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  • mariasylvesterterr

finding joy in movement that doesn't feel so joyful

Updated: Jun 5, 2023


Maria with race medal posing in front of backdrop with a large smile and arms open
Maria at the Philly Half Marathon Finish

when someone presents the idea of 'joyful movement,' where does your head go? for some, it feels like a sigh of relief, a fresh opportunity, a new perspective.



you may also find yourself wondering, how can movement i associate with immense challenge [physical or mental] be joyful?


i've taken years to find new forms of movement that bring me joy, like dancing in a mardi gras krewe and lifting heavy weights. what about finding joy in running -- a sport that left me feeling like i was never enough?


i felt ready to challenge my turbulent relationship with running and signed up for a half-marathon. i'm glad i waited until i was ready, and i'm overjoyed with this healing process.


spoiler alert: running didn't suddenly feel easy, but i did find a sense of ease. below are a few strategies i'd recommend applying if you're looking to heal your relationship with a specific type of movement.



1. know where you stand before you start

i started this journey so many times and just wasn't ready. i had to be real with myself: did i have the energy to process what i needed to process? to wrestle with old mindsets and experiment with new ones? it's okay to give yourself the space to arrive when you're ready to tackle challenging movement.


2. serve the athlete within you

in this season of life, i found peace with movement that wasn't so joyful-feeling by seeing myself as an athlete. no, i'm not an olympian; i am working to achieve a milestone through movement.


athletes work hard in their movement practice. they also work hard on their mindset, their recovery, their nutrition, and their rest. the whole person matters, not just the person in the running shoes.


this comprehensive approach helped pull away the pressure on the movement itself and reminded me to see myself as a person with diverse needs.


3. celebrate the person who starts

this was the hardest one. i was fixated on the image of me crossing the finish line with a PR for so many years. this time around, i remembered that the real winner is the person who starts the journey [shoutout to Coach Bennett in the Nike Run Club guided runs for this].


on runs i couldn't finish, on days i didn't feel like eating all my meals, i celebrated the version of me who attempted. without that person, there is no athlete at all!


4. remember that everything counts

does this sound familiar? "a run doesn't count unless it's a 5K" or "this meal doesn't count unless it has a vegetable." yeah... we gotta let that go.


when it comes to approaching a challenging movement, everything counts - in a good way! the 3 minutes of stretching when you aimed for 10. the snack you remembered to pack. the 5-mile run that was slower than expected because you got rained on and your shorts started making soap suds


every rep counts. every walk counts. every invitation to move counts. the minutes [sometimes hours] on my feet, even when i had to stop a run to walk, COUNTED. my half marathon came together because all of those pieces add up!


5. soak up the support

this was a new one for me. i trained for this half with a lot more help than i was used to.


i openly shared my fears and processing with my therapist. i worked with a physical therapist. i joined a running group for long runs. i texted friends to leave out snacks and water on their porch for when i ran by. i connected with my IG friends who shared incredible advice and support. i asked many questions.


i also shared the purpose of this training with my friends and family. they knew it was both a mental and physical challenge, and they showed up to support me in the gentle, grounding way i needed.


is there a type of movement you're looking to try or revisit with a new headspace? i want you to know that there can be joy in the movement that challenges you. to me, the joy comes from knowing and feeling the difference. things can be different


here for your replies + thoughts!

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