My Strong Stretch Marks, Love Handles, and Belly Rolls

"Photoshoot". I saw the words and felt intimidated. I knew I'd be shooting in a sports bra and I immediately thought back to what I'd eaten that day. An almond croissant for breakfast and some leftover Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and gravy for lunch. Overwhelmed and insecure, I put my shoes on to go run off that almond croissant. 

On my run, I started thinking about what I could do to lose weight quickly. Two weeks? I can easily switch to a 1,000 calorie diet and drop a few pounds. No problem. Throw in a few extra spin classes, planks, and speed work and I'll be camera ready. I spent four miles thinking about losing weight and, unsurprisingly, I felt panicked and shitty about myself. I didn't take my cotton shirt off during my run, even though it was an oddly warm day for New York and I was sweating my ass off. And then, with about a quarter mile left, I caught myself.

Since when am I motivated to workout and eat healthy just so that I can look a certain way? I realized that I was feeling panicked because I hadn't felt too insecure to run in a sports bra in months.

Shedding my shirt along with my insecurities to create the #SportsBraSquad had a profound impact on the way I saw and felt about my body. The sports bra squad is built on strength, not vanity. (The fact that we all look bad ass while we run down our goals, in our sports bras, is just an added bonus.) So what gives? Why am I struggling to feel confident in my own skin? 

Training for half and full marathons showed me that working out isn't something I needed to suffer through to lose weight. Running helped me embrace my body for what it can do instead of feeling insecure because I don't look like a super model. Health isn't a look, it's a lifestyle. 

When I'm giving 100% of myself and running towards an impossible goal, I give 0 f*cks when that little voice in the back of my head says that I'm not pretty, skinny, or strong enough. That voice is powerless because I know that I'm fighting every single day to put my strongest foot forward.

But I'm not doing that right now. I haven't run regularly since the New York City Marathon which was almost four weeks ago. And while it sounds obvious that I just need to start training for a new goal, it's important that I take this time to step back, run for fun, and recharge my mind because it's really easy to get burnt out. I never want to be in a place where I don't feel grateful that I get to push myself and my limits and finding the balance between taking time off and going 100% is crucial.

As difficult as it is for me to admit it, I've been feeling insecure about what my post marathon body looks like. Which is ironic because I haven't gained or lost weight. My pants and shirts fit the same. The only difference is my Loch Ness Monster abs are a little less visible when I raise my arms over my head.

I'm not perfect. My struggle with my body image isn't something that can be resolved simply by shedding my shirt. That's just one step. The rest takes patience, persistence, and hard work. I've found that whenever I'm struggling to look in the mirror and see my strength, I try to say things that make me feel strong and proud because strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. Don't believe me? These two pictures were both taken of me during the same exact marathon. Same body, same day, same strength.

I weigh 166 pounds (according to the number on the scale this morning) and two months ago, I ran through doubt, shaved 18 minutes off my previous marathon personal best to run a marathon in 3 hours and 41 f*cking minutes. I have cellulite, stretch marks, love handles, and belly rolls, and they aren't flaws. They aren't things I want to change about myself. They make me, me. 

Beauty and strength may have an industry standard but you and I know that that standard is bullshit. We all have different body shapes and skin colors and they're all beautiful. Embrace it. Embody it. Empower it.  

Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.