How I Found My Way Back to Running -

How I Found My Way Back to Running

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Exercise has shifted for me in the last 5 years…

I had been a runner back in 2008, even completing a 5K during a 5-month period when I was enrolled in BootcampSF. However, while I was working out really hard over those months, it was actually a bit too extreme. I was spreading myself really thin time/energy wise and, despite all my working out, I still wasn’t feeling comfortable in or connected to my body.

So, after years of making myself workout, I ended up doing an experiment…I completely allowed myself to stop having that expectation of myself entirely. I figured there were plenty of people I knew who didn’t workout at all, and I thought that sounded pretty nice, and I wanted to try it. On a deeper level, however, it was about coming back to listening to my body. Not having external expectations on myself about what I should do, but instead reprograming my desire to move to come from a place within myself. Spoiler alert: it worked. 🙂

I started taking walks and hikes with friends, and I fell in love with yoga. I even developed a lovely home practice, thanks to Marianne Elliott’s fabulous 30 Days of Yoga. (I also had Marianne on my Creative Sustainability video series!) I had even started running again a little bit, using Couch25K (a great starter app, available on iPhone & Android), but I didn’t stick with it.

Clarifying my Commitment to my Self

In the last year I’ve put out two ecourses centered around clarifying intention, reconnecting to your body and feeling alive.

In ReConnect, Week 2 is all about ReConnecting with Your Body, and our Feel Alive course dives even deeper into it, with a full 30-Day program.

If this sounds of interest, you can instantly download the 2 free intro calls we did, both of which have guided meditations and walk you through a very helpful self-discovery process!

Through experiencing and facilitating that work, I was clearer than ever about the commitments I wanted to make for myself and my body. In particular, I recognized that breaking a good sweat makes me feel totally alive & connected.  And you know what’s a fast, easy & fun way to break a good sweat? Running!

Getting back on the horse

It all started back in April when I had a 9am meeting, and after lagging on getting my butt out the door, I had only 10-15 minutes to get in a sweat before a day of meetings started. So I went for a quick run around my neighborhood! I was surprised at how easy it was, and how great I felt. So I kept doing the same 1-mile loop, eventually adding a block… and then another block here & there to increase my time & distance.

Here’s a little motivational board I had up in my house during the first few weeks:


Then some friends & I did the Roses to Rosé 5k (yes, it helped we got served rosé at the end – ha!), and that marked the longest I had run since the 5K in 2008!

Yessss! Ran the whole way, and got a rose & glass of rosé at the finish line!  #RosestoRosé5K

Once I believed I could run 3.2 miles, I went for 3.5, and started running those regularly. Now I’m up to 4, and I’ve shaved a whole minute off my average time!

What makes you feel alive in your body?

It doesn’t have to be running… it could be walking, hiking, yoga, pilates, boxing, or simply stretching and meditating. Bottom line is when we’re out of the habit, it can feel like it’s a million miles away, and a very tall horse to climb back onto.

When you’re out of the habit, or disconnected from your body, you forget what you want and why you want it. All of a sudden emails become more important, work, kids, etc.

Do you find yourself putting your work or family ahead of your own needs?
Do you find yourself thinking about working out, but then not doing it?

What tapes are playing?

Do you have loud tapes playing around this topic? By tapes I mean your thoughts, conscious or unconscious, that either get you out the door, or keep you cozied up all safe in bed or on the couch.

Yours may be playing very mean, impatient, interrogative thoughts. Maybe one that tells you how fat you are, or how much you suck? (So mean!) Or maybe it’s more of a small voice within you, that is so tired from the whipcracking, that the justifications for not moving have become really loud and convincing. I mean really, why would anyone want to listen to a mean, bossy Inner Critic when there’s chocolate and mindnumbing TV to consume?

What are the other tapes that are playing about how you want to feel?
What are you longing to experience?

I want to feel connected to my body. 
I want trying on clothes to feel great. 
I want to feel comfortable in my skin.
I want to look in the mirror and love what I see.
I want to know I’m taking care of myself.
I wish I was a runner.
I wish I could do more yoga.
I wish I was more flexible.
I want to feel healthy and alive!

What are your ‘if-onlys’ saying to you?

Compassion is the key

It may seem backwards that compassion can actually help us get moving, but after all my years of having my inner WhipCracker whip me into shape, developing a healthy, compassionate relationship with myself and my body was precisely what helped me find my way back to running.

Being compassionate with yourself doesn’t mean giving up and eating bon-bons on the couch all day. It means that when it feels hard, you listen. You don’t abandon yourself. You don’t beat yourself up. You take your own hand, and lovingly talk yourself through it like you would a dear friend or loved one.

For example, when I was just getting back into the habit and didn’t feel like going for a run, I’d have a dialogue with myself about it that went something like this:

“I get it. I understand that this feels challenging. And that make sense… you’re out of the habit, so of course this feels hard! It probably feels scary… but I also know how much you love a good sweat. And we’ve made a commitment to ourselves, remember? This helps us feel connected and grounded in our bodies. This makes us feel alive. Let’s just put one foot in front of the other and get out the door and see what happens.”

I am no longer motivated by fear or illusion around what I should be doing. Instead I have made a commitment to myself to be in relationship WITH myself. That means love, respect and communication.

We need compassion for ourselves in all areas of our lives. Developing a healthy, loving relationship with yourself is the best gift you can give yourself for designing a happy, fulfilled life.

Don’t break the chain

Somewhere along the line I discovered this lifehacker productivity post by Jerry Seinfeld, all about marking your progress down on a calendar every day, to log that you’ve kept your commitment to yourself. It’s excellent. If you’re into this idea, grab a calendar or print one out for yourself and start doing it. You can also do it online by using I have been using it on my phone, and it’s fun to see the progress visually. Here’s my last 5 months:

Don_t Break The Chain!

Mind you, it’s technically supposed to be an every day thing, which you can absolutely do. Even if it means you count stretching, or meditating. Whatever one small thing you do for yourself in a day that can count towards your chain, go for it.

It’s all about staying in integrity with the commitment you’ve made to yourself.

I’ve also been using Nike+, which connects with Path, where many of my other friends are running, too. I actually saw my friend Timoni‘s posts this spring & was so inspired, it was one of the big motivators that got me running!

Since then I’ve logged many miles in the app, increased my time, distance*, and hold regular challenges with my friends. I’m clocking a consistent 10 miles a week now, and am even going out for runs while traveling. Here are a few more photos.

There are still days I find myself not wanting to go, but I remind myself of my commitment, and I talk myself through with compassion. I put my running clothes on, my shoes on, my armband and my headphones, and I get myself out on the street.

Treat Yo Self

About the Author

Willo Sana has been empowering entrepreneurs who are standing on the precipice of their next level for over 20 years. An international keynote speaker and sought-after Transformational Business Coach, Willo's experienced and intuitive guidance has served as a catalytic force for visionary business owners around the world. Anticipation is building for Willo's upcoming book, Double Down on Your Genius: Own Your Gifts, Align Your Actions, and Flourish in Your Calling, set to release in 2023.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Jessica - October 10, 2013 Reply

This is so on point and is exactly what I needed to read. Down with the whipcracking, up with the compassion. It’s the only way I believe exercise efforts could be sustainable and enjoyable, at least for me anyway. Thanks!

Love Your Run? | Wonderstated. - January 9, 2014 Reply

[…] O’Brien on integrity, self-compassion, and feeling alive in your body (this is at the top of the list for good reason… it’s an amazing […]

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