Thursday, October 20, 2011

How playing tennis again made me stop hating my body (most of the time)

I recently started playing tennis after fourteen years. While I like to think I play like this person,

photo: Sports Illustrated 2008 Wimbledon.

I don't.

In fact, I'm terrible. Even when my coach (aka Il Maestro) gives me clear changes to win points, I can't score. I completely fall apart during a match. That said, yesterday he told me I have improved since we started. The drills are working.

I love tennis, but I did not love the tennis skorts. I was seriously considering wearing track pants on the bus/metro then changing at the courts. I didn't want people to see my legs.

I never wear skirts above a certain length as my thighs are very muscular. At this age I doubt I would wear a mini-skirt anyway, but even in my 20's I didn't.

I hated having "thick" legs. I don't have cankles, but still. Finding jeans were a pain.

I wondered why I didn't have my mom's long lean legs. She 5'10, I'm 5'2. My dad is tall as well, but all the women in his family (who were tall except for one cousin who was 4'11) had athletic builds. In L.A. I tried all these different exercises, like pilates, to make my quads leaner. I would keep the resistance low during spinning classes.

In high school, one day after soccer practice, I was in the kitchen getting something out of the fridge. My mom, with her typical Caribbean bluntness, looked over and said, "Wow, you really have the Gibbs legs." THANKS MOM!

A funny thing happened as I got older. Because of the muscle tone, I look younger. When I was on the court, another player made a comment to my coach about me being a young player. I told him my age and he said, "Complimenti!!" He thought I was at least fifteen years younger. One friend in L.A. wanted to know how it was possible my butt was getting firmer as I aged. She asked me this question loudly in public.

I have friends who are dealing with some serious health issues, like cancer. How stupid am I to waste time complaining about my thick legs? So f-ing what if they have muscles? I'm healthy and those muscles help me move. I'd rather be fit than flabby. Just because someone is skinny, it doesn't mean they're healthy.

Living in Italy has a lot to do with my better attitude. In L.A. I felt like freaking Snuffleupagas, "Hiiiii, Big Bird," among all the size 0s. Yes, people here are slim too, yet it's not the same thing. The approach to food is completely different. Food is not an enemy here.

I got over my tennis skort fears (man, they are REALLY short). I wouldn't say I'm comfortable with my body all the time. During those moments I remember this kick ass NIKE commercial, throw on my tennis gear, and do my thing.


Jannelle said...

I'm still on the lookout for an activity that will make me stop hating my body. I have thick legs too. I was in the best shape of my life, but my legs were still thick. I tried everything and in my frustration, I eventually gained back all the weight I had lost. We are way too hard on ourselves. Anyways, I've always liked that commerical. Nice choice!

Stacy said...

GREAT post, good for you! I also really like the Nike "Thunder Thighs" print ad (still hate that term tho! lol). I totally feel you. I recently lost a lot of weight and went shopping for new gym clothes with my cousin. I tried on a pair of short shorts (I think I've worn shorts twice in my entire life) and immediately took them off, telling her that I still needed to lose a few more pounds before I would consider being seen in public in shorts. She gave me a look and said, "Can you please get over it?? You look amazing. Even if you lose 20 more pounds you will never have skinny thighs so just embrace it already! There is nothing wrong with your shape!" She was so right! I figure if I'm working out and eating right I should consider myself strong and healthy and be happy with the body I was given-- thick thighs and all! Oh, and I did end up buying those shorts ;)

Viajera said...

Good for you. I'm a squash freak, though I suck at it, so I feel your love for the racquet...and your firm bum. ;)

gibber said...

My favorite part of that ad is John McEnroe :). Yeah did, believe me, I know all about the thick leg syndrome. But you are in such good shape, that's all that matters. That and your fantasic rear. LOL.

Claudia said...

What a great commercial!! I say good for you for going out there and doing it...I also wonder if any of us are completely happy with our bodies...I think many of us would like to be taller, shorter, thinner, heavier, more lean, more muscular, have this or have that..and so on, no?

Paola said...

OY. Me and my body have been fighting ever since we met!
That's all I'll say ...
If you have muscular legs, I say FLAUNT THEM!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Jannelle - I agree we are very hard on ourselves. Trying to fight your body's natural weight/shape to fit some unrealistic ideal is unhealthy.

stacy - thanks. I like that print ad too. I'm glad you bought the shorts. Your cousin was right!

viajera - ha!

gibber - That part of the ad makes me laugh too.

claudia - very true. I'm doing my best to shoot down those negative thoughts.

paola - I hope you and your body make up soon! :) I'm not sure I will ever flaunt my legs, baby steps, but at least now I'm not embarrassed to wear my tennis outfits anymore.