cardio boxing instructor and pain management specialist at RockBox Fitness in Sandy Springs
Alec Sunwoo – owner of Highland Runners and overall running expert
My mom, Aunt Lisa, brother, boyfriend, dad, Chrissy, and everyone else who provided love and support!
Oh, and I ended up running in Saucony shoes. Highly recommend.
MUCH LOVE XO