Here are some sentences I would love never to hear uttered at a race again:
- “Oh, I’m not racing today because I’m not in shape.”
- “I’m so out of shape, this race is going to suck!!”
- “I’m taking the season off because I need to train more/lose weight/get in shape.”
First and foremost, guess what? This race is going to suck no matter how “in shape” you are. That’s the secret of cross (and racing in general)- it always hurts.
Second, the phrase “in shape” is total nonsense. What does “in shape” even mean? Every body has a shape. There are literally no bodies that have no shape.
When we use the phrase “in shape”, it implies that there’s a certain shape a body should be in before it can participate in a sport- and if one does not achieve that desired shape, they cannot be in the sport. And for those who have a body shape that is no one’s “ideal” shape for participating in sports, that phrase can feel alienating.
Why do we feel like we have to be a certain way, look a certain way, be at a certain level, have certain clothes/bikes/shoes/etc, before we feel worthy to line up on that starting line? Why are we so hard on ourselves? The beauty of cross is that it’s very accessible for anyone at any level- any fitness level, any skill level. I don’t do any other sports, so I can’t say what other sports exists like cross, but I think it’s one of the things that make cross so special and why I love it so much.
Let’s accept our bodies for how they are NOW, not how we want them to be. Many of us are finding cross in our “later” years and aren’t the athletes we used to be- or maybe never were! The truth of aging is things change and bodies change and life happens. We’ll probably never have the same body or energy or fitness we did when we were younger, but that doesn’t mean our bodies aren’t still amazing!! Don’t let the idea that you need to look/feel/bike a certain way keep you away from the starting line.
If you want to skip a weekend of racing because you’re not feeling it- go for it! Sometimes you’re just not in the right headspace to enjoy racing and that’s okay. But be kind to yourself in the process – say “I’m not into racing today, but I’ll see how I feel next week and give it a try.” Let’s avoid writing off an entire season because you aren’t quite where you want to be physically right now.
While I think phrases like those mentioned above are unhelpful at best and harmful at worst, if one absolutely must make a comment, let’s change up the narrative. Better things to say would be:
- “I’m not at the fitness level I wish I was.”
- “I haven’t been training much this season.”
- “My body isn’t as strong as I want it to be, but it’s still STRONG!”
Cross has taught me the value of being kind to myself. That’s what this whole post is really about. A plea for all of us to show compassion to ourselves, to be kind to ourselves. I don’t like hearing those phrases mentioned above because hearing those phrases make me SAD. They are an indication that the person saying them doesn’t practice kindness towards their own body and self. Through cross I’ve learned how to celebrate the small personal successes and accept what my body can do, rather than what it can’t. And I just want everyone to do the same. It’s a journey, but it has to start somewhere and why not here, in the starting grid of a cross race?