Meet Alison. We’ve been following her on Instagram for a few years now, inspired by the way she makes real change with the communities she has created. Alison is the founder of Harlem Run, Run4AllWomen, and other powerful movements. We are honored to share her story and the event she is sharing with us all; Meaning Thru Movement. Let’s jump in…
Alison, tell us a little about yourself: I’m a community builder, activist, mental health coach, and mom. I’ve been building wellness communities for the past 7 years and have met thousands of people along the way, including my now husband who I met via instagram! I believe deeply in the transformative power of community and movement – both of which saved my life.
What inspired you to start running and how has that motivation changed over the years?
Growing up, I was very active and participated in many activities, including track. In fact, my father gave me the nickname “powdered feet ” which describes somebody so active that you never see them just the footprints of where they’ve been in powder. In middle school, I made it to the junior olympics in the 80 meter hurdles, and in high school I focused on the 400m and 400mh. It wasn’t until 2012 that I ran my first marathon after going thru a period of depression and seeing how a friend of mine’s life changed for the better through his own marathon training. So I started running distance for my mental health and, while I continue to do so, I discovered a massive community in running and now also run to connect with others, feel part of something bigger than myself, and to create social change.
What does courage feel like or look like for you?
Courage is using your voice/privilege/position to say/do the thing that needs to be said/done – whether that’s using your voice as an activist to highlight inequity or using your voice to showcase vulnerability.
I feel most grounded when: I’m having a good run/in the flow state
(According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the mental state of flow is described as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”)
If I could change one thing about the world (outside of the pandemic) it would be: institutionalized racism
When I’m feeling unmotivated to move my body I: listen to my body!
As a new mom, what has been the biggest surprise to you regarding running or motivation postpartum?
That many of the changes to my body will be permanent; that there’s no going back to my previous body (of previous self). Being inundated with all of the “snap back” culture, I really thought that I’d return to how I previously looked/felt fairly quickly. I’m learning to respect my new body and the way it moves. I’m also embracing “body neutrality” and rejecting the notion of body positivity which I’m finding to be oppressive. With body neutrality, I can respect my body without the pressure of having to love it or give too much thought to my physical being.
As a therapist, activist, now mother, (and so much more) what is your message surrounding mental health and movement?
Movement and mental health go hand – I know this from my own personal experience, the stories of people close to me and those who I’ve worked with as a therapist and, most recently, through scientific study.
The Meaning Thru Movement (MTM) tour is a nationwide series of events designed to bring the conversation about mental health and wellbeing into the running and fitness space. I see the MTM tour as the culmination of all of my work as a fitness advocate, mental health professional and community activist. Running made such an impact on my life – to be honest it saved my life – and led me on this path, and I feel it’s really my imperative to share what I’ve learned with other people. I’m very excited that this tour is free, making it accessible to communities across the United States, and hopefully providing an opportunity to normalize conversations around mental health, particularly in communities of color.
Physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. We are so excited about the Meaning Thru Movement tour, can you give us a taste of what this will look like for participants? So what can you expect?
- 5/30/20, “Self Compassion in a Covid-19 World” with Olivia Massey
- 6/27/20: “Addressing Intergenerational Trauma” with Mack Exilius
- 7/11/20: “ Examining Power, Oppression and Privilege” with Kenya Crawford
- 7/18/20: “ Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” with Lisa A. Smith
- 8/23/20: “ Mental Health in Marginalized Communities” with Jor-El Caraballo
- 9/26/20: “Unlocking Your Potential” with Emily Saul
- TBD: “Relationships That Make You Feel Well and Whole” with Josie Rosario
Due to the current pandemic, this event will be a virtual series and everyone will have access. It’s free and you’ll hope you opt in. Registration is here.
Thank you Alison, for your time and all you do for the running community, women’s running community, and the world at-large.