Doing any kind of physical activity in public stresses me out. It always has, whether it was being forced into group sports as a kid or being coerced into a yoga class as a semi-functioning adult. This is, in part, due to the fact that I’m chubby. I always have been and it’s affected my confidence when it comes to physical activity for as long as I can remember. Give me a crossword and a pen—I’ll own that shit. Invite me to a friendly game of ultimate frisbee? I’m an awkward, fumbling mess.
It’s not that I’m incapable—in fact, I’m incredibly coordinated. It’s just as soon as people are watching, the pressure is on and any confidence I once had in being remotely competent is out the window. This is partially due to the fact that I feel like, because of my size, people automatically expect I’ll suck, or are judging me while I do it. So naturally, when my friends asked me to sign up for a summer 10k last February, I reluctantly but forcefully agreed.
Envisioning yourself wheezing alongside tons of fit people who are probably twice your age is enough to light a fire under you, trust me. So, after a few months of running regularly, here is the advice I offer you, fellow chubby runners:
Don’t let size discourage you from trying something new
You may not have the predisposed body type to be an amazing runner, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work toward success. I am 5’6 and stocky as heck. I don’t know what my genetics predispose me to be good at other than sinking reaaaally quickly when thrown into open water. And yes, there are times when I’m gasping for breath while jogging slower than a bunch of people on a brisk walk. And yes there have been times when a tall, slender, Amazonian woman has sped by, looking like she could sustain an entire intellectual discussion on foreign policy. But, when it comes down to it, you’re doing this for yourself and you’re completely badass—so stick with it.
Even when you finally feel you’ve gotten the hang of it, sometimes you’ll still suck
No, seriously. I’ve had days where I’ve run 7k and felt invincible, only to cower two days later when I head out for a run and cramp up before my first kilometer. This is totally normal and should in no way discourage you from working towards your goal. Your ability to run is affected by so many things: how much sleep you’ve had, how stressed you are that day, how many chocolate bars you’ve eaten because of how stressed you are that day. I remember the first time I “failed” and thought I was moving backwards. When I picked up a couple of days later and finished 5k, I knew I was right on track. (LOL running puns.)
Looking great while doing it helps you feel great while doing it
I’m not talking about putting on false lashes or making sure your contour is on point. (Though, if that’s what works for you, I fully support it.) I’m talking gear. The first time I ran I wore an XXXL Chicago Bulls t-shirt and sweat pants. Sure, the run got done, but when I got home and looked in the mirror, I felt pretty meh about the whole thing. Don’t be scared to wear something that clings to every single one of your wobbly bits. Now I run in cute, colourful tights and tank tops and feel proud of my body when I check myself out post-run. And ladies, a good sports bra with TONS of support is a must. There is seriously nothing worse than having to hold your boobs during a sprint; also it just looks weird to the general public.
Running is hard. I won’t sugar coat it—a lot of the time it sucks. You feel exhausted and like you can’t possibly do another kilometer, but then you push yourself and notice you’re going farther and faster and all the misery and dread you had pre-run is erased by post-run euphoria. As difficult as it may be, I’m happier knowing that my self-conscious side didn’t conquer my confident happy side. This June 25, I’ll run my first ever 10k, and even if I’m limping across the finish line, fuck it – I tried.