It’s getting to be bathing suit season, and so there is a lot of talk about getting bathing suit ready. Presumably, in our culture, “bathing suit ready” means endless squats, lunges, push ups, ab work, spin classes, bootcamp classes, running and generally beating the sh*t out of our bodies.
Hey, exercise is great for improving your overall physical (and mental) healthy - and there is nothing wrong with any of the activities listed above. With the exception of spinning (I’ve never taken a class if you can believe it), I enjoy them all.
But I don’t think more exercise is what you need to do to get “swimsuit ready.” (The phrase swimsuit ready came from a reader when I was surveying for potential blog topics.)
I believe the number one action you can work on to get prepared for a season that invites shorts and tank tops is….drum roll please……
Develop a positive relationship with your body.
Yup. No big thing, right?*****
Most of us would find wrestling an alligator more natural than being kind towards our bodies.
If we met in person, you might describe me as fit - and with a lot of help from genetics and some weekly effort on my part - I hold my own. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with my own body.
On the outside of my right knee is a pale white scar from a teenage, neighborhood game of hide and seek. On the inside of my right leg is a small spiderweb of varicose veins that seems to puff up closer to the surface with each passing year. Sometimes you can’t really see them, and other times that’s all I see when I glance down at my legs. I have them on both legs, in several different places, and at times I am reminded of my grandmother, who rarely wore shorts, but I caught glimpses of her varicose veins when she wore dresses to church.
These veins bother me in a way that I’d like to deny. But if I’m going to preach a positive relationship with our bodies, then you should know that I struggle in my efforts too. Those varicose veins makes me feel my age in a way that’s uncomfortable.
And so I’ve been joking that I won’t wear shorts at all this summer - because I’ve become embarrassed of my legs.
I’m not proud of that, but hey interwebz - I’m telling you anyway. So I’m working on that positive body image.
The thing is, my legs have taken me many places. They’ve hiked over 200 miles of Rocky Mountain National Park. They’ve run thousands of miles in all parts of the country, from New Mexico to Colorado to Oklahoma and more. They’ve worked 12 hour days on cement floors doing retail, walked through the farm fields of Western Pennsylvania to interview farmers, and stood in the dugout wells of minor league baseball teams, shifting from side to side to stay warm. They barked and complained when I did last year’s Tough Mudder, and they still don’t take very kindly to deep squats or lunges.
But my legs, like the rest of my body, carry my story.
And this summer, maybe more than any summer in the past, I find myself having to work very hard to be kind to my body. To be appreciative of my body. To be gentle with my body. To trust and appreciate that I am the best version of me that I know how to be right now, and that is all I can ask of myself.
For the record, no I don’t think varicose veins are the end of the world, and yes, I know you can have them removed when they start causing pain. For right now, I’m just being vain about my veins.
Yes, I did that.
It’s not easy to avoid self-deprecating comments about your appearance and your body. We punch holes in all kinds of compliments that people pay us.
You look great!
I love your glasses!
They hide my fat face!
Those responses are reflexive - much like our apologies - and those are the comments that we need to corral.
As we get ready to head into summer on this Memorial Day weekend, and even those of us in Maine will experience warm weather, I want you to take this reminder and put it on your refrigerator and your bathroom mirror and your phone and maybe even a post-it note on your co-worker’s forehead:
You are bathing suit ready, just as you are.
***** Soooooo much sarcasm there. So much.