“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.”
On this weekend’s long run I did something that, in my 10+ years of running, I never had done before. I ran without a shirt.
In semi-related news, there’s a chance a photo of me coupled with a nasty, bitchface comment is out there on Snapchat – yes I’m passive-aggressively pointing out your awful behavior, Dani Mathers. Or perhaps a passerby or two pointed and laughed at me, then talked smack about me for their own enjoyment – my friend, Ann, saw this happen last weekend in Minneapolis and shared her disgust of it on Facebook.
Hopefully neither of those two things happened but if they did, whatever. Nice waste of your time, people. My reason for running shirtless wasn’t some kind of non-skinny-girls-unite protest to Mathers and her despicable behavior nor was it in response to what Ann saw and posted on Facebook.
Quite simply, the temp was in the 70s with about 90 percent humidity by 5 a.m. when I went running. I was screaming hot, just dripping in sweat. So, in the dim light of the wee morning hours, I peeled off my tank. I instantly felt cooler. Plus removing my tank after mile 2 made for a handy sweat towel.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like big deal but, for me, it kinda was. I’ve always been self-conscious about running in public without my shirt, to the point I’d never done it.
It’s not that I’m embarrassed about how I look. I wear a bikini at the lake. Now, that’s around my family and friends, and in a setting where it’s expected one will be in a bathing suit, but still. It’s not in the middle of the busy intersections of south Fargo where I live and run. My stomach isn’t flat and it for sure jiggles when I run – not like, Santa-Claus-jolly-level jiggling but enough that it’s noticeable.
That being said, I can’t imagine anyone else would care enough to notice me running with my shirt off or make any effort to think, say or post anything nasty about me. People have better things to do. Yes, I’m again passively-aggressively talking to you, Dani Mathers.
Clearly it’s more in my head. I, like many women, can be my own worst enemy. As happy as I am with my body, fitness level and mental outlook of it all, I’m not immune to feeling insecure and judging myself. I have fat days and bloated days and I’m always my own worst critic.
So, yeah, maybe hearing the Mathers and Minneapolis stories hit a little nerve. But there was also something else that happened recently, another story that I thought about when planning to rise before 5 a.m. to try to beat the heat and humidity.
Over Fourth of July weekend, my friend and fellow runner, Kristin and I went for our annual holiday weekend run at the lake. By 8 a.m. it was already superhot but I figured a light tank and shorts would have to do. Kristin, on the other hand, had a different plan. A couple minutes into our run, she said screw it, and ditched her shirt.
I told her I would too but that’s one thing I’ve never been able to do. I just can’t do it.
She went on to tell me how, two kids and almost a decade after her college running years, she looks back on photos of herself, admires her six-pack abs, and thinks about how she should have owned it more back then. And now, thinks to herself, “When I’m in my 60s, I’m sure I’ll look back at photos of me in my 30s and think ‘Damn, I looked good!’”
As she said this, I couldn’t help but notice her tiny stomach and general athletic-ness – then it hit me: What if not everyone is looking at you, and being a stupid, judgmental hag? Yes, again, I’m passively-aggressively calling you out specifically, Dani Mathers.
What if everyone’s looking at someone else, thinking they look great? Not seeing the “flaws” we all see in ourselves, but instead seeing the good things? I mean, I’m sure no one was checking out my jiggly belly while I was running and thinking, “Daaaammmmnnnn!” But maybe they were admiring my bravery – or at least my good sense to run sans-shirt in such sweltering weather. Maybe I could give myself a little break and not be my own worst critic. And my stomach’s.
Do you find yourself to be your toughest critic? What’s a small – yet significant – moment of bravery like this you’ve experienced? Share it in the comments or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.