Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tyranny of the Short-Shorts

The Terror of the short-shorts....
As I unpacked my gym back today I realized that-- once again-- I'd gotten my workout attire wrong. Monday, I'd unintentionally packed two shirts and no shorts. Luckily, I'd worn leggings that day... but still. Spinning indoors in leggings is no fun. I now know from personal experience.

Today, though,  I had the opposite problem: I'd packed a top and shorts [insert sigh of relief] but the sigh was quickly interrupted by the realization I'd packed the short-shorts. 

Let me explain: short-shorts are a pair of black Lululemon shorts with an inseam no more than 5" (think: band aid) and probably less that I'd bought right before my series of unfortunate injuries last year, back when I was running approximately 60-70 miles a week-- and back when I was (somewhat) leaner. Though I'm back on my feet now, I'm no where NEAR that kind of mileage (let's not even talk about intensity); and well, I have to be frank: my body's changed. 

How could it not? I swam 4,200 yards on Wednesday's workout and felt fantastic; since May, I've ridden my bike at least 65-100 miles each Saturday which doesn't count the rides I do on my own during the week. Before the time change, there were weeks when I was on my bike for 240-280 miles. My body has adapted to the water and the bike: muscles I didn't have once have now spouted and flourished. And then, there's the added layer I accumulated last spring when I decided to re-write and re-structure my entire master's thesis. Unfortunately, writing muscles aren't ones you can exactly see and have, in fact, the opposite effect on physique as, say, an exercise routine.

I was humiliated when I realized my mistake. I had three options: I could pack up, go home and work on my writing; I could wear my jeans in the spin class or I could grin, and "bare" it-- just wear the damn things and spin. 

So, I walked out the locker room with my tan line from my cycling shorts a good... 5" from where these shorts ended. I'm sure it looked awful. I know it looked awful. Every mirror in the place was like a torture device and the worst was to come since the spin room is 270-degrees of mirror. I hung my head low using my orange foam roller, lower still when I did my 3x15 eccentric heel drops to stretch and strengthen my calves. 

Out of nowhere, though, this woman, stretching behind me asks me: "What do you do?"

And I turn around because I'm expecting her to ask about my foam roller (I get that a lot-- orange is a pretty loud color) and expect to answer questions about where I bought the roller, how much it costs and if it really works better than the crappy black ones they supply at the gym. Or, I'm hoping that, anyway, dreading the other question that comes up about the nasty scar on my hip from a cycling accident that you can see-- and only see-- when I've got on the short-shorts. 

Instead, though, she asks: "Did you get those legs just by working out?"

I blink a few times. I probably looked down at my legs which look, simply, huge to me these days. (Did she mean the tan lines, I wondered?) It took a second or five for me to realize she was asking a serious question. 

For nearly my whole life, I've chased athletics so that I could at least inhabit the identity of "athlete" in lieu of what I thought-- for a long time-- was my only other alternative: fat person. 


Ugly girl. 

But there, in the middle of a 24-Hour Fitness gym a woman was asking me about my body, how I got it. Where it came from. And then, as if she were an angel, she said: 

"I'm so happy to see women who are strong in their bodies." 

Did I actually smile? I said, only, that I run a little, swim and bike a lot. 

Just like that, she nodded and stepped off her mat and left. 

But the exchange left me wondering: why is it that an athletic body is only as good as it looks? Or, is that only me talking? Why are we-- or I-- so afraid of such a small thing--- literally small in this case-- as shorts, when really our goals are so much more important? 

Dare I say: bigger?

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