On Loving Our Runner Bodies: A Salty Challenge Refresher

Yea, my legs are thicker than a supermodels. But, you know what, I'm okay with that. They carry me through marathons.
My legs carry me through marathons. Who cares what they look like?!

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.

Barbie doll in hand knitted sweater made of ha...
I mean really, who determines what the “perfect” body is? Mattel? Gross! Love what you’ve got. (Photo credit: Hegemony77 doll clothes)

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?

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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  1. I have been dissatisfied with my body for far too long and I was getting sick of it. Running has helped me appreciate my body for what it is able to no, but for how it looks. I am learning to embrace myself, large leg muscles and all 😉

  2. Oh, girl! I, for one, needed a little refresher on this. I some times feel like this last pregnancy really wrecked my body more than the other two (I’m sure it’s more of a cumulative effect). The skin on my stomach is more stretched out and my abs are pushed further forward. It’s so hard not to fixate on that rather than how lucky I am to hardly have any stretch marks or how lucky I am that I can run as much as I do with three little kids and carry them and hey, keep up with them! It’s funny how those relatively insignificant flaws grab our attention like they do when there are billions more awesome things about our bodies than small boobs or a little dimple on our butts!

    1. AGREED!!! Salty, I might come running to you as a mentor if I’m ever blessed to have some babies! I know my body is going to change and I know it’s going to be a hurdle… but, I also know if I had to choose between a ripped stomach or a little munchkin to call my own, I’d take the latter any day.

  3. Such a great post. I generally think my body image is ok…and then I get race photos back and spend ages obsessing about the strange way I carry my head, whether my Rogas are too tight and if my waist looks wide. UGH…being a girl!

  4. This is a valuable reminder, especially for those of us with daughters in the house. I run while she plays soccer, and at the end we compliment one another on how strong we looked out there, rather than how “pretty,” or “thin,” or whatever. I would just like to add one thing…it’s not only about being satisfied with your body image, but also your abilities and limits and respecting your body when it needs to rest, or heal (or eat!). What a great post and great message – thank you!

    1. Just read this post and it was just what I needed! I am 14 weeks postpartum and get down on myself because my abs don’t quite look the same yet (baby no. 2 so I should understand it takes time.) I am more than blessed by a body capable or running up to 4 days before delivery and being able start up again 2 weeks pp (not training intensity though). Salty – reading through your series was such an encouragement btw! I’ve accomplished so much and need to be proud of my body for creating this bundle of joy, listing the weight even if there’s not a washboard for abs, nursing and caring for this child and still staying strong to run and be wonderful! Thank you!