Love That Skin You Are In

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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23 thoughts on “Love That Skin You Are In

  1. Great post. Since childhood I have felt overweight and struggled. Looking back at old pictures, I wasn’t overweight at all. I guess men and women can struggle with this, but we probably handle it differently. When I was nearly 300 lbs, I would look in the mirror and think, “It could be worse”. I’m not sure which attitude is worse, thinking you’re overweight when you aren’t or not caring if you actually are. Sorry to ramble, but you made me think.

    • Thanks for sharing that. I completely agree. Ever since junior high I always felt “fat.” And then I would see a pic froma few months ago and think I looked good back then but now I don’t. Good grief. What an endless cycle. So much easier when you can (mostly) let go of that.

  2. Thanks, Sarah. I’ve been in a funk as of late as people are telling me I look good and asking if I’ve lost weight and all I have to tell them is nope, just gaining some back. Seems I’m listening to the scale more than the people (which is kinda stupid, I know). While I have slacked on the running, I can still run a solid 15-20 minutes and need to remind myself that a year and a half ago I would have felt like I was going to die to even run for 2 minutes. Thanks again for the reminder.

    • If your friends are telling you they think you look great listen to them. It takes more time for the people we know to see the changes than anyone else. I honestly only use the scale as a refernce point. If it keeps going up i know to make some changes. But how i feel and how my clothes feel is my best reference. Get out of that funk and fast because word is you look great!!

  3. Great post! And you are so right! Any time I go to a race expo I swear that every woman I see looks like a better runner than me – they have that long-legged lean look that this 5 ft 3 person is never going to have – and I’m always convinced that I’m going to finish last. But really there is no such thing as a runner’s body (unless you’re an elite – they kinda look the same). We train hard and should be proud of what are bodies can do – and how they look really is just a by-product of that. And shame on that doctor – that could easily be a trigger for someone with a poor body image.

    • I hear you. Nevet going to be Shalane, speed or bodywise. But I’m learning to be quite okay with that. By the way, I confess to being a tad jealous of your running legs in some of your race pics!

  4. this is such a great reminder and def resonates with me, and probably with a lot of women. i also have really strong legs and for years would compare myself to other women with such long, thin legs…and we all have our own journeys to self acceptance and self love. i’m glad you shared this.

  5. That is so true about never judging a book by its cover! At races, you just never know! I also love reading about your skating days!!! Do you ever miss it? Having 4 girls… I refuse to have a weight scale in my home. So I have not weighed myself in about 2-3 years at least! We don’t talk about losing weight or “feeling fat” or any if that here at the house. I don’t want my girls thinking that’s why I run (to lose weight). I want them to know that I do it because I enjoy it and it makes me feel good. Thanks for the post!

    • This is so important. Those skating days left me very insecure about my body for a very long time. I am much happier and more confident now but i definitely have my moments. I do miss skating at times. I loved jumping. But these days it would be too dangerous to try all of that stuff so I find a lot of pleasure in helping little ones learn the basics and watching them do it for the first time. You girls are lucky to grow up in such a positive environment. It will make a huge differnce as they get older.

      • Well i do love hearing about your skating days… It is very fasinating! I would hate the jumping and being thrown in the air… Im a wimp that way! There is too much pressure on the body image! It’s sad but all we can do is be happy with ourselves and teach those around us the same thing. You are amazing!!!

  6. This is so true. Runners come in all shapes and sizes and you can never tell who is going to be a speed demon. I had a young guy come up to me after a half marathon recently to thank me for kicking his ass. He had pegged me as a target for overtaking around mile 6 and I had just kept getting faster and he never managed it (he is creepily behind me in every one of my race photos …).

  7. I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been said by everyone else so I will cap off by saying great post and thanks for the reminder to appreciate what our bodies do for us instead of how they look. I’m very jealous of my tiny sister-in-law who has had two children but my hubby always reminds me that she is not active at all and has a horrible back and that I am physically in way better shape then she is.

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