The 2010’s gave some lessons around the five domains of health. So what are the five domains of health and how did someone like myself who for the greater part of the decade appeared and felt healthy actually not be?
First off, the five domains of health are emotional, social, physical, mental, and spiritual. I laser-focused on physical health but it was not balanced with the right diet. While I wasn’t eating what is typically thought of as unhealthy food, I was doing silent damage all these years by eating an unbalanced vegetarian diet that included loads of gluten and highly processed but tasty faux meats. Under loads of personal stressors outside of the demanding physical stress I was enduring racing, eventually, my body broke down and I was crippled with the worst case of eczema that has taken a huge toll on my self-image.
While there is tons of evidence that support physical health and activity or exercise is correlated with improved mental health, and may even help prevent depression. Without going into details, let’s just say I’ve had my share of trying times, traumas, and loss but never “felt” them affecting me as I would escape through exercise. And it really worked, up until it didn’t. I ran some of my fastest paces and longest distances under a tremendous amount of non-physical stress all while stressing my body to its limits at times to escape the reality of my situation. My body paid a price for all the race bling, but I still wouldn’t trade all my running for the world. But I am now wiser and prioritizing creating balance among these dimensions in my life.
After multiple doctor visits, two biopsies including one that was sent off to two different universities for opinions I remained a medical mystery. Blood work I ordered all came back for inflammatory markers and of course, I was also under stressors from dealing with the aftermath of dealing with a deceased loved one’s possessions, things getting shaken up in my career and even something good like a Surf trip to Nicaragua that added to stress because eustress is still stress even if it’s a good stress. Not to mention a less than smooth bucket list move to a new city to top it off.
Now that things have settled down just a bit in my life when I’m not frantically looking for something since moving, I’ve taken some time to revisit work on emotional, social, mental and spiritual health. Some of that work took place early in the year but was placed on hold as I was going through a lot of transitions and staying resilient through it all. Let’s just say I’m really good at taking on more than I should at any given time and have tended to get ahead of myself sometimes. Even I forget how important it is to step back, slow down and take time for yourself to work on the health dimensions outside of physical health because it’s all interconnected.
Finding balance in these dimensions can test you because finding balance always means you are making a trade-off which is usually time. The concept of time is so abstract but it should be used wisely and. Take time to foster the right social connections, doing so is important because social health can impact the other dimensions of health.
Another challenge with prioritizing emotional, spiritual, mental health is that it can be somewhat of a metaphysical process that causes you to take a look inside at something that may be hard to find because it’s not tangible. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with things and schedules, it’s hard to get to a place where time does not exist, find belief in a higher power or higher self, and practice being kind to yourself. But the time to look is now because you are worth it. Running at an easy pace can be a first step in getting to that state. If you’re a new runner and don’t believe in an easy pace, just be patient and stick to your training and it will follow.
Much like physical health, you won’t get instant gratification but if you are consistent and don’t run away from your fears you’ll be pushed towards being your best self. When in that headspace, you’re setting yourself up to achieve great things for yourself and live your most authentic life. In other words, start showing up, showing vulnerability, and it could be painful but it’s more painful is living a life around pleasing others or not putting yourself first.
Finding gratitude in all situations good and bad, along with realizing the only person you can change is yourself is the key to being ok with whatever life throws at you. You can’t control anyone else, but the one thing you can control is your reaction. Once you’ve mastered the art of accepting all situations, it becomes second nature to seek to understand instead of criticizing. Getting to this point takes a lot of work on yourself but no one said this marathon called life is easy. You have to believe in yourself and that the universe has got your back, no matter what. Write it down, meditate or pray on it, get quiet, breath, shout it hey whatever it takes to talk yourself into it. Only you’ll know what works best, or you will learn something about yourself.
The great thing about the realm of running is that there are multiple dimensions in which you can practice the sport and foster emotional, spiritual and mental health wellness. It’s probably the glue that held me together over the years. As I look back, I was taking on too much, as I was working towards being a more competitive runner setting PR after PR on multiple 5K’s, and half marathon and finishing it off with a first marathon.
After the marathon, life got tough and I had to keep running. I went on to run three half marathons that year and ignored the other facets that are vital to running such as rest, nutrition, strength, flexibility, and mindfulness. By the beginning of last year, my eczema was so out of control on my legs, I didn’t run much for obvious reasons. Additionally, I was also dealing with career transitions, relocating and adventurous service trip to Nicaragua. Part of it was learning how to surf, and while I didn't do that well, it taught me a lot which I'll share in another blog. Also, it gave me the opportunity to just be still and be hypnotized by the majestic ocean.
Going into 2020 with a clear vision because I’ve learned you will find clarity on whatever situation or circumstance if you force yourself to step away from it to think about it. With that said, I’m ready to step back into a balanced running routine by creating goals for myself that nourish mind, body, and spirit. Of course, that will include a reasonable time goal, but this year I won’t be chasing competitive PRs for myself. Not to say I won’t again someday but it has to be a time when I can dedicate the amount of stress that places on my body and life.
This time of year always forces me to look back, and even more so now that the calendar turns to a new decade. Realizing how fast ten years can blow by, had made me even more fierce about putting things in motion to create the best life for myself possible through helping other women get into this wonderful empowering sport.
I’m eager to help develop you as a runner, especially if you are new to the sport. Be warned though it can be like a drug, and if misused it will hurt you. But since I’ve already learned all of this the hard way, and immersed myself in studying the sport and exercise physiology leave your training plan in the hands of an experienced professional running coach. I will look at your motivations for training, unique fitness level, lifestyle and develop a balanced plan to help you reach your goals. My goal is to give you all the tools and knowledge you need to get started or take you to the next level of running.
Let’s keep in touch, reach out on email for plans and pricing or sign up to receive a sporadic email with running tips and whatever others feel good, live good tips I come across.
Happy New Year!