You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. – Job 10:11
I am back to running at 200 feet above sea level these days. After a 12-day visit to 6800 feet above sea level, during which I ran exactly three times and struggled to breathe each one, flat-land running felt wonderful.
My husband and I did a few short, easy runs around town, just to get the feel of our running legs again. As it turns out, those running legs felt pretty good after a period of rest.
As a runner, I am aware of my body. I notice little twinges and differences in my stride. One of the ways I knew that I had finally moved on from the hamstring injury which plagued me for almost two years was the funny little worn spot on the inside of my right running shoe.
For years, every pair of running shoes I wore developed that worn spot at the same location. For about three months before and during the time I was injured, no spot developed in my running shoes. I knew before the injury showed up something was wrong. My current shoes have the spot again.
Since my recovery, I cannot tell you how much fun it is to run. It’s as if I miraculously found something precious which was missing. I once again get all of the benefits I have always gotten from running.
I run because of the little hit of dopamine which comes after a great run. I run for friendships formed through running. I run because I like the strong, clean, euphoric, sweaty feeling I get from running, and for a lot of other reasons, but I do not run because I am disciplined.
This was brought home to me a few months ago by the addition of several unwanted pounds. Five of them, to be exact.
In the past, if I noticed my weight creeping up to unacceptable levels (as arbitrarily determined by me), I would temporarily increase running mileage to burn excess calories. My metabolism typically runs pretty hot, so extending runs to lose weight was never a hardship.
The combination of advancing age and the slowing metabolism that comes with it, along with an injured hamstring, prevented me from burning excess calories and my weight crept up. After being shocked one day upon stepping on the bathroom scale, I made a conscious effort to reduce calories and lose the excess pounds.
This was one example of how my mind changed my body, but, in the words of psychologist Amy Cuddy, “We know our minds change our bodies, but can our bodies change our minds?”
We obviously are more than just a body. If we lose our appendix or gall bladder, for example, that does not change who we are. Losing a limb to injury or disease does not make us less of a person.
We often think about our appearance, even if we don’t want to admit it. We get our hair styled, maintain a certain weight, wear makeup, remove unwanted hair. These are all decisions our mind makes to alter the way our body looks.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, author, and speaker, has studied the ways in which the reverse occurs: our bodies also influence our minds.
I first discovered Ms. Cuddy’s work when I was teaching chemistry. Every year the students in Honors Chemistry classes were required to produce an innovative research project and present it at a science fair.
As you can imagine, for a 16-year-old, the idea of presenting the results of their research to working scientists could be pretty intimidating. When I came across this TED talk given by Ms. Cuddy, I knew I had to take the time to show it to my students before their presentations.
I recommend that anyone who is approaching a job interview or any other evaluative situation watch the video. It’s worth the 20 minutes. Even if you don’t have a job interview in your future, I still recommend watching her powerful story; I cry (in a good way) each time I watch it.
Cuddy’s research has shown that when we truly believe in our message, when we are being our best, authentic selves, our bodies are in sync with our minds. Our body language matches what we are saying and feeling. We can be confident without coming across as arrogant.
When we feel confident, triumphant, or powerful, our bodies naturally expand. Cuddy posits by striking a powerful pose (she calls one such pose “The Wonder Woman” pose), our bodies send that message of power and confidence to our minds.
By striking a power pose for just a few minutes, Cuddy has found that our levels of stress hormones decrease, and our feel-good hormones increase. In other words, our bodies change our minds. They change the way we see ourselves and actually shape who we are.
Power posing does not mean acting intimidating or aggressive; it is a way to give yourself the power to show your real self in a given situation, without the fears and inhibitions that may hold you back.
The next time you are facing a slightly daunting situation such as a job interview, a potentially awkward conversation, or even the starting line of a race, go into the bathroom or other private space beforehand. Strike a pose. Feel the power. Be yourself.
I am linking up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Weekly Rundown, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team and Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Our World Tuesday, Purposeful Faith for RaRa, Kooky Runner for Tuesday Topics, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, InstaEncouragements, Legacy Builders Legacy Link up, and My Random Musings for Anything Goes.