As I slogged up the hills on my first mountain bike ride of the season, sweating, panting, and seriously in doubt about whether I would make it home again, I reflected on how out of shape I was. Spring had most definitely sprung in Boise, and it was already in the 50’s at 9 in the morning. My husband had a rare day off when the kids did not, so I reorganized my work time (because I’m my own boss, so I get to do that!) and we went for a bike ride in the foothills together. My favorite kind of time with my husband is not dinner out (although I do like that time, don’t get me wrong) but when we get to do the activities we used to enjoy, pre-kids. Biking, skiing, a hike in the foothills. It had been a while, and I couldn’t wait.
It was the best day for it. Sunny, not too warm, busy but not packed with other riders and hikers. As I powered up the Connector, the first steep hill of 346 feet in just over half a mile, my thighs started to burn, and I questioned if I could do this. I was walking before I hit the top. It had probably been six months since I had ridden my bike, and this first hill was proving that while skiing had been fun, it hadn’t worked my muscles the same way mountain biking did. I hit some more hills on Crestline, just enough to make me question again whether we should have gone out for coffee instead, just enough to make me walk a little, and then the inclines evened out and I was able to ride again.
My husband waited patiently at the top of ridges, checked in if I was able to ride again as I wobbled up, panting and coughing, and then with a nod of my head we were off. We took Fat Tire traverse, which I think of as an easy roller coaster of small ups and downs that snake around the contours of the foothills. The path snuggles into the hillside, there are small bursts of speed as you twirl down, round and then up the tight curves, and an amazing view of downtown framed by the foothills just around each corner. I should have been enjoying it, taking it all in, but I struggled again, even on what I thought of as the easy stuff. I just wasn’t bike ready yet.
I smirked as the equivalent phrase popped into my mind. I wasn’t bikini ready either, which if you follow all the bloggers and influencers, fitness coaches and celebrities, you’ll know is something us women are supposed to be working hard toward right now. I find the phrase abhorrent if I’m honest, the suggestion being the very opposite of the literal meaning. I am bikini ready; I have a bikini and it fits (actually, it’s been a while, I should probably check that before the first pool day). But honestly, how much more ready do you have to be? The idea that we have to suck in, tighten, refrain, restrict, limit, just to lie by a pool or on a beach is ridiculous. None of that is for the person in the bikini; it is all for the people who get to see it, who are the judges of you and your bikini. If you were okay about your body before you had to be in a bikini, if you could play with your kids, go on vacation, have fun with your friends, all while wearing clothes, why should that be different now you plan to be by a pool?
Biking ready, well that is something altogether different. I need my thighs to be more toned, not because I want them to look better in my biking shorts but because I need them to be strong enough to help me power up the Connector without stopping halfway. I measure how strong they are by how far I can ride before I have to succumb to the sandy wash on the ground, the ever-increasing incline, and accept defeat, swinging one tired leg off the saddle and pushing my bike to the top. I need my heart to work better when I push it, not because that will decrease my belly fat, but because it can power the machine that is my body around the 12 miles of the route and not just the first 3.
Lastly is the confidence I need to know I can get up the inclines if I just push a bit harder. The bit that pumps the wheels faster at the base of the hill because I know I need that headstart if I’m to make it to the top, rather than the current situation where I half-heartedly pedal, doubting I’ll make it anyway, and thus proving myself right. That confidence, that belief that I control my body and that it is STRONG and can do hard things if I want it to. That confidence won’t change the way my bikini fits, but it sure as hell will make me stand taller as I leave the changing room, scanning the pool for my kids. It will make me walk with the assurance that this body is ready, bike ready, bikini ready, kid ready, life ready. If I happen to measure a few centimeters less around my midriff as a result, I’ll take it, but it’s not what’s important to me anymore.
I have two boys, and sometimes other moms (of girls) tell me I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about how I describe my body around them. I would say those people couldn’t be more wrong. We live in a society where everyone contributes to the idea that women are objects to be viewed and judged by others, for their ability to be moms, run a perfect household, have a career, all while still being ‘bikini ready’. If you thought we were past those 1950s tropes of women being defined by their looks and their measurements, the phrase ‘bikini ready’ should be your wake up call. I want my boys to understand that women are people, not commodities, not something that you have on your arm, to compliment your success in your career or your life in general. As a result, they come in all shapes and sizes, and those things do not define their worth. What does define someone? Their mind, their curiosity, their desire to live a full life, their passions. Whether male or female, these issues are the same, and if we ever need to divide ‘worths’ by gender, then that is inherently suspect. This is what I want my boys to know, what I want them to learn from me and from their father, as we work out and stay healthy by biking and running.
So, ladies out there, don’t worry about being bikini ready. Don’t even worry about being bike ready, if biking is not your thing. Find your passion, and figure out if you are ready for that. If not, work toward it, and let your kids see you doing the hard things that make that happen. Talk to them about being strong, fit for purpose (however you define that purpose, be it running marathons or running after your kids) and enjoying your life. Walk toward that pool with the air of confidence you deserve, badass. You are bikini ready.
photo credit: Glean + Co