Running: maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body image

Euwan Kim

I enjoy exercising — crazy right? Most of you reading this article must dread the occasional weight-lifting session or jog from Tillinghast to Lutnick during passing time. And, while I still might dry-heave at the top of the third-floor stairs, I happen to love the feeling after working out.

The “runner’s high” that I get gives me more motivation to study than a double shot of espresso. On particularly stressful days, my runs give me space to obsess over all the things clouding my mind: there’s not much to do while running other than compartmentalize all my regrets about my last test. Actually, carefully thinking through each of my classes in my head without the distraction of notebooks or my phone helps me absorb information faster. Chanting to myself “mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” during track practices saved not only the time I would’ve spent studying but also my biology grades. After all, when my legs feel like they’re on fire, I have to distract myself with something, even overused science catchphrases.

Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a sporty person, I think exercise is worth the momentary pain because it helps my physical and emotional wellbeing. I’m always excited for a good workout since it makes academics a little easier to handle.

When thinking about wellness, especially in the context of exercise, it is important to also consider its not-so-silver lining: the conversation about weight and muscle mass, especially among women. On an Instagram post celebrating my second half-marathon, a follower I don’t personally know commented, “And at your weight! Congrats!” Through just one comment, the athletic milestone I achieved not for superficial validation but for personal motivation became corrosive.

What about me made someone think I couldn’t finish a half-marathon? Who were the people I was being measured against, and why didn’t I compare? Did I automatically gain more recognition for doing something others did not think my body could do?

This is not an unfamiliar story to our generation. This post made me feel that the work I had done for that accomplishment fulfilled only a vain self-image problem, not a desire for a healthy mind and a work-life balance. Moments like these make me reconsider my motives for working out: am I trying to make myself a happier student, or am I just trying to run off my weight?

It will always be difficult to balance those two sentiments. Unfortunately, most of the time there won’t be a clear motive behind every workout. However, I choose to run because I enjoy having a clear state of mind, getting some vitamin D, and being more energized throughout my day. In the end, I will always remind myself that the personal benefits, not other people’s judgements, should be my motivation to run.

What’s more, exercise can be a social sport; the running community at Horace Mann alone is so vast and supportive — I can always find a friend to jog with or a coach to get tips from. If you’re looking for a helpful psychological tool that is just as rewarding as it is challenging, exercise is a great outlet to let out some steam from our beloved academic pressure cooker.