Seven years ago, when Naomi Adeyefa was a 19-year-old college student, a coworker presented her with a challenge: to work her way up to running two miles in just two weeks. At the time, Adeyefa was not a runner — in fact, she considered it “torture,” and as a person with asthma, running was something she thought she’d never be able to excel in. But if this coworker could do it — a woman in her 60s who only picked up running herself at age 40 — she figured she could at least give it a shot. After working at it for two weeks, she hit her goal — and she hasn’t looked back since. “Basically, a little old lady I consider my adoptive grandmother dared me to run two miles...and here we are now,” she laughs.
Now, at 26, Adeyefa runs a mental health- and fitness-focused TikTok account where she shares her personal experiences and struggles, and the camaraderie she’s found among her followers has been life-changing. “Finding that so many people resonated with my story was really moving,” she says. “I have this little corner of the internet made up of a cool community of supportive people, and we’re all rooting for each other.”
At the center of her content is her running-as-self-care journey, which has become all the more important since recently picking up her life in Miami to move to New York City and attend grad school. It’s running that’s helped her take better control of her emotions, ease her anxiety, and, overall, feel more empowered as she navigates a major life transition. “Running has become a way for me to check in with myself — and show up for myself,” she says. “It reminds me that I can do hard things. I feel stronger after a run, but not in an ‘I’m lifting weights’ kind of way; I believe in myself much more and find it helps motivate me to achieve goals in all areas of my life.”
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But she admits that dealing with the stressors of her day-to-day — going back to school while trying to plant roots in a new city — means she hasn’t been able to run as often as she’d like. Still, even sporadic runs have helped her immensely. “It just helps me feel better and really balances me out,” explains Adeyefa, who has also found that running is a way to familiarize herself with her new neighborhood, pointing to the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 as a lightweight, shock-absorbing go-to that’s supportive, comfortable, and durable. “Whenever I’m feeling anxious or worried about something, I go on a run to calm any racing thoughts. If I’m stressed about a school assignment, I’ll squeeze in a 10-minute jog before I begin working on it so I can approach it with a clearer head.”
There’s no tried-and-true “recipe” for becoming a runner, but Adeyefa does believe in two things: 1) to figure out your main goal — maybe it’s to wind down after particularly stressful work days, or it’s to kick off your mornings with a mood-boosting runner’s high — and use it to keep yourself motivated, and 2) to pinpoint what feels good for you without pushing yourself too far. “You should work toward your goal,” she says, “and only challenge yourself in a way that feels fun — always find the fun in it.”