Tennyson said that in spring, a young man’s fancy turns to love, and this may be true for men, but for most women I know, in spring, our thoughts turn to exercise.
After the pale, sluggish winter retreats, our pale, sluggish thighs emerge, and something must be done about them before beach season arrives in force. Since nobody really wants to eat less, all that’s left to do is exercise, so we can lose 35 pounds and keep it off, like Carla did.
But when you look like Carla, it’s much easier to go outside and run around scantily clad. It’s tougher for those of us who look more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
I applaud and embrace Carla’s motto — Unapologetically Myself – but some days it takes a Woman of Steel to go forth and exercise in public when there’s no visible steel in you, just Upper Arms of Jelly.
“How long does it take before the embarrassment of running goes away?” someone recently asked me. I think she was hoping I would say “one week, four hours” or “the minute you get past your mailbox.”
I wish I could have.
But the truth is, I’ve been running for more than 25 years, am pretty damned good at it, and yet there still are days that I’m embarrassed. Usually, these are days in which I make the enormous, soul-slaying mistake of LOOKING IN A MIRROR.
This is pretty much always a bad idea. Because most American women, no matter what size they are, think they are fat.
I wrote a book about being a fat runner, and every time I give a talk on the subject, some beautiful lissome creature will come up to me afterwards, and whisper to me, “I’m a size 4, but I feel so fat.”
Fat is a state of mind, not a number on scale.
When I first started running, I weighed around 180 pounds, and felt thick and slow and walrusy. But I stuck with it, and after a while, I lost about 30 pounds and felt thin.
Then I got pregnant, not once but four times, and in my last pregnancy, I topped 220 pounds. Losing 40 pounds was arduous with three kids and a newborn, but when I got to 180, let me tell you, I felt THIN.
The deception can work both ways. Personally, I think reality is highly overrated, particularly when it keeps me from experiencing the joy of endorphins.
Knowing that regardless what the reality is – that I can have a “walrus day” even if I lose 50 pounds and am solidly gazelle — I’ve come up with a strategy for combating my walrus days. Mine involves sunglasses, a baseball cap, and a pair of fingerless bicycling gloves.
The sunglasses and the baseball cap, of course, are classic disguises. So what if you look fat? Nobody will know who you are!
The bicycle gloves? Hell if I know. But they make me feel powerful and tough.
Everyone has something that makes them feel powerful and tough. Or at least they should. A tattoo, a wicked-bad pedicure, a toe ring, a nose ring … whatever… just something that screams Unapologetically Myself, in those times that, for whatever reason, you yourself can’t.
Put that thing on, and out the door you go.
Am I really a tough, warrior athlete when I’m strutting down the street with my pale, slow thighs rubbing together like a couple of lovesick Honeybaked hams? Nah, it’s just marshmallowy ol’ me, baffling passers-by with my bicycle gloves, and quite possibly looking rather silly. But sometimes the feeling matters more than reality, and in the end, I win.
I get the endorphins.
I get outside.
Reality is highly overrated.
The FABULOUS Jennifer Graham is the author of Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner, published by Breakaway Books. Follow her on Twitter, on Facebook, or check her out her running blog.