"You don't encourage people to take care of their body by telling them to hate it." -- Laci Green
photo credit: James Farrell/Women's Running Magazine
My favorite response when people find out that I run (or am trying to run)? "But, and don't take this the wrong way, you don't look like a runner." When I started running in college, I was roughly the same size that I am today. Within two months, I had dropped significant weight and was running an average of 3 miles/day. By the end of my first year at UNM, I was running 3+ miles every weekday morning, another 3+ miles every weeknight, and the occasional long run on the weekend. By this point, I did look like a stereotypical runner with my lean physique but... I wasn't very healthy at all. I survived off of very few calories/day, and actually fainted on a treadmill once. Yikes!
Two back-to-back knee injuries sidelined my running career for a fairly long stay, but I had tried to pick up running from time to time since I stopped in 2001. For the longest time, my biggest fear returning to it was the fear of another knee injury. In the last few years, however, I've let my physical appearance be my excuse. Despite my years of effectively avoiding bullying (or at least not allowing bullies to affect me much) as a young adult, I let one stupid guy in the gym ruin my love of running as a woman in my late 20s. "Don't break the treadmill, fatty." OUCH. I think I cried later. That comment stung for a very long time. I finally tried running again in 2010, but having to watch myself run in a mirror every day (our gym's treadmills faced a mirror) just made me think of that stupid guy every single time.
Turning 30 a few years ago was the best thing that could have ever happened to me; turning 33 was even better. As a woman in my thirties, I have been able to let go of these negative thoughts started caring less about what I thought people might think of me. Finally, in the summer of 2012, I slowly started running (well, walk/jogging) again. I completed three 5Ks that year (walked one, walk/jogged the other), which was more than I had done in the over 5 years previous. And last December, I ran a for 10 minutes... the longest continuous run that I had done since 2008. It felt amazing! I didn't run fast, and I didn't run far... but it felt good to have my body move for as long as it did. Even better? I couldn't have cared less at how awful, funny, gross, or delightful that I might have looked while I was doing it! (Full disclosure: I was a hot, sweaty mess. It was gross. I don't care!)
I was casually perusing Yahoo's homepage one morning before work when I was delighted by the image I've posted at the beginning of the post. Finally... a runner that looks like me on the cover of a magazine! I have been a fan of fitness magazines for years, but often found their covers disappointing. (Women's Health... I'm looking at you! Why are all your models nearly naked on your covers? This isn't Cosmo!!!) The girl featured on Women's Running Magazine's cover is 18 year old Erica Schenk, a model from California. She's been running since she was a child, and maintains a regular fitness routine. So much for the "typical runner's body," am I right ladies and gents?
It doesn't take a super observant person to notice that runners come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, plenty of runners (especially those crazy distance runners) do have a leaner physique. But plenty of runners come in rounder shapes too. Basset hounds aren't known for being super energetic dogs, but check out Diego with me in the picture above! He can't run very long, but he loves to run with me from time to time too. And no, I don't look cute when I run... but at least I'm doing it. And I enjoy doing it, so why not!
I don't expect everyone reading this to go out and become a runner tomorrow. Running isn't for everyone; frankly, it's pretty hard on your joints and there are plenty of other ways to get your cardio on. The point of this post was to ask each of you to please, please, please not let fear or your perception of your appearance negatively affect your workout. Don't be afraid to start a workout routine just because you don't look like a fitness model. Don't be afraid of the weight rack at the gym... ask someone to show you how to use them, or check out some routines on Youtube for free! Walk, run, bike, dance... just get your body moving! Your heart, your health, and your body will thank you!