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Feel the Heat

When I started running in March, my goal was to build endurance and meet some new friends. That part was clear and relatively easy to achieve. As spring arrived and the days got warmer, I started to realize that running might also force me to confront some body image issues. The going here is slower, but I sense a breakthrough of sorts.

It began with the dreaded running shorts. I have historically eschewed the short, much preferring myself in skirts. Now that my legs are bulkier (I’ve gained a solid 3 pounds of muscle mass from the waist down) and the days hotter, I’ve gotten over that. Improbably, my favorite pair of running shorts has a 3” inseam. That’s 9 inches shorter than the first pair of shorts I bought when I returned to Louisville.

The next hurdle is the midsection. Wearing two layers when the heat index is over 100 degrees is just plain miserable. As a running bra is required, my only option for lightening up is to wear it and skip the …. and just typing this makes my palms sweat … shirt.


For those who don’t know me well, allow me to explain. My waist, or lack thereof, has been the bane of my existence since I was around 13. Seriously. Other than the few times my weight has plummeted to just at or below three digits, I never feel that I have a waist at all. Only the pudge at my obliques signals where a waist should be.

I’ve learned dress strategies for my shape, but bare flesh doesn’t lie. Besides briefly on my honeymoon and once or twice when I was around 15, I never wore a two-piece bathing suit until I was 33 and found myself on the edge of heat sickness while sitting pool-side at a Vegas hotel. It took cajoling that bordered on bullying from friends Diana and Susan—to say nothing of a pina colada or two or three—to get me there. And once I put the suit on, I was so self conscious that I can still remember how my palms sweated and my heart raced.

Flash forward eight years, and I’m heading out for group training runs at 6:30 p.m. during the heat of summer. Last Monday, our heat index hit 116 and my training run was canceled. Wednesday and Saturday were better, Wednesday because it was cooler and Saturday because we ran at 7:00 a.m. Monday, though, it was 92 or so when we ran with a heat index of 105. For the first time since I started running in March, I had to cut my run short and walk the final half-mile back to the store. At which point in time I splashed my face, looked longingly at the presumably cool cement floor in the store’s stock room, and made casual conversation with my half naked and glistening running mates while sweating a river.

The key term in the above sentence is “half naked”. Everyone else was sweating, too, but many were sweating in much less clothing. Nearly all the men 35 or under were shirtless, and their female cohort were down to running bras and shorts. When I bought my bras, the fitter helpfully offered that the colored ones without back clasps were best because “when it’s hot, you won’t need another top.”

The look on my face must have laid bare 28 years of clinical self-consciousness. The clerk actually grabbed my arm to steady me and went on to say “Or not. You can always throw on a tank over it of course.” Back on that cool March day, I could not imagine what would bring me to run with an exposed midsection.

I think I’m close to doing more than just imagining it now. Tonight’s run will feature a heat index of around 110. It’s going to be even sweatier out there. And while four weeks of pilates has yet to give me abs of steel, the sweatier it gets, the less I find myself caring. I think I’ll just close my eyes and pretend I’m doing Bikram yoga. Then write the Fleet Feet store owner a check for psychological services rendered.

2 Responses to “Feel the Heat”

  1. Amanda says:

    Word from the elders: the older you get, the less you care. Seriously. I wear low shirts that actually show cleavage now, and you know I used to wear turtlenecks practically all year. And what pudge, lol? Where? I wanna see it.

  2. christine says:

    You go, girl!

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