On Feeling Fat and Exercising in Public

April 21, 2011

The thing about doing this Couch to 5K program is that I have to leave the cozy confines of my apartment and hit the street with my exercising. In the past six weeks, I have gone out and RUN IN PUBLIC three times a week – often in the rain or snow, and frequently at peak traffic time. Coming from a small town, it never ceases to amaze me how much traffic there is out there, both cars and other people meandering/running/biking/rowing.

I remember when I was a kid, and I was totally mortified to go out and exercise in public, unendingly aware of my jiggling bits, red face, and heaving lungs.

Running in public made me feel like I was constantly caught in the act of being fat.

As I ran, I imagined what other people were thinking, often along the lines of – Thank GOD she is out here getting some exercise, she really needs it. I imagined that people were watching my progress, making fun of how slow I was going, or segmenting my body into parts and talking about the work I still had to do like on some sort of plastic surgery store with flesh circled in permanent marker.

I let the fear of being seen “hustling” keep me from getting out and moving.

And then I moved to a city. Where people are EVERYWHERE. All the time. And it just happens to be the most active city on the planet, I am convinced. People are ALWAYS out there running around and seemingly merry in their sweaty and glorious active lifestyle.

I have to admit – I wanted a piece of it.

I wanted to be running along the river. I wanted to be reveling in the fresh air. I wanted to be out there moving and smiling and healthy.

However, to get out there I had to get over my anxiety of public exercising.

I had to pull on my shoes, walk out my door, hold my head high, and put one foot in front of the other.

I had to get comfortable moving at my own pace.

I had to learn how to look people in the eye as I ran past them, and not allow myself to speculate about their thought pattern. I had to constantly remind myself – it’s not all about me. Likely? NO ONE IS EVEN THINKING ABOUT ME. Likely, they are just going about their day and they could care less how much I weight.

And when they laugh with their friends as I run by? I chose to believe that they are sharing a really funny joke – and that it has nothing to do with the size of my ass.

I have to tell you – it has been amazingly freeing for me to give all of that up, and just focus inward, putting one foot in front of the other and shattering the goals that I set for myself.