Next time you go for a run, get yourself a full dose of vitamin D. Strip down. Goodbye shirts, hello skins. Head out. Revel in it.
Well, there’s a back story to why I am stepping up and stating that everybody – anybody who has a runner’s body – should feel empowered to wear what they want, when they want, how they want and feel GOOD about it.
One of the comments left on it really struck me.
Maybe one day I’ll be confident enough to rock something like this…
It got me thinking about Krissy’s recent shorts post. And thinking about my winning the battle with the scale for once. And thinking, thinking some more. I wanted to reply, but the thoughts kept spinning.
And then, even after I began to draft this post last night, I saw Carlee had posted on Facebook, and naturally I immediately clicked and read a great post from Run Selfie Repeat on “the Secret to Feeling Incredible in a Bikini.” This fueled the fire that has been burning for some time within me even further.
See, I’ve been following Carlee on social media for years now. I could go on for days, but she truly lives the idea of “be the change” and she spreads good everywhere she goes.
Here’s an internal dialogue on what I usually think when I see her posts like the one above: “Oh she’s so freaking cute! Man, she’s got drive. That woman is so much faster than she leads on! What a fun outfit. I bet running with her is a blast. Whoa, she did all that before breakfast and I barely have pants on.” Clearly, I’m a fan of hers. Whether she’s on a bike, hitting a trail for Ragnar, or traveling with her mister and her pup, I am Team Carlee all the way. Thus, when I saw her words, I’ll be frank: it made me want to yell, and, it made me sad.
It made me want to yell, “WHAT? Woman, you could rock this outfit NOW! You’re so smiley and bubbly, no one would notice if you had no shirt on. Have you seen your legs? Here, try my glasses so you can see how awesome I see they are. I bet even your half naked runmatchy will CRUSH. Who cares? You’re young and fit and can totally pull it off; do it! WHO CARES?” But, while I was yelling and rallying internally, the comment still made me sad. Here is a young woman who is in incredible shape, a person who runs, bikes, does cross training, all with a splash of neon and a heavy dose of good vibrations and smiles, yet somehow she sees short spandex and thinks, “Maybe one day… but not today.”
Society, what the hell have you done to us?
Now I’m not trying to make a spectacle of Carlee, but rather, she is a prime example of what I encounter far too often. As a woman who works for a women’s athletic wear retailer, this is a commonplace sentiment. Rarely if ever have I run across a man who is afraid to whip his shirt off when it’s a bazillion degrees outside because he’s afraid he can’t pull it off, because society has riddled his confidence with doubt such that no matter what he sees in the mirror, he questions it. It reminds me of twin boys I knew I high school: the twin who was considered by many to be not quite as good looking was actually the one who had more friends and dated more. Why? In a word, confidence.
It baffles me that in a society where we have so many children with an overabundance of confidence, we still have women who seem to still not have quite enough.
It’s been stolen away from us, and it is time for it to stop.
As the summer months begin to loom nearer, everything is bikini-body that, summer-ready this, don’t do this if you don’t look like that. I for one am well-fucking-over-it, thanks. This isn’t just my body dysmorphia riddled, eating disordered past talking. This isn’t just the runner-who-prefers-to-wear-little in me talking. This is the woman I am talking. This is the mother I am talking. This is the role model in me who wants her daughter to grow up celebrating all her body is and is capable of talking. I am fighting back.
To do my part, I run naked.
Not fully naked, because well, laws, and I am not sure KT Tape would offer support to nursing D+ cups, but I’m not afraid to wear spandex shorts, the shorter, the better. And, like I did just two months postpartum (below,) when heat hits, I whip off my shirt. When it’s hot, this Filipina embraces the need for sunshine and sweat that is ingrained into her DNA. I have been a runner for about six years now, and after taking a summer mostly off from shirtless running, you had best believe that I am back in full force this year.
Returning to shirtless running wasn’t so much a want for me but more of a MUST.
Having had a baby doesn’t make me broken. It doesn’t mean I am now a lesser version of who I was before. In fact, if anything, having a baby has shown me that I am damn near invincible (or at least, that I feel that way,) and my body is a shining testament, a mobile trophy, to that. I celebrate this feeling of having a powerful body, of not caring what others think of my appearance, of projecting how I feel: like a bad-ass, powerful, strong, fit woman.
Nearing one year postpartum, my racing stripe (linea nigra) is finally fading away, but my stomach is forever stretched. My nearly ten month old daughter’s new favorite thing to do is grab at the loose skin of my stomach and play with my belly button. Rather than reaping on the fact I once had a hardened core, I marvel at the fact she once called that place home. My breasts have ballooned and deflated some and still aren’t where they were once, nor will they ever be. A fresh tan has shown me where I have stretch marks I never knew. This body has been through the ringer, but it is beautiful. It is powerful. It is bikini ready. It is, because I say it is, and I am going to own it.
No, the scale is not going to tell me whether or not I can run ‘naked.’ No, the mirror isn’t even going to tell me whether or not I can run naked. People on the run path by work, on Instagram, teenagers who attend the high school across from my house, none of them are going to tell me that I cannot run in what I want to run in. Whore pants ain’t got nothin’ on my summer running ‘fits.
I may not look like I did before I became pregnant, but that doesn’t matter. I am more comfortable in my skin now as a 32 year old mother than I ever was as a teen or a 21 year old, and damn straight I am going to embrace it.
At the root of this, I feel incredibly fortunate to have become a mother in a time when real women use their elite athletic status to show the world what their postpartum bodies really look like. However, it’s not just the Lauren Fleshmans and Stephanie Bruces of the world keeping it real. It’s perhaps more importantly the variations of normal women are taking upon themselves to share online.
I’m talking about that woman I saw walking with her baby wearing a cropped tank top. I’m talking about the woman at the beach in a bikini with a soft postpartum belly and a tiny newborn. I’m talking about my sixty-something year old mother who runs in a sports bra and shorts because it’s too damn hot to wear more. I’m talking to every mother-to-be who is fearful of what awaits on the other side, every teenage girl who wishes she were as busty as her friends, every collegiate gal who hides away under sweats while she swears at “the freshman fifteen.” I’m talking to myself. I’m talking to every woman who looks longingly at another woman wearing a bikini or short shorts or a sports bra who thinks “I wish I could.”
Guess what? YOU CAN.
Lift each other up. Celebrate yourself. Celebrate each other. Teach this confidence, this power, this positivity. Embrace the skin you’re in, because leading by example could very well change someone’s life like it changed mine.
The sun’s out, ladies. Grab your Garmin and some sunscreen. It’s time to run naked.