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Don’t Disrespect Your Body: A Conversation with Adina Crawford

Adina Crawford in a yoga pose

Have you ever felt out of place in a running or fitness community? If so, Adina Crawford is here to advocate for you. Crawford inspires followers across the country with positive messages to welcome people of all shapes, races, sizes, ages and abilities to fitness, running and yoga.

Crawford serves as an ambassador for several organizations and companies such as Black Girls Run, Black Girls Do Bike, Nuun and Honeystinger, to name a few. But 10 years before she was a certified yoga instructor, community advocate and influencer, Crawford lived a mostly sedentary lifestyle and struggled with a lack of motivation to exercise.

Crawford decided to teach yoga as a way to celebrate diversity and community. Occasionally, it blends into her full-time job, too. Crawford lives in the Washington, D.C., metro area where she works as the civilian manager for the Montgomery County Police Department. On occasion she is tapped to lead yoga and mindfulness workshops for the police force, to ease their on-the-job stress.

Fleet Feet caught up with Crawford over the phone to learn more about her work.

Photo courtesy of @tikimareneefitness

Adina Crawford doing yoga on a grassy field

FF: You recently shared an Instagram post about the importance of celebrating our bodies and sharing our authentic selves. Why do you think this is important?

CRAWFORD: That’s a big one, and a tough conversation. Social media can be soul-crushing for a lot of people. Not everybody is a size two, four or six, right? So, it’s important, wherever you are in your journey with your weight, that you celebrate you. Give yourself permission to be you. Don’t disrespect your body. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

It’s funny, one day I posted a picture after I did the Chicago marathon. A guy I went to school with commented, “Wow, this is amazing to see you do this when in junior high you always sat out.”

I didn’t take offense to it, it just brought more awareness to me. Looking at my body back then, I was not active or athletic when I was growing up. Everyone in my family was sedentary and we ate horribly. I would make every excuse not to take gym class at school. I hated it. I was tall. I got called Sasquatch.

My thing is celebrate where you are at this moment. You have the power to love yourself no matter what. No matter how you feel. Don’t feel guilty, and stop blaming yourself. I know people who will say things like, “I’m fat because my mother was fat,” but, no, you’re in control of your own destiny. You can work with what you have and continue to strive for better. That’s all you have to do.

Photo courtesy of Mark Williford

It’s OK if you laugh at this, but if you have a kangaroo pouch, that’s your pouch. You take care of yourself and your pouch. Everyone has a journey, and there’s a story behind everything. I don’t pass judgment on anyone.

FF: What difference does it make to decide to love yourself no matter what?

CRAWFORD: When I posted that, people messaged me publicly and privately to say that they needed to hear that, that positive reinforcement. Sometimes you need the ability to say this is me, this is where I am. I won’t be here forever. I’m working toward a better goal. And you have to remind yourself of that every single day. It has to come from within.

I’m the type of person who will wear something maybe two sizes too big. And my friends are like why are you wearing baggy clothes? I used to be so self conscious about how I look. Today I give—excuse my language—zero damns. This is where I’m at, y’all.

I know what I have to do. I may be more than the average person, or someone else may be moving more than me. And that’s perfectly fine. I’m more of an encourager and inspirer. I’ll see friends who usually aren’t active, but they are posting on Facebook that they’re doing a walk or a run. I’m virtually cheering them on, and sending them high fives.

FF: What advice do you have for someone who doesn’t think that they belong in the running community?

CRAWFORD: There is space for everybody. You will be welcomed. There are some snooty patootie groups out there, and they aren’t worth spending time with. But, find your tribe. It may not be the first group you go to. You may have to go to a couple, but it’s so important. Whatever you do, do it for yourself. You should never compare yourself to anybody else.

Adina Crawford

FF: You have gone through quite a transformation, from a lack of motivation to exercise, to becoming a fitness influencer. How long have you been on this fitness journey?

CRAWFORD: Maybe over 10 years. Of course, when you get married, you settle into a routine and feel like you don't have to do anything. My husband, who has always been athletic and fit, would say you have to get off the couch and you need to exercise. And I used to take it personally. I kept missing the point. Eventually a lightbulb went off. And now, fitness has become the center of my joy. And it continues to be a journey. The work is not done.

Photo courtesy of @tikimareneefitness

FF: What makes fitness so joyful for you?

CRAWFORD: The sense of relief, the sense of being, and more self-awareness for myself. I can do this. I may not have the range of motion of a 26 year old, but I can still move, and I’m grateful for that. It brings a sense of accomplishment when you complete an exercise.

FF: Do you follow a schedule? How do you structure your training?

CRAWFORD: I used to follow a regimented schedule. Now I don’t. I make a commitment to do something at least four to five days a week because I teach also and count that into my schedule. On Thursdays I run. On Sundays I run or cycle. Maybe tomorrow I’ll lift. It can be a bit sporadic in my mind, but I just make a plan, know what my plan is, and do it. Sometimes Plan A doesn’t come through, so I don’t want to put too many parameters on myself.

FF: Do you find that working out is less stressful if you don’t follow a strict regimen?

CRAWFORD: Absolutely. I used to follow a strict schedule. Run Monday, lift Tuesday, swim Wednesday, that type of thing. But I go with the flow now. I know I have to move whether it’s cycling, running, lifting, yoga, or swimming. And I do take rest days. Those rest days are really important to rejuvenate yourself.

FF: What does a rest day look like for you?

CRAWFORD: A rest day is catching up. Maybe it’s reading. Actually, now I’m in a program to teach energy healing through yoga. It’s pretty neat. I’m taking a course online to add those methodologies into my yoga. It’s very peaceful and insightful.

FF: Yoga and mindfulness elements have been finding their way into the mainstream more and more. Do you think a person needs to be spiritual to get into these practices? Would you say it’s accessible for everyone?

CRAWFORD: It’s accessible for everyone. To me, it has nothing to do with how spiritual you are. It’s about your own mindset and what you’re willing to put into it.

Of course, for the last seven months our lives have been upended by the coronavirus. People have lost their jobs and their income. But even with so many factors stressing us out, if you can take five to 10 minutes to remove busy thoughts and find your own peace, it can make you more tolerant of a lot of things.

It makes you into a better human, when you do it with consistency, and it relieves a whole lot of stress. I find that when I teach meditation, people find comfort in taking 45 minutes away from everything. It’s just them and the mat. It’s so important.

FF: How can yoga and mindfulness practices benefit runners?

CRAWFORD: You have to find time to create space for bones to rejuvenate, to reset. Running causes so much tightness and stiffness. Yoga helps runners to lengthen and strengthen and open up space throughout the body. There are specific sequences that I teach and particular poses that can compliment any type of runner. It’s so important to balance your body rather than using running alone.

FF: You are an ambassador and board member for Black Girls Run (BGR). What does this group mean to you? What makes BGR so special?

CRAWFORD: BGR to me is family. It’s fellowship. It’s accountability, it’s connection. A dear friend of mine asked if I wanted to join them as I was training for the Nike Women’s half marathon in DC many years ago. Eventually I became a run coordinator and then an ambassador. I work collaboratively with three other ambassadors in DC. It has been life for me. Coming from a place where I weighed over 300 pounds down to where I am now, to making so many friends. I have attended weddings and baby showers. BGR is like my extended family.

Follow Black Girls Run on Instagram @OfficialBlackGirlsRun

FF: You live an incredibly busy and active life, between your full-time job and being an ambassador and teacher. What do you do to stay centered and balance it all?

I pray. I love to get a mani, pedi, a massage. I take the time to disconnect and wind down.

Follow Adina Crawford on Instagram at Deanietheyogini and at her website Adinacrawford.weebly.com.

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.