This morning on my bike ride, I was listening to a Marathon Training Academy Podcast. (I only listen to something with an earbud in my right ear, and only when I’m riding on a trail; I don’t listen to it when I ride on the road for safety reasons). I’ve mentioned before that I like listening to podcasts on rides and long runs, and depending on the day I’ll scroll through and find different topics. Sometimes I like race recaps, sometimes I like Q & A type discussions, but today I picked a more serious episode to listen to. I picked the one about the effect of running on body image.
I didn’t know what to expect really, but I was look forward to hearing what the episode had to say, because I definitely have an opinion on what running has done for my own perceptions of my body.
The first part of the podcast I found particularly interesting because of my geeky history loving side. Angie talked about how society’s views of weight has changed. I always tell my kids (I’m a history teacher…I don’t talk much about that) how most of the time throughout history women who were heavier and lacked a lot of muscle definition were viewed as being more well off. They were viewed as having money to afford to be able to eat more, and they were viewed as not having to work much. And as unfortunate as it is, often times it is the portrayal of “well off” that becomes what society idolizes.
What I haven’t explained to my kids, because I haven’t really thought about it until hearing it today, is how society’s views of weight have changed and why. Through print media (I’m sure you’ve read or heard about this before) and the use of Photoshop, women have (consciously or not) been taught to be more conscious of their body shape and size. Of that I knew, but what I found interesting was when Angie talked about the fact that now it is cheaper food (like fast food and processed food) that is worse for us and leads to weight gain; it now costs more to eat better. As time has progressed, and more processed foods have been created, it is now not constant access to an ample food supply that shows having money. Instead, the idea of being skinny and fit and having time to workout and money to buy healthy foods (lean means, produce, organic, etc) has changed society’s views of what’s desireable.
Though I realized that this was somewhat controversial while I was listening to it, I knew I wanted to mention it here because it was something that I don’t think I had ever heard presented in that way. I know that we see thin models with perfect bodies that have been Photoshopped to high heavens, but I guess I never really thought about how and why society’s perceptions have changed over time.
And that then brought them to a discussion of how running (and I’m going to add cycling and swimming since that’s what I’m spending more time doing right now) has impacted people’s perceptions of their own bodies. I would really encourage you to read their post or listen to this episode of their podcast, because hearing from so many listeners was really inspiring to me. I won’t summarize what other people said, but I did want to chime in with my own thoughts on the topic.
I posted these “before/after” style pictures on my blog in September with a post about losing some weight after starting my running journey. But since posting about losing weight, I’ve starting thinking even more about how I feel than what number is on the scale.
Running, cycling, and being active has changed my thoughts about my body in an absolutely amazing way. I no longer look to the scale to tell me how I should feel about myself. I don’t even look to how my clothes feel to tell me how I should feel about myself. Instead, on a daily basis, I just feel better. And I feel more powerful. Knowing that my body has carried me through ten half marathons, a marathon, and is now on its way to taking me through a triathlon journey that I don’t even know yet where it will go makes me feel unstoppable. I look in the mirror and see muscle definition, strength, and power that I didn’t see before I started running and living a fit and healthy lifestyle. Yes, I’ve lost a bit of weight, but no, I’m nowhere near a weight that at an earlier point in my life I though would be the weight that it would take for me to be “happy” at. And yet, I’m happy!
I don’t look like someone on the cover of a magazine, but I no longer strive to. Instead, I continue working to achieve my goals. I no longer work to look like someone on the cover of a magazine, be it a beauty magazine or a running magazine. I just want to be the best version of myself. And that, on a regular basis, is how I view my body. I am thankful for what it does for me, and I’m thankful that as I continue pushing my limits it continues holding up and allowing me to do those things. Though I’m recovering from a stress fracture, it has only helped me appreciate my body and the things I’m able to do.
|It just goes back to one of my favorite shirts from Mileposts, “I run this body”. It’s so true.|
And to end, of course there are still times that I fall victim to wanting to be thinner or fit into these shorts differently or criticize what I’m looking in the mirror. It’s not as though I walk around with constant 100% confidence, but I do my best to remind myself when I’m having those moments of the things that I wrote about above. It doesn’t always work, but it does help. I just wanted to add my opinions on how running had shaped my body image after hearing all the inspiring stories Angie said people shared on their Facebook page.
And again, most of what I wrote about in the first half of this post came reworded from the May 31st podcast episode of Marathon Training Academy. I’m feeling the need to properly cite my sources here since I got so much from it. I’m thinking the endorphins from a great ride also helped me be so moved by this particular episode.
How has running or being active changed your body image?
Do you listen to podcasts when you run?
Do you ever get emotional while you’re reading or hearing a particularly moving story when you’re working out?