Why I run (and why you should too)

Why I run (and why you should too)

Hello HEART blog readers!

My name is Alia Azmat and I am hoping to contribute to the site frequently this year. I get excited about all things related to food, fitness and the female body. I hope my writing hits a note with someone in this giant Internet abyss. I can’t wait to connect with you all!

Last month I read HEART co-founder, Ayesha Akhtar’s piece on the important of self-worth in healthy relationship. I was inspired by this Valentine’s post to reflect on what gives my life meaning and what I do in my free time to feel good. Eating and watching 30 Rock episodes in my pajamas makes me feel great! But I don’t think that is what Ayesha was talking about. When I want to relax I like doing my nails (Muslim chicas check out “halal” H2O nail polish) and when I want to reconnect with myself I run. So that weekend I decided I should pick up an old passion, long distance running.

I started running long distance in high school as a means to stay in shape. I used to be horrified when we had to “run the mile” in gym class until I realized the more you run, the better you get at it! I finally mustered up enough courage to join my high school cross country team my senior year and was pleasantly surprised to learn running is not only a solo activity but can also be a team effort! The team I was on was so incredibly supportive and kind, even when I was the last one to finish.

During this time I found running to be an entirely mental battle. I remember breathlessly panting to a friend during an early run, “let’s…just…get…to the stop sign”. Soon, the stop sign became a tree farther down the road and soon that tree became the one-mile mark. It wasn’t long before I could run without stopping for a few miles. My mind seemed to know more about how capable my body was in times of distress. Reaching those goals early on was an incredible reminder of how powerful my mind is in persevering through times of misery and how resilient our bodies have been built! So my first reason for running is a reminder of the command I have over my mind, body, and spirit. When I run on my own I am invigorated by the power I carry with a determined mind and functioning legs. When I run with others, I nourish myself emotionally. If I am training for a race, it is an opportunity to challenge myself physically.

Reason number two is intertwined with the mental challenge running poses. As a young adult sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the appearance-based and competitive culture around us. Who has the hottest outfits, the newest makeup, the “best” body, the most well paying job. Running replaces that small voice of insecurity in me that says I am not good enough by allowing me to define my goals and standards outside of anyone else. I am amazing, not because of what I look like or how I dress but because of what I can do. I am strong (my brother might disagree with me on this one) and I am proud of every single part of my body that carries me through the miles I run each week.

Maybe you think your stomach isn’t flat enough. Maybe someone made a comment on your “childbearing hips” that you can’t seem to brush off. Maybe you have a few blemishes or maybe you are worried you are too tall/short/light/dark to be selected as a mate. Guess what! Everything I mentioned has nothing to do with your quality of being, your essence, and more importantly, your ability to give to the world. They are physical features, features that will change (for better or worse) with age, and features we have limited control over. The level of sophistication with which you write and speak, your critical thinking skills, your interpersonal skills, and your activity levels are talents you can cultivate. So run! Or walk. Or get your Zumba on in the basement. But get active. Because you are not only helping your self-esteem, your physical, and emotional well being, but also hopefully setting a precedent for your young siblings, cousins, and someday daughters. In my case, when I recognize how strong and resilient I am during my runs, I remind myself to be just as hard working and giving in other aspects of my life.

I hope you find an activity that empowers and engages your body and is as fun as challenging as running is to me. Remember that exercise is important for your body and mind. Use it as a means to be grateful not discontent. Comment below if you have any questions or concerns.

If you are in the Chicago-land area and are not ready for outdoor workouts, check out HEART’s Bootcamp & Nutrition Extravaganza March 23 from 9:00am-2:30pm and bring a friend to kick start your fitness routine.

Until next time,


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