Having PTSD and asthma means that there are many times I can’t run or my training is derailed for short or long periods.
I began running because it was an activity I remembered enjoying in childhood, and I really wanted to reclaim it. I also wanted to improve my cardiopulmonary health. I never thought I would make it up to even a single mile! But that wasn’t the important part. I wanted to develop a habit and create new, positive mental associations.
My training method was this: I would run only as far as it felt good and enjoyable, and then stop or walk. If I felt like it, I could start again. When I felt done, I was done!
Before a half-marathon
After a half-marathon
Because I took the performance pressure (“shoulds”) off myself and made the activity 100% about enjoyment and health, it ended up being something I have stuck with, and I progressed far more than I imagined possible.
Not only do I only run as much as feels okay, I likewise never pressure myself to run when I’m not feeling well, or I’m too tired from missing sleep, or something hurts.
In this way I am mindful of not being a punitive taskmaster towards myself, which would activate PTSD symptoms and also put me at increased risk for injury or illness. Exercising punitively is a form of perfectionism that can be injurious very quickly.
I accept my current level of ability as it is, knowing it does not make me superior or inferior to anyone else. I also know my ability is temporary, fluctuates, and includes a large component of sheer luck.
I pay caring attention to my body’s needs, which sometimes (often!) means I have to re-start my training all over again from mile 1. But it also means I am more likely to be able to continue running further into my lifespan.
I hope that whatever kind of exercise you prefer, you remember that the point of exercise is to improve your physical and mental health, rather than to punish your body (for eating, for example!) If you are exercising in a self-punitive way, it will not be healthy for you for very long.
And I want you to experience as much physical and mental health as you can, for as long as you can!