Bikini Bodies and Runner’s Legs

It’s that time of year again when spring brings forth the multitude of blooms, greenery, and one thousand ads spread all over media forums for ways to achieve that “Bikini Body.” I’m not exactly sure what a “Bikini Body” is, but from the pictures, it appears to be nothing like the body that I have. I suppose that means I should never wear anything slightly revealing out of the house because surely I am the only one with that particular problem.

Pardon, heavily dosed sarcasm is my second language.

Here’s the thing. I have a body. And if I choose to put a bikini on it, guess what? It becomes a bikini body!

I will be honest; the confidence to do this is hard to come by. The last time I wore a bikini I was in college and in full defiance of my parents’ wishes. I also ended up with a second-degree sunburn on my chest, belly, and upper thighs. (Sunscreen folks, it only works if you put it on…)

I have always had an Amazonian physique. I have been tall and large my entire life. Check out this picture…can you guess which one I am? This was in Kindergarten…

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People have always been assumptive of my physique too. I’m tall, therefore I must be good at basketball. The high school coach found out the hard way that inviting me to a practice even after I told her I was not any good would only end up in embarrassment for the both of us. Thanks, coach. I played softball because my best friend at the time did. She was good. I was…average. At best. My one claim to fame was my height, which allowed me to keep one foot on the base and reach for a ball far out from the base and get an out. This did not happen regularly because…apparently, hand-eye coordination is a thing? And I have always had a secret talent, I trip over air. Even now, there is an invisible “hump” at work that moves periodically that I regularly trip over.

Running was always something that I had to endure. It was a workout, warm-up, and punishment. I did it when I had to and avoided it when I could. I would opt to swim extra laps on the swim team to avoid it. I would try desperately to talk my way out of it in softball. I even managed to fake my way through gym classes. It wasn’t something that I ever thought I would enjoy, until my adult years.

I forced myself to "love" running when I was in my mid-twenties. It was good for me, I told myself. It would help me lose weight and be skinny.

I would finally be healthy and active without being told to do anything. I decided to try the Couch to 5k, Treadmill edition. I worked at it for 9 weeks. Increased my stamina, ran my little (big) heart out. I worked my way up to 30 minutes of running and decided to enter a local 5k. On the day of the race, it was sweltering. The hottest day of the year, in the middle of July, actually. And I found out the hard way that running for 30 minutes on a treadmill did not mean I could run 3.1 miles on pavement, especially in the heat. I had trained and worked so hard though, that I did not want to give up. Until a leather-faced power walker passed me saying I should give it up and just walk to finish the race.

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It broke me. I did not run again.

That is, until September of 2017. I had started a challenge at my church that included working out weekly. My partner in this scheme talked me into joining her at the gym and working out together. It turns out that when you pay for a YMCA membership, you can actually use it! (I had been paying for one for the last 4 years and had not used it AT ALL, because those are good money management skills.) She got me to start running on the track that was roughly 1/10 of a mile. When we first started, I was struggling to run one lap and every time she said I would run a 5k again I would scoff…and then choke a little because scoffing and running at the same time is hard. She kept pushing me further and faster, until I was eventually running a full mile on the track with her.

Something flipped in my brain, and I began to crave that satisfaction of accomplishment. I started looking at local 5ks again. Maybe I could do this. Maybe I could be active. And hey, maybe I would lose some weight and start looking swimsuit ready again!

I signed up for three 5ks in October. I started running on my treadmill at home again. The first day that I made it to 3.1 miles I cried so hard I startled my husband and my daughter. A few days later, I did it again. I was running three point one miles. From not running at all a month prior. I made it to 2 of those 5ks. The first one was so hot and I had no idea what to wear. I ended up having a panic attack on the course and almost quit. I made it across the finish line and got my first medal. I was so proud of that thing I wore it all that day and carried it around with me for a week after.

My next 5k was one week later and could not have been more different than the first. It was snowing at the start line, had a few hills that I was unprepared for, but I managed to knock off a full minute per mile and PR a crazy time.

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I was hooked from that moment on. I have run many 5ks since that time and set some pretty amazing goals for myself. I plan on running at least one 5k per month this year (crushing it!), I set out to run the 7 miler at the Run The Bluegrass (crushed it!) and now I want to complete a half marathon in the fall (don't get crushed by it!).Running has become my sanity, my medication, my me time, my accomplishment. I love to look at all my medals and race bibs. It gives me such a feeling of pride and it is so awesome to look at the product of a goal accomplished.

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The one thing that running has NOT given me is a bikini body. I do not fit the prototype of a “runner’s body.” I am not thin, I am not lanky, I am me. I am 5 feet 11.5 inches tall, and I weigh 245lbs. Which, actually, is about 15lbs heavier than when I STARTED running. Yup, I am one of those that managed to gain weight. I have a soft belly and rolls. I have a muffin top. I have an affinity for high-waisted running pants because it keeps it all together. I will never have that picture perfect magazine/model/advertised body.

I have MY body. And I can wear what I want on it. I have a new found confidence that is amazing, which I attribute mostly to running. I am stronger, physically and mentally, because of what running has done for me. I can run for 3, 4, 5, even 8 miles because my mind tells my legs to shut up and keep going. Those long and large runners legs carry me from start lines to finish lines. That soft belly is loved by my son because it's a soft place to nestle into when he is tired. That body that isn’t a classic bikini body is an amazing body. And if I chose to put a bikini on it, it will be a bad ass rocking bikini body.

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