As runners, we should love our bodies. Strong. Able to carry us many miles. Incredible lungs. Powerful muscles. Legs that are capable of striding us through so many training runs. We are living miracles – each atom, cell, tissue and ligament is intricately crafted to allow us to do just what we love to do: run.
Unfortunately, after being inundated by unrealistic-for-most-of-us images of washboard-abbed elites and stick thin supermodels on a daily basis, most of us don’t only not love our bodies, but many of us consciously or subconsciously hate them. We compare ourselves. We nitpick over our muscular thighs that are just too “bulky”. We hate on those little dimples of cellulite that are all too common, no matter how many miles we run. We are self-conscious about our bellies and even our runner feet. We don’t look in the mirror and think miracle.
We think ugh.
It’s time for a 2013 reminder of our first 2012 Salty Challenge: forget the nit-picking and love our bodies for what they do!
After all, we are freaking fortunate to have a working body that allows us to run in the first place. Not only is it good for our own sake and well-being, but also for our next generation’s, because we most certainly have an effect on our kids’ perspective. Do we want those girls participating in Girls on the Run or the little girls running circles around the boys on the playground to hate their bodies? Of course not! But their body love starts with ours.
Studies suggest that over 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Are you? As we train for our fall races and get into the best shape of our lives, do we still have “issues” with our thighs, our arms and our tummies? Is “good shape” never good enough? Are you always striving to reach a body that simply isn’t the one you were given? I’ve had some gentle reminders over the past couple of days, reminding me that to come full circle with recovery from my eating disorder, I have to truly love my body for all that it does and all that it is.
I went on a long trail run last Sunday morning. I love getting out to the trail because I see so many runners along the way. Each and everyone is different – in bone structure, in height, in weight, in shoe size- but they are all out there for the same reason. No matter the talent, the speed, the years of experience, each and every one of them are out there enjoying the feeling of freedom and accomplishment that a long run on a crisp fall morning can bring.
Insert gentle reminder that the body shouldn’t be taken for granted: as I was running, I passed a beautiful young woman speed walking. She only had one arm. Whether it was a birth defect or an accident, it didn’t matter; she had two fully functioning legs and a stride like a gazelle.
Human body = amazing.
Human spirit = more amazing.
With a smile on her face and a cheery demeanor, she reminded me to make the most out of the cards I was dealt. Just being able to run – that is amazing in and of itself.
I ate another piece of positive body image pie when I saw a link posted on my friend’s Facebook page concerning the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. If you haven’t checked out this project, I encourage you to do so. Basically, the 4th Trimester Bodies Project is a photo documentary where photographer and mother Ashlee Wells Jackson exposes real post-pregnancy bodies, embracing the changes that come along with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. How cool is that? Running marathons, reproducing… these are the miracles of the body. It’s time to start loving it.
I oftentimes turn to one of my favorite resources – The National Eating Disorder Association– when I’m having a “down in the dumps” day with body image. They usually have the right things to say, just when I need them. Thought I’d share just a few of their tips on ’20 Ways to Love Your Body’ by Margo Main, PhD. Maybe they’ll give you just the boost you need to turn your mentality around if you woke up on the wrong side of the positive body image bed this morning.
1.) Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.
2.) Create a list of all the things your body allows you to do (like running!). Relish in it.
3.) Be your body’s best friend. Not its enemy. After all, you’re only getting one in this life.
4.) Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks and your skeleton every three months. Your body is extraordinary—begin to respect and appreciate it.
5.) Eat when you are hungry. Take a nap when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that bring you up, not down.
I hope this post can provide you with what you need today to walk out that door and take that other 2012 Salty Challenge and run in your sports bra with 100% confidence – because you are beautiful and your body is amazing.
Do you find it difficult to let go of your negative thoughts about how your body looks? What do you do to crush the negativity and focus on the amazing things your body does?
For me, personally, running puts me in tune with my physical body more than any other life activity. Each step, each breath, and each completed stride reminds me of the strength that lies within. It also reminds me that to keep healthy, I must care for my physical body. To care for my physical body, I must learn to love it. That’s why I embrace the Salty Challenge to love my body for what it does rather than how it looks.
Won’t you join me?