A few weeks ago I met an athlete I had been working with at the end of the race and she was celebrating a major PR. As we chatted she talked about how proud of herself she was and how she really felt like she was in the best shape of her life. Then she mentioned that she hadn’t lost any weight yet, sigh, but she was still feeling good. I was agreeing with her about how incredibly in shape she was at the time. But later when I thought about it and my husband and I were chatting he agreed that she was looking very fit and that she definitely looked like her body had transformed. It was such a nice discussion that I had to text her later that evening and tell her because hey, I would want to know if people had noticed my hard work paying off.
It reminded me at the time of how different runners can look and how it isn’t always about being that model image of the elite marathoner you see on the cover of magazines. I had mentioned to my husband that I wanted to do a blog post about our bodies but we both agreed that it might be too touchy of a subject. But lately I have seen a ton of posts and articles so I figured what the heck, let’s go for it.
For many of you that know my story, I was a competitive figure skater for nearly 12 years. Part of the figure skating world is very focused on bodies and maintaining that tiny figure. Of course much of that has to do with being able to throw yourself up into the air and rotate 3 times before lightly landing on one foot and gliding away. But there is certainly an “image” that is strived for. I spent a long time working towards being that tiny little image and it wasn’t always healthy. I’ve always had big muscular legs and I hated going to ballet classes and comparing my legs in the mirror to the girls around me. But you know what? I didn’t realize at the time that I was often the only girl in that room medaling at competitions or landing triple jumps. Those were my power forces.
Fast forward to the past few years and I started taking yoga classes. One day a teacher stopped me before class and thanked me for coming. She said I was doing a great job as a new student but had one recommendation. She would love to see me more focused in class and not looking around in the mirror. I was caught! I was still comparing myself in the mirror to all those other legs in the room.
A few years ago I was at my first marathon and I stood at the start line admiring all of the other runners. We are a beautiful bunch and we wear some fun stuff! I saw a woman around my age in a little pair of shorts with gorgeously toned legs and a tiny sports bra. She had a six pack of abs that I would die for. I just knew she was the one to beat! When the gun went off we set about at our 8 minute per mile pace and two miles in we flew past that woman. I was slightly surprised. Near the end as I finished with a Boston qualifying time I crossed the line near a girl I had chatted with a few times on the course. Like me she had nice big thighs. She wasn’t rocking a six pack and by running standards probably could have lost a few pounds. But let me tell you, that girl could run!
If there was ever a lesson to be learned at that race it was, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” Runners come in all shapes and sizes and so do muscles. I started running in the hopes that those big skater muscles would lean out but in fact they just got firmer. My big old calves have actually had women in Harlem come up behind me and start stroking my legs. No joke! And while I might want them to shrink a bit, others seem to love those things. And those bad boys (or girls) gave me some killer race times. That girl that I ran with was one fierce runner and many women would killed to have her body and those muscles.
The key here is to be happy with the body you are running in. You have worked hard for it. Running isn’t easy but the payoff is muscle and somehow it comes in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. But you earned that muscle and that is important to remember.
I often step on the scale at doctor’s appointments and watch nurse’s as they look at my weight in surprise. Yeah, yeah, I don’t weigh what I look like. I even recently had one ignorant physician look at the scale and tell my that by the scale’s standards I could be as much as 10 pounds over weight. I left angry, not hurt or upset with my body, but angry with that person. Had I not come to terms with and learned to love my body I would have been very hurt by his words and really believed what he said. But the truth is, I run hard, I run a lot, I eat healthy (and a lot) and unless I go the unhealthy route or stop eating any of those fun foods that I love so much, those 10 pounds aren’t coming off of me in a healthy fashion.
A friend of mind recently went to Athleta to get a pair or pants and when she mentioned to the sales person that she didn’t like how her legs looked in the pants the sales girl reminded her that those legs are what power her through runs. My friend wasn’t looking for that response, and I understand that. But honestly, we have to remember that those legs POWER us through those runs and our bodies push us through those workouts. We can always strive to be healthier and happier people but it is time to love the skin we are in as well as everyone else around us.