With no races on the horizon, I'm spending some of my down time clearing out my inbox--which includes emails from sports photographers who have taken pictures during this years' race season.
As a rule, I do not like pictures of myself. I am not photogenic. Sometimes I get lucky and have a decent shot but, for the most part, the camera most-definitely doesn't love me. Or, at least, the image I often see of myself on film is not the image I see of myself in my head or in my mirror. It's kind of like hearing your own voice on a recording . . . it never sounds like you think it should. In photographs, I never look like I wish I would!
So, after intensely training for triathlons for seven months and being in the best shape of my life, I am scrolling through pictures of myself at one of the races and the only word that comes to mind is "chunk!" Seriously, my legs just look like big tree trunks. I appear huge on that small, streamlined bike. And for all the compression my cycling shorts provide, they are definitely not minimizing! Where are the pictures that showcase the rippling quads and bulging biceps that I imagine, the ones I wish for and work so hard for? (Note: The picture posted in this blog is not one of the "chunk" shots I am complaining about. The picture I posted is one of the few I actually like!)
I have a friend who has, on several occasions now, been told, to her delight, that she looks like a runner. And it's true. She does look like a runner. She is fit and cut and, to use her own words, she has "learned to embrace her boy body." And I am so envious! Because I know it is not likely I will ever hear a comment like that from a stranger or a passerby, who has no idea that I'm a triathlete and that I train year-round and work out five or six days a week. I may dress the part, but I do not "look" like a runner.
When I mentioned this to another friend, she did not disagree. Instead, she said I look "strong." What, exactly, does that mean? What does strong look like? Trees look strong. Buildings look strong. An ox looks strong. But I sure don't want to be likened to any of those!
I guess I have not fully learned to embrace my "womanly body." Because, really, that's what I have. My face, nose, neck, arms and torso are long and lean. But the long and lean stops there. My legs are short and not particularly shapely; the rest of my body is curvy--the classic hourglass. I have a small waist and a flat stomach (never mind that is less so since having children) and the balcony is full--so much so that it's hard to find my bra size in the store. And let's not forget the good ol' "child-bearin' hips." In fact, I come from a long line of hippy-chick women. When I gain any weight at all I suddenly have a side order of saddlebags.
But having a shapely figure is great most of the time--except when I'm running. Or trying to find the appropriate, supportive triathlon gear that can take me from the swim to the run. (Let me tell you: it doesn't exist!) Or when the camera is busy adding ten pounds (and it's not ten pounds of muscle, either!)
Speaking of muscles, when I lift weights, I have the ability to add muscle mass like crazy. However, the effect is just bulky so I tend to stick to lighter weights and higher reps. Because, believe me, there is a huge difference between bulky muscles and cut muscles. And, frankly, I just carry too much body fat to ever look cut. When I was in college, I gave some thought to continuing as a cheerleader. At one of the practices, the coach decided to torture us with those fat calipers, or whatever they are--those huge, metal pinchers--and after she finished pinching inches all over me--on my upper arms, stomach, hips and thighs--she announced that I had too much body fat. Huh? That was a first, but maybe it was somewhat true.
During one memorable lifeguard training course, I was paired with my brother and we had to practice rescuing a drowning victim and towing that person to shore. My brother got the easy end of that deal because, while he sinks like a rock, I float like a Macy's Day Parade balloon!
But that's just me; it's just the way I'm built. Despite the fact that I'm at the ideal weight for my height, that I'm at peak fitness, that I have the heart rate and blood pressure of a teenager, and that I eat super-healthy (well, most of the time), I will never be thin, cut or petite. And I will probably never be called a "runner."
But that's okay. My husband recently caught me sorting through a pile of laundry, trying to find the least-smelly shirt to wear for a run. He laughed and said, "you're an athlete." And those were the best three words I could have heard that day.