Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just call me Ms. Wimpy Legs

Runners come in all shapes and sizes. When I see women who run, I must admit I'm envious of a particular sort. This runner has gorgeous legs with defined muscles that give her the perfect shape. Her legs have beautiful, solid curves due to the perfect development of her quads, hamstrings, and calves. She usually even has lovely, olive-colored skin or a beautiful tan that would hide any cellulite if she had it.

I think I was kind of hoping that running would make my legs look like that. (Well, except the dark skin; I'm at least sort of realistic!) Instead, as my legs get stronger, they just seem to get...



Sigh. I suppose I should have expected that. My body isn't prone to very many natural curves. Don't get me wrong, I really love my body, and I love how it works with me in my quest to be more fit.

But while I do need to give up that dream of having pefectly-sculpted legs, I've found out how important the quest for strong legs should be.

Recently, I've been having some occasional knee pain, and I wanted to figure out how to fix it before it became a real problem. So I consulted Dr. Google, and came to the conclusion that I probably needed new shoes.

I've never been properly fit for running shoes. When I'd been running for about 2 1/2 months, my feet started aching, and I talked to my husband (who's been running off and on for about 25 years) about what my first pair of real running shoes should be. He looked at the wear pattern on the soles of my shoes and suggested a particular type of Asics, a type that would help correct my gait. I found a great deal on Amazon and ordered my normal size.

Well, the shoes came, and while they felt more supportive than my other shoes, they were a little tight on my pinky toes. But I kept them. They stretched out, and while they are still a little more snug in that one area than I'd like, they've been pretty comfortable for running. But I have just kept wondering, What shoes should I REALLY be wearing? What would they tell me if I got fitted at a running store? I became convinced I was probably wearing the wrong shoes.

So when I saw that the wrong shoes can contribute to knee pain, I headed down to a running specialty store that's renowned in my area, and told the expert there that I thought I needed new shoes. He had me jog, walk, sit, stand, bend my knees, and bend my toes. And he told me,

"You're wearing the right shoes. You just have wimpy legs."

Okay, those aren't the words he used. He was far more tactful. In fact, he was so helpful and friendly that it didn't sound like he was criticizing me when he explained that the quads and hamstrings need to be strong to support the knees correctly. Since I'm a pretty new runner who has just fairly recently been increasing the distance I run, my legs just haven't been quite strong enough to handle that, and my knees have been giving me some warning signals. He talked to me about doing strengthening exercises, and about protecting my muscles by taking a ten minute warm-up walk before I even start jogging.

Yep, I'm Ms. Wimpy Legs. It's time for me to really focus on strengthening my upper legs when I do my at-home exercising. On the one hand, I was relieved not to have to spend $100+ on new shoes! On the other hand, strengthening muscles is harder than spending money, so I've got some work ahead of me.

And on another hand (yes, I know that's three hands), I think that a salesperson who tells me I don't need to buy something that I specifically came to buy, is pretty awesome. When my shoes really do wear out, I'm looking forward to visiting the store again to find my dream pair of running shoes. This store has proven itself to me!

And on yet another hand (or foot, or whatever), my smart husband rocks for getting me into the right shoes. If he could just share some of his leg muscles with me, he'd be perfect. I'm just glad he loves me when I'm Ms. Wimpy Legs, and that he'll love me when I do my exercises and become Ms. Strong But Still Skinny Legs.

We can't all look like we belong on the front of a fitness magazine, but I'm actually thankful that there is a beautiful variety of runner body types...and I'm thankful to be a unique part of that variety!


Eternal Lizdom said...

I love that you had a great experience at the running store! I did, too- but bought a ton of stuff on my first visit and bought exactly what I came for the next time (running belt).

Be careful with those knees! I love that you are listening to your body.

When I had my physical, my doc and I talked about running. He used to run so he had a lot of great advice. he said that all the people his age (50's) who used to run decades ago blew out knees and hips and tore muscles because they only ran. They didn't do any cross training. I told him that I was focused on running 3, maybe 4, times a week. And that twice a week, I do some sort of strength training / callisthenics that focus on other muscle groups. He confirmed that this was a great plan. He explained that you have to strengthen, for example, the front thigh muscle. Running focuses on the back of the thighs. If you do separate work to strengthen the front of the thigh, that will better support the strain put on the back set of muscles.

Call Me Cate said...

Maybe with all those hands, the running store guy thought he'd be nice because he has the potential to make a fortune selling you gloves?

That's great that you're wearing the right shoes (go husband!!). And I had to laugh at your "wimpy legs" diagnosis. Joe went to get new shoes one time and I went along just for fun because I'd bought shoes I was very happy with about a month before. As we sat there, the lady was telling him about different types of shoes and feet - and she looks at my shoes and says "she's an overpronator". Felt like she was saying I had rabies. Joe, of course, laughed. Because she was cute.

Lola said...

One thing that really stuck out in this post for me- the fact that even the "skinny girls" have body issue moments - and I love you for that! But like you said- all sizes, shapes- we're all beautiful and have to accept our bodies for what they are, what they can/will become and really what we're capable of.

Also- I love good running shoe sellers. Here locally (and Liz can also tesify for them) we have The Running Company- who is awesome; and same kind of service, they wouldn't have you buy new ones if you don't need them- they'll know you'll be back when you do because of it. I joined TRC's running club for training and its great too- once you pay the fee one year- you never pay again- pretty awesome!

We should start up a new publication (I'm in publication marketing: disclaimer) - Real Runners and show the "real" legs of all runners, body styles and all. I SO don't have the "runner" look- but I'm now averaging a near-12 min mile.

Special K said...

Oh my, that was hilarious! Love it! I have huge shapely legs that when I exercise get bigger. Only no straight leg pants will ever ever fit! Thanks Dad for that DNA. I always craved the legs my mom, my 356 first cousins and my aunts all have- like yours and fit a pair of shorts!

Special K said...

Make that 36 first cousins, 356 sure would be awesome but then I might be related to an entire town and that would be scary!