Chrissy King is an athlete, author, and speaker. Chrissy’s book, The Body Liberation Project helps guide the conversation and understanding of racism and diet culture. She uses her fitness journey to help others realize how understanding your body leads to new appreciation for your body. She sat down with 21Ninety to talk about how accomplishing fitness goals–like running a 5K– can empower you in other areas of your life.

I ran my first 5K back in a beautiful park overlooking the water in downtown Milwaukee when I still lived in Wisconsin. I remember being kind of nervous and apprehensive the day of. I know that may sound silly to some people because to people who run marathons for example, a 5K might feel like nothing. But I’ve always had this idea that I wasn’t a runner. I had this idea of what it meant to be a runner and I didn’t think that I fit that. So I felt like if I did a 5K, that would help me prove to myself that I could do it.  I was looking forward to that sense of accomplishment, but I can’t really say that I was excited about the race.

The sun was shining, the weather was beautiful, I was surrounded by people that I really love and who were supporting me. And after the race, I remember feeling this sense of accomplishment. But I also remember feeling grateful to myself that I embarked on this thing and accomplished it, and feeling really proud of myself in that moment. 

I think that the strength that we gain from movement– whether it be running or strength training– transfers into all areas of our lives. Movement has helped me reconfigure what’s possible for myself. Once I proved to myself that the narrative I had held about not being a runner wasn’t true, I started to wonder what other things I’m not doing just because I don’t believe I can. 

And it also made me realize that the approach I took to meeting this goal can apply to any goal, be it personal or professional.

Research Your New Endeavor

In the past, I would decide to start running and it would last three days because I didn’t research what kind of running shoes I needed for my body, for example. So after two or three days, I would have shin splints and I would use that to convince myself that running just wasn’t for me. I was also notorious for not stretching or preparing my body.

When I decided to run the 5K, I said, “If I’m going to do this, I need to do this the right way. Because it’s a disservice if I’m in a lot of pain or not able to train the way I want to.” So I learned proper stretches, researched how often I needed to be running and the proper recovery. I also found training programs so I wouldn’t be out there just doing anything. 

Give Yourself The Freedom To Fall In Love With Something New

Doing my first 5K was really about proving to myself that I can do hard things. It reminded me of my journey with strength training and powerlifting: my narrative before that was also that “I’m not strong, I can’t do those things.” I didn’t think I was gonna like it and I loved it. And then once I got into it, I realized that strength is a skill. 

Any new movement practice that I engage in and incorporate is more of a way to give myself the freedom to experience different ways to move my body. And to see what I like and what I don’t like. I still incorporate running into my movement routine at least two to three times a week.

Change The Way You Think About That Daunting Task

After my first 5K, I remember reflecting on how so much of my previous experience with exercise was about trying to shrink my body. In that moment I realized that rather than thinking of movement as punishment, I should use it as an opportunity to remember how incredible my body is and what it’s capable of doing.

That was part of the reason why I had shied away from running. Historically, I looked at running as something I needed to do to lose weight or to make my body smaller, so it was more of a punishment than doing something I really love as a way to show my body gratitude. 

Ultimately, that mental shift is what made the goal attainable.

Embrace Your Challenge As A Way To Develop New Skill Set

The hardest part of preparing for a 5K was developing endurance. Strength training and powerlifting require heavy movements in a single burst of energy. Running for 30 minutes requires a different level of conditioning. Since I knew I was still going to be strength training while training for the 5K, I took the opportunity to figure out what to incorporate into my workouts to support the new habits my body would need. I added more high intensity training like CrossFit exercises like wall balls, battle ropes, pulling a sled in the gym and other exercises that would increase my cardio conditioning.

I also had to adjust my strength workout schedule to make sure that I was getting adequate rest and giving my body the opportunity to recover. If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a ton of resources on the Nike Run Club app, for example, where you can even find training plans for the exact challenge you’re training for.

Your New Skill Set Needs A New Tool Kit

Once you’ve mapped out your goal and created a plan to reach it, you will inevitably need a few resources. For me that meant finding a good running shoe like the Nike Air Pegasus 39, first and foremost; cute and functional shorts, weather permitting, like the DRI-FIT Tempo running shorts, which are light and breathable but come in a variety of colorful patterns; and of course a good sports bra. I’m a big fan of looking cute when I’m training because when I look good, I feel better about whatever I’m doing. 

Having the right tools helps you to remain encouraged and excited about the end goal, even if attaining that goal originally felt daunting. Not sure where to start? Nike’s Runners’ Buying Guides are full of great tips to figure out what will best fit your needs.

Find And Maintain Balance… But Be Flexible

When I first got into powerlifting, I did not have anything that even resembled a sense of balance. Lifting was the priority, and other things in my life fell in the shadows. And I don’t think that was the healthiest for me. So I had to learn how to even it out over the years. To be fair: part of that had to do with how I felt about my body at the time. I felt like I had to be in the gym all the time in order to maintain how I looked. And that mindset has also evolved.

Now, the way that I create balance is by being cognizant of the fact that things are always changing in life. So there are times when my professional life is busier. When I was training for the 5K, I had to be very intentional about my workouts because I had a very specific goal. So I chose to do it at a time when I had a little more flexibility in my work life. But it also meant saying no to social engagements, for example, because it didn’t align with my training schedule. But it was easy to make that sacrifice because I had a clear goal and timeline.

I’ve been working on a book over the past eight months, so that was my focus. I still maintained a movement practice, but it looked a little different during that time. I would go to the gym and be in and out in 30 or 45 minutes, two or three days a week. And as long as I stuck to that, I felt like I was satisfied. Outside of that, I would do a lot of walking. Now that the book is done, I’m back in the gym.

I always find myself returning to the idea of movement as a source of joy. I always feel better when I’m moving, so it’s something that I prioritize. Exercise and your movement practice should be part of my life and not the defining factor in my schedule.

This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Nike.