Today I walked into a Gold's Gym in Tennessee. I purchased a guest pass. I found my tread mill. I turned the speed up to 5.5, started my Nike+iPod program to two miles and began running. I typically use Anytime Fitness when I am at home, and I am not use to the Gold's supercharged gym atmosphere. The atmosphere made no difference, really. I am a runner. All I needed was my treadmill and shoes.
When I run I feel powerful. It is a mental game as much as a physical game. I've always been a runner. In high school my sister Paige and best friend Ginger would curse at me as I screamed for them to run faster on the trails throughout our town. "Wanna go for a run?" I'd ask Paige. She responded with a skeptical eye, "only if we aren't going an insane distance JASMINE!" I've always been a runner, though not as consistent as recently. I've always been a runner and I've always been obese. I never got the memo that because I was classified as "morbidly obese" that I couldn't run. I was also never told that my clearly larger size on a treadmill or on a trail doubled as signs for someone to be "impressed by me" or offer unsolicited advice.
This is what I mean; On a regular basis I experience people comments like these:
Wow! You were moving... that is impressive for someone your size.
Is that your pace?! Geez! That is really good for someone your size.
Once I had to jump off the treadmill mid sprint because my shoe came untied. The girl next to me interjected, "OH! You can't stop like that, you have to slow jog until your heart slows down." I nodded and thanked her and said, "I got it, thanks." She continued, "I just don't want you to have a heart attack. New runners sometimes forget to cool down." I glared at her, "what makes you think I am a new runner?" She looked at me, shocked by my level of confrontation. "Well, I guess your size. I just assumed..." she trailed off into an awkward space. I laughed and picked up my ipod. I showed her my run history in my Nike+ program. "I've run over 100 miles in this program," I offered. Her eyes widened, her face flushed and she stuttered as I began to run again. She shook her head and responded, "I am so sorry. Here I am barely slow jogging a mile and you ran 10 miles last week..." I laughed, "Yeah... I get that a lot."
The hard truth is, though, I can't blame smaller sized people for their judgement. I have qualified my statements just as they have. When talking to my friends I've said things like:
I've got a great pace for someone my size.
And they have retorted, "Jasmine! You have a great pace for ANY size."
I have amazing friends.
I spend a lot of time explaining that I am physically fit despite my appearance. I am forever "surprising" people by how much physical activity I do. I realized the other day that I was carrying definitions of shame because of my size that I didn't even realize. Somewhere along the line I internalized the need to qualify my body. I won't do that anymore. Do other people who are thinner than me qualify their fitness goals? I am an athlete, NOT in spite of my size. I am an athlete REGARDLESS of my size.
So today when I was in mid run and a lady walked up to the treadmill next to me, looked at me, looked down at how far and how fast I was running, and said "wow" aloud... I pulled my shoulders up talker, focused more on where my heel was striking and replied with a smile,
"yeah I know... WOW!"
Because my athletic ability requires no qualifying.