When I talked to running coach, ultramarathoner, and author of Shut Up and Run Robin Arzon, she told us that she went through a devastating breakup the day before her first half-marathon. It made us think of our own experiences dealing with heartbreak or hardship and how fitness played a role in our healing.
"I think that movement is magic," Robin said. "I also believe that magic takes a lot of hustle, and there is so much power in movement, that it will absolutely transform you."
"Sometimes you literally just need to run through the chaos and somehow see it through on the other side. It seems like a cliché or hokey when you're just talking about it, but when you're experiencing it — that heartache — it is f*cking real. And you will cry, and you will somehow find physical power that translates into emotional fortitude."
"Not only did I get in the best shape of my life, but I healed myself and found a new ultimate passion."
Robin's advice? "I dare ANYONE going through emotional heartbreak or anything that is emotional . . . I dare you to sign up for a race that is physically challenging — a marathon, a 5K, whatever. Whatever seems daunting for you, sign up for it, and I guarantee the distraction will be welcome."
Some POPSUGAR editors have gone through a similar process, turning to exercise as a superhealthy coping mechanism and distraction.
Jenny Sugar, editor, Fitness: "I was trying on wedding dresses, preparing for my big day 10 months away, when my fiancé got major cold feet, told me not to order the dress, and called off the wedding. Right before my 27th birthday. We had been living together for five years and I had to cancel everything — the venue, the band, the photographer, the videographer, the florist — everything. I was broken inside, crying every day, not able to pull myself out of bed, or eat, or do anything but sob. I felt like my life was over. I was already teaching yoga and going to classes a couple times a week while we were together, and that was the one place I could go and just breathe and cry silent tears in Savasana. I fully immersed myself, going five or six times a week. Yoga brought me a newfound inner strength, a confidence and happiness I didn't know existed, and I got pretty strong physically, too. I'm a changed person, and at almost 40 years old, yoga is still a safe, comforting place for me that continues to be my therapy."
Ann-Marie Alcantara, assistant editor, Tech: "I recently broke off a relationship that was pretty toxic and decided to go running one day. It was a nice change to run, and to feel happy from endorphins, instead of staying at home and feeling sad while watching Gilmore Girls. I decided to keep going with it, especially since I was an intern at the time, so it was a cheap enough exercise. Soon after, I signed up for a half-marathon, and now I try to run whenever I can — especially if I'm feeling sad."
Quinn Keany, assistant editor, Celebrity: "Throughout the last two years of college, I had an extremely toxic on-again, off-again relationship with someone. Few good things came out of our time together, with the exception of a very, very soft shirt that I very, very sneakily stole out of his closet, and a newfound love of running. Actually, 'love' is a strong word. I hate the stitches I get in my side, gasping for breath, and how my face turns so red that I look like a giant, sweaty, lumbering tomato. Despite that, I discovered that running through the trails behind my college campus was therapeutic for me in ways that I didn't fully realise until much later. It was a way to physically release the emotions I'd gotten so used to bottling up, and gave me a place to be alone with my thoughts. I still prefer Netflix marathons to actual ones, but whenever I find myself upset or confused about something, going for a run always helps."
"You will cry, and you will somehow find physical power that translates into emotional fortitude."
Dominique Astorino, assistant editor, Fitness: "Getting my heart broken may have been the best thing to ever happen to me, because I found an inner strength I didn't know existed. After going through the most devastating breakup of my life, I sank into a deep depression; I ended up turning to yoga any time I could get myself off the couch, and I'd stay at my studio for two or three classes on some days. I also started training for a half-marathon with one of my best friends, and it was the best distraction I could've had. With every step forward, every chaturanga push-up, every inhale . . . I was crawling out of a dark hole, making myself a better person, and getting stronger — body and mind. Not only did I get in the best shape of my life, but I healed myself, found a new ultimate passion, and became a fitness writer in the process."