Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Ta-ta" to the Sports Bra?

A sports bra.  

What could be so 'offensive' about it?  I read an article recently and it drove me bananas.  The writer was questioning etiquette of wearing one in public while running.  Where I can sympathize in the feeling of 'what if someone looks at me funny', I am not a joiner in 'well, maybe I shouldn't wear it then'.  

Let's just cut to the chase here.  Sports bras have become my best friend these days (although some days I feel like with chafing, they're my worst enemy).  I'm a new mama.  I breastfeed my child.  So my breast 'profile' has changed - significantly - from when I was non nursing & full time racing.  And whereas before I mostly belonged to the ranks of women who wore the smallest sports bra they could find and sometimes wondered why they wore one anyways, now I am truly in need of the technology that sports bras offer us.  So, let' s just take a moment and thank god for people who understand sports bras.  To the company that rhymes with "schmooving fomfort", I love you.

But back to the issue of modesty.  Occasionally pre-baby I would take off on a training run in only a sports bra.  It would have to be hot, really hot.  And I would just live with the thought that perhaps people would look at me and maybe scoff at my lack of clothing.  Oh well.  I felt a bit self conscious about not having chiselled 6-pack abs.  Oh well.  If you're running fast enough people can only look at you for so long.  I often opted for shirt on though, not wanting people (ie guys) in my running group to feel uncomfortable.  Then one day, when doing a solo workout at the track, in a weird combo of heat & humidity followed by pouring rain, I flung off the shirt and ran just in the sports bra.  I felt so much cooler.  I felt stronger & faster.  I felt like a badass who just didn't care what anyone thought.

I felt good about myself.  What a revelation.

Flash forward to me about 5 months pregnant.  As you likely know, I continued to run through pregnancy.  I received much encouragement from my medical doctor to do so with only a few caveats.  Drink enough, eat enough, don't run yourself into the ground, and do NOT get too hot out there.

Now, there is just something about carrying around an extra 20+lbs, with a new layer of insulation (aka, baby growing body fat), and a hairless baby monkey clinging to your core that just heats you up.  So as I started to run into the late spring and summer I noticed I was hotter earlier.  So I ran in just my sports bra.  This was an absolute no brainer.  I never worried what other people thought.  I was out there taking care of my baby.  I felt so much cooler (also perhaps due to the very neat increased surface area of carrying around a melon in your belly).  And then something else terrific happened.

I felt better about myself.  No more worries about 'what if my stomach looked funny', or 'what if people stare at my boobs'.  Hell, no, because I was an undeniably strong woman.  Nope, no worries there because they were undoubtably staring at my stomach.  And that I understand.  There's a lack of pregnant women runners out there, and I remember staring (in awe!) of a very pregnant runner who ran past me years ago.  So I just felt strong, confident, in charge of my body.  I got thumbs up, I got "You go girl", I got "Awesome", and once during a race I got "She's packing! This mumma's packing - woooooooooo".  A personal fave for originality.

Now, back to current day, and just about every day I've been running since that has been hot.  There is no shirt involved.  Why? Here's why.  Because my body is my own.  Because you don't get to say anything about it.  Because I've made it so strong from the inside out that whether it looks 'idealized' or not, it shows up and it gets the job done.   It works damn hard.

When I started running sans shirt after having a baby, I know I have a different body.  I have that extra layer of breastfeeding bodyfat everywhere, sort of fluffy and unfamiliar in it's composition after racing for a long time.  I have much larger breasts due to breastfeeding a very healthy baby boy - and a whole new collection of sports bras to support the fact.  They're not implants people - they're milk.  I have chafing scars that line my chest, and I'm not ashamed of them.  I got those scars through hard work.  They're me.

I don't look like a Runners' World cover model.  But am I out there working hard enough to gasp for breath, to not be able to push any harder, to have to wonder where the closest washroom is, or get choked up when I realize just how grateful for how hard my body is willing to work? You bet your bottom dollar.

Do I 'worry' about what people will think?  Not anymore.  Am I glad? I most certainly am.  So here's my point.  I'm not happy about an article promoting women to do more worrying.  We worry enough.  We live everywhere in lives but in the present moment, something I'm realizing more and more as I age, and more as I see a little beautiful boy who does live in the current moment and is in awe of life.  

So I think women should run more in that spirit.  However they want, whenever they want, feeling the best that they can, because that's what this is all about.  Running is a gift, and so is your body.  Don't let anyone take that away from you.  Perhaps I've become a bit more bold as I age and realize that my body is a living breathing working thing, not a picture for someone to gossip about.  Thank goodness for that.

Happy running women.  We're all in this together.