In Shape to Work Out

29 Jul
womens_running_cover

Courtesy of Women’s Running

I have large thighs. Occasionally they look like tree trunks. As I’ve gotten older, my arms have gotten wobbly. I have the opposite of a six-pack. And there’s flab in places I’d prefer it not to be.

I’m also a runner.

When perusing health magazines–or magazines in general–you won’t come across people who look much like me. But get out on the trail, and you’ll find us there. Those of us with short legs and jiggly butts. Those of us who’ve never had flat stomachs but possess awkward gaits. We’re out there with the supermodels and the model parents. We’re making full use of what nature has provided in order to make ourselves healthy.

We’re out there with people like Erica Schenk. It was such a treat to see Erica on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. The August issue features Erica mid-stride in her super-cute running wear, looking like many of the runners I pass (but also pass me).

Erica, who was being shot for a spread on the different available sizes in athletic wear, ended up being the editor’s choice for the cover.

“There’s a stereotype that all runners are skinny, and that’s just not the case,” editor-in-chief Jessica Sebor said in an interview with Today.com. “Runners come in all shapes and sizes. You can go any race finish line, from a 5K to a marathon, and see that. It was important for us to celebrate that.”

It’s important to celebrate athletes of all sizes. Just as Amanda Bingson is a powerhouse at the hammer throw,  Prince Fielder is an amazing hitter and Misty Copeland is a technical wizard at ballet, you can excel at your field.

Or you can just participate in it. Being of able body doesn’t mean having the perfect body. We can’t all be shaped like Brittney Griner or Michael Phelps in order to succeed at a sport. It helps if you want to excel. But the only requirements for participation is a wilingness to try.

That’s it. You just have to want to do it. Getting better at it will come with time. As I said, definition is not the definition of success. Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Did you accomplish the task by finishing your run? Did you do the extra laps at the pool you’d intended on doing? Were you able to increase your resistance and not pass out?

Success! And you did it all without looking like a fitness model.

Do the work and worry about the image later. If you want further defined legs and arms, then make that a goal. Worrying about what you like like on the road to success will only slow you down. As for me, I’ll take my tree-trunk thighs to the pool, spin class and even the park because it’s what I enjoy doing. And my in-shape brethren will be there with me (likely eating my dust).

Have you ever let your size deter you from trying a new fitness activity? If you were able to overcome it, how did you do it?

Get Your Roll On

20 Jul
Not yet...but soon. Courtesy of Tumblr

Not yet…but soon.
Courtesy of Tumblr

I have a really good friend who is also a chiropractor. This comes in handy when I feel like being a baby and throwing all my workout-pain questions at her.

“Is this supposed to hurt?”

“Why does my knee do this weird thing?”

“Do I have to stretch?”

The last question is the one I know she’s tired of hearing from me. But she’s my friend, and she will deal. I have a big issue with stretching before and after working out–the issue being that I don’t want to. My muscles don’t feel too tight. I walk around for a while before and after the workout, which I think serves as a good enough warm up. My good friend the chiropractor says, sometimes not so sweetly, that I need to get over myself. It’s a loving relationship, if you couldn’t tell.

So when my knee started acting up on me, again, I texted my good friend the chiropractor. I told her the exercises the physical therapist had me do. She seemed OK with them, but also suggested I get a foam roller.

I am cheap. Like, ridiculously cheap. Buying more workout equipment seemed like a pain in the butt. Plus, it adds more time onto my pre- and post-workout routines, eating into my day. My good friend the chiropractor didn’t seem to care. “You want to be able to run, don’t you?” Her and her stupid logic.

Just so you know, we had this conversation well over a year ago. I visited her recently (and her ridiculously cute baby girl). Conversations steered toward working out and I casually mentioned I still hadn’t bought the foam roller. If looks could kill, this site would be a memorial page by now.

When faced with impending doom from one of your besties, you do what anyone else would do: You open Amazon on your phone and let her pick out the best foam roller for you. It got here a few days ago.

The foam roller is a lot more than it seams. It’s ridiculously lightweight (hence the foam) and extremely durable. What no one, including my good friend the chiropractor, tells you is that using this thing is painful. In an effort to knead out the knots in my IT band (which I discovered is NOT below my knee), I’m causing myself even more agony. Just to make sure I wasn’t doing this wrong, I consulted a few handy-dandy YouTube videos. Yep, it’s supposed to hurt.

The good news is it won’t always be this way. Because I’m a newbie to this foam rolling business, I need to work through the pain. Just like any new routine, I’ve got to get used to it before my body becomes acclimated to the “intensity,” as one YouTuber called it.

But, I appreciate what it does. If I ever plan on running a half marathon, I’ve got to be able to use my legs, knees and thighs. I’ll get over the pain, but until then, my good friend the chiropractor is getting side-eyed for the next couple of months.

Like a Girl

7 Jul
Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

I run like a girl. I run like someone who has been female my entire life. I pound one foot after the other on the pavement as fast as I can for as long as I can and am overjoyed when I finish. Because I’m a girl who thrives off of that feeling of accomplishment. I did something that many people can’t or won’t do. I did it for me and I did well.

I also spin like a girl, swim like a girl and Zumba like a girl. I’m working on yoga-ing like a girl and eventually cross-fitting like a girl.

There’s nothing wrong with doing things like a girl. Always had a great campaign last summer reminding girls that competing like a girl doesn’t mean they’re going to lose. Right now, female athletes are killing it in their respective fields. Find one person who can defeat Ronda Rousey. Go on. I’ll wait.

venus_serenaLook up a better rivalry than that between Venus and Serena Williams. You won’t be able to find one. They are each others best competition. Monday’s match went by fast but it was hard-earned. These are two women who love and appreciate each other, respecting one another’s talents to cheer even in defeat. Like girls.

And let’s not forget the epitome of #squadgoals right now. The U.S. women’s national soccer team just won the FIFA World Cup, making them the winningest team in women’s FIFA history. And just like girls, they went out on the pitch and dominated as only girls can. Within 17 minutes, the team had all but secured their victory with four goals. FOUR! Do you know how rare it is not only for four goals to be scored in 17 minutes, but for three of them to come from the same person? It’s so rare that Carli Lloydd, who scored three of those goals, pulled the fastest hat trick in FIFA finals history. Girls. I tell ya.

Well now, there’s a new girl on the scene. As in last year’s ESPN Magazine Body Issue, the editors decided to incorporate a woman with a less-than-Aphrodite appearance. Meet Amanda Bingson.

Dense would be the right word for me. I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Amanda competes in the hammer throw like a badass girl. After moving from Las Vegas to Texas, the Olympian has come to embrace her curves. While there are limits to what she can do physically, they can’t stop her from becoming great. Here are few things I’ve learned about my new hero Amanda from her interview with ESPN Magazine.

I have a very strong core. For training, we do a lot of twisting motions because that’s what our event mainly is: twisting. But I don’t have a six-pack or anything else like that. I have, like, two rolls in the back, but I still think I’m pretty strong in my core.

Definition is not the definition of fitness. Amanda can throw a hammer, mostly using her fingertips, more than 200 feet. She has to engage her core to make this happen. You will learn a lot about yourself on your weight-loss journey, but one of the hardest lessons is that your body may not transform the way you want it. Blame genetics, blame surroundings or blame Dr. Phil. Still you must come to terms with this and make the best with what you’ve got.

I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.

After coming to grips with the body you have, loving it and accepting it will follow. Depending on how you deal with things, this may happen quickly or it may take a while. But the day you look in the mirror and say, “I look pretty damn good,” will be your a-ha moment. You’ll go on a “Fellin’ Myself” spree, and I will applaud you from here.

If I medal in the upcoming Olympics, I’m just going to chug a beer. I’m going to get up on the podium and just go “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on it. I’m working on some things. Everyone will be looking at me like “trashy American.” But at least we’re still No. 1!

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. If you’ve done well this week, have a celebratory cookie. If you’ve run the hard race on your schedule, cab load with some pancakes and a mimosa. Anytime you reach a goal or surmount a final hurdle, take a moment to look at how far you’ve come. You did something amazing. Going “Stone Cold” on the situation might make you feel even better.

Like all girls, these women won’t allow anyone to shut out their accomplishments. They are the goals in the their sports. They are the ones who inspire other girls to dream the impossible and to win.

On the Women’s World Cup

30 Jun
When the U.S. defeated China 0-1. Courtesy of Tumblr.

When the U.S. defeated China 0-1.
Courtesy of Tumblr.

Last year around this time, I observed the fascinating male form that runs around a soccer pitch and kicks at other people. Last year was the men’s World Cup (congrats, Germany!). This year, the women get to impress.

While on your weight-loss journey, you’ll look around for inspiration. Because I’m so active, I tend to look at athletes. Serena Williams is my spirit animal. Ronda Rousey is a beast. I think these women’s bodies are incredible. They work out and take great pains to keep themselves in top condition to participate in their sports.

Brandi Chastain

Brandi Chastain

When I was in college, the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup and the poster girl for the sport became Brandi Chastain. With a look of pure glee and a body rippling with muscles, Brandi embodied athleticism. This year I have a new crop of athletes to look up to.

They are disciplined, dedicated and successful. They are accomplishing things most people in their field could only hope to accomplish. And they are good. Really, really good.

That’s why I take issue with anyone who doesn’t appreciate women in sports. Regardless of what some may say, including an actual sports editor at Sports Illustrated, these women deserve the title of role model. They deserve to be inspiration for girls who want to excel in athletics. They deserve to be on the vision boards of women who seek body inspiration. And they deserve praise for getting over the physical and mental hurdles it takes to compete at the highest level.

What I take most from these women is  not so much a desire for their bodies. It’s more a desire to maintain that level of discipline. To achieve what these women have, you have to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. You have to really want it. The same goes for your weight-loss goals.

So as these women attempt to do what the men’s team couldn’t last year and defeat Germany, I’ll be rooting for them from the couch. And I’ll have Seth and Amy’s “Really” tirade running through my head. Because, really? You don’t think these women, and all female athletes, deserve to be watched? Really?

Swimming Safely

24 Jun
The original handwritten caption to this photo: "Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool."

The original handwritten caption to this photo: “Negroes at Fairground Swimming Pool.”

I grew up in North St. Louis County, Mo., specifically Jennings. Midway through high school, my district decided to (finally) open the pool that had been sitting dormant since the ’80s. We were ridiculously excited. The pool had closed because of lack of funding in the district. Don’t ask me where the sudden burst of cash came from. Jennings is still a pretty low rung on the ladder when it comes to getting money from state.

Jump back about 30-35 years, and you’ll still be in Missouri, but a few miles south in St. Louis City, where my parents grew up. Fun fact: my parents went to the same high school, are both one of at least six siblings (who all went to the same high school) and had never met each other until my father returned from the Vietnam War. Across the street from their high school is Fairground Park, which had a municipal pool.

Fairground Park’s swimming pool has a storied history. The pool was built on the grounds of the World’s Fair amphitheater. It was a ginormous pool, hosting up to 12,000 swimmers a day. It was the largest municipal pool in the country at one time. And it was only open to white people. In 1949, the year my father was born, the pool finally opened to black residents. That didn’t go over well and eventually lead to a riot.

Flash forward to present day and me still trying to get my sea legs back. I’ve thought a lot about this in the past week as I’ve watched a world grapple with the racism that is so inherant that there was actual debate about taking down a treasonous, racist emblem casting a shadow over a town recovering from tradgedy.

The pool I swim in each week has people from all walks of life. As with all workout routines, sweat cares nothing about your bank account. We are all large, small, tall, short, 1%, the rest us. There was a time in many Americans’ recent memory that the color of our skin would have kept us from enjoying our morning routines together. The hate that once would have kept us separated is the same hate that took nine lives a week ago today.

Charleston is Baltimore is New York is St. Louis. It is every city, every hamlet, every unincorporated part of the country. It is a cold bucket of water to the face that race relations may have improved, but haven’t done a complete 180. Symbols of hatred and oppression and tyranny can be washed away, burned or even shot into outer space. We can do our best to scrub the taint of these symbols away. But it’s not enough to push them aside and act like it never happened, especially to the people who can recall the events so vividly.

An honest, no-holds-barred conversation needs to happen between all races for there to be at least a modicum of understanding. Until then, we’ll continue to front like stowing away the symbols of hate in a broom closet will solve all of our problems.

 

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