it’s time to let go of the self criticism and get to work. in comfort.
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I hear it all the time.
“I think once I drop five pounds, I’ll start going to that crossfit gym.”
“I’ll start now in my basement. Once I can squeeze into those Lulus, I’ll join the local run club.”
“I would go to the gym but it’s a beautiful people club. It’s not for me.”
AAAAAAAND it’s time to stop. Like yesterday.
I need you to hear this: nobody that matters is looking at you to judge. I’m not saying this to be rude. I’m not saying it to crush your spirit. You are a beautiful person exactly as you sit right now, so that isn’t a dig. It’s a reminder that your presence matters. Your appearance doesn’t. Got me?
The truth is that we all go through life knowing that there are different types of people. When you tell yourself these lies that you don’t belong in the healthy living spaces, you are picturing a room of what my nine-year-old calls, “The fancy girls.” These are the people (and this might be you! Good on ya! Do you, boo!) that look perfect. No qualifiers needed. They just do. At the grocery store at 10 pm for kid’s Tylenol? Perfect. Coffee shop in the middle of the day? Perfect. School pickup? Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. And yes, they still are perfection in the spaces where sweat is pouring from the rest of us.
I don’t begrudge these women! If curling their hair and applying fake lashes before heading out the door for whatever life is dishing out gives them a boost, then girl, whip out that lash brush!
For the rest of us, I’m offering you the chance to decide to neither envy them nor fear them. Celebrate those women. They are doing their thing. And while they are doing it, they aren’t worried about the fact that you aren’t.
So, back to you. And me. Because I am you.
Here is what I’ve learned:
Three hundred years ago, when my babies were double running stroller aged, I decided that I was going to start pounding the pavement. I did so in gigantic baggy sweatpants, an old sports bra that definitely did not adequately support the milk machines I was schlepping around, and a heavy cotton t-shirt. If I could have camouflaged myself into the actual dang scrub brush along the running path in our tiny town, I would have done exactly that. I wanted to get in the workout, but I didn’t want to be SEEN getting in the workout.
This outfit would be totally fine if we were just going to be out and about. Y’all might know that my fashion game is SUPER weak. The problem is that it’s so completely impractical if I wanted to get serious.
This look says that I want to hide more than I want to achieve. Because I already told you that nobody is all that concerned about what YOU are wearing, we pick these sorts of baggy, unhelpful, chafe-y, miserable outfits because we don’t feel like we have earned the tight technical clothing that “real” athletes wear.
That. Is. A. Dang. LIE. That lie is from Satan himself. That’s the type of nasty lie that keeps your workouts miserable and leads you right to where you quit last time.
I’m here to tell you that there is no magical benchmark one reaches where lights and sirens alert you that other people find your figure acceptable enough to wear the clothes that keep you comfortable. It’s even easier than that:
WHATEVER BODY YOU HAVE RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND IS PERFECT FOR THE TECHNICAL CLOTHES OF AN ATHLETE. Consider that my lights and sirens.
Ok, so I recognize that there can be what feels like the actual grandest of confidence canyons between your brain when it consumes a meme about feeling good in your own skin and your brain when your eyeballs are inspecting your booty in the mirror. How do we bridge that gap?
Here are my practical tips to get you into the clothes that were meant to get you active and feeling good enough to stop thinking about them.
It will feel strange at first
Just know this. If you are accustomed to hiding behind the layers, you might feel positively nudie kazoodey when you first slip outside your home in technical fabrics. As long as you know that you aren’t legitimately missing important articles of clothing, just acknowledge it. Try not to label this feeling good or bad. It just is. Know that it will pass. You can do this.
Not everything is teeny
The covers of the catalogs clogging up your mailbox might have you convinced that once you dive in, your entire wardrobe must consist of high waisted leggings and a strappy bra. Now, these are great pieces, but if bearing your belly isn’t for you, then it doesn’t have to be for you! It has not ever and will never ever be my style, and that is ok!
One of my favorite items to wear when I’m running (who am I kidding? Also around town, at Disney Parks, at swim meets, whenever I’m likely to be sweating, whenever I’m likely to be sweating…) is actually a pocketed running skirt called the Sparkle Skirt. With these, you have all the chafe resistance of tight shorts (bonus: that DO NOT ride up at all) and the modesty of the skirt to cover whatever I don’t need to share with the whole world. Unless it is miserably cold, if I’m running, you can bet I’m wearing one of these bad boys.
(Or girls. A skirt is probably a girl. I digress.)
Sparkle Skirts brand skirts have a massive following with the Disney crowd for exactly that reason. They are comfortable enough for a marathon in the heat. They can certainly get you through some sweaty park action. Since they have the shorts, you don’t flash any goodies at any unsuspecting Cast Members as you slyly board the ride vehicles. They even have a pretty solid resale market.
I’m not even going to sugarcoat this one, ladies. (Men: this is where you scroll on down to the next paragraph.) They have another perk for those of us who have grown a tiny human inside of our actual bodies and have the pelvic issues that stem from such a glorious endeavor: that skirt keeps whatever tinkle may or may not have broken loose while your muscles were focused on moving forward a secret. I got you on this one.
As a bargain hunter, I have spent some time combing the racks at discount stores. I am a Maxinista. I just want to encourage you to be very careful about buying your activewear there unless you are buying from a brand you know. Often, we are finding thin fabrics with waistbands that roll, seams that chafe, and even fabrics that shred in the wash. Not only are you sacrificing comfort and appearance, but these are also not a bargain when you have to replace them so often!
My personal favorite brand for sports bras, leggings and tanks is currently Zyia Active. I love these products so much that I joined the company as an independent sales representative. Almost my entire wardrobe is from this company. Why do I like them? All bottoms are completely squat proof. I only needed to be told once after a yoga class that a friend of mine could see my, “Sunshine” before I decided that cheap-o leggings were never leaving my house again! The bras all have a thick band at the bottom which keeps them in place and also helps in the support department. I always feel covered and confident from yoga to running to cycling to HIIT workouts.
There is no doubt that thicker, smoother fabrics lift and sculpt for curves where you want them. You know how sometimes you can put on a pair of jeans in the morning that round out the booty, but my mid-afternoon, those suckers are slipping down everywhere and your backside looks flat and droopy? (No? Just me?) It’s the same with leggings that aren’t high quality! Trust me: go for the good stuff and WORK!
For cyclists and triathletes
Alright friends, there really isn’t another way to say this: the norms of these communities involve wearing outfits that are pretty silly to the outside world. Don’t fight it. It’s so much easier to cruise along on that bike without a shirt parachute at 19mph. This is one of those times where you just have to trust those that have come before. How do I know this for sure? Well, because there were several races where I wasn’t ready to put the rolls on display during the bike portion so I covered up with a shirt. Now that I have raced both ways, tight is definitely better.
Let’s talk short padding. Though it passes understanding, your saddle is rock hard for a reason. While many companies try to sell you on the thickest gel-filled shorts and bibs, I find these to be pinch-y nonsense. Though you might not, I prefer a quick-drying, thin, triathlon pad in my shorts, even if I’m just going out for a ride. Experiment a bit to discover what works best for you.
The most important part of your shorts and bibs is actually how the seams are put together! It really doesn’t take long on a saddle with a seam rubbing alllllll up in your creases before you realize that no amount of pad lubricant is going to make this experience tolerable. My favorite brand of cycling and triathlon shorts is hands down Coeur sports. They sew the soft liner down the inside of the legs so that there is no rubbing at all.
You can do this!
If you are ready to make the leap into something new, come tell us about it in our Finding Finish Lines Facebook Group. We are a growing community of brave women who are leaving behind what doesn’t serve us and spending our time doing things that bring us joy. We’d love for you to join us!