I clearly remember discussing the size of my thighs with my cousin when I still had all my baby teeth. It was a hot night| I was in shorts| and I was explaining that my thighs were very muscular and big. How does a newly minted kindergartner come up with a statement like that? I am not really sure| but this memory signals the beginning of the complicated relationship I have with my thighs. It’s a bumpy one| as you might have guessed| but I’ve been working on smoothing things over with my legs for years. And I am happy to report that me and legs| we’re getting somewhere.
Throughout my life| rarely could I look in a mirror and not make a stink face when my gaze drifted toward my legs. In facing my reflection| some of the disdainful soundtrack came from what I’d heard from other people| often when wearing leggings. From a Pilates client: “Wow! Were you a speed skater?” A man impressed by my pronounced hamstrings once asked| “How did you get your legs?” I believe he meant it as a compliment| but his question had me wondering why I wore leggings to hike rather than baggy sweats. Comments from dance teachers saying I would never be a ballerina were more complex than a statement on the circumference of my thighs| but I focused all that negative attention on my legs. Internally| I think I believed that if I had thinner thighs| I would be a different person and somehow better.
Fast-forward from my 5-year-old self| through adolescence when I developed hips to go with my thighs| through early adulthood| marriage| and two pregnancies| to a triathlon-training ride with a newfound friend. I made an offhand remark about my spandex-covered thighs| and my riding companion replied that I should be grateful for legs. She clearly wasn’t playing the game you know| that odd social glue that women can use to bond| where they competitively cut down their bodies.
Her best friend| she explained| had recently lost the use of her legs and arms to a rare nerve disorder. It took less than a week for her friend’s limbs to be rendered useless. The cause: unknown. A virus| maybe| turned her body against itself| and her own immune system ate away at her nerve endings. My cycling friend said after witnessing this| she would never look at her thighs the same way again. She couldn’t talk smack about her wonderfully functional body. After pedaling for 35 miles| I felt that maybe I| too| should give my legs a break. After all| look where they got me.
While my relationship with my legs is complicated| it’s been evolving in a more positive direction since that long bike ride. There’s been a lot to unlearn and new habits to adopt| some more successfully than others. But the main lesson is that my legs are part of me| and it is really tiring to direct all that hate inward. I have worked hard not to look at my legs with derision. I have learned| cheesy as it may seem| to honor my thighs at the end of a yoga class. I always say namaste to my legs. I thank them after runs.
I wish I could claim that I truly love and accept my legs| but I am getting close. I am still fallible: shopping for pants can bring me down hard. I continue to strive to love my quads| my hamstrings| and my inner thighs. But in the end| I can say now that I am quite fond of my thighs. I enjoy their company. I hold my thighs in high esteem. I really enjoy hanging out with them. They do so much for me. Really| every step is a gift. Every jump| sprint| squat| skip| lunge| burpee| pedal stroke ¡ª these are daily gifts from my legs. They are big| but they are strong. These are my thighs. My thighs. And we’re getting closer every day.
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