Strong + Able

One year ago this week I got my first tattoo. On my left arm in my own handwriting in bold sharpie-thickness cursive, it says “strong + able”. For years this is a mantra I would say in my head over and over during my long runs and half marathons when I was feeling particularly defeated or exhausted. “Your body is strong. Your body is able”.

I also just finished my summer “race” season. Race seems to fit better in quotes, as I never feel like I’m actually racing. More like “completing goals I set out to do and paid too much money for” season. I digress.

As I was saying, I also just finished my summer race season, which included an Olympic-distance triathlon, a 50-mile bike ride, and a half marathon. One crazy morning in May I registered for all three and that was that. It would be my third triathlon, my second 50-mile ride, and my 10th half marathon. To clarify: in my lifetime, NOT this year.

Let’s back up. In April I decided to do something I deemed a “movement challenge”. Move intentionally every day for the month of April. I made a movement board and started this blog as a way to hold myself accountable. This kick-in-the-butt came after roughly a year of being stagnant, inconsistent, and overall not my best self, all these things in so many ways, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Also, depressed. The first time I wrote this paragraph I did not use that word. But that’s what I was, too. Depressed. Side note: It’s amazing what you can do and show on the outside that would lead you to believe I was not all these things. I did an Olympic-distance triathlon last year too during this time, among other physical endeavors.

The movement challenge did exactly what I hoped it would do. It showed me that not only do I love to be (and need to be for my mental health) physically active, but I also can make the time no matter what. It helped me with my language around what movement meant to me and reinforced that it’s not a punishment (this is why I’ve more or less stopped using the word “exercise”). It made me feel healthy and strong, inside and out. It gave me something to feel proud of, and I really needed that.

Finishing the half marathon last weekend was very emotional for me. Last year I had signed up for the same race (and have done it also in years past), but decided not to do it. I was not prepared. Physically I could have finished it, but emotionally I was in shambles.

I have been looking at my tattoo all summer, using it as motivation during my long weekend training rides, swims, and runs. Reminding myself that I like doing this. Reminding myself that my body is indeed strong and indeed able. Reminding myself that I am strong, and I am able. When I got it a year ago, I don’t know that I believed it. I don’t know that I thought I could be those things ever again.

So, as I said, finishing the half marathon last weekend was very emotional for me. It was just a race, nothing particularly special, one I’ve done before. My time was slower than years past. But it was a completion of my summer races, the three events I signed up for. Three events I trained for. Three events that I completed, as I set out to do. And I believed that I was both strong and able, as is marked on my body forever.

People say time heals. Time has helped the healing process. Time has been essential in doing the work. But my hard work is what heals. Movement heals me.

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