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

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

  1. 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.’

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 .

  5. 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!

  6. Jane, the drive you had to compete is common in many people. With me it was not running but exercise. It was a knee injury that stopped me from teaching up to eight aerobic classes a week on top of a full time job. I then turned to yoga after my injury thinking it was gentler, but the drive was still there in needing to perfect the postures. I eventually listened to what my body was saying and stopped all the exercise for a while. Its good to get to the root cause of this kind of addictive behaviour and I agree for me it was for validation and recognition.

  7. 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”. This is the kind of harm that role models can create in society. We hear about something a role model has done and the recognition, fame, notoriety they have received for it , then we aspire to be that too. This aspiring to be like someone else leaves us feeling not enough (even when we achieve something) and without a steady sense of ourselves or what is right for our body.

  8. This is such a profound turnaround Jane that reflects for us that there comes a time when we give up the ‘race of life’ and stop seeing others as those we must complete against but more so those that walk beside us.

    1. Because we have made the choice to live in separation to another and thus this creates a great divide within ourselves. Or – perhaps we could say that because we feel divided within ourselves by virtue of withdrawing from the expression of the love we are, we then seek activities that confirm and thus validate this wayward move.

      We are here to work with each other, not against each other, and not without each other.

  9. ‘…. 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.’ How often do we feel this happening and ignore all the signs that our body is giving us? Many, I would say. We can always feel deeper into the the subtleties of the body’s wise teachings.

  10. Realising that it was through competition that you were seeking validation and that in fact it never changes anything is huge. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone appreciated this and realises the enjoyment of living connected to oneself outweighs any buzz or false sense of achievement from competition?

  11. “I received much encouragement along the way. Any reservations about running were soon forgotten and I finished the course in a very respectable time”. This is the part of the story that stands out to me. I grew up with a marathon runner in the family and over the years have seen them receive much recognition and praise for it. What I find interesting is that no one asks about the sore knees, hips or lower back from all that impact or the times of vomiting and days exhausted in bed afterwards. No one wonders what was happening in the rest of the family when the runner was out every night training for hours on end. So for people to applaud a woman running so soon after giving birth shows me again how upside down our priorities are in society. We love the person who triumphs over their body rather than the one who deeply nurtures. We relish the individual achievement rather than the development of strong relationships.

  12. You mention running on a full stomach, Jane. This took me back to my first ever experience in running in a competitive race. I was five, in grade one and at the inter school sports and I won my heat. After running the heat and before the final I was hungry, so I ate a pie. The adults around me said eating would make me slower, wether it did or not, I don’t know, but I didn’t win the final. What has stuck from that experience though is that to follow what I feel (to eat) was ‘wrong’, as the adults were disappointed I didn’t win.
    Competition is truly deeply harming and in my instance it has taken to this moment to this moment to recognise the harm of this belief and let it go, the next step as I forever more trust what I feel everyday.

  13. When our sense of contentment comes from a stillness – it’s crazy that we go into the exact opposite –
    extreme motion, running and activity to gain recognition as a replacement.

  14. Forgive me Jane, but as I started reading this, I thought I was reading the story of a man. It gave me quite a shock to realise otherwise when you mentioned your pregnancy. The hardness so many of us women put ourselves into, however we do that (and running is just one way), both astounds and saddens.

  15. As I read this blog all I could feel was the countless training my body went through. I could have a hangover and my body was forced to go for a run – oh dear so unsupportive and hard on it.

    It is only recently that I have commenced re-imprinting my relationship with exercise and my body and there is no jarring, no pushing, no routine just what ever my body and I fancy on the day. I don’t ache, I don’t sweat and I don’t feel exhausted afterwards or hit that 3 pm wall I often used to hit when I pushed myself past its limits.

  16. I was talking to someone the other week and she mentioned that she didn’t like to run because of the strain it puts onto her hips and knees, and that so many people that she knew or had heard of needed surgery to repair damaged joints. Particularly as we get older or more fragile/sensitive (such as just after giving birth!) this form of jolting exercise can definitely do more damage than good to the body.

  17. It is incredible how much we override our body to play sport – even to the point of death…as has happened recently on the field, a number of times.

    1. Yes Jenny, its quite shocking the amount of deaths we have seen, particularly of footballers whilst playing a match. The drive required to play such competitive sports, means that the messages of the body get overridden, especially when the financial stakes are so high. The physical and emotional price we pay is way too high, and what messages are we then sending to our youngsters who want to emulate their sporting idols?

  18. “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..” This is pure gold Jane, and completely the opposite of most exercise ‘regimes’, that invoke you to ‘try harder’, beat previous goals and have no connection with the essence of you whilst exercising.

  19. Incredible blog Jane, super inspiring and confirming how important it is to listen to our body. It never feels great to beat someone at a race when we stop and truly listen to our body. I remember almost passing out when I went to an exercise class called spin that was about pushing our body hard. My body was screaming for me to stop each time I pushed it too hard, my experience of that one class was enough for me to listen to my body to not go back.

  20. It is lovely to exercise in connection with my whole body, rather than try and prove my worth by competing with or being ‘better’ than another at something…

  21. Competitive running is big business, not only on a physical level and as a hobby, people are obsessed with running. It has so many hallmarks with it that state running is healthy and makes you feel amazing. Yet what most people have to put the body into, in order to withstand the impact that running has on the body is quite significant.

    1. It just shows how much in general we are seduced by external ideals and beliefs rather than honouring and appreciating ourselves and our own innate wisdom we have in our bodies.

  22. I’ve heard a lot of people say how sport is not for them, due to the relentless competitive streak it brings out. This is great. But what I have started to see is even if we don’t indulge in this, we often still live in a competitive way, measuring ourselves constantly against our partners, friends, colleagues and the ideals we have in our head. What an exhausting race we run, like the one you describe Jane. But perhaps the worst part of this situation is the lack of collaboration, equality and respect. We never get each other’s backs. I’m seeing now this is something I can turn around if I choose to stop carrying on in this selfish way.

  23. Really interesting reading your blog, that being competitive is and can stop you from truly connecting with yourself. That we can and choose that all the time, to disconnect with ourselves. That the love of competition can be more appealing than that of our connection to self. So a great sharing on how to let go of that competition and commit to and feel the amazingness of connection with self.

  24. We can use sport to run away from ourselves, to attempt to fill the void that will never be filled with substitutes for the true love and connection we seek and to distract ourselves, to abuse ourselves, to compete, to identify and the list goes on. In all such pursuits, there is no true connection to the heart and body for if there were, our true inner-most objection to such tension and lovelessness would be felt and heard.

  25. Seeking recognition and validation seem to be such hugely ingrained behaviours in so many of us. I didn’t realise for a very long time that I too was seeking that validation, expecting someone to praise me and tell me what a great job I had done. When I feel into that now I can feel the separation that occurred each time I sought validation from another; I can feel how I left me, left my body and of course if I didn’t get what I was looking for then there would be a reaction and the cycle would continue, exhaustively so. When we stay connected to our body there is no need to look outside of ourselves for we have everything that we need right with us.

  26. This blog is truly remarkable as I have witnessed the hold that comes with competitive sports and how this impacts on all aspects of ones life and the quality they live. The work of Serge Benhayon is a gift that has allowed you to feel that the abuse that comes with extreme exercise is hiding deeper levels of hurt that would have remained uncovered. Thank you for writing about a topic that is often brushed under the carpet and it championed as the ideal way to live and be. This blog needs to be published in many sports journals.

  27. A powerful article that is asking for one to ponder on how we live life, not just how we exercise. Competition always leaves someone less, and often that is ourselves. So why do we insist on constantly playing into this behavior, is our feeling of self worth so low that a few seconds of euphoria at one upping another is worth many experiences of being the one on the loosing side? I am learning, that, no, it isn’t.

  28. So often our bodies have to shout at us to stop doing something that is harming us. How much more loving would it be to be on the front foot and actually heed the messages of the body on a moment by moment basis? This is true support for ourselves.

    1. True – we often dont listen until we are forced to – often our body collapsing in a heap or another ailment, illness or stop of some kind. It would be a far wiser way to live, on the front foot, heeding our inner-wisdom and feedback from our body that never is not on offer.

  29. I have just started exercising again and are loving swimming without pressure to do so many laps and walking some lengths just doing what is felt to be next not just focussed on my body. What you raise here about competition is really interesting and something I relate to. So much more loving to not be in the caught in this trap of recognition.

  30. I can see the attraction in winning competitions and how it can become addictive, but its also a set up to keep you in drive because of course if you don’t win, there is not much recognition in being an ‘also ran.’

  31. I tried running for a while. I used to see others doing it and it looked like a good thing to do, but I never really enjoyed it and it felt damaging especially to my knee joints. I certainly know my body enjoys exercise and how beneficial it is, however I have ditched the punishing regimes and now follow my own gentle program.

  32. Exercise is very good for our body. But I rarely hear any one talk about discerning how we exercise and what we choose to do. We can shut down our body awareness quickly when we exercise, meaning that we can push ourselves without realising that we are increasing the risks of injury and of course some of these can be quite serious. Injury does not have to be part and parcel of doing exercise.

  33. There is no connection in competition, even though some like to believe there is, because if there was then there would not be the emptiness that prevails after. And if there was love in it then why would we need to grin and bear it and just get on with it or like I did when running, numb out by daydreaming or listening to music so to not feel how much my body hurt physically and emotionally.

  34. It’s pretty awesome to read this Jane and I love the moment you decided to stop pushing yourself to compete quite simply because your body was telling you so and not for any other reason, because you could have carried on and pushed that feeling aside and pushed even harder to achieve your goal, but it is the fact that that goal could now been seen for what is was – merely a singular moment of recognition amongst a multitude of moments when just being you is more than enough.

  35. Beautiful Jane, pushing ourselves against one another is seen as such a ‘normal’ thing to do, most considering it to be natural to be competitive. But the truth is it is not at all normal to compete against one another, as your body showed you loud and clear. When we disconnect from our bodies, it is easy to override the fact it is not normal.

  36. Its looked upon as a good thing if we spend so much time burrowing into something, like exercise/runnning/swimming etc and then training even harder, pushing ourselves and spending a lot of time doing this – meanwhile life is going on and there are so many other things which require our importance. The thing about being so driven in one aspect is that it is making us withdraw in other aspects and not cope.

  37. There is so much competition in sport and recreational exercise. I know that the current craze is to compete in traithalons, or marathons, putting oneself through gruelling training schedules to ‘achieve’ something. A friend of mine did just that, he would say ‘oh, I am just going to do this one marathon’ then of course he did, putting himself through intense pain and agony to ‘get it achieved’, then finished it and is onto the next one. So the satisfaction of having ‘achieved it’ has not registered, so there needs to be something else on the horizon to fill the gap, the emptiness. This is all too common.

  38. It’s incredible to see what we can do to ourselves and the extremes we are willing to go to that are so far away from our natural state – all in order to attain ‘something’ that actually means nothing if we are not valuing ourselves to begin with.

  39. There is a belief with excecise that if you aren’t pushing yourself to despair than you aren’t doing enough or aren’t going to get any results, but this form of excercise is purely based on achieving images and goals at the expense of our body, which is made for gentle forms of excercise and craves connection.

  40. Exercise can be a joyful and supportive way to look after our bodies, however, in disconnection and need for the recognition we can exercise abusively and bury things deep down with the illusion that we are doing something right and being healthy.

  41. I have done this in the gym, I have felt a push or drive to go into turbo boost and ignore my body for a speed or adrenaline, but I now stop reconnect and take a moment for stillness and return to the activity with more clarity and purpose. Still exercise but the quality has been greatly improved and because there is no exhaustion it is sustainable.

  42. “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 competition runs us, all of life is a race and this is how all people are seen.

  43. The joy that comes from living in connection compared to the buzz of recognition or reaction is so stark once we start to connect to and listen to our body. The more I connect the less tempting these reactions to life or the trying to be something or recognised is becoming.

  44. Your turnaround is amazing Jane, thank you for sharing. The kick we get from winning is huge and can make us push through at times we cannot go any further normally. It is only when we stop and feel what it does to our bodies that we can start to make more loving choices.

  45. Jane you have highlighted the issue with competition (and driving ourselves for goals or other achievements), once we win or reach the goal the emptiness of lack of connection to self is still there, so we must push to then get to the next win or goal. We learn this in education too so it starts early. How different life is when lived from connection instead and honouring the wisdom of the body, and how great it would be to have this as our foundation in education, not competition.

  46. I strained my foot a couple of days ago and have not been able to go for my daily walk but what it has also highlighted for me is how interconnected all parts of my body are. I have been much more conscious of how I am moving the rest of my body to try and protect my foot and how this is putting a strain on other areas. It has made me appreciate the natural flow of my movements and how even a slight injury caused by a moment of disconnection has impacted my life.

  47. I used to regularly swim 20-40 lengths and would focus on overtaking whoever was ahead of me as a way of pushing myself to complete the distance in the shortest time possible. I never considered my body in this and there was certainly no connection with how it felt as I was invested in ticking the keeping fit is good box in my life. I rarely swim nowadays and feel I have yet to re-imprint my former experiences and connect with swimming in a truer way that takes all of me into account. Thank you for sharing your journey and inspiring me to reconsider how I can exercise in a way that honours my body.

  48. Wow, the things we put our bodies through without actually stopping to consider whether it’s a good thing or not. There is something inside us that drives us forward that totally overrides what our bodies are telling us. It’s totally mad!

  49. Competition and competitive running is something we all got caught up at school (or assiduously avoided!) When I first went in a race and then won I, from then on, did it for recognition and praise. One would never have thought of going in a running race, but once having done it the hook is there if we say yes to it. I gave it up at the end of high school but substituted it with something else – music and literature. But I was still wanting stimulation, just getting it in another form – via culture. The stimulation, which prevents us from surrendering to the stillness and wisdom of the innermost is the insidious hook.

  50. What are we actually running from when we run, socially, competitively, habitually? …. Could it be that we are running away from connecting to the beauty and love that is within our body? A form of numbing? Amazing story to read sharing your awareness to the why? and the what for? Thank you!

  51. It’s crazy what we do to ourselves and our body for a slice of the recognition pie. Deep down, we know recognition just doesn’t cut it, because we keep on searching for and needing it as it is so short lived. So, is it worth compromising ourselves? When we start to validate and accept ourselves, the fullness is felt and recognition can begin to feel like a downer by comparison!

  52. I can remember well the adrenaline shot of competing, the nerves beforehand, the desire to do well and the fear of being lesser than another. It was such a destructive place to be in, as whatever the outcome the short term high was always replaced soon after by a feeling of emptiness. Competition has that affect, going up against others is not a natural part of our make up, I don’t believe it is, as when we work with others the feeling of satisfaction is far greater than any race I ever won. In fact just hanging out with friends is a far greater feeling than winning any medal.

  53. Your story is a real eye-opener for me, Jane. As a non-athletic person, I used to feel awkward being in the body and always thought that those who were athletic were very connected with their body and knew their body very well and that was why they were able to do what they did, and I used to judge myself for not being that.

  54. As you so honestly share here, recognition is often a major driver for us to be pushing ourselves and claiming that we ‘enjoy’ whatever the activity we do – be it sport, study, work, project… and eventually we are faced with what our body has had to endure and hold for so long. Allowing the body to take the lead is something I am learning too.

  55. I know that too, being competitive in sport in the past but that nothing in me at this moment of time does need this anymore. I do not get fulfilled anymore by the recognition or validation I received from myself or from others, and to be honest this never has been the case as it was just the emptiness that I felt within that impossibly can be filled with any recognition or reward, but only with allowing myself to feel the love that I naturally am.

  56. Exercising and walking in presence definitely makes a difference to how I feel in my body, it simply adds more vitality to my day. Like you Jane I had to over-ride my feelings to run and exercise, so thank you Jane this has been great for me to explore those days when I used to push my body to its limits. I am now starting to let go of the deep momentum I had for all sorts of activities and I have just included taste as a sensation of the mouth to that list of things that my spirit craves for to keep me from being present!

  57. Having recently started an exercise program I can definitely feel the difference when I move with presence and the connection to my body in each movement. There is more flow and lightness from my body and my movements don’t feel forced or jerky. The quality of our movement changes when we move with presence and connection and it flows into the rest of our day too. Thank you Jane.

    1. Indeed kellyzarb, although our body is designed to move as in that we express and multiply the quality we live, it is important to know in what quality we move as that is what we bring in all of our day too and can come from a gentle exercise or from a movement in competition. I now know which one to choose.

  58. Jane what you have shared here is amazing – amazing in the sense that you talk about how you now realise that you over rode your body and all it was saying to you and that this was actually working against you. These things need to be shared in a society where we are so encouraged to over-ride the body and just use our mind to get through things like races or competition etc. There are cases I have heard of where elite athletes undergo surgery or something similar and then are celebrated for appearing at the races a few days later. What is this actually celebrating? The celebration of not listing to the body and using mind over matter, and forcing yourself to do things that do more damage in the long run? Our world seems to have things upside down – hence why such blogs are needed so show how this may not be the way to do things – that there is a way to treat and handle the body that is deeply caring and honouring of what is happening.

  59. When we are looking for”validation, self-worth or recognition” we each have our own flavor of how to go about gaining it, for some it is in sport and competition, for others music, for others dancing. This list could go on, if we choose to be very honest, as anything done with an intention to gain acceptance and recognition from another is but a doing, without the beauty and grace of self being present during the doing. Once this is felt, many old behaviours and ways of being are let go of for more honest, tender, loving ways of being in and moving our bodies through that which is our life.

  60. “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.” – this is something I can develop more of when I exercise, and hence it brings more fun and joy into the moment. It is like there is still a part of me that remembers the punishment that I put my body through with past exercise and hence it is an opportunity to re-imprint this!

  61. Wow Jane, what an amazing thing to share – this will give so many more people permission to feel if their sport/competition etc is actually coming from a similar space to what you have shared here. I too was into running, but not in a competitive way (I did the competition with other sports) – and there were days when I made myself go for a run even when my body was clearly saying that it was not up for it. I thought that being strong and dedicated was about over-riding what the body was saying and push harder in exercise, and I would consider myself so weak compared to others who could just push through and run and exercise harder. Strange how we get such an idea about things – I really did think I was a ‘wuss’ (a weakling) because my body was just not up for running at times – at certain times of my cycle/menses it felt like I could hardly lift my feet up to run, yet I still made myself go for my 3 runs per week, and if I was unwell with a cold, I would lament about missing out on the fitness even though my body was so needing the rest. Thankfully I have learned and am still learning to listen to my body more and more. I stopped running when I was 4 months pregnant and never ran again (except once to catch a bus!) and since then have let go of many of the ideals I had about needing to push myself to feel like I was someone!

  62. I, like you Jane gave up competition a few years ago, yet when I go for a swim I can feel that draw to swim faster than the opposing lane, or not get lapped by anyone, and it isn’t a nice feeling. Far better to do any exercise only with a connection to our body and what feels right. Pushing is something I have found makes my body more shutdown, and actually uncomfortable, whereas staying within my own limits leaves my body more open and expansive.

  63. “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.” Beautiful to re-read your post Jane. I used to go to a gym and the competition there was intense – not only with other people but a constant trying to improve self – no acceptance or gentleness in sight. And the injuries…….. one man had a heart attack on the treadmill – yet I saw him there when recovered, later pounding away again. Listening to his body? Yet I too used to push through, ignoring the signs my body was giving me and now daily I appreciate Universal Medicine for showing me there is another way to exercise.

  64. Jane, that’s seriously hardcore. I’ve heard some stories, but running a race a little over a week after giving birth is next level. It’s interesting though, isn’t it, how there comes a day – if you have the awareness and willingness to ask why – when you realise that the sport just isn’t for you. I used to cycle to and from work so that I could max out the time with our little one. But I found I was arriving to work and then back home super racy. Once I recognised this, it was only a matter of time before I gave it up. It may take me longer to get to/from work, but the quality of me being me far exceeds the time.

  65. Recently I have been attending the gym more and you can really feel the disconnection and competition in there, which is made so much worse with the MTV videos and music that is blaring out.
    Exercising whist in disconnection from ourselves is actually quite harming for the body – I know if Iv not been with myself when exercising as I can feel exhausted the next day.

  66. Competition is an extraordinary thing isn’t it… Touted from right at the start of our lives, and blazing its way of destruction and separation all the way to the end… it is so intrinsically not what we are about as a species for our evolution.

  67. “I realized everything I was doing was to gain a sense of validation, self-worth and recognition” This is a great insight. Most of us do things in our lives for one or all of the above reasons and this is why we ignore our bodies in order to get a report in on time, please the boss, do overtime when we are exhausted or simply saying yes when we ought to say no. There is a great need for us to love ourselves enough in order to stop these self-abusive behaviours.

    1. Spot on Elizabeth, for the push and the drive can spill into any are of our lives, not just exercise. And you have nailed it, as such choices stem from our lack of true deep care and love and value of ourselves.

  68. Jane, I can so relate to what you have shared here, I too was driven in my competitiveness to compete not for the taking part, although that would be what I actually tell myself but deeper down it was for winning, because it gave me satisfaction and increased my feeling of self worth. However I never knew then of the consequences it would have on my body or how devastating competitive sport can be to those who are not so able, making another look and feel small is nothing to be proud of.

  69. In my 20’s I also took up all kinds of sports from martial arts, cycling across deserts in California, and then later on in life swimming 40 lengths in my lunch break, and again martial arts along with keep fit classes – in fact anything that was the latest trend and looked like it would give me the result of slimming down and being healthier, but none of it ever did. All of this activity came with the override factor to push through no matter what pain my body was in – one time in particular stands out for me was when I started to get sciatica and would push myself to do martial arts, but in the end it got so bad I had to quit. I have no regrets because I can now feel how abusive I was to train my body in this way.

  70. What I found incredible is that when I started to become aware of the impact of running, my body actually started to speak more loudly. This would play out in niggles that just wouldn’t allow me to run, where for years I ran long and would even say had pleasure in it. It was certainly never a chore. Yet increased awareness meant I had less numbness to the damage I was doing to my own body and so running simply became an activity I would no longer do.

    1. Similar to you Stephen, my body started to speak loudly to me when I would run longer distances than usual. my right hip in particular would be very painful and I realised what I was doing to my joints. After a run where this was particularly acute I decided I would never run again – and I haven’t (except to catch the bus! 😉

  71. “by competing I was keeping myself separate and in comparison” …So each stride compounded that separation and comparison – no wonder it took its toll and felt awful in the body. With connection and the enjoyment that brings to exercise, is inspiration for anyone to try it a different way!

  72. I used to also really abuse my body with workouts… I was totally oblivious to the effect that all the martial arts was having upon my body… Of course now I am experiencing the results of all this abuse… Wouldn’t that be great to help children connect with themselves in such a way that this inevitable consequence did not happen.

  73. It is interesting to consider why as a society we are so focussed on competition, to improve and to make it better. It is never enough, sufficient or satisfying any longer than a few hours after the moment of any achievement. Why is it that we have that tendency to compete and that need to improve continuously. Could it be, that as this blog shows so clearly to me, that we are actually missing ourselves. The sadness that Jane felt after deciding to stop with the last race, is because she could experience how disconnected from that warm and delicate feeling from the inside she became from becoming competitive. So what are we avoiding by having our competitive behaviour is for me now a simple question to answer.

  74. It is an amazing feeling when we literally wake up to the fact that something we have considered normal and acceptable in our daily life is no longer a part of our future and we simply let it go to allow the space for choices that are more supportive and loving to be initiated.

  75. It’s very simple eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty and rest when we have tried the simple messages from the body. But have we ever considered that the body is capable of communicating so much more?

  76. It’s these amazing stop moments that can truly change our lives. The consistency to return to these moments allows our bodies to re-connect to there true natural and gentle movements and from there our expression and quality of life soars.

  77. It has been a while since I read this blog but it was just what I needed today – the reminder that connection before exercise takes away the old beliefs that exercise is torture and something to be endured.

  78. I was never in to sport, had a go at running, but just wasn’t me…however there where many times when I overrode the signals my body shared…and we all can compete in different ways. When we choose to compete or override the signals, we loose the connection we have with our bodies. This is precious and now something I cherish and nurture.

  79. Chasing down recognition can be quite an effort, whether it is the clothes we wear to attract attention, our winning competitions or behaving badly, they are all cries for attention, an outer behaviour for recognition. Jane you have given us a great example of the lengths this need will take us, even overriding the body in the process, but realising in the end none of it really gave us the connection we were deeply missing. Only we can allow that for ourselves by recognising we are already exactly the qualities and essence we are here to express.

  80. It is interesting to read the levels of overriding in your body that was needed in order for you to see the harm that it was causing you. Such an honest account of how we can easily fall into the trap of how we perceive fitness in the world today.

  81. I winced at the part where you took your baby off the breast at 8 days old to compete in a run! How disconnected and numb we can become from the natural flow and rhythm of the body even when it is screaming at us. A great read Jane, thank you.

  82. Up to 60km a week – imagine the additional stress on knees, spine, feet that this puts on in the name of health and fitness. In the cold light of day this just does not make any sense.

    1. My thoughts exactly Simon, I tried running a couple of times but hated it and the stress on my knees, hips and ankles told me that wasn’t a great idea, but I did not listen when it came to martial arts.

  83. Isn’t it insane how encouraging people are of others to do extreme things. Running 8 days after giving birth sounds like a nightmare. Your poor body pounding the pavement while stlll recovering from the trauma of the birth. I get it though. There was a time where I would have seen this is some heroic act of strength, determination and power. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger they say. What an awful phrase. Basically it says push until you nearly break. It’s inspiring to read your turn around and the honesty with how you came to realise that you don’t need to punish your body to feel something.

  84. Jane even though you do far less strenuous exercise these days you are obviously living far more harmoniously, healthier and probably even fitter.

  85. An inspiring story Jane of listening to our body to tell us the truth of how we are living.The competition, both with others and yourself, the drive for achievement and recognition leaves us empty and always wanting more but when we let go of these we come to appreciate all that we already are.

  86. I remember all that competitive pain I would put myself through, and the reason I was so successful at school was that I was able to train harder and put myself through the pain barrier time and again…. until I could not anymore. Then I was left listless, trying to figure out what I was doing? My whole self worth was wrapped up in my achievements that I had not taken the time to develop me on my own. I had totally missed the point!

  87. “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.” Everything – whatever we do, how we do it, whatever we bring, how we are in every moment, is a reflection to everyone – and thus an opportunity to confirm to another the truth of who we are, or an endorsement of something that keeps us in the separation and obscuration from that truth.

  88. The need to have our little (or big) triumphs governs us in our choice of how to manage it so we can feel fulfilled. Every aspect of our lives can become a field where we can triumph. Every thing can turn into a competition.

  89. Really enjoyed reading this, thank you Jane. What you’ve said here about running applies to anything we do in life for recognition or acceptance: work is another big area. So often we’ll push through, in stress and drive, making it all about doing and completing the task at hand, at whatever expense to our bodies. As I develop a connection with my body, it feels less and less comfortable to work like this – it’s an old momentum that is strong and feels challenging to break, but by allowing myself to feel more, slowly things are starting to change.

  90. When we do truly listen to the body it is amazing all it reveals, more honest it seems than the mind. I have also pushed myself physically in the past and had many unnecessary injuries in the name of keeping fit and ‘healthy’. What is truly driving us is worth considering.

  91. Our chase for validation, recognition and self-worth is ongoing with only ever a fleeting moments of feeling a sense of achievement. Yet it never truly fulfills as the underlying restlessness felt in our bodies, of the emptiness that drives us to chase in the first place, remains unaddressed. When we choose connect to our Love within, our essence, our Soul, all that we do in honor of this connection is filled with the joy of our presence, to which there can be no end, as you have wisely shared – ‘that same quality of connection remains with me long after I finish my exercise’.

  92. There’s so much celebration around women ‘who get back into it’ straight after giving birth, almost championed. When it couldn’t be further from where their body is at. We as women are very good at overriding what our bodies are telling us, as you have shared here Jane.

  93. I loved your sharing Jane. It was quite brutal to read but in that I realised what our minds are capable of doing. The body is quite clear about what it does and doesn’t want to do, yet for some reason we give more importance to the mind. Why has the mind become more important than the body in our society – it is something we pride ourselves on even.

  94. I know from my own experience of competitive sport that while I was caught in the activity I wasn’t really aware of how much harm it was doing to me. We are constantly broadcast a message that tells us that it is good for us to compete, it’s healthy, and that pounding our joints in running is great for our body. It is a bit like the Truman show except we are all in the show. It takes many to start living and showing a different way of exercising to allow others the space to consider too what might be the best for movement for our bodies. This for me now is smooth movements that are less harsh on my joints and bones and muscles and ligaments, and I feel it has allowed my body to soften without losing tone.

  95. Incredible how driven we can become to “achieve” our goals, as though we are nothing without them. What price is an arm or a leg or a kidney for a moment of glory that we can then grasp onto to uphold us when the emptiness our otherwise life comes knocking on our doorstep.

  96. “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.” Amazing how easily we are prepared to over-ride these feelings especially when reconciled with the recognition and verification of others.

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