Funny thing happened at the gym this morning. Living in The Villages, I’m surrounded by older folks. Not elderly, geriatrics – just older than me. These folks are active. They work out, they play a lot of golf and they socialize, a lot. They really live life. It’s a nice place to live (or live near), regardless of all the STD jokes. And the people are very nice as well. But I digress.
My gym is MVP Fitness is in The Villages and I’m younger than most, though we do have young people there. On Monday, our Group Power instructor made mention of my triathlon that I completed in on Sunday and told the class I earned 2nd place in my age group, an improvement from last place a year ago. Today, I had a gentleman who is a regular come up to me and chat about the race. He started the conversation by asking, “So were you an athlete in high school?” I said, “No, I wish I would have been.” I just didn’t feel like going into the whole story of losing 100 pounds the last two years. And sometimes I like to see where the conversation will go when I don’t mention that. The other funny thing is that most people don’t really know what a triathlon is. Most think it’s just a running race, not a Swim, Bike, Run race. He said, well you must “run” fast to go from last place to 2nd place this year.
And then he said – “funny because you aren’t small, most runners are pretty petite.” Amazingly I didn’t take that comment as an insult. I kind of just laughed inside to myself and thought, “you should have seen me two years ago.” Plus, most people don’t mentioned people’s size if they think it will offend them. The truth is I’m not small. I mean we’re in the Group Power lifting class and I’m in short shorts and a tank top that shows off my huge biking and running legs and my arms that are really getting defined. I don’t want to be a huge bodybuilding girl (actually that’s always been a fear) but I have to lift weights to strength train and keep my body fat in check and I’m definitely not a rail. On that particular day I weighed 146 lbs.
So I guess the point is, small is relative. I consider myself smaller than what I was. Wearing a size 4 now is one way that I know my size is real, because I honestly I still don’t see the new me most days. That size or number in the tag keeps my body image in check because it’s a tangible unit, unlike looking in the mirror. This is especially helpful with comments like the one from my new buddy at the gym.
I recall a statement that the biggest loser trainer, Jennifer Widerstrom, said in a recent article. They asked her what her least favorite exercise was and she said running. Ahhh, that was like a knife to the heart. I really like her but since running is my thing it felt like a personal assault on my sport. She said “I’m like 140 something pounds, I’ve got Swedish genes, I shouldn’t be running.” I thought that was so sad and such a bad example to set for so many people of all sizes that want to run. Guess what, I’m like 140 something pounds too, and I run and love it. It keeps the weight off (and keeps me sane). But more importantly I was like 239 lbs., 190 lbs., 180 lbs., 170 lbs., etc when I started running and that’s why I’m now 140 something lbs. And I run fast, or at least faster than most, in most of my races. And the best part is, I’m getting faster. I’m 41 years old and I’m getting faster.
Here’s the thing – just do your own thing. Paddle your own canoe. Small or large – you can outsmart and outwork the competition. There is no ideal athlete body type. Your mental toughness and how bad you want it can get you from last to second place quicker than you think. Not a petite runner? Screw them. Only you know what’s right for you. Trust yourself and get out there.