Fit Bodied Girls

I rarely get manicures. The polish always chips within a day, and I hate looking at chipped polish. If I get a mani, it’s always clear – I refuse to stress over nail polish. Pedicures, on the other hand, are pure bliss. They last longer, they remind me of summer, you can read something while they dry, and you can wear flip flops.  So when my friend from work asked if I wanted to get an impromptu pedicure and cocktail one Friday afternoon, I was thrilled. In my excitement, however, I had forgotten about one thing.

As we were walking out the door, I suddenly stopped and touched her arm. “I don’t think I can go,” I blurted.  “I’m wearing jeans!”

I was wearing jeans. Since the trend of skinny jeans has not yet left the building, my calf muscles are constantly confined, barely able to breathe through tightly stretched denim. Wearing said jeans while trying to relax during a pedicure is impossible; there is risk of circulation cut off, not to mention the humiliation I would have to endure.

“OOOh, too tight, too big.” The lady at the salon will tap me, as she tries in vain to lift the fabric over the lower part of my leg and breathes heavily, like she’s competing in an Olympic sport.  No woman, I don’t care how comfortable she is with her physique, is excited when she hears the phrases “too big” and “too tight” in reference to one of her body parts. And while calves may not seem like a huge deal, they used to be a source of embarrassment to me. I let comments about them contribute to the negative image I had of my body.

“Girls who play sports get fat.”

“Jennifer,” (Let’s give her a quintessential 80’s name.), reported this to me in sixth grade. I was eleven, Bruce Springsteen was my jam, and soccer was my game. Weaving my way through the weirdness of middle school, I was beginning to know myself and the rush I got from being active, whether I was playing soccer, swimming, or simply running like a child. I was also starting to compare myself to other girls. If you are familiar with, or remember, middle schoolers, you know they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Girls can develop early and wear women’s clothing, or they can remain tiny and look like they wear a 6X. I was somewhere in between. Until that year, I hadn’t given my calves – or the rest of my body – much thought.

“Look,” Jennifer pointed below my knee. “Fat.” Then she hoisted one leg onto a desk and pointed to her calf. “Skinny.” Red hot shame burned through my insides. Someone had just called me fat. Being eleven, I wasn’t able to separate facts from fiction. My calves were bigger than hers because they were strong, I was not fat, and so what the f*!*! if I was??  But the way I saw it, if one person thought I was fat, then other people must think it as well, and in middle school, that thought was devastating. From that moment on, I thought about ways to hide my calves. I even changed the way I dressed to cover them. Unfortunately, this complex plagued me, and I let it seep its way into my whole body. It got worse in seventh grade, when I woke up with boobs. Boys started paying attention to me, and I felt nervous and ashamed; I even tried to conceal my chest by taping it down. I know. I’m lucky I didn’t end up in the ER.

In retrospect, I know shouldn’t have let “Jennifer” dictate how I viewed my body, but at the time, I didn’t have the tools to shrug her off, laugh at the absurdity of her comment, or even retaliate. I wasn’t taught how to accept my physical being, let alone love it. Body parts didn’t exist in my house; I was always afraid to talk about how I felt, and my mom was always trying to be thinner.  To have been called fat was embarrassing to admit. I thought being thin was the ideal girls were supposed to strive for.

It’s ironic that the one thing I didn’t do was quit sports. I don’t even think I made the connection that being athletic was developing the muscles I once wanted to hide. It just felt so good to play. Soccer became my solace. Running gave me a sense of freedom and cleared my head. Swimming let me spend summers lifeguarding and not fearing the ocean. Later on, I learned how to incorporate weight training into my routine, and I uncovered muscles other than my calves. I’m so grateful for them now – they provide me strength, power, and longevity.  They helped me heal quickly from two c-section surgeries. They will help me recover if I injure myself in the future, they will protect my bones as I get older, and they will even let me rock a bathing suit this summer.

Sorry, Jennifer, but girls who play sports don’t get fat, they get fit.

FitBodiedGirlSo although I freaked for a moment that Friday afternoon, I went for the pedicure with my coworker. The woman in the salon broke a sweat as she pushed my jeans as far up my leg as they would go. And when she glanced up at me, exasperation in her eyes, I just shrugged and smiled. “Just let the jeans get wet,” I told her. “My calves are used to it.”





Women either cheer for each other or hate on each other.  Weird, right?

Maybe not so weird if you’re a woman reading this. You get it. There are many of us who  are genuinely happy when things go well for another member of our gender. I know a decent amount of these women who enjoy making their friends and other females feel good. I also know plenty who don’t – who let comparison override joy – but that’s not what this post is about.

Today I’m writing about the aforementioned bunch – the inspiring and encouraging ones, those who aren’t just there for you when things are bad, but root for you when things are great. I encounter some of these women in my OrangeTheory Fitness classes. No, they are not my friends. I barely know them. But I am one hundred percent sure that if all females conducted themselves the way these women do, we could take over the world with goodness.

Of course I have a story. And be warned: if you do not want to be inspired in a corny, Rocky Balboa movie sort of way, you don’t have to read on. But if you still get giddy when Rocky throws his hands in the air on top of the steps, this is for you.

“Lori” was taking her first OrangeTheory class the weekend after Thanksgiving. She was visibly nervous and rightfully so. The class was completely full, and if you’ve ever taken one, you know they are legit. You also know that your identity as a newbie is made known:

“Leeeett’s welcome LORI, everybody! She’s ready to do some huffin’ from all that stuffin!” (I swear this is not fiction.)   

Lori’s spot happened to be in between me and a woman named Mary, who wasted no time. She did a “WOOT WOOT,” clapped her hands, and shouted, “Oh yeah, Lori, you GOT this, let’s GO!”

The class took Mary’s lead, clapped, and added some WOOTS of their own.  Lori glanced around and gave an unceremonious wave.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” she whispered to no one in particular. I smiled at her and said, “You’ll love it.”

Twenty minutes later, there is huffing – to the point of wanting to throw up that Thanksgiving stuffing. Lori may have wanted to end my life. Mary, however, did not let Lori, or the rest of the class down. Every time one of our names got called out, she cheered the loudest. Every time someone reached what OrangeTheory calls a splat point goal, she sounded like we all won the lottery. I found myself shouting things like, “We got this! C’mon OT!” Things that would make a non gym lover literally throw up.

At the end of class, we were on the floor, ready to collapse, and it was time to plank. For three minutes. Lori may have been near tears.

“No way can I do this!” She shouted this time, again to no one in particular.

“YES. YOU. CAN!” Mary, of course. Thanks to her, for a solid three minutes we cheered Lori – and ourselves – on. It was the stuff you see in Rudy. Call me cheesy, corny, whatever you want, but I had never seen a group of women devote this much time and effort to supporting someone else, and I loved it.

When our coach announced it was the last ten seconds, we did the countdown in unison like we were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square. When it was over, we actually did collapse in laughter and in tears – and the tears were not from pain.

“Thank you,” Lori now spoke to everyone. “Seriously, you guys. Thank you.”

I will never forget the power and positivity these women showed during that class. Imagine how things could be if women, and all people, were like this all the time. It reminded me to be thankful for the females in my life, (actual friends and family members), who behave the same way – who aren’t negative when someone else’s life is positive, who actually want others to succeed, no matter the goal. To you, I say, thank you guys. Seriously, thank you.


Oh, The Places I Go…When I Run

My friend, Tori, sent this text on a thread:

“I knew a long run today was going to be tough, so each of you mentally joined me for parts of [it]. I did 3 alone, 3 with Megan, 2 with Aileen, and 3 with Dana.”

I cannot tell you how much this made me smile.  It’s no secret that running, or any physically taxing exercise, is more than half of a mental feat. Being chosen as someone’s  figurative companion during an endurance run means I’m a source of inspiration.  It also means I’m not the only one who has imaginary friends, illustrious careers, even rockstar performances while running.  Some make sense, some don’t. I’m making myself vulnerable here and sharing a list of my most famous endeavors, set to music – all of which I’ve achieved on the treadmill:

Flag Football with co-workers. I may as well start with the one that’s the most weird. You already know work is not my activity of choice, but yet, here I am, on the back field of my school, diving for passes thrown by the phys ed teacher. I sprint, football held tight to my chest. I weave in and out of defenders, strong-arming anyone who may have annoyed me. I flip over a different phys ed teacher and land in the endzone, on my feet.  Victory. My team always wins – either to the beat of Gaga’s Edge of Glory, or Scandal’s The Warrior. Once in a while it’s Fame, (the original). Great tune for a flip.

Rockstar on Stage. Beyonce, J Lo, Gaga, Pink, Melissa Etheridge – I’m my own version of all my single, (or not single) ladies.  I’m also some boys – Bon Jovi, Bruce, JT – the list is endless, and the songs are varied. I could be anyone from 80’s Def Leopard, to flying Bon Jovi, to dancing queens J Lo and Beyonce. And, oh, rhythm is a dancer on this stage.  When I perform, my legs move in ways that would make my husband’s head spin.

Rocky Balboa in Russia, and yes, to Hearts on Fire. Don’t judge me. I train in the snow. I will break you. I also run through the streets of Philadelphia to Eye of the Tiger. Sometimes I’m in New York, depends on my mood.  Cheesy sports movies and and their songs are life.

Olympic soccer player.  Fantasizing about running while running doesn’t make sense, but being back on the soccer field makes me feel alive.  My friend, Megan, is often with me for this one. I pass to her after a break away, she chips it back to me to avoid defenders, and I land a header in the goal.  Brace your self for song choice: We Built this City. I’m having the time of my life to a song that’s been voted one of the worst in history. Who knew??


FITNESS FANATIC – The High is Real What I learned after trying it all

I’m an activity addict. Not the arts and crafts kind – the being active kind. This may make you feel like throwing  up in your mouth, but for me, getting that feeling during a workout is oddly fun.

After college ended and my soccer career came to a halt, I needed a way to feed my addiction to movement.  Exercise had been a part of my life since I was seven years old; I couldn’t see myself abruptly becoming someone who sat at a desk all day, taking extra walking breaks to the water cooler. On a whim, I took advantage of a summer membership at a local gym. I still remember Pauline, the trainer who took me under her wing and schooled me on circuit training, step climbers, treadmills, and the gravitron. She taught me how to lift weights to tone and strengthen my muscles, dispelling the myth that “weights will make me big.” The combination of cardio and strength training erased the late nights of beer and bad food from college, and not only made me feel smaller, but stronger. To this day, I wish I could see her and say thank you for being one of the best trainers I’ve had – and for being my gateway drug.

Enter the late 90s craze of step aerobics and spinning. Stepping to music, cheesy clapping, and a kind of dance coordination – I fell for it and reserved my spot every evening. Spinning made me feel strong, fast and competitive, (with myself that is, thanks to the dark room). Each class allowed me to lose myself for an hour, and I left less stressed and more clear headed. However, my body gradually adjusted to the workouts; I didn’t see a whole lot of change in my physique or endurance. That seemed to be true for the lot of us – the same group of people would show up every night, set up in the same spot, and never transform. But damn, it was fun.

With onset of the 21st century, I craved something new. I climbed indoor rock walls and became mildly obsessed, (if there is such a thing) with kickboxing classes. Zumba did not remotely resemble drunk inspired dancing, so that was a one hit wonder. However, before my wedding, I rediscovered running. It was cheap, could be done anywhere, and I could do it on my own schedule. Thanks to the invention of the Ipod, I could try running for longer distances without the heavy weight of my 90’s walkman or a phone. I could also customize my playlist, an extremely important and personal thing to runners, which I will write about in another post.

Running eventually became my new obsession, especially after having kids. I completed my first of four half marathons, dropped baby weight, and used it as a relief for anxiety. As an athletic kid who suffered from asthma, I felt invincible when I finally ran longer and faster than I had as a teenager. It was empowering to know this goal could be attained. But I was logging 35 plus miles a week, beating myself up if I missed even one day, and although I was “skinny,” after a while, I didn’t feel strong. I had lost muscle mass, and that’s not healthy, especially since I was entering my forties.  When I completed my first Spartan race, I literally felt weak – not powerful at all. Time again for a change.

Thankfully, strong is now the new sexy. After all these years and the latest crazes of Tabata, HIIT workouts, ropes, interval training, and my new drug, Orangetheory Fitness, I’ve finally learned what works – and that Pauline was ahead of her time. Consistently combining cardio and strength, eating well at least 80% of the time, and doing what I like, all work to keep me healthy, strong, and fit. I don’t have to feel like I’m going to die to get results, but I do have to be consistent. Exercise has always been a way for me to feel good, regardless of my weight.  And although I often need to remind myself that I’m supposed to love my body, I am so grateful for what it has done for me, and how it continues to perform. Until it tells me to stop, I’ll keep seeing where it takes me.