Last spring I was hiking on my favorite pass in Colorado.
I happened to be wearing a jacket with a "USA" patch on the front.
(Bought on sale at the Nike outlet. Most definitely not bestowed by any Olympic affiliated organization, though it looked like it could have been.)
Walking toward me on the path, a friendly tourist looked at my "USA" jacket and said,
"Are you on the US Bobsledding team? Wow! Look at those legs!"
"I wish!" I said.
Imagining a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike (or maybe Thigh Master. ) Honestly, I was flattered.
Fitness is valued over thinness in Colorado, and thankfully many other places, these days.
"Look at those thighs!" was said with admiration and friendliness on a sunny morning on a gorgeous mountain top. I was not the least bit offended.
But when I was a kid? I probably would've been crushed or at the very least annoyed.
Growing up, we'd go to the beach for a week every summer.
Days were all the same: playing in the surf and baking in the sun.
Evenings were occupied with summer-at-the-beach-things; buying heat pressed t-shirts with sayings like "I'm with Stupid" on the front.
The smell of the hot press which more or less melted a unicorn jumping over a rainbow image onto a cotton t-shirt is melted into my memory or pre-teens summertime evenings.
When the college student working the press gave you your t-shirt, it would still be warm.
We'd hit Putt-Putt golf one night and go-cart races the next.
One of our regular stops was the Surfside Plaza bookstore.
One evening, after finding a trusty Judy Blume book, I was waiting for our wood paneled station wagon-full to re-group.
Standing in my Op shorts (if you don't know what those are, you missed OUT!) in the air conditioned, new-book smelling store, spinning a squeaky pamphlet rack, I saw it.
A mini earthquake shuttered through my pre-teen brain in the form of an alluring, irresistible promise.
"Thin Thighs in Thirty Days."
What!?! The secret to thin thighs (in thirty days!) was held in the pages of this pamphlet!?
Stunned does not begin to capture my visceral response.
I was 12, my USA Bob Sledding Team thighs well on their way.
The perfectly sculpted thighs in white shorts on the cover photo could be MINE? In a month? "Oh, hell yeah!"
(I talked like that even at 12. Quite a bit worse, actually.)
I dropped my salt water taffy, grabbed the perfect thigh pamphlet and headed to the checkout.
The very thing my genetic make-up inexplicably denied me had been discovered and put in a handy pamphlet! Dream come true. Life is GOOD!
Too young to realize super-model thin thighs were the result of a genetic roll of the dice, not leg lift vigilance, I left the bookstore with my miracle thigh book clutched under my arm, my soul aflame with determination no Judy Blume book had ever inspired. (Even the one with the half decent sex scene.)
Flutter kicks and leg lifts became my new religion.
The Reverend Ernest Angley could not compete with the zeal I invested daily in my staple-bound prayer book of thin thighs.
This went on for well over the prescribed 30 days, yet still my thighs did not look anything like the photo that adorned the cover of my new-best-friend book.
I have a vivid memory of doing those thigh exercises when there was Christmas wrapping paper on the dining room floor.
What's the old saying? There's none so zealous as the newly converted?
When I didn't achieve what my 12-year-old mind thought it should by the time the Op shorts came out again, I blamed myself.
Hammering myself with self-talk too harsh to be repeated here, the book went in the kitchen drawer with spare keys and old batteries.
Those magazine cover thighs were never going to be mine, but my work had paid off.
Looking back I remember, I did see results, so did other people, just not "the" results that photo so impossibly promised.
No exercise could add four inches to my femurs.
Years later, I'd abandon glossy mags and their alluring promises about perfect parts when I realized I could look the way these models did the same way they did:
It's easy to engage with unrealistic ideals that float all around you begging you to compare yourself to them without ever saying a word, yet it can be hard to recognize you're doing it.
Looking back, if I'd compared my progress to where I was on Day One, I'd have been encouraged by my own effort. Impressed, even.
If I'd thought to track the number of days so I could see my consistency and determination in a series of check marks.
That would have been impressive and inspiring.
Instead, I compared them to the thin thigh version of a desert mirage and felt defeated.
If an elusive result in your life is discouraging you, ask yourself what are you using to measure what your results "should" be?
Is it a good measure? Realistic? Sensible? Did you even think about it anymore than the average 12-year-old? (Even a fairly bright one.)
Take a flutter kicking intermission long enough to measure how far you've come. Appreciate yourself and your work.
Come on. Just 30 seconds to remember where you were the day you started and a thank you to you.
I bet you're kicking it more than you're giving yourself credit for, just like I was all those years ago doing leg lifts on the floor next to Christmas wrapping paper while my brother played Asteroids on the Atari we got for Christmas.
Choose your measures wisely and keep going. You've come a long way.
Keep kicking... (well, you know.)
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