This is the the most recent post in a new bi-monthly column: Room on the Road by Denise Dollar, who you might know as the founder of Heart Strides. She is in the process, as many of us are, of struggling with body issues as she finds her way back to running.
Coffee in hand, lunches made, kids fed, my mind wanders. Kids are back to school, I can stay home, catch up on laundry, work, squeeze in some reading, maybe even finish a cup of coffee. My lofty goals come to a screeching halt as my husband enters my private conversation, “Hey, I’m going to the Y, do you want to come with?”
I can’t say no. I want to—believe me, I really, REALLY want to—but I don’t. If I say no, I will feel guilty. I will obsess about not going the entire time he’s at the Y.
Had he said, “You SHOULD go to the Y with me” I most likely would have said ‘no’ simply because I’m feeling sensitive about my exercise routine these days and ‘should’ would have registered as judgment.
I open the fridge and slide my ‘She believed she could, so she did’ mug onto the shelf, smirking at the irony.
The drive to the Y is quiet, but my husband’s enthusiasm speaks volumes. His posture, perfect; back straight, arms relaxed; his gaze intense. He was already reaping the rewards of a workout he was yet to begin.
Me? Shoulders rolled over as if I had the weight of the world upon them. My thoughts, pensive; my jaw clenched; my brain stomping its feet, chanting I really don’t want to go.
Approaching the entrance, I quickly declare that I am headed to the track. I admire him for his renewed commitment to working out, but I have no desire to do squat, cleans, or deadlifts. Not today.
Shuffling down the hallway, passing classrooms filled with regulars and New Year’s resolvers, I head up the stairs to the track. I should run up these stairs. Nah, I’m halfway up, doesn’t pay to run now, slacker. Secretly wishing I would have the track to myself, I go through the doorway with high hopes.
Which way do I go? Right? Left? I look for clues and spot a sign, Sun-Thurs clockwise, Fri-Sat counter clockwise. I don’t even know what day it is. I read it again, this time slowly, S-u-n-d-a-y through Thursday… I still don’t know what day it is. I look around in search for a walker. Clockwise.
Finding my way to the inside lane, I try to ignore the fact that my shirt is hugging my belly. My skin rubbing up and down my shirt overrides the fact that my new bra is incredible. These girls aren’t going anywhere. Hallelujah. That fact alone should have me running from the parking lot, up the stairs, around the track and back down the stairs.
Even though I wore my protective armor—a light, zipped jacket that stays zipped— I feel exposed, vulnerable. I am that person that wants to be thinner before I go to the gym, just like I am that person that would clean her house before a cleaning service came.
I know. It makes no sense.
So here I am, sweat trickling down my back like Niagara Falls after only one lap. Too stubborn to shed my jacket, I stand my ground and sweat through a few more laps.
A vent blasting hot air is positioned halfway through my lap. Two times of walking through that sauna, and I ball up my jacket and toss it in a corner. Enough of that.
Back on the track, I am tired of walking. I start to run. This isn’t so bad. Actually it feels pretty good. I finish a lap. Then another. Wait. I take that back. This feels hard. It really doesn’t feel that great after all. The weight on my hips seem to be moving around more than usual.
So I make a deal with myself. Intervals: run half a lap, walk half a lap. Genius! I take off again.
Who am I kidding? It’s still hard. Why do I let this happen? This weight is just bringing me down. It’s so hard on my body. Stupid chips. Man, I love chips. Stupid chips. Shut up and keep moving.
I round the bend, deep in thought about what brings me back to this nebulous, exhausting point.
The point where I struggle with loving my body as it is and not loving it enough to keep it healthy. Why do I always seem to end up at this destination? Stress? Survival? Comfort? These extra pounds, why do I hold on to them? Why do I keep inviting them back?
Staring down at the track ahead of me, the shadows catch my eye. A nice distraction from my never-ending inquiry as to why I keep losing and gaining the same weight. I find a connection with the shadows. These shadows are just like my extra weight, lurking, casting a darkness, not really me at all, just following me around.
I pick up the pace and pass a woman that has been taunting me with her thigh gap for the last 20 minutes.
Turning up the volume on my phone, hoping to drown out my thoughts, I search for a mantra. Breathe, clear your mind, let it go.
Then I hear her. My pal Adele.
I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet,
To go over
They say that time's supposed to heal ya,
but I ain't done much healing.
Words I have heard a hundred times go right to my core, as if I am hearing them for the first time.
Words that have me thinking of my younger self, that girl in her twenties who bumped up against life, never loving herself for who she was, never giving her dreams a place in the sun, always in the shadows. Those shadows.
Adele whispers in my ear, It's no secret that the both of us are running out of time. The urge to join Adele for some karaoke-on-the-run is real. I want to croon with her. The only thing holding me back is fear of getting our memberships revoked.
Losing track of my laps, I think about that girl. Me. That twentysomething that was in constant motion but never felt like she was going anywhere; that teenager who thought the number on the scale defined her. That girl, those girls, need to come out of the shadows.
I start to run, passing the entrance where a young woman, maybe in her late twenties, has been standing for the last few laps. I notice that she has her protective gear on like I typically do, layers upon layers, covering this and that. She’s anxious about being at the Y, too. I see you sister. I get it.
She fidgets with her shoes, her phone, her GPS, glancing at the track in search, for what appears to be her place. You belong here. We make eye contact, I smile, but what I really want to do is grab her hand and take her with me, and sing loudly.
But this time, to a new song, which has just come on.
Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me
Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be.
Coming around for my last lap I slow down to exit, wishing with all my might that the young woman has found her way onto the track. She has, and it makes my day. I stop to pick up my jacket from the floor and notice I’m standing in the light.
This is where we all deserve to be. In the light, claiming our space.
I throw my jacket back down on the floor and head back out for another lap. I’m claiming my space for 2017—and for many more miles to come.