Today I’m wearing a little black dress.
Why? Because we’re having a party at work and I’m going to another one afterwards
I feel beautiful in it.
Why? Because I work my body out regularly and usually watch what I eat and it responds by staying slender, strong, and healthy.
I’m curling my hair.
Why? Because I feel so pretty in my dress thanks to the confidence I have from regular workout sessions that I want to feel even more feminine with some curly tendrils.
My legs look strong.
Why? Because I make them sore with intense weight training once or twice per week so I’m going to wear a little heel and show them off even more.
My arms look strong.
Why? Because I’m a beast that pushes herself to get stronger every workout session.
I love my body.
Why? Because we take care of each other. So on days when I have an excuse to wear a little black dress and look like a million bucks all day, I’m going to take it.
Can I borrow your dress?
Absolutely not. Get your own.
It’s no secret that women are hard on themselves. It’s becoming more and more prevalent daily with the ability young kids have to access information and see popular culture images.
But I’m not here to write a dissertation on body image issues. I’m just here to give my two cents.
I’ve had them. Everyone has them. There are still parts of my body I’d like to improve. But as I’ve grown through the years, I’ve had a significant perspective shift in how I view my body.
First of all… I work out. Often. I change it up. I push myself. Sometimes I’m running. Sometimes I’m lifting. Sometimes I’m hiking. Sometimes I’m swimming. Sometimes I’m just frolicking. Frolicking is my favorite.
But in working out my body regularly, I have naturally developed an understanding and appreciation for it. It’s responsive and healthy. And I’m grateful for that. By pushing myself a little bit every day, I’m slowly improving. I’m not going to have an amazing p-90x style change in a short period of time, but I am going to slowly but surely slim down and strengthen myself.
As I work out regularly, I want to give my body the things it likes. I don’t like eating bad foods mostly because it makes my body feel badly.
I don’t drink excessively because I don’t like how it makes my body feel. I do comedy. Of course I drink. Often. But very rarely is it excessive in any way.
I don’t eat tons of sugar because my body doesn’t respond well to it. I have a sweet tooth- that’s no secret. But I’m reasonable about and aware of my intake amount. Not because I’m a crazy health nut, but because I’m a reasonable healthy person who pays attention.
And instead of obsessing over the the things I don’t like, I recognize something that could use improvement and I work on it. For example, I’m not a huge fan of my stomach. I’ve talked about that before. It’s the most obvious place I gain and lose from. But instead of obsessing and trying to hide it, I’ve been trying to turn it into my strength. I do ab work every day. And I push myself a little farther every time. I engage my abs during every exercise. I am always aware of them. And you guess what? They’re improving. They’re not yet at Pink’s level but they’re a lot better than they were a year ago. And a year from now, they’re going to get even better.
I’m an athletic woman. I have bigger arms than your average petite lady. I will never have tiny arms. So what do I do? I work on them. I get them strong and cut. Why? Because they look awesome. I even got a compliment on them from a friend the other day! She asked me if I work out because my arms looks so strong! Can you believe it? It was so exciting!
There are times when I’m in better shape than others. But overall, I’ve found that simple exercise and body awareness have made me love it and stop obsessing over every little supposed “imperfection.”
There’s not a lot I can do to protect other young women from having body issues. I can’t hide images from the media. I can’t ask our culture to totally change our values overnight. All I can do is work on myself and my internal confidence and happiness with my healthy body. Then I can hope to make a small difference to my circle of friends, who can in turn make a difference to their circle of friends, who make a difference to their circle of friends, who can… you get where this is going.
As long as I’m always incrementally improving, that’s ok by me. Because if we’re not actively working on improving ourselves and learning from our past… we’re stuck. And who wants to live their life being stuck?
Except maybe a honey-obsessed person in a field of beehives. I bet they wouldn’t mind that. As long as there were no bees.
Alright. Be proactive about having positive thoughts and images about your body. That’s all. I’m done.
Yeah, yeah, yeah that title is totally hippy dippy, I know. But it’s very true.
Last weekend, I was in Las Vegas and was lucky enough to spend a major chunk of my afternoon lounging at a ladies spa located in my hotel.
It was awesome. For a very cheap price, I spent the whole afternoon (post-workout, of course) rotating between a crystal steam room, sauna, whirlpool, herbal room, rain temperature station, wave room, igloo, and even a salt grotto. It was so freaking cool.
Part of the spa was “clothing optional.” My friend and I decided we’d take them up on that. Rather than wearing our swimsuits, we were going to just let ourselves be free. We figured, “This is Vegas. Anything goes.”
When we finally got to our time in the spa, we dropped down to our birthday suits, wrapped ourselves up in the provided towels and went to experience the amenities.
It was so interesting because rather than most of the women being like us… *ahem* FREE… most of the women were wearing bathing suits in all the spa things.
Now I understand you could make an argument for hygiene. Sure. Whatever.
But let’s be real for a second. A spa like that is going to maintain its cleanliness really well. And, most of the time you could sit on your towel or be standing while enjoying the environment.
Besides, I don’t think most people were in their bathing suits because of hygiene. I think they were in it out of embarrassment.
Which is where this hippy dippy title comes from. When I looked around and realized I’d be the only naked person in the whirlpool, I got self conscious at first. Then my friend I was with (who was also naked) was like “Screw it. Clothing is optional. I don’t wanna wear my suit. I don’t know why everyone is being so weird about it. It’s just bodies.”
And I agreed. And we were the naked people amongst the suited. And after a while, I decided I was going to make the people in suits feel like the weird ones. I don’t care about your body. I assume you don’t care about mine. So let’s leave it at that.
I wasn’t looking at them. I don’t care. Not only do I prefer to gaze at muscly, manly men, but spas aren’t meant for judgment. They’re meant for relaxation and personal enjoyment. It’s quiet time with you and your body just to take care of it and say “Thank you” for everything it does for you. I don’t care about anyone else’s body. For once, I’m concentrating on mine. Yours means nothing to me. Get over it.
Plus, I think there’s this idea that permeates especially American society that we need to always be modest. It’s embarrassing to put yourself out there too much. People might judge you.
Whatever. I’m officially done with caring what people think of me in any capacity. You don’t like my creative work? Cool. I don’t care. You don’t like my opinion on a certain subject? Cool. I don’t care. You notice my body isn’t perfect because I’m nakedly walking around in a spa taking in all the wonderful amenities sans a swimsuit? Cool. I. Don’t. Care.
I love my body. I work it hard. I try to take good care of it, but to be honest, it is much more forgiving of me than I deserve. I feed it pretty well, but sometimes Guinness is dinner. I workout regularly, but sometimes I feel like watching Portlandia on Netflix instead of going to the gym. I put on sunscreen daily, but sometimes I just don’t want to feel like I’m a snake with second skin and I risk 10 minutes of direct sunlight to feel how the other side lives.
I bruise myself regularly for no reason and it heals quickly. I get anxious and can pick at my face and it heals the scars. I don’t sleep regularly and it stays healthy and energetic. I sometimes feed it poison in the form of a Coke Zero and it forgives me by not dying. I eat too much sugar- especially for someone who has a higher than normal risk for diabetes- and it metabolizes it normally.
My body is good to me. And I love it.
And you should love yours, too.
Sometimes, that means letting it be free when clothing is optional.
But only when clothing is optional. I’m not saying we should all be nudists…
My gym is terrible.
It’s dark and smelly.
At any given time, at least half of the cardio machines have an “Out of Order” sign on them. At least half of the supposedly “working” machines do not function properly.
The pool is filled with old people, fat people, or some combination thereof.
The sauna stopped working.
The weight room is gross. I’ve seen the same water bottle sitting in the corner for a week, giving me little faith it gets cleaned on a regular basis.
The mats for stretching are from 1912 and barely hanging on by a thread.
In the locker room, half of the lockers are bent out of shape so they don’t open properly. Some of them are cut so you can’t put your lock in them. Others are sticky inside.
In the shower rooms, most of them don’t have a curtain for privacy. And the hot water only works on some of the showers. And one time, I showered right after they cleaned it with industrial cleaner and I got a sinus infection for a week from the strong fumes.
It doesn’t have air conditioning. At least it doesn’t feel like it.
You have to pay 50 cents for parking every time you leave.
Supposedly, it was going to start construction three months ago. Some people walked around. Nothing has been started and nobody has been warned.
And yet I love it.
I am totally anonymous there. I don’t have to impress anyone. Nobody pays attention to anyone else. Everyone has the same crappy expectations. Everyone is just in there to do some work on themselves and get the hell out. I know where everything is. I recognize people who work and workout at the same times I’m there. I’m comfortable. I trust it.
What the hell is that all about?
I saw a guy yesterday at my gym who clearly had problems walking.
I saw a blind man walk down from the top of the stairs in the weight room all the way to the locker room slowly following the railing and his own instinct.
I see really old people who barely shuffle along plop down on a treadmill and get their sweat on.
I read stories of people who went from being almost unable to walk to running marathons through slow but sure dedication to exercise.
I’ve lost close friends of mine way too young. These friends loved to race and workout.
I see, read, and think about stuff on a weekly basis and it motivates me to get off my butt and get to the gym.
If the guy who has problems walking can get on the Stairmaster, I can get over my little sore foot and get a good run in.
If the blind guy can get a ride to the gym, find his way in an out of the locker room, get up and down three flights of stairs to presumably lift weights for a while, I can finish that last set of pull ups I wasn’t looking forward to.
If an old person get take their fragile body on a treadmill and make a concerted effort to continue to push it to better themselves, I get take my young, healthy body on a treadmill for a mere 30 minute jog.
If a man who had scar tissue throughout his body and was almost in a wheelchair at age 40 can slowly reengineer his body through a whole lot of yoga and even more patience and perseverance to be able to run again without pain, I can get off my lazy ass and get some time in at the gym.
If some of my wonderful buddies were still around, they would give anything to go for a run in the fresh air and feel their lungs burn while their muscles tire out. It’s such a meditative, familiar feeling that you get addicted to once you’ve experienced it enough. Sometimes, when I’m really not motivated or need an extra push to get through a rough running patch, I’ll picture my friend running with me, giving me that extra inspiration to keep going strong.
Maybe it’s weird. Or maybe it’s the midwestern in me that constantly feels guilt. But I use it as a reason to get off my butt and be the best me I can possibly be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my workout in.
I’m a fast person. I walk fast. I talk fast. I move fast. I drive fast.
So when I run, I (of course) like running fast. Duh.
After reading a book called “The Little Red Book of Running” (which I highly recommend- quick read, great information), one of the tips was not to treat every run like it’s a race. Each run you do while training has a goal behind it- and only sometimes is that goal speed. And for most of your long runs leading up to your next race, the goal is not at all speed. In fact, it’s much more beneficial to your training if you just SLOW DOWN.
I’m not pretending I don’t like to take it easy while exercising. I often most certainly do. But, as I said before, I like to go fast fast fast and I don’t like to slow myself down if my body is feeling good enough to go faster.
But, I figured if this book suggests you do it once in a while and my next race is still a month away…so why not just enjoy the 1 hour 45 minute run by going at a very leisurely pace. And that’s just what I did.
I ran slow. I kept repeating to just relax and run slower than normal. Let my pace be calm and relaxed and maybe my mind will follow. And you know what? It did.
About thirty minutes into my run, I started to really take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the world around me. I smiled at the animals and breathed in the fresh air. I should add I have the benefit of living in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in one of the most gorgeous places in the world (Los Angeles, CA). But the gratitude for this life is not lost on me. I love the fact that I can run to the ocean, took time to look at the waves, and took deep breaths of the salt water air. I work hard for this life. I am lucky. And I know it.
As I worried less about my pace and pushing my body to the limit, I was able to really calm my body down. My normally frantic pace (at life) was forcibly slowed down and my normally frantic mind followed suit. I was half listening to a podcast and half immersing myself completely in the running experience.
I felt such zen.
It was so weird.
I even had a woman pass me mid-way through my run. Normally, I would be extremely annoyed by this. You’d better be sprinting if you’re going to pass me. I AM THE ONE WHO PASSES. (I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS.) Instead of being competitive, though, I took a moment to feel the competitive edge rising within me, breathed, and let her go about her merry way without bothering me at all. Her going faster than me in that moment had nothing to do with me or my run. I don’t know anything about her- how far she’s running, what her goals are, what her normal pace is, if she ever races…nothing. What the hell do I care if at this moment on this day in this place, she’s faster than me? Let it go. Let her be.
As a normally fast (and competitive) person, that realization was absolutely liberating. Other people’s journeys are just that- other people’s journeys. They say nothing about what I’m doing, what my goals are, what I happen to be trying to accomplish that day, where I’m heading…nothing. So let it go and let them be.
Towards the end of my slow run, it began to get cloudy and small water droplets were forming in the air. Not really rain, because this is LA after all. But just a thin layer of mist. And rather than thinking, “OH MY GOD IT’S GONNA RAIN AND I’M GONNA BE STUCK IN IT AND IT’S GONNA SUCK AND I WANT TO RUN HOME FAST,” I thought “Huh. Mist. Feels good. It might be nice to get caught in the rain.”
WHAT WAS THAT VOICE?
And how can I have it in my head always?
I loved my long, slow run. I learned so much about my body, mind, and spirit. And enjoyed every minute of it.
And tomorrow, I’ll go back to my frantic sprinting.