What happens when you start running for fun instead of a finish line? In this week’s podcast, Sonya sat down with Tina Muir, CEO of Running for Real, an incredible podcast and the largest global community of socially engaged runners, and talked about learning how to run for enjoyment instead of recognition.
Tina hosts the Running for Real Podcast, a collection of podcasts about running, the climate emergency and social justice. She also co-hosts Running Realized with Knox Robinson, exploring running culture.
In addition to her professional running career representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tina is recognized for her story battling nine years with amenorrhea (RED-S), or the absence of menstruation.
Tina is the mother of two girls and is supported by Alta Running.
“You’re a whole person with many facets and interesting things about you rather than one thing. I’ve been thinking a lot on that note about the buckets we put ourselves into, about how things we might learn as a child, like, “I’m not good at this…” or “I’m never going to be this…” because of identities you were given or identities you were told you didn’t have and then as you grow up you just continue believing them. But you can change that and I think about the values related to that as well. I think for me… like a creative – I always think, well I’m not a creative. But then I have to remind myself, well, but I’m actually creating a podcast, creating things I share out with the community, writing is creative. It doesn’t have to be you go outside and you paint a pretty watercolor in 45 minutes. But I felt when I was younger that that never applied to me so I have to constantly retrain myself to think about it differently.” – Tina Muir
- Running for enjoyment instead of a finish line
- Evolution of self talk
- Happiness versus success
- Sports psychology and meditation
- Passion versus compulsion
- Climate Change
- Running realized
- Social change
- Check out Tina’s podcasts Running for Real and Running Realized
- Liked this episode? Listen to other episodes about mindset, motivation & psychology
- Check out my Substack about high-performance mindset
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter!
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Sonya: Today, I got to sit down with somebody that I’m really inspired by, Tina Muir, and she is the CEO of Running for Real, the largest global community of socially engaged runners. She’s the host of the Running for Real podcast, which is a collection of podcasts about running, climate emergency, social justice and a lot of other topics like mindset and courage and getting into the heads of some of the top performers and authors in the world. She also cohosts the podcast Running Realized with Knox Robinson, which is exploring running culture but diving into much deeper issues and conversations and I’ve really been learning a lot from that one as well.
In addition to her professional running career representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tina is recognized for her story of battling nine years with amenorrhea or RED-S, and a part of her story is how she decided to retire from professional running to start a family and how she is actually getting back into running and is training for her first ultra. Tina is the mom of two girls and also has tons of other projects on the go, so make sure to check out her website and also go to her Instagram. Those are all linked up in the show notes.
An overarching theme of today’s podcast is about doing something for the sake of the thing itself, so it would be like running for fun instead of running for the finish line, running for enjoyment instead of recognition. And it’s so hard to decouple those things sometimes. One of the things I love about Tina is how honest she is and how comfortable she is being vulnerable. So we talked about some really important topics like burnout and amenorrhea, the evolution of her self-talk. We talked about passion versus compulsion and we even got into climate change and Running Realized. I definitely recommend you listen to this episode as we cover a lot, and I think that you’ll walk away with some things to think about and to work on.
If you love some of the topics on this show, things like mindfulness, positive psychology, sports psychology and the evolution of your own self talk, I encourage you to check out my Mindset Academy. It’s called the Moxy & Grit Mindset Academy, where I cover a lot of different things that will help you perform at your best – things like goal setting, things like self talk, visualization, some different types of breath work, and even how to build confidence for race day. So go to MoxyandGrit.com or sonyalooney.com and click Mindset Academy to join many, many others who have taken this course and who have progressed in their journey. I’ve had even people who have taken it to get their double black belt and to help them break past barriers there. I’ve had people who are race car drivers take this course, so it’s been really fun to hear from you. And if you’ve taken the Moxy & Grit Mindset Academy. I would also love to hear from you
And if you’re like, no, that’s good, I don’t want to go all in on a course, check out my weekly newsletter. It’s at sonyalooney.com/newsletter. It comes out every Monday, and the topics usually span motivation and mindset, but I also cover other topics as well. I spend a lot of time researching every topic to make sure that I’m bringing you the most up to date information. So go to sonyalooney.com/newsletter. I love connecting with you, and I’m so glad that you’re here. So here is Tina Muir.
Tina, welcome to the show.
Tina: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Sonya: Before we hit record, I was saying how excited I am to have this conversation because you’ve been a big inspiration to me and just the growth that you’ve had in your life and the way that you’re so real and authentic and just the way that you communicate is so powerful. And I know it’s changed so many lives.
Tina: Thank you. That’s a huge compliment. And it means a lot. Thank you.
Sonya: So there’s so many different directions that we could go because you are very well-versed in lots of different topics. But I thought that we would start with something that you posted the other day. It was something about identity and how you would describe yourself, and this really resonated with me because I do lots of different things, too, and I don’t know how to describe myself. So I wanted to ask, how do you identify now because you do so many different things?
Tina: Well, I would still answer that, I still don’t really know. And actually, what you’re referring to is where I was discussing on what I call a together run, which are these runs that I do, where I literally carry my phone with a microphone attached and I run and then I upload it to my podcast feed and people download it and take it on their run. It sounds so weird. And if you listen to it not running, you will be like, what is that noise? This is the weirdest thing. I’m listening to someone breathing. This is really strange. But if you are running, there’s something magic about it. But anyway, so I was talking about the fact that during that I was discussing when people say to me, “what do you do?” I’m like, I don’t know how to describe myself. I don’t know how to say what I do. I don’t know what order to put it in, because we tend to change the order depending on this situation. Now, I think I would say that I think I would say I’m a mother first to two daughters. I’m an entrepreneur. I think I would say I am a former elite runner and someone who is trying to be real in this world full of just trying to set up everything to look like everything is perfect when it’s definitely not for any of us. I don’t know.
Sonya: So identity is such an interesting topic because a lot of us will define ourselves based on what we do for work or like what accolades we’ve had in the past or that we are currently working on, or even things like, I’m a wife or I’m a mom. And just the thread underneath it all is also evolving if you’re working on yourself. I love thinking about identity because I don’t have an answer for that either. But it’s just a challenging thought experiment to say, like, well, what is my identity and what defines me? And I think that it comes down to values.
Tina: I’ve kind of changed my approach to this over the years. I remember hearing when people would say, don’t define yourself by what you do, or like, your career is not who you are or being a runner, an athlete, is not who you are. And I think, what exactly am I? Then if I can’t say I’m a wife and I can’t say I’m a runner and I can’t say I’m whatever my job path is, how do I describe myself? But over time, I’ve understood that it means more than just it just means that you’re a whole person not, like, with many different facets and interesting things about you rather than one thing. And I’ve been thinking a lot, actually, on that note, about the buckets we put ourselves into, about how things that we might learn as a child. Like, I’m not good at this. Or I’m never going to be this because of identities that you were given or identities you were told you didn’t have. And then as you grow up, you just continue believing them. But you can change that. And I think about that, like you said, about values related to that as well. I think for me, like, a creative. I always think, well, I’m not creative. But then I have to remind myself actually creating a podcast, creating things that I share out with the community. Writing is creative, like, it doesn’t have to be you go outside and paint a pretty watercolor with, like, in, like, 45 minutes. But I felt when I was younger that that never applied to me. And so I have to constantly retrain myself to think about it differently. So yeah. I mean, I love thinking about these things, and I imagine probably a part of that is like the athlete side of always wanting to explore, which you would probably understand, too. The athlete side of wanting to constantly be evolving and growing and improving.
Sonya: Just like wanting to always be better at something or just to be learning and have curiosity in and of itself could be a big part of your identity. And that forms all these “outcomes” of that identity manifested and different curiosities.
Tina: Yeah. I love that.
Sonya: Brainstorming here. I actually wanted to go back because I’m guessing that some of our guests haven’t heard the amazing of the Tina Muir yet. Sorry I say Muir like you’re like an American.
Tina: But I’m so used to it being that now.
Sonya: People haven’t guessed you’re not from the US… So where are you from? And how did you start finding your path to running?
Tina: Yeah. So I am from the UK from just north of London. I moved to America when I was 18 on a track and field cross country scholarship, and that is essentially the answer to your question there, but just giving a bit more context and information. I was a pretty average student in school, but I remember not enjoying running in PE classes because we had to do a cross country rotation within school in England, and I didn’t like it as much as everyone else, but then somehow found my way on the cross country team.
Don’t really have any memory of that, but I just remember competing at a local race and finishing fourth and thinking that’s not that far away from first and then thinking like, okay, how could I get closer to first. And then in England, I think similar to I think Canada is the same with the running clubs. And so I went from there to join a running club and just continue to improve, but was thankful for a coach who was adamant he wanted me to run for life, and he really held me back, which as a teenager, annoyed the hell out of me because I was like, why don’t you why don’t you let me do more? But now I mention him every time. I’m so thankful, and he had to deal with my, like, essentially childish tantrums because I wanted to do more training. But anyway, so then came to the US, go to university, went to university here, and then moved into professional running, the marathon and half marathon level until a few years ago, when I had two kids. And we’ll probably go into that a bit more. And that transitioned me away from running being everything my career, my life to running being an important part of my life, but definitely not the most important anymore.
Sonya: Yeah, I’m excited with all the different directions we can go with that. But the first thing I wanted to ask you about that is you said that you got fourth and you realize I might be actually good at this. Did you have that realization about anything else in your life before that point?
Tina: No, not really. I mean, I was good at sports. I would say like I was in the top third of most sports, but this was within a class level or within a grade, I suppose, level. But thinking about being good in a city wide level, which is funny now, and you know this as an elite athlete, initially, your city feels so huge. The idea of you being one of the best in your age group, this very narrow age group and a town is huge in your mind. But then as you grow up, you’re like, that is really not as big as I thought it was at some point, but yeah, no, I don’t think so. I did other sports and clubs, but I was very much in the middle of the pack. And all the things that I was good at. I think we’re related to the running being like I was on the field hockey team, but I was good at that because I was just good at running around or I was good at swimming, and that was probably good because of the, I mean, I think the swimming helped the running to start with, but yeah, I think the running was the first thing I stood out in.
Sonya: It’s always interesting to hear, like, what makes us decide to go for it and where that self belief comes from, because there’s lots of different things that we can do. And some people even were really bad at something and still decided to go all in and go for it. And running is something in particular that I think is sticky and gives people confidence and drive in a way that other sports don’t. And I actually think this in general about endurance sports. I tried doing research as to figuring out what it is about that that gives people confidence and drive. What do you think it is?
Tina: I think it’s the simplicity of it. A lot of it in the running is very, as they say, all you need is a pair of running shoes. I mean, it’s not entirely true in terms of you definitely need more if you get into it. But to start with, you need a pair of shoes and it’s very easy to see results. I mean, even someone who is an absolute beginner and might only make it two minutes of running before they have to walk. Maybe the next week they make it three minutes and then four minutes, and it’s very easy to track progress. It’s right there. So you don’t have to drive anywhere or have anyone else to do it. And so I think it just, people have busy lives and people have not a lot of time and so running is something you can kind of get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of you could run to 20 minutes, and that’s a solid run walk for 20 minutes, just a solid workout. But you also don’t really need much to go with it. And I do think there’s something about the inherent genetical component with us as human beings that running was a part of our lives. It’s always been a part of our lives, like even going way back to hunter-gatherer, like chasing down an animal times, to survive. So yeah, I think that’s something that we maybe get in tune with. And I’ve interviewed some Indigenous runners or Native Americans, and they’ve talked about connecting with the Earth and how the runners high is actually you being connected to what they say Father Sky and Mother Earth. And I love that concept, but there’s something just like within us that is connected to running.
Sonya: That’s really beautiful. I have to check those episodes out.
Tina: It’s really amazing to think about again. You and I were talking before we started recording about just the way we view the world. And it’s incredible to hear stories from Native Americans who were hire long before everyone else, but also have this different perspective that is of the same surroundings, the same place that they just see the world differently. And like you said, it’s beautiful. Yeah.
Sonya: So I heard you say that a lot of times people are interested in running because it’s simple, but also because they see improvement. And I think a lot of us get really excited when we’re trying something new or exploring an interest in seeing that improvement. But the better you get at doing something, the harder it is to see those gains, and especially at the elite level, like just getting 1% better is something really hard that you have to chase. And sometimes it can be really hard to find the joy in it because you don’t love going out every single day and doing the training. And you also don’t get that positive reinforcement every single time you line up. So for you, how did you wade through that as you started seeing results and becoming elite? And then as you continued into your career, when you’ve been doing things a long time burnout is a really common thing that affects us all. So how did you manage your successes and then staying grounded and then working on the mental side of that?
Tina: Yeah. First I want to say that I think those challenges occur every step along the way. I think it’s very easy to see what you said and say that at the elite level, the gains are so small and you work so hard and commit to all these extra tiny little things to get that smallest percentage of difference that might mean the world to you. But I also do think that it’s easy to think that you said about improvement at the beginning, and that is very true that there is a lot of improvement.
However, I do see along every stage of people joining the running world that they’re going to improve and then plateau and then improve in plateau. And each time you get to one of those or sometimes it’s quite often we have a go backwards stage at some point…every time one of those happens, you come into this challenge of maybe you might go to the doctor and they’ll say, well, running isn’t for you – that’s why you’re injured or that’s why this happened. You’re not meant to do this and people get disheartened.
So I actually think a lot of it is harder for everyday runners because it can feel like someone who is at the elite level it’s very easy to say, well, yes, worth these sacrifices. And yes, I’ll try and figure out a way if you have an Olympic Championship or a World Championship coming up and you’re injured, all right, let’s see what we can do to get you there. Whereas for a recreational runner, they’re going to be told, I don’t think the sport is for you or, like, you need to just take time off. It doesn’t matter. So I want to start with that. But, yeah, I definitely dealt with a lot of struggles along the way in terms of motivation, getting out the door, and I did reach burnout at the end of my elite career, so much so that I would be running in the morning and thinking, oh my god, I got to run again this afternoon, and I don’t want to. Even before I finished one run, I was thinking dreading the next. And that’s not easy to do. And once you get to that burnout over-trained state, it was too late. There’s not really much you can do there. But I do find that for me, one thing that I’ve really come to rely on a lot in recent years is community. It is having either one person or a group or an online presence of people who know what you’re going through. And just as you mentioned my Instagram post of how good it feels when we, as humans, find someone who says something that we’re working through or we know what that feels like, to know that someone else is working through that, it feels so good.
And I mentioned at the beginning that we see so much, like curated and perfected content in the world that it’s very hard for us to feel sometimes like we have to make us feel like we’re normal. We feel like, oh, there must be something wrong with me. And so I love surrounding myself with people who also are vulnerable and talk about the hard things and say that this is tough. And I find that that really helps me in those tough moments because that person will usually say some version of, like, yeah, I know it’s really tough. I’ve been there, but think about how good it’s going to feel when you push through this or you get to the other side of this or you recover from that injury and you get to the other side, you’re going to be able to use this motivation. I’m not sure if that answers your question or if I went off tangent.
Sonya: My question was kind of rambly and unclear.
Tina: That happens sometimes that happens to me all the time. So you don’t have to apologize to me.
Sonya: Yeah, I heard you say vulnerability is really important, especially in a time where a lot of people are putting out a highlight reel and are afraid to show vulnerability. And I personally think that it’s scary to put the truth out there, but also it makes you more confident and makes you feel more seen. And it also, like you said, helps build community so that people know they aren’t alone. So it’s actually doing a disservice if you pretend that everything’s fine all the time. If you never show the hard days, I mean, certainly it’s hard to find that balance of nobody wants to see every single second of your day and every single time you’re not feeling right. But showing a realness and that’s something that I really love about all the work you’re doing, it is real. Like that’s one of the titles of one of your podcasts is Running for Real. But it is so real.
Tina: Yeah. Thank you. Yes. It’s funny that that word, like Running for Real is the name of my company, the podcast and even my other show, Running Realized, has the word real in it. Everything has real, and it’s so crazy when you come to think about it about people say that to me, oh, you’re so real. Or thank you for being real. But when you step back to have that you’re like, wait a minute. What? Thank you for being real? It kind of makes you think about what world have we stepped into here? Things are obviously turned the wrong way around when we’re thanking someone for being who they are or like admitting that things aren’t always as they seem. And I think you’re right. There is so much of a lack of vulnerability in our world and being able to say that things are tough. And I think that’s a lot of what even is going on in the world in general right now is that we are so afraid to say, I’m scared about what our world looks like with climate change, or I’m a little freaked out about this COVID thing, or I’m scared for my race coming up this weekend. I already feel nervous. And you’re understanding this as a parent as well. But I have a three year old and she just started preschool nursery, and she was saying, my tummy feels weird and I was like, yeah, my tummy feels a little like butterflies. I feel a bit nervous too with you going and trying to explain to her that it’s okay to say I’m a little nervous or I’m a little scared. So I’m trying to ingrain that in her early, but, yeah, I just wish we saw more vulnerability in our world and the ability to talk about the ups and the downs, because I think we all connect with…It’s not that we are sick or we like preying on people’s misfortune, but it also makes us feel better about ourselves because we see that other people have hard things that they’re working through, too.
Sonya: I think that a lot of times we’re almost taught to repress or push away feelings of being scared or being nervous or showing vulnerability, to use that word again, and it becomes not okay to feel those things. So people just try to pretend that they’re not there, and it makes it 100 times or 1,000 times worse whenever we do that. So having this acknowledgement that, hey, I’m feeling this way and it’s okay not I’m feeling this way, and it’s bad is a really important and powerful lesson. And that’s amazing that you’re already teaching your daughter that.
Tina: Well, thank you. Something really important to me. And I want to add that just because… I’m a big fan of Brene Brown, and she talks a lot about vulnerability, and she says she is a vulnerability researcher or vulnerability, whatever the term is. And she hates vulnerability. And I feel very much the same way. Even as I’m recording this with you, there’s that little voice in my head that’s saying, you’re messing this up. You’re not making sense, you’re talking in circles, but it’s being able to hear that voice and say, oh, okay, thank you for your input there. I’m not going to take that advice. I’m doing just fine. But then being able to, like, I just did, say that and say that sometimes we don’t always feel like we’re doing what we “should be doing” or what we could be doing or good enough. But being able to be honest about what you’re going through helps people to love you more because you’re not that perfect image that they then feel they have to compete against and compare up to, which makes them feel bad about themselves. So I love that vulnerability allows us to help others feel good about themselves rather than bad about themselves, which is what so much in our world does today.
Sonya: And I would also add to that that it makes you love yourself more because it’s like, oh, yeah, I have flaws, and I’m not perfect. And I have a voice inside my head that’s always telling me that I suck and I’m not enough. But that’s okay. And I love myself no matter what. And I want to say that we all can say I’m enough no matter what. And I like to say that, but I admit that I don’t always feel that even if I’m trying to tell myself that.
Just the awareness around that is so important. But I just wanted to take this in the direction because you’ve talked about mental skills and self talk and meditation. So how did this start interweaving into your journey? Because I don’t know if this is part of your journey whenever you were an earlier runner and running seems like a really good vehicle to start learning about yourself. So when did this kind of start for you?
Tina: You mean in terms of just like, that self awareness?
Sonya: Well, the self awareness of, oh, I actually might be saying things to myself that aren’t serving me. How can I say things differently to myself? And how can I start having a different perspective on what all of this means.
Tina: Yeah, I’ve always been pretty able to talk about my feelings and say how I was kind of maybe make fun of myself a little bit for things that I was thinking and say, like I know that’s not true, but that’s what I’m worried about. So I’ve always had that connection with friends to where they appreciated that. But then there’s a few moments throughout my college, university time stick out to me being that one was I remember being so nervous my freshman year of college, first year. I remember being so nervous before races that I just started absolutely melting down in the race, like almost throwing up before every race. The amount of pressure I was putting on myself was so much that I got sent to a sports psychologist, and he told me, what would you tell your 17 year old daughter or what would you tell a best friend? And that was a really light bulb moment of like, yeah, I definitely wouldn’t say, like, you’re worthless, you’re going to screw this up and all those horrible things I was saying to myself. So that helped. In one of my finer moments or not fine moments when I was probably a few years into university, and I was just in this stage of obsession with performance and doing the best that I could, that I went to the athletic trainer with a pain that I was having and he sent me to the doctor and I got a bone scan or X ray or an MRI, I can’t remember. And when the results came in, it was a few days or a week before we are leaving for the National Championships, and it came back as a stress reaction. I think it might be the only stress reaction I’ve had, actually. And I crawled under the table in the athletic training office under the athletic trainer’s desk and started crying my eyes out where he shut me in the room, he ran upstairs to get my coach because he just was totally clueless as to what to do. And so my coach talked me off and made me feel better. But then I realized I was like, I am way too attached to this to be crying as if someone’s died when all it means is that I can’t run one race or I run one race on an injury and then take some time off. And so I think that was another moment. And then there’s just been other moments that have made me think, like, maybe what that voice is telling you it’s not the truth or it’s not what it thinks it is. And journaling ,you mentioned journaling and meditation, those have both been big tools I’ve used, particularly actually, journaling writing a letter to myself, I would always start it very much like, okay, Tina, as if I was giving myself a pep talk. And then by the end, it would turn to first person of like, you are tough and you’re going to get through this and you’re fine and you’re going to appreciate this, or sorry, I am going to appreciate this and I’m going to be stronger and all that. So I think there’s lots of little moments that reminded me of that, but also having tools like journaling or working with a therapist or a psychologist, which helped a lot as well.
Sonya: So it sounds like creating some distance so that you could talk about what was going on to somebody or to yourself in a way that helps you not just focus on this one pinpointed thing, because when you get stressed, you tend to just narrow your focus so much that it’s hard to really understand what’s even going on so broadening that focus was something that was helpful?
Tina: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s not easy to do in the moment, and particularly when you’ve been training for something like when a marathon and you have maybe two races a year that are your big races, and you’ve been training for months and preparing. And so that’s not so easy to just say, oh, well, when you know, you’ve given up a few months of your life to prepare for this. But like you said, zooming out and recognizing that even if it didn’t go how it should have, it doesn’t mean that whole three to four months is a total waste and you might as well have not even bothered. But it’s going to build on to future seasons.
Sonya: Something I think about a lot is like expectations, having realistic expectations, but also ones that are going to push you a little bit. And it’s such a difficult relationship because if your expectations are too high and you’re always setting them too high, you might feel disappointed. But if they’re too low, then you might not be getting enough out of yourself. But then expectations and goals – they could be similar. But they could also be really different things. So yeah, I walk around in circles thinking about expectations and goals, and like, what’s the right expectation I should have for myself so that I can feel good about what I’m doing.
Tina: Yeah. I used to be very goal oriented and expectations, and I would say it very much in terms of, like, I need those to help me perform, to help me stay committed, to help me stay focused. But as time has gone on, I personally feel like so much freedom and enjoyment comes from saying, I’m going to do the best I can with the situation I have and I’ll see what happens. And I know that that’s not always the case. If someone is training for the Olympics, you can’t just take that approach. But you have to at some point commit. But I think there is too much pressure on having it be that dangling carrot that always gets you out the door because it just layers on that internal pressure more and more. We talked about identity at the beginning that if I don’t achieve this, then I am a failure or if I don’t do what I said I was going to do, then everyone’s going to point and laugh at me. And I remember being in many local races during my elite years and thinking, while a race was going on, if it was going badly, being like, oh, everyone’s going to look up my time, they’re going to go to the website, they’re going to see how slow I ran when in reality, maybe two or three people did. Maybe a few people thought, oh, wow, what happened to Tina in a passing thought. Like literally, oh, I wonder what happened to Tina, and then five minutes later that thought was gone from their brains. But I would obsess that people were judging me and thinking I was useless and she must be doing so bad or whatever. And I just feel sorry for myself that I spent all that energy even in a race when I was supposed to be using all my energy on doing the best I could, in worrying that other people would see what I had perceived to be good enough and think it wasn’t good enough. So yeah, it’s hard to find that balance, but yeah, I personally am leaning more on the side of less goals and expectations and kind of let the result take care of itself.
Sonya: And I think that that’s really relatable across multiple areas, like it doesn’t even have to be in sport because a lot of our lives can be really visible. And we think that people might only love us if we’re successful at something. And maybe we learned that love is conditional growing up on being good. If you think about the popular kids or whatever. I wasn’t one of those kids, but it just appears that if you’re winning, you’re doing all these things, then you’re more lovable and disassociating that is really challenging. But I love that you said I’m not so focused on the goals and expectations, but I’m focused on doing my best and being proud of what I’m doing regardless of what the outcome is.
Tina: Yeah, that’s taken a lot of time to get there. I could kind of do that during my elite level. I got towards the end to the point where I could be in my hard days or on the races, and I wouldn’t look at my watch. I would instead listen to what my body said. But still, there was very much those thoughts and everything that I have to do this to get the love or get the success or be good enough for people to value me. Or once I get to this, then people will value me.
But now, I recognize how many things change within any given situation. Like I quite often have friends who I run with and they’ll say to me I had a really bad day or really bad run. This happened and that happened. And I’ll be like, well, let’s walk backwards and see your last five days, shall we? Like, let’s talk through what you did the last five days, and they’re like, oh, yeah. I guess when you put it like that, I am doing a lot. But it’s that kind of thing where if we can go into everything thinking, I’m going to look at where my life is at, I’m going to try my best, no matter what that means, it’s just freeing. Because it takes out the weather, it takes out the stress of life. It takes out the other little things that might be bothering you, the sleep. And it just tells you, did I do my best? Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s all you can do.
Sonya: And I think this is a great segue into deciding to become a mom because all of these different things we’ve been talking about apply. That’s why sport is amazing, because it applies everywhere. And any challenge that people are taking on the lessons that you learn can apply anywhere. So how did you decide to become a mom? And what was that like for you?
Tina: Yeah, for me, I think…I know I’d always wanted to be a mother. I very much kept that. I knew that was going to be a piece of my life that I wanted. I was going to find a way to be a mum somewhere or another, even if I couldn’t myself. But for the actual choosing to become a mom was very snap and sudden. As I mentioned earlier, I reached a point of burnout, and I was dealing with some health issues, being that I hadn’t had a period in nine years, and I was very aware of the fact that you can’t have a child if you or you can’t give birth to a child if you don’t have a period. So it was my sister having a baby combined with burnout, combined with my health issues, that made me a point where, like, okay, it’s time I’m done. I’m done with running. I’ll do what I need to do. And I’ll become a mum. And I was very fortunate to fall pregnant very quickly, like, 10 weeks after I stopped running. But, yeah, I think more for me. The lights going on about my future was when I found out I was having a little girl and thinking about the idea of bringing another little girl into this world who all these not good enough. All these, you need to look like this. You need to act like this. You need to be polite and nice and kind and whatever, all these things that I had experienced and internalized, I was about to bring someone into this world who was going to be tasty on those same messages. And that was the real turning point for me of thinking, okay, how can I change this? Like we said about talking to her about nervousness now, how can I take her life and make her be able to talk about being nervous and not have to stuff that down, or how can I show her that the way she looks doesn’t really matter and say to her now, if she says, I want to be a princess, can you put on a dress, too? I can say, oh, that’s really fun. I love that you’re enjoying yourself as a princess, I’m actually really comfortable in what I’m wearing. Trying to instill those as much as I can before she gets to the point where peers influence me, those things that I wish someone would have told me.
Sonya: And I don’t know if you experienced this at all, but for me, when I had my son, I actually became more gentle on myself, like, more gentle with my body or if I go out and do an interval workout and it didn’t go very well, I’d be like, no, it’s not that big of a deal.
Tina: He loves me anyway, right? And that’s one thing that’s also nice. I would think the same thing. I’d hear people say, like, oh, I think of my child, and it really motivates me to push myself harder. And I never really understood that, because for me, if I thought of my child while I was running hard or doing something hard, I’d be like, well, she loves me, whether I do this or whether I don’t do this, whether I sit on the couch all day or I don’t. I love that that they just, like, unconditionally love you. So we talked about trying to perform or trying to hit expectations. Well, whether you hit them or you don’t, they just don’t care.
Sonya: And it just gives you a good reminder of that. That’s what you’re trying to remind yourself of. And then you just get a full dose of it, like, oh, actually, yeah. It doesn’t actually matter.
Tina: Exactly. And you see it again with a toddler and they’re learning to walk. My second daughter has just started walking, and every time she falls down and gets back up, I’m like, yay, you can do it, but we just don’t give ourselves that same grace if we don’t make something the first time around or if we think we fail, we’re like, oh, you’re useless. You can’t do this. Whereas for a kid that age, we’re like, come on, keep trying. Again, it’s that gentle approach rather than berating and expecting that to work.
Sonya: So when did you start your podcast amidst all of this?
Tina: Yeah. I actually started at the same time I was trying to get pregnant. I had been hosting a different podcast for a running company, and I done pretty well at that and found I enjoyed it. But I very much wanted to, again, get that vulnerability, that honesty from other elite athletes and people I was interviewing to just not be putting on a front, which is what I think many elite athletes had been trained to do was, like you mentioned earlier, having or maybe you didn’t mention it, it was when we were off there, I think that having a perfect response to things and answers that you already have thought through their answers. And I wanted to have a place where I could ask people and get through to the truth and hear them say that they were struggling. So around that time, I decided, okay, if I’m not going to be running, I can still inspire a community, and I can still help people not feel alone and remind them that they are in this together and be able to say, like, I’m not running right now. And when I did start running again, I was starting, maybe not from scratch, but from a place I hadn’t known in a long time, like being unfit. And so I could go through it with them and say, it’s hard for me right now to run 20 minutes. So it’s a good way to work through the emotions I was going through.
Sonya: A clear vision of what brought you joy and purpose and what you were doing, and then you’re like, hey, a podcast is a really great way to do that.
Tina: Yeah, it was before podcast was definitely, like a big thing. But it also was they were established enough to where I could really jump into it and give it a go. And I love having conversations with people. I love connecting with people, and I’m not really a video person because again, like, video, you have to be thinking through a lot more of what you look like or what the angle is. There are just so many other factors to think through. So podcasting was, like, perfect for me because I could just have a chat with someone.
Sonya: Yeah, I was just thinking about that because it’s like when the video is on you’re like, oh, my gosh, it’s a mess behind me. I have to clean it up.
So I’d love to shift gears again and talk about some of these new initiatives that you’re passionate about. Your podcast Running Realized, climate change, and also speaking your truth, because I think especially females, that’s a really challenging thing to approach.
Tina: So going from where I was with the podcast, being able to ask people for their honest answers, I realized that while I was saying the truth about a lot of elements of my life, there were some things that took over my thoughts on a daily basis. And I was thinking about all the time that I wasn’t really talking about publicly because of fear of being told, stay in your lane. Stop talking about those things. Get back to talking about what you ate for breakfast or what training run you should be doing. But for me, particularly when it comes to the climate emergency, that is always on my mind. I’m thinking about in everything I talk about and it’s come through many times here and rightly so it’s something we should be talking about. But also you mentioned Running Realized that’s my other podcast I host with Knox Robinson, and we work through kind of challenges within our society. We look at them through a running lens. Even though it’s a running podcast, I actually don’t think it needs to be for runners because it’s just looking at society and some of the issues in a way that is using running as an example. But the idea is to open up our minds and change our perspective. So we might have what it’s like to be a nonbinary person running in a trail race, or we might talk about, like I mentioned about the Native American runners, what it’s like to be a Native American runner and really feel that connection with the Earth and the world as a whole or to look at what it’s like being a mother and trying to compete at the Olympics. So we talk about things that we have a lot of work to do as a society, but we haven’t really figured out a solution. We try and give people key takeaways for things they can do, and that’s another part of these projects that I love is that with as much of this as possible, I like to give people actual things they can do right now because so much of what’s going on right now, it feels too big. It feels too out of control for us because we only this person and you hear about the fossil fuel industry, and you’re like, okay, but I can’t take on the fossil fuel industry. So what am I supposed to do? But if you can give people actionable things they can do within their own life, then it helps us to feel connected to it, but also to do our part to make a difference.
Sonya: What are some of your favorite actionable things people can do?
Tina: One that immediately comes to mind climate wise is offset your travel. As much as you can try and minimize your flights and travel. But if you do have to travel, there are ways of offsetting it, and it’s not very expensive. But it’s a way of at least doing a small part to change that. Another thing I like is thinking about the way that you cheer for people. Within that nonbinary and gender binary episode, we talked about the fact that people might not like the fact that you say, Come on, girl, or something that is, yes, maybe simple. And people may say, oh, you’re overthinking everything. But maybe someone doesn’t want to be yelled at in that way. Or what if someone is coming back from running like I was where everything is about intensity and they’re just out there having fun. And if you keep reminding them that their fifth place girl, then you’re bringing that competitive expectation side of things back. And then to give one more is to leave the headphones, leave the music, leave the technology behind sometimes and get out in nature and just be there, be present. And it’s so easy for us now to grab our phones and be like, oh, I’m just going to walk to the mailbox. I’ll just take my phone and check something on the way, but leave that behind and really try and pay attention to your surroundings. Those are a few that jump to mind.
Sonya: And even just letting yourself be bored. Like my husband and I ordered some takeout and I intentionally left my phone at home and I intentionally stayed in the car and I was just sitting in the car. It was like silent. I was so bored and it was a weird feeling. I was like, can I read a hand sanitizer bottle? Like, I got to do something. No, this is important to feel this like itchy bored feeling.
Tina: I know it’s so hard to do nowadays. Sometimes I think about it when I’m walking up the stairs and I just check something, I’m like, are you unable to spend 10 seconds just doing an action? Yeah, it is really funny. Actually, I want to add one more, just as you being a mother and many listeners probably being mothers too. One of the ones which I absolutely loved, which was suggested about motherhood was to tell mums out there that you see exercising, maybe pushing their kids in a stroller, or maybe it’s a neighbor that you see out getting a run in early or doing weights in the driveway, tell them they’re doing a good job and they’re inspiring you. Because, as you know, and I definitely know, it is hard to get out there sometimes when you’re a new mum. And so hearing someone like observing and appreciating and recognizing the fact that you’ve made time for yourself is a massive boost. So that’s another little small one that I love hearing..
Sonya: And I want to go back to the cheering comments. This isn’t my viewpoint, but I’m sure some people listening probably have this viewpoint of, well, if I can’t cheer first, I have to worry about what I’m saying to somebody, why should I even cheer? Or like, people are way too sensitive, like there’s family members of mine where I’ve had these conversations and that’s their response to me. The world is way too politically correct, way too sensitive. It’s hard to hear those comments sometimes. I know that you had Oren Jay Sofer on your podcast as well about people just want you have to listen to what people are saying and try not to get defensive. But what would your response be to something like that?
Tina: Firstly, to say, I get it, I hear you. And that was my initial thought too. I mean, one of the other suggestions on that episode was to reach out to race directors or people in charge of events that, you know, and say to them, can you add a third category of prefer not to disclose gender or nonbinary or some other third category? And for me, that was easier, less intimidating than the one about the comment, because that’s an easy actionable thing I could do. And yes, you feel a bit awkward emailing the race director, but that felt less uncomfortable than me working through what you’re saying, which I understand that, too. And I personally actually quite like hearing like, great job first lady or like, great Job girl. But I think it is understanding, it’s that empathy piece of we don’t know what it feels like to be in another body. And just as we understand that there are certain things you wouldn’t say to a man like, oh, you’re so emotional because that would be seen as an insult, well, I guess for a man or a woman, but men don’t want to be seen as emotional or weak. So just like saying to a man, like, great job showing your vulnerability there. I don’t think someone would say that to a man, or to a woman I don’t think they’d say like you looked really gritty out there or you look so tough. Although some people would. But I would imagine the people who would have a rebuttal to that comment wouldn’t say that thing and just remind yourself that we don’t know what another person is going through, and we need to respect that, that we are all different, and none of us like it when others judge us and assume that we, as we said at the very beginning, we have a certain identity. We fit into a certain box. No one likes that when someone assumes something about us. So things are changing. In that episode or maybe it was another one, we found out that 30% of what is the next generation called, Gen Z? I think so, ormillennials? No, I think it’s Gen Z. Gen Z. Okay, whatever the newest generation is, 30% of them are identifying as either trans, nonbinary or LGBTQ.
Sonya: I had no idea.
Tina: I would also say like, this isn’t going anywhere. So you can either really try and put yourself in the shoes of that person, or you’re going to find yourself getting worked up and worked up and worked up and stressed and angry over something you can’t control, because at the end of the day, these individuals are the only people that control what they’re saying about themselves, just as we can only control what we say about ourselves. Long winded answer. But that’s the best I got.
Sonya: Well, I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier about sitting with your own discomfort. Because it is uncomfortable when you don’t know what to say or if you screw up and say the wrong thing, or if you just are unaware of what’s going on like that isn’t a discomfort. And I think sometimes people shrink away from that discomfort because they don’t want to feel incompetent, but really trying not to learn also can contribute to you feeling incompetent because…I mean, nobody knows exactly what’s going on at any given moment. And a lot of times we don’t have answers for everything, but just opening your mind and opening the conversation so that you can at least try to understand. I think that’s really important. And I think that’s a big thing that a lot of us have been working on, especially in the last couple of years.
Tina: Yeah. No, I agree. And again, it’s not easy. When I am talking to friends who are nonbinary, the amount of times I slip up and say she or say he and I’m like, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. And I like, over because I’m like, in my head, oh my god, what have I said, what am I doing? This is hard. I’m all wrong when, in fact, I just need to say, oh, I’m sorry they and then move on. But it is difficult to not then be like, why do I need to use this? Things were fine as they were before, but the more we can just keep putting ourselves in other people’s shoes or understand that we’re never going to understand how some people feel. I feel like the better off we’re going to be in every situation, like whoever… we all have opinions about people in the different viewpoints to ourselves. But the more we can give love and empathy, even if someone is making bad choices in terms of harming others, not even someone who is making a choice about how they want to live their life. I’m talking about, like, harming others. We still need to give them love and think, okay, why are they acting in this way?
Sonya: Man, we could just go on about so many of these topics, but I’m so glad that you came on the podcast and we talked about so many different things, and there’s a lot of food for thought for people. And that’s why we do this. It isn’t to tell you what to do or tell you that you’re right or wrong, but it’s just to help bring up some thoughts, maybe some conversations around the listeners, friends and family, and maybe even challenge your own view sometimes. I know that when I listen to podcasts, it’s uncomfortable when I realize, like, oh, my views might be really narrow in this area, and I have some work to do.
Tina: Yes. And I think again, back to that vulnerability thing. It’s hard for us to accept that and think that, we’ve mentioned so many points to this think, well, I’ve evolved the best or I know the most, or I read this and to think that we have that superior viewpoint. But I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of continuing to learn and grow and evolve over time. And that’s going to mean some of the things that even now that I’m die hard like, this is the right way to do things. Probably in 10 years, 15 years going to be like, well, maybe that wasn’t the best choice. It isn’t that one person knows all the answers. We all are going to be continuing to learn and grow. Hopefully.
Sonya: So where can people find all of this amazing information that you’re putting out there? And you also have products that you sell on your website, too?.
Tina: Thank you. Well, if someone didn’t get enough of rambling and talking in circles, you can find me on social media. My name is Tinamuir – T-I-N-A-M-U-I-R. Running for Real is the name of my primary podcast and then Running Realized – there are 10 episodes in season one, and we’re in talks about a season two right now so that hopefully will be out early 2022. And yes, I have some training plans on there, mental training course, and just some other products. If people are interested, thank you for the shout out for those- appreciate it.