Like most women, through the years I’ve obsessed over just about every part on my body. There was always something I was trying to improve on – more definition in my quads, a perkier butt, better shoulder cap…and the list goes on and on. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure!
But when we start to feel this way it’s important to take a second look in the mirror and see our bodies through runners’ eyes.
I never really cared about any of this until my mid 30s; I had always been tall and thin without having to work at it. At age 35 I started running, which eventually led to lifting weights, cycling, and becoming a certified fitness instructor. Suddenly exercise was a huge part of my life, and through the variety of workouts I was doing, my body started to change. Instead of just being thin, I had muscle definition in all the right places. The more I got, the more I wanted. My interest in more muscle coincided with becoming a little burned out by running. The constant pursuit of PRs and more speed was stressing me out, and running wasn’t fun anymore. Lifting weights, however, was a blast, and for most of 2010 the only running I did was high intensity sprinting to burn off body fat.
I joined a few online bodybuilding forums, and became really interested in competing in a physique competition. Unfortunately they were way too expensive for my bank account, so I settled for the next best thing – a virtual competition. The entry fee was only $25, and all I had to do was submit before and after pics and measurements. Hello chicken breasts, leafy greens, and egg whites. I said good-bye to most carbs, and hello to more lean protein than I’d ever eaten in my life! The weights continued to get heavier, the cardio became shorter but more intense, and in 6 months I was ready for the final pictures (after getting a spray tan and greasing myself from neck to toes with Pam cooking spray).
That transformation was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, and while I would have loved to look like that forever, I realized the diet I had been following and the workouts I had been doing weren’t exactly sustainable long term. I also missed running, so as the spray tan faded, I began to trade some of my muscle for more miles. Before long I was training for a marathon, and my weight lifting happened only a couple times a week.
Yesterday I caught my reflection in the mirror as I passed by in my underwear, and I saw a lot more of the “before” pic than the “after”. It’s not what I saw that surprised me; it’s what I thought – or didn’t think. Not one body part screamed at me to fix it, and I realized I had just looked at my body using my runner’s eyes.
Instead of skinny calves I saw calf muscles that, without fail, propel me up the hills. Instead of quads that need more definition, I saw slender legs that have just enough muscle to push me through the speed intervals and keep my knees on track. I thanked my glutes for knowing when to kick in for that final sprint across the finish line, without scrutinizing them for signs of a glute fold. I’ve been blessed with fairly flat abs, for which I’m thankful, and I thanked them again for helping keep my core strong and stable. My shoulders are big players in the arm pump that helps my legs move faster, and I excused them for not looking like I have built-in shoulder pads.
I choose the workouts and foods that will hopefully help me be a stronger, faster, lifelong runner. My kitchen is fully stocked with healthy carbs once again, and my taste for chicken breasts has disappeared. If any of my choices result in a glute fold or less definition in my quads, so be it. My body looks pretty darn good through my runner’s eyes.
When was the last time you looked at your body through your runner’s eyes? What parts are you most thankful for?