- Sports/Recreation -

ESPRIT DE SHE: 5K My Way

Senior editor Courtney Lewis Opdahl reflects on her experience in last night’s Esprit de She 5K.

courtney opdahl

On Monday, I started freaking out. I realized I was doing the Esprit de She 5K in just four days, and my training had gone by the wayside.

In June, my husband and I (and our pets) moved into a new home, and my regular routine of three to four days a week of HIIT-style training and weightlifting essentially stopped. My “activity” shifted to moving and unpacking boxes, organizing and shopping for the new home, and entertaining friends and family in our new space. Instead of my Boot Camp workouts, I walked (or rather, leisurely strolled) with my husband and dog in our new neighborhood.

Oh, and I swam at the lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

That’s about it.

Hence why I was freaking out.

Luckily, the Esprit de She was a no-pressure event. As we waited at the starting line, a woman made announcements about the message, along the lines of: embrace your power and strength, take care of yourself so you can be great for others, and do the best you can — starting where you are now. As a female-focused event, I really appreciated that sentiment: We feel like we’re supposed to do so much for others as caregivers, and often forget (or neglect) our own goals and needs.

How often have you skipped a workout because you feel like you “have no time” between obligations to fit it in? Or found yourself wiped out at the end of day because you didn’t have a moment of peace and quiet? Or passed on a massage because it felt too luxurious, or even simply a hot bath because you felt like you should be getting more done?

I do this all the time.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed — I won’t harp on it because we know it all too well, and it’s really a bigger conversation about societal expectations, internal beliefs and how our nation functions at high speed. And it’s an issue we address in the magazine, in which many of our articles have helped me greatly.

I was definitely feeling overwhelmed in the past month or so with the moving process, so to have the Esprit de She announcer acknowledge this, along with the awesomeness (and challenges) of being a woman, really calmed my nerves. I felt like I wasn’t alone. They get it, we all get it, and we’re going to take the time tonight, together, to do something great for us. It reminded me of why I signed up for this race: To celebrate my strength and progress in becoming healthier with other like-minded women.

As I followed the course in Edina’s 50th and France neighborhood, I told myself to let go of this notion of being someone else’s idea of “superwoman” and remember that I’ve owned that title all along. In my own way. It’s not a perfect state, because that simply doesn’t exist, but my version of being a woman that’s super is one that’s strong and confident. She’s happy and healthy, smart and engaged, and genuine and honest.

When I made it to the residential area, several spectators watched from their driveways and cheered us on. One woman, perhaps in her 60s, wearing a long black apron, stood in her lawn and clapped as we walked and ran by. I passed her on the first leg and again on the way back, and I thanked her for supporting us. “Of course!” she shouted back. “You’re worth it!” It touched my heart.

A mom and her kids sat in their yard and rang a bell as we passed. “You all are fabulous!” the mom said. Her children beamed, and I hoped her young daughter was encouraged to see women of all shapes and sizes and ages and abilities do something healthy together. It seemed to resonate with a few women who were out on a walk, saying they’d join us next year.

I spent some time walking, and some time running, alternating when I needed it. There were a few young girls running, too (the youngest participant was 7 years old), and I’d usually pick up the pace when they passed me. Mostly from the belief that if a child could do it, I could too (then I’d stop running thinking, Yeah, but kids have soooo much more energy and endurance, much more than I). A mom and daughter I encountered approached the race with the same method as I did: find a landmark, run to it, then walk until you catch your breath. Repeat.

About three-quarters of a mile in, I felt an ache in my left hip — perhaps due to the break I took? — so I wasn’t able to do as much running as I’d hoped to do. Happily, that really was the only thing holding me back from running more: In the past, I could never control my breathing and would panic and stop; or I’d get bored; or I’d get self-conscious about my buns bouncing or lack of support from my sports bra (a HUGE barrier for me in running, but I found a great one from Title Nine that keeps the gals in place).

But it didn’t matter if you ran or walked. (Walking has been shown to confer some of the same health benefits as running, with less stress on your joints. Although running seems to have a bigger impact on appetite. See the breakdown of the latest studies here.) For awhile, I walked with a woman who told me about how she walked a marathon in San Diego for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It took her about seven hours to finish. All I could think was, Man, you finished a marathon! What a feat! So don’t rule out walking.

My favorite part of the evening was when I crossed the finish line and the announcer called out my name: “Way to go, Courtney!” It was so simple, but made me feel somehow validated. (The organizers took video and photos of us crossing, so I’ll share those on my Coming Clean blog when they are ready.) Afterward, I headed over to the Experience Life booth to join my coworkers and talk about the magazine with passersby. I haven’t participated in many 5Ks (Commitment Day was my first this year; before that, I walked a 5K with my cousin in 2005), but I loved having the marketplace and happy hour afterward so we all could socialize, talk about the course, our experience, how we felt and what we were excited to do next.

This 5K was the jump-start I needed to get back into my routine. Or invent an entirely new one. It’s completely up to me. After all, I’m a woman, so I’m already pretty awesome. And I’m in charge of this awesome life of mine.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl is a Senior Editor for Experience Life.

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