My Turnaround from Competitive Running to Connection with Me

During my late 20’s I took up competitive running. I joined a local running club and trained twice a week with the club, adding 3 or 4 sessions at home. Depending on what I was training for, I would run up to 60km per week.

I sometimes enjoyed my training but I always enjoyed when the weekends came and I could compete in races. I would enter races from 5km up to 50km and also hill races.

My plan would always be the same – I would start far back in the field and push forward from the very start of the race. I would see my fellow runners as opponents whom I had to beat and my tactic was to overtake them one by one, seeing each of these as a mini triumph.

I used to feel nervous before a race – my stomach felt strange, often hard and bloated and the only thing that seemed to numb my awareness of this would be to eat just before I ran, thus I usually ran on a full stomach.

Zooming forward a few years and to my pregnancy. I tried running in the early months of my pregnancy but felt this was uncomfortable, so changed to swimming. I felt I could keep my fitness up this way and get back to running again as soon as my baby was born.

I put the same effort into swimming as I had into running and made it my goal to swim 6 or 7km a week, regardless of how my body was feeling. The day before my son was born, I recall I swam a mile and felt very proud of myself.

When my son was 8 days old, I entered a 10km road race. I had read somewhere that a local runner and Olympic medallist had gone straight back to running after giving birth so I decided that I could too.

I recall sitting by the start line breastfeeding my son when the starter’s pistol fired. I quickly took him off my breast, handed him to his Dad to be winded, and sprinted after the group, wondering if I could catch up. My body ached and, as I had only breastfed on one side, my other breast was extremely heavy, tender and sore.

I remember wondering to myself for just a moment why I had chosen to do this, how strange and wrong it felt to have stopped breastfeeding and immediately jump up to run. And what was I doing to my body? After all, it was only 8 days since I had given birth.

I quickly overrode those feelings. I knew some of the marshals on the route and many of the competitors, and I received much encouragement along the way. Any reservations about running were soon forgotten and I finished the course in a very respectable time.

Due to sleepless nights, exhaustion and mastitis, the regular running quickly fell away and it wasn’t until about 6 years later (long after having our second son) that I competed again. It felt strange to be running again, although I was reasonably fit from lots of walking and swimming. I stuck to my tried and tested game plan, staying far back in the field – it might have been a fun run but I was still determined to do my best. The starter’s pistol fired and we were off…

Except something had changed. As I ran I could feel that my body was not enjoying this at all. It was not to do with fitness, it was to do with how I felt. I found I did not want to compete, I did not want to overtake anyone and I did not want to push my body into doing something it clearly did not want to do.

I tried to override these feelings, focussing my attention on the mini battle I was having with a woman who was running on my right. For over a mile we battled it out, she overtaking me and pulling away, then me overtaking her.

Whilst this outer battle was taking place I could feel an inner war going on which felt far greater. My body was shouting at me to stop and feel what I was doing to myself.

I could no longer ignore it and instead I slowed right down whilst watching my opponent disappear into the distance. Dozens of competitors streamed past me following in her footsteps. I felt no urge to push my body, keep up or overtake anyone. Instead I felt a sudden and deep sadness. I completed the race at a very gentle pace, puzzled about how I was feeling, but knowing that my relationship to competition had changed.

I gave up running that day. Since then, I have chosen to exercise more and more gently. I enjoy swimming, walking and gentle strengthening and stretching exercises.

I enjoy how my body feels as I exercise and, on the very odd occasion when I feel the familiar push to be competitive again, I simply stop and connect to how lovely it is to exercise gently and that need to compete melts away.

Looking back now I can see why I had chosen to join the running club, why I had chosen to race and why I had a game plan. I could also see why, for so long I had been competitive.

I was constantly looking outside myself for validation. I never felt I was good enough just as I was, so each time I passed a fellow runner I experienced a moment of success, each time I improved on my times, I felt I had achieved something, and each time I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I gained recognition.

So why the sudden and deep sadness felt during my last 5km race?

That day I got to feel that, deep down, all of that trying and pushing of my body never changed anything. No matter how much faster I ran, how many people I passed and how many medals I won, only to toss them in a drawer, it did not change who I was.

I could feel that running did not feel good in my body, that by competing I was keeping myself separate and in comparison to everyone else, and that while I was running, my focus became very narrowed so I could not truly enjoy my body or the beauty in nature around me.

I realised everything I was doing was to gain a sense of:

  • Validation
  • Self-worth
  • Recognition

What I really needed to do was to stop and connect to the real me – who I was inside – with no need for validation through achievement or recognition, just simply feeling the loveliness of me.

Over the past 8 years I have been learning to listen more to my body and to its constant communication with me. I deeply appreciate my body, how all the different parts work together to allow it to move and express itself.

I have discovered that exercise can be light, playful, fun and something I can enjoy on my own, or in the company of others. Exercise has become an integral part of my life, not simply something tagged onto my day if and when I have time.

I have learned that exercise is about connection first and if I exercise in connection to myself, not only does it feel amazing, that same quality of connection remains with me long after I finish my exercise. It is what I take into the rest of my day.

I am deepening my appreciation of exercise and how much it supports not just my body, but my whole life. No longer do I need to exercise for validation, self-worth or recognition, for how would I need these things when I can feel the fullness of me? My enjoyment of exercising in connection far outweighs any of the buzz I got when I used to compete.

With deepest thanks and immense gratitude to Serge Benhayon and other Universal Medicine practitioners, whose love and dedication to service has supported me in finding my way back to a deeper connection with my body and myself.

By Jane Torvaney, Physiotherapist, Scotland

Further Reading:
Gentle Exercise – A New Approach to Fitness And Exercise
What is Exercising in Connection?
Sports Competition – The Pursuit of (Feelings of) Emptiness
Sport, Competition, and Fiery Debate

956 thoughts on “My Turnaround from Competitive Running to Connection with Me

  1. Changing from looking for validation externally to honouring and appreciating oneself for oneself with self-nurturing care brings all the validation to feel the fulness of oneself.

  2. No matter how many times I read this blog, I am amazed by how crazy our behaviour can get when we are hooked by an idea of what we want to achieve or think will be a good idea. The sad thing is that we are encouraged by others for our extreme behaviour too, as though disregard and self-abuse are hero worthy.

  3. These days I love to exercise and find that when I have a true purpose for doing it is feels a whole lot easier and simpler.

  4. This truly is an amazing turnaround, Jane. I know how attractive and addictive those tastes of ‘success’ and recognition is and it’s very hard to step back and see what really is going on, and we often end up going to the extremes or keeping swapping the activity we engage in, thinking to ourselves we are changing or progressing when in fact we are just reinforcing the same pattern over and over and over, taking ourselves further away from what we are in truth missing and wanting to be reunited.

  5. It’s very humbling when we start being able to listen to our body more and actually start seeing a sense in what we have been aware of but pushing away, as giving that a voice would disturb our ‘normal’ and discover and reacquaint ourselves with something very gentle and tender but surprisingly familiar.

  6. This blog serves as a great example of the things that we do to gain recognition and the harming effort that has on us. We all have our different ways of doing this,which is something that we have a responsibility towards ourselves to discover.

  7. It is so incredible how far we will go to feel recognised and accepted when recognition and acceptance are no match for knowing and loving who you are.

  8. What a profound and life-changing moment you share here Jane.
    “I felt no urge to push my body, keep up or overtake anyone. Instead I felt a sudden and deep sadness. I completed the race at a very gentle pace, puzzled about how I was feeling, but knowing that my relationship to competition had changed”.

  9. “I realised everything I was doing was to gain a sense of:
    – Validation
    – Self-worth
    – Recognition”
    Crazy to feel how we can be driven by these as a motivation to do something, whilst over-riding the body’s gentle communications to just be and feel the loveliness within. This is such a familiar pattern for me, yet to be broken!

  10. Thank you Jane for this deeply revealing and yet simple blog which was a re-read for me! I too was very much into running when I was in my teens, as part of training for tennis competitions, but there was more to the running and training than met the eye – and this was the same as you have shared here in your blog which was the seeking of external validation and worth. Strangely what I am sensing today after many years of the competition and training etc, I am still discovering how I have pockets of seeing the validation from outside, but not from sports or training but from other areas such as excessive study or work! Funny how it can creep in in so many ways!

  11. Thank you Jane for sharing your journey with exercise, from competition to exercise with connection to yourself. We have so many ideals and pictures of how exercise should be that we may be quite stunned to connect to how we actually feel, and to realise our body and being are communicating something else. I often see exercise groups outdoors and they are led by very stern, militant, forceful people, it seems quite punishing how they are being spoken to and consequently how they are treating their bodies. It points to the complication we constantly bring to life through ideals and beliefs, that we believe there is a certain or ‘right’ way to do things such as the ‘no pain, no gain’ belief around exercise, instead of the simplicity of listening to our inner heart and body and the wisdom within.

  12. It is amazing quite how much we put and push our bodies through to simply achieve some task or goal we have set out to do no matter what the short or long term cost to our body may be.

  13. The running seems so intense. I felt tired just reading about how you exercised. I never enjoyed running – my body told me it was not good for me – but of course I found other forms of exercise to push myself. I am newly pregnant and experiencing the pull to be still and much more tender – so I am watching as exercise takes a much less intense role in my life and reading this blog makes me feel at ease in my body knowing that the most important thing we can do is listen to it.

    1. That is great Hannah! 🙂 I fully agree that the most important thing we can do is listen to our body. It is there with us 24/7 and can support us more the more we support it.

  14. “by competing I was keeping myself separate and in comparison to everyone else”, when we push ourselves in this way it is an exercise in self harm.

  15. ‘…exercise can be light, playful, fun…’ this is a gift of a statement that supports us to debunk the beliefs about ‘no pain no gain’ and hardship being the only way to effectively work our bodies.

    1. Matilda, what a refreshing thing to realise! I spent years in the belief of no pain no gain, pushing hard at training and then patting myself on the back for feeling sore or terrible after training thinking this was a good thing! But what is crazy is that once you learn that this is a myth and a fallacy, it is like a part of you that has invested in so much of this does not want to let go of this and realise how easy and simple and lovely it can be – for admitting this would make one feel like a fool!

  16. Running like many forms of exercise can be a distraction from feeling what is really going on in our lives. When we start to listen to the body we will know which exercises really support the body and those that don’t.

  17. It is a totally different feeling in the body to exercise according to what is needed and how the body feels. Honouring our bodies and what they offer in terms of carrying us through our days allows us to bring ourselves more fully in life.

  18. I can totally identify with suddenly wondering what I was doing with all this running. I used to absolutely love running, but it was more of a temporary distraction and escape. It did make me feel great, but it never really dealt with the underlying tension I was constantly running away from. Learning to feel underneath the tension, to a stillness and steadiness that was always there but that I’d disconnected from and couldn’t feel, is what started to shift things.

  19. Exercising for the intention to be recognised or identified is short-lived, for it is not true for our bodies to be pushed and abused as it is only a matter of time before we are given a correction. It is only through appreciation and acceptance of self that we can start to approach exercise as a support in honoring our bodies level of delicateness and love.

  20. ‘I have learned that exercise is about connection first and if I exercise in connection to myself, not only does it feel amazing, that same quality of connection remains with me long after I finish my exercise. It is what I take into the rest of my day. ‘ Beautiful Jane – truly honouring.

  21. How many of us participate in something that we know deep inside is not really good for us and to do so we have to override the wise and caring messages that our body is offering? So, it’s a double whammy; one we are ignoring the harm we are doing to our body and two we have to bring in a force to harden ourselves to do so. And we humans consider ourselves the most intelligent species? If we came to understand that our body is actually the one with the true intelligence and that our mind is the one that leads us astray we would then naturally begin to live a life in connection to ourselves where listening to and honouring the wisdom of this amazing body of ours is the most normal thing to do.

  22. How very wise our bodies are and when we have these moments where our bodies say “no more stress and or pain,” we take the space to honour, move and value who we are and then move to support this knowing with our very next step, that is hugely inspiring. Thank you Jane.

  23. I know this sounds really ridiculous but I have also felt a similar thing to walking on the street with strangers where in the past either myself or the other person would try and walk past one another pretending everything was okay but really wanting to get in front of the other person. Nothing was said but this tiny bit of competition could be felt in that I am going to go ahead of you! ‘I would see my fellow runners as opponents whom I had to beat and my tactic was to overtake them one by one, seeing each of these as a mini triumph.’ When I got to the point where you were saying you could no longer ignore what your body was telling you my body felt a sense of relief. Which shows to me just how we affect one another. So wow if the world stopped competing against each other in the many ways we currently do just how lovely would we all feel!

    1. I love what you are sharing here Vicky, because it shows that even in the littlest things we can get caught up in competition.

    2. I have had the same thing driving my car, it may be subtle but there is an underlying competitiveness in overtaking. It’s the whole illusion we can be better than another by being in front when we are actually all equal by virtue of our essence and where we come from.

  24. The fact that you sometimes enjoyed the training but looked forward to the races is a giveaway that the actual running was not the prime motivator. We do things like running that our body actually feels abused by, for recognition, to feel good about ourselves compared to others etc. None of this leaves you any better off at the end and instead reinforces our feelings of lack within ourselves.

    1. That is the problem with recognition, it can only ever be temporary as a relief from the emptiness we feel inside. It’s only ever our connection to ourselves that brings a true sense of contentment and being full again. Much of the world is based on feeding the emptiness, whether it’s sports events, entertainment, education, or any other system based on recognition. Many of these are also seen as good and celebrated, so far are we from living connected to ourselves as a society that we champion recognition and individuality, even if we destroy our bodies in the process. Competing, winning, and achieving is placed ahead of love and connection to our essence.

  25. We are raised believing that competition is a good thing, always striving and trying to be better than another. But in truth there is nothing healthy and true about competition for there is always a compromise in our bodies and quality within to be less of the truth of who we are.

  26. When you said how you pushed yourself to swim a certain length no matter how you were feeling it reminds me how we can get stuck in a rut of thinking that we have to do a set exercise regime but in that we’re not accounting for variances in what may be truly supportive for our body – some days we may need more, some less or a different kind of exercise…

  27. Our self worth does not come from the outside as you show in this blog Jane, we can start building self worth by how connected and loving we are with ourselves.

  28. This blog always reminds me of how powerful and harmful role models can be. The heroes we uphold for overcoming challenges or for overriding everything in their body, such as the woman who ran straight after giving birth, sets people up to do crazy things – just to prove they can. When we rely on getting our self-worth from competing with others we are doomed to stop listening to our body.

    1. That is the crazy thing about ideals, they often keep going to more extremes such as running straight after birth, surgically removing ribs to get the body image ideal of a cinched waist, or any other number of ways we harm ourselves to align to a picture of how we or life is ‘supposed’ to be.

  29. The strength of the conviction that racing and competition is good for us runs heavily in society. We have a message that high intensity exercise is good no matter what, it is never taught to us about listening to how we feel, beyond a small mention to occasionally rest if we have overdone it. I can see in this experience Jane how you were encouraged to run and remember many times where I have done endurance races and been praised for the massive effort. But what are we being praised for, what is the encouragement and praise really saying, what is the achievement in pushing the body. We have sedentary societies yes, but the answer to obesity isn’t found in pushing to our limits in reaction to our inactivity, it is found in consistent movement of the body that nurtures and respects our limitations and slowly builds our strength, stamina and flexibility to a level that makes life enjoyable, or maintaining this if we are already there, any more than this is not necessary and should never be celebrated.

    1. The ideals around exercise would be a factor in sedentary populations, as images of exercise being punishing, forceful, harsh, and pushing ourselves to the limits is very off putting. How much more welcoming a gentle exercise routine is!

  30. Amazing that you were able to let go of the competitiveness as that is quite a big step when you are so identified by it. It shows how we can always say oops that was not it and choose the other way whatever recognition is hanging on the act, the true love and feeling content in our bodies is worth much more than that.

  31. It is a spectacular moment when we realise how futile and destructive competition is because all along, we have been fighting a war, not only against our body but also and most importantly, our essence. It is not natural to be competitive, it is something we have been taught and decided to adopt for the apparent rewards it promises and of course, mainly delivers in this world of ours. But who really wants to be dependent on others and wins or successful outcomes for how they feel? It smacks of dependency and a very contracted way to live.

  32. Jane this is great to read as it gives such a clear understanding of how narrowing and reductionist competition is and how when we’re in that state we’re not fully aware of us and our bodies. Makes no sense at all.

  33. I have felt this too and it is really lovely, ‘I have learned that exercise is about connection first and if I exercise in connection to myself, not only does it feel amazing, that same quality of connection remains with me long after I finish my exercise. It is what I take into the rest of my day.’

  34. I have used various tactics over the years to avoid being truly present and with myself, and still am working with staying present and connected to my body all the time. I wonder why this has been quite so challenging a task, especially feeling how lovely it is when you do feel this connection with your essence.

  35. Competition is so rife in our society and seems to come at us from all angles so to put up ones hands and say No. I’ll do it my way. I will connect to myself and obey the dictates of my soul is pretty awesome and the only way if we are to feel whole and complete.

  36. Awesome exposure of the emptiness of competition and how it leads us to nowhere constructive. Medals do not truly fulfil a person, relationships of real love and care with others and with ourselves, that is what truly nourishes us.

  37. I have never been someone who participated in competitive sport but I have come to realise that even if we are just doing our own routine in the gym we can be competition even with ourselves. The challenge is always to remain ourselves and then we do not get caught up in competition.

  38. A lovely sharing Jane, our body is always communicating to us, it is up to us when we choose to feel and listen to what it shares, ‘I could feel that running did not feel good in my body, that by competing I was keeping myself separate and in comparison to everyone else, and that while I was running, my focus became very narrowed so I could not truly enjoy my body or the beauty in nature around me.’

  39. Just reading this blog has allowed me to feel the exhaustion levels the body can go to when we are running it to the ground. What a transformation and huge healing from this blog for the world to read. Thank you!

  40. Our body loves movement, it is made to move, but only in accordance from a divine impulse that naturally occurs when we connect within… and then we express that out.

  41. Thank you Jean I never realised a woman would go to such extremes just after having a baby to prove herself to the outside world. When reading I was thinking if we could interview all the other runners , I wonder what outside glory where they seeing from the public to prove themselves .

  42. Exercising without a goal is extremely fun I am finding and it allows me the space to explore what my bodies limits are, that do change, respectfully rather than finding them after I’ve pushed through them!

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