Lately I have been surrounded by inspiration. Whether it be a Facebook post by a friend, the fall weather, something my kids did, or the fact that my husband rides his bike a gazillion miles a day to get to and from his work. It is a blessing to be inspired every time you turn a corner. Although I do believe it is something you can find if you are willing to look for it as well ;)
I felt inspired to write a little about the real me. The me #nofilters if you will. This will be a bit of a here-and-there post but here goes:
I am me. I am a woman, a mother, a very proud wife. I am the backbone of the US Coast Guard. I am strong, and I love staying active and in shape.
My family has the genes for muscles. We are middle height, dirty blonde with what I like to call a "schnozz" and we are athletic. Both of my brothers and I were high school hurdlers in track and field and we were all really good at it. My younger brother went on to play football for USU, got his bachelors in personal training and has dabbled in MMA as well as other training disciplines. My older brother is the ultimate "man's man" and has worked very hard for many years as a logger and in other tree-trimming professions which are very taxing physically. He has to stay strong.
So I have always been muscular. In high school I was teased to no end and called "manly" by boys who, let's be honest, I could have kicked the crap out of. I even had one really mean boy draw a picture of me with huge muscles and male genitalia. I can rationalize now as an adult that they were just self-conscious and intimidated. However, as a young, developing girl, to say it made me self-conscious of my physique is an understatement. I have struggled with it ever since. It was only when competing in sports-especially track and field-that I felt comfortable in my own skin, because performance reminded me that being strong was a gift. It made me proud of my muscles.
As I grew out of the awkward phase of high school and started having kids, my priorities changed but I have always craved physical activity. My pregnancy with my oldest son was a surprise at 18 years old when I was the fittest I have ever been. I ran up to 6 months pregnant, and didn't really "show" until about 7 months. I gained an ideal 25 pounds and fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans 1 week later. This was in 2000. I laugh about that now!
I had never been much of a long distance runner but the desire to "get my body back" motivated me to run in the mornings before my husband went to work. My runs were usually about a mile and a half.
Fast forward about a year and a half and we were pregnant again! Determined to have as great of a pregnancy as my first (and bounce back as well), I was running as I had before. I ended up losing that baby to miscarriage and was devastated. I don't remember how much I ran after that, but I did take my son on daily walks that probably added up to a mile and a half or so.
In 2003, we were blessed with our 2nd son. I gained a bit more weight (about 45 pounds) and did NOT get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans one week later. I discovered pilates and continued to go on daily walks. I think I felt pretty much back to "normal" by his first birthday.
In 2005 we had moved to a brand new city in a whole other region of the US and I had delivered our third son. I gained 55 pounds with him and noticed a real change in my body. My thighs and butt were definitely heavier, as well as basically the rest. I had my work cut out for me. I was busier than ever now with one in Kindergarten and 2 babies at home. I would put them in the stroller as soon as our oldest was off to school. I wouldn't even go inside the house except to grab sippy cups. Then we'd be off! Gradually I walked further and further, reaching about 3 miles. Some days it would be less because squirmy kids could not tolerate the stroller that long. I also did some biking in this season since I could convert the stroller into a bike trailer. In the summer it was crazy hot so I would swim laps while the kids swam.
One winter day in 2006 I found myself jogging down the hills on my route and eventually these stretches of jogging got longer and longer until I was jogging the entire walking route. I had "accidentally" become a long-distance runner. I ran my first 5K in 2006 and the rest is history. Having a way to "compete" with myself and gain a sense of accomplishment in something related to physical activity was awesome as an adult.
I have never been the fastest, but I have gotten faster. I have never felt like I look good running but it makes me feel so good that I don't even think about it. I don't always love running while I am doing it, but I never regret getting myself out there on the course.
I am not a skinny runner. During times of intense training I have gotten trimmer, but I lose weight in my abdominal area first and start to show ribs (unflattering in my opinion) before my legs and butt lean out. I have a big butt, I have meaty legs and arms. I have great abs and shoulders. I am shorter, my legs are short and I have a flat chest (although my kids were breast-fed and I'm proud of that!). My right arm is bigger than my left. I don't know how many times people have asked me if I were a gymnast. I am my own runner.
I have been called many things: thick, in-shape, stalky, buff, ripped, yolked (a new one to me). We do not have control of others' perceptions of us, all we can do is be kind to ourselves.
I have stretch marks near my breasts and on my butt although it is through the grace of God that none of them show in a bikini. I have some extra skin on my middle that shows if I bend over or sit in certain positions. It is all me. I have great hair. I tan well. I have some acne issues and age-expected wrinkles. I don't have to shave every day thanks to blonde leg hair. I have cellulite, and my butt isn't as "lifted" as before. I don't like pictures of me point blank and prefer them taken at an angle. My husband says I am most beautiful right when I wake up in the morning. And I am just me.
I fall off the training wagon from time to time, but I always get back on. I'm 32 and can do pull-ups. I ran a freaking marathon this year and P.R.-ed in the half marathon. I can keep up with my kids and almost out-sprint my 13-year old. I inspire my kids to be active and reach for their goals. They love running the kids' races at my races. I am me.
So there you have it. If you want to say I am naturally muscular you would be right...underneath I am. But genetics can only take you so far. Guess what happens when you don't work muscle? It turns to fat. Guess what happens when I eat badly? I store it on the backs of my arms and legs, not to mention I get cavities and feel like crap. I have to work, diligently, consistently to stay in shape.
My point is that whoever you are, your goal should be to be the best YOU. Discover your strengths and celebrate them. Discover your weaknesses and work on them, but understand having them makes you a human being and without them you might not have the motivation to strive for improvement. Never give up and always keep trying. Always keep improving.
Then, remember to celebrate the unique, one-of-a-kind YOU. YOUR journey. YOUR achievements. The influence YOU have on this world. It's a beautiful thing! Just be you.