Taking off my shirt

For a moment, the big yellow ball in the sky frightened me. Not as much as the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz and Wicked (which tend to give me nightmares), but this bright orb caused a momentary panic. Then I remembered — it’s only the sun. It’s supposed to be there. It’s just been gray and rainy in western New York for so long, I had nearly forgotten what sunshine looked and felt like.

Which is why, in part, I was overdressed for my afternoon easy run. With the day off, Sue and I decided to do our easy run in the early afternoon, getting the opportunity to run in warmth and sunshine. With temperatures in the low 70s and lots of sun, I wore running shorts and a long-sleeved technical top. And the long-sleeved black top, made for cooler temperatures, was a mistake from the moment I stepped out of the car. Oh well, I thought. It’s just a recovery run. I don’t need to kill it, so if I get hot and have to back off, that’s OK.¬†Almost two miles into the run, Sue decides to take off her long-sleeved shirt and run in her sports bra. She urged me to do the same. And I balked.

I don’t run in just my sports bra. That’s reserved for elite women running in the Diamond League or those who are classically built athletes. Certainly not for me. I might scare oncoming traffic. I had only run in my sports bra once before, and that was on the beach in Miami after a woeful half marathon where the likelihood of someone knowing me was extremely slim. But this particular run was getting warm. “Everyone looks thin and fast when they run,” Sue told me. Perhaps it was the delirium of two weeks of solid, heavy training. Perhaps it was the warm weather. Or perhaps, it was just another opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. But I took off my long-sleeved black shirt, tied it around my hips and finished my run in my sports bra.

Admittedly, I was self-conscious at first. What would other people think? What if someone I knew drove by? But the coolness of the breeze against my skin was far too energizing, chasing away those thoughts. I no longer cared. I paid attention to my form, kept my pace easy and let my body soak in the sun. I won’t go so far as to say I was completely confident and comfortable, but I was on my way to getting there.

On the run, I thought about how often I judge my body and compare myself to other people. As I change the way I view I things, I find the things I view actually change, too. Instead of scanning my reflection for “faults” I can scan it for strength. It all depends on where I put my focus, where my attention goes.

I’m not sure how often I’ll take my shirt off when I run this summer, but I pushed the edges of another comfort zone boundary by doing so yesterday. And as insignificant or superficial as that may sound, it was part of a profound shift in how I see myself.

%d bloggers like this: