Spandex is the Fabric of My Life/ Part 4/ Misadventures in College Cheer, Fitness and Marathon Running

FITNESS
SHOES/ Nike By You AF1 Low SWEATS/ Under Armor

It is odd to me that when I look back at my time participating in athletics that I have labeled college cheerleading a misadventure. I spent five years working consciously toward that goal and three years before that honing gymnastics skills that directly transferred.

I put the idea of college cheer up on a pedestal and I beat myself up for a long time for having quit. Looking back, I was just an 18 year old kid who was trying to salvage and piece back together a healthy relationship with her body. I had spent my senior year leading up to the experience on so many diet pills I couldn’t sleep or think straight. My mom even confronted me at one point and asked if I was on drugs. I didn’t think I so because I purchased them at GNC but let’s just say there is a reason ephedrine is now a banned substance. You live and learn.

At the same time I began dating a college wrestler (my now husband) who at the time had to undergo some pretty significant weight cuts. It was the perfect storm in which unhealthy foods behavior could go unnoticed. Restriction and binging, both with food and exercise, became the norm and while I was safely hovering ten pounds below the weight limit I never felt small enough. I felt like a bulldozer in a skirt next to my new Polly Pocket sized teammates and I panicked. No matter how much I tried, I could not diet down my shoulders, in fact, the leaner I was the more they stood out. Eventually I decided to walk because I could no longer punish my body for being what it naturally wanted to be. I was over that relationship with myself.

So my husband and I spent a lot of time lifting (because cardio is hardio). I embraced my body for what it was and started nurturing its strength instead of trying to hide it. Which leads me, of course, to another misadventure…

I gave fitness one try and promptly realized it was not for me. It did confirm for me, however, that aesthetics can not be my why and that I don’t enjoy having my body judged even if it fits the template.

For many years I tried a lot of things that kept me active but I didn’t find anything that sparked me enough to pursuit it. In fact, I spent a lot of time finding out what I didn’t like which was, not to my surprise, many cardio sports.

I did this, very slowly, but I did this. It wasn’t something I would have sought out to do on my own and was completely out of character but my husband challenged me and I very reluctantly agreed. He was training for triathlon nationals and it gave us something we could do together. We would run the same routes though he would lap me many times over. While this aspect of togetherness was fun I did not actually enjoy the running part. I could appreciate the programming, training approach and process but at the end of the day I just didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t want to spend that much time doing it. I can safely say I will probably never run another marathon but that said, I now know I can put in the work even when it is not enjoyable and that I also have the grit to hang in there and pull through when it counts!

Despite a lack of passion for any particular sport, these years provided a lot of cross training, learning experiences and of course many memories were made along the way.

They Say Cotton is the Fabric of Our Lives But I’m Pretty Sure Spandex is the Fabric of Mine/ Series Part 2/ Cheerleading

2021, FITNESS
NIKE/ Sideline Cheer

My first exposure to cheerleading was when my mom signed me up for a camp at our local community college. It consisted of learning a half time dance and performing it at a basketball game or something of that nature. I remember having fun but what I remember was actually a who. Her name was Debbie and she was unlike any other adult I had met in my whole 9 years of life. She could do a back walkover and she was beautiful, athletic and bubbly. Four years later I tried out for my first cheerleading team and much to my pleasure that same amazing women became my coach.

While gymnastics came a little more naturally to my personality cheerleading certainly did not. I was quiet and serious and only had a few close friends. The thought of performing in front of the same peers who would see me later in class felt utterly terrifying. Somehow the fun found me despite my social anxiety and I started to set goals in this new arena and take ownership of it.

Our team was practicing over at Debbie’s house before school had officially started and afterward we all came inside to cool down and wait for our parents to pick us up.  Debbie entertained us with an old picture from her college cheer days while we waited. There was so much energy captured within the borders of that one frame; a sea of green and yellow fans at Autzen Stadium, a three person tall pyramid in the background but all I could see was her personality and smile. It still brings a lump to my throat to think of how much seeing one picture can change one person’s path. Debbie inspired me just by being herself from the moment I met her and although we only worked together a short time she was the inspiration for me spending the next 6 years in cheer.

While Debbie may have been my inspiration for cheerleading, my high school coach Barb was really the one that helped me reach the goal of college cheer. She is a human that so profoundly shaped me in my youth that she at the very least deserves her own post.

Cheerleading continued…