Where do these stories we tell ourselves come from? As I try to make sense of how I came to feel such disdain for my body I am reminded of how I was acutely aware from an early age that my body was different than other girls. I also decided that I wasn’t capable of being athletic presumably because of my bigger body.
I remember vividly standing in line in my elementary school gym waiting to hang from the pull up bar. It was part of the Presidential Physical Education Challenge. I was so nervous. Finally it was my turn. I grabbed the bar, held on for dear life and lasted probably less than 20 seconds. That part is a little hazy, but I remember even back in grade school accepting the fact that I simply was not athletic.
My Junior High school housed the swimming pool so we were expected to take swimming as part of gym class in 8th and 9th grade, quite possibly the pinnacle of awkward body image issues for prepubescent and pubescent teen aged girls. I feigned pink eye (spray Aqua Net near your eye or rub something near your eye), headaches and menstrual cramps to get out of the dreaded swim class. And when I didn’t have a physical ailment I could complain to the school nurse about I simply “forgot” my bathing suit. I mean really, are you freaking kidding me? You want an already self-conscious overweight teen to strip down in an open locker room amongst her female classmates, get into a bathing suit and then jump into a pool full of boys. Um no!
The only penalty for not attending swim class was to stay after school one day a week and make it up. The make up class was simply swimming laps. I was a strong swimmer and that was a piece of cake, plus I was usually one of the only people there while the swim team practiced in the other half of the pool. The best part was the gym teacher didn’t care if I wore a shirt over my bathing suit after school, but during school we could not. So I would swim my laps effortlessly and still received credit for gym class. On two occasions I was approached by the swim coach to try out for the team. I never did and I kick myself now thinking back. Not only would I have made friends, I probably would have lost some weight naturally from the increase in exercise. I also may have realized my athletic abilities a lot earlier.
I was a dancer and took dancing lessons well into my teen years. However, I didn’t equate dancing with being athletic. I loved dancing, but shied away from ballet which I considered to be for petite slender girls not big clunky girls as I thought of myself. I took jazz and tap instead. I loved dancing, but never felt graceful and elegant as I dreamed I should.
And the list goes on. In my head I’ve always been the “big” girl and therefore I was not meant to be athletic. By college the only physical activity I did was to walk to and from class. During serious attempts at weight loss walking was my go to exercise and I could walk for very long periods of time at a good clip. It was just walking, though, I told myself.
Ironically each year on the third Monday in April I would tune into coverage of the Boston Marathon, reduced to tears as the winners and those to follow crossed the finish line. Never once during those broadcasts did I consider running myself.
As part of the Love Your Body challenge today’s mantra is: ”I am capable of _________, and that’s awesome. In fact, I am capable of anything I set my mind to, that I am willing to work for. “
My mantra would be: I am capable of being an athlete, and that’s awesome…
Today’s action step is a choice between:
1. Engage in the activity that you talked about in your mantra if possible, and if it makes you smile. Remember to repeat the mantra while you are doing it.
2. Think about something that you’ve been wanting to do/learn/practice/master for a long time, and set yourself a reasonable time limit to achieve it. Reasonable is the key word here. Keep repeating the mantra to remind yourself that you can do anything that you set your mind to as long as you’ll work for it.
I’ve done both. This morning I attended my usual Vinyasa yoga class, but there was a substitute instructor who had a totally different style than my instructor. I was challenged from beginning to end. Of course I also went for a run today, but not just any old training run. I’m running with a friend as she prepares for her first 5K. She is doing an incredible job training. She is super motivated. She is losing weight naturally and healthily. She is also loving running and pushing herself to go a little further each time. We ran almost 4 miles this morning on a rather hilly route. She didn’t back down once. I’m so excited for her and thrilled to be a part of her training. We will run a 5K at the end of April and she is already talking about doing my favorite 10K this summer.
As for the second option above I have hinted around the blog that I’ve been thinking a lot about running an ultra marathon. I did the Fat Ass 50K back in December and although that is technically an ultra it was a torturous 10 redundant loops through and around a paved park. I would really like to experience a 50 mile ultra marathon on trail. I’ve come along way from the “big” girl who wasn’t meant to be athletic. I’m truly in awe of what my body has accomplished in the last 5 years. It’s time to see what else it’s capable of accomplishing. So on my 13th wedding anniversary I will be running the Vermont 50! In preparation for the 50 mile race I will be running the Vermont City Marathon on May 25th, ironically, the same day registration opens for the Vermont 50. Training started about a month ago. I’m happily settling into a routine with a very new style of training plan. I have a few other races planned and a goal or two I hope to accomplish along the way.
I’m not sure how my story started, but I’m so glad that I decided to change how it ends.