I like big thighs. Big bottoms too. And wide, firm hips, strong calves, and powerful cores.
But mostly, right now, it’s the thighs that have me thinking.
If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that I’ve got some hangups about my body, and some issues with what constitutes beautiful in this unique (though maybe not abnormal) culture of Los Angeles where I’ve spent most of my life. You also probably know that I like to run.
There is, of course, a logical connection between these two facts of my personality. I’ve got body issues, and running serves the dual purpose of making me feel better about my body (as any exercise tends to do, regardless of the physical changes it may or may not bring about), while also working to actually make my body conform more closely to the notion of beauty I’m so hung up on.
But what, exactly, is this notion of beauty I’ve longed for so long to achieve? Certainly not that of the thick-thighed sprinter, the solid midfield soccer player, or the start and stop tennis singles champ. It’s that of the ultra-lean, ultra-light, ultra-length distance runner. The athlete who must be as sleek as she is strong, who must carry as little weight as possible in order to carry herself on and on over hours on end of exertion. The athlete who might pass for anorexic on any college campus in the country.
Lately, though, something has been shifting, both in mind and body. It started with running shorter, faster, and more often. With the stress I’ve been under at my new job, I’ve taken to running in an almost compulsive way – in anticipation of a stressful day, in response to a stressful day, in celebration of a slightly lower stress day – and I ended up addicted to the adrenaline. The days now in which I don’t run end up feeling flat, slow, without life, but the reality is that there is really no way to fit in an hour of running every day, so I traded length for frequency, then increased the exertion (aka: speed) in order to compensate for the shorter distance.
The surprising result was a relatively major and relatively sudden change in my body. I was no longer shedding weight, but I was maintaining muscle. Parts of me that once moved now stayed firm. My scale found a number and stayed there.
The not so surprising result was an increased tendency toward injury, so to cross-training I went. I tried swimming, tried the elliptical, tried everything I could think to try at the gym I otherwise avoid with the same aversion as network tv or that awful waft of cologne spewing from our local Abercrombie and Fitch. But as most runners know, nothing is ever quite the same as that good, fast, heart-pounding run. Nothing is ever quite the same, except for maybe, almost (as massively embarrassing as this is to admit) a Soul Cycle spin class.
Why is this embarrassing, you ask? Because I’m not really an exercise class kind of girl. I’m also not a group sport kind of girl, an enthusiastic kind of girl, a joiner, a smiler, or a public display of sweat kind of girl. Basically I’m a buzz kill, except at parties, which I’m actually really, really good at. Which is why I’m good at Soul Cycle, because every class is like a party (if I were to go to a party with a bunch of people I have no intention of ever speaking to or making eye contact with, while wearing plastic-soled shoes and sweat-stink running tights – which I would never do, of course, but I feel the need to qualify that statement).
Soul Cycle is the first cross-training routine I’ve found that’s actually almost as much fun as running, and almost as strenuous. And I take my mom along for the ride, which doubles the positive impact.
But there is a negative impact. At one of the recent industry meet and greets my husband makes me go to every now and then, I was talking with another former-runner/current-stylist whom I told about my new spin obsession. “You’d better be careful, though, dear,” she told me, “too much of that will make your legs bulky.”
EEK! GASP! Good Lord Save Me!
Bulky thighs. My worst nightmare come true.
Until I went back to class the following morning. By god, she was right. The women at the front counter? Bulky thighs. The teacher? Bulky thighs. The regular riders? Bulky thighs. I was just about the thinnest person in the building, which is not exactly a typical experience for me, and which, STRANGELY, actually, didn’t feel very good. Those girls working the register? They were beautiful. And the instructor could have kicked my ass, on the bike or on the track or even in the back alley. She was stronger than me, and she knew it. And honestly, that strength was pretty hot.
I don’t care how many times that whole “thigh gap is the new six pack” thing goes around on Facebook, I like big thighs. And I think I’m not alone. Maybe we can blame the advent of all those skinny jeans and all those not-so-skinny legs they revealed. Maybe we can blame the slow seep of spin and cycling into our exercise vernacular. Or maybe we’re all just getting a little tired of this played out old skinner-is-the-new-skinny look of fashion models the world over.
Or maybe it’s just me, and that’s okay too. Because the thicker my thighs, the wider my smile, and that’s bound to catch on eventually.