For the love of spandex

It all began with my (mild) obsession with flash sale sites. I had not only been getting some great deals through Groupon and Living Social, I’d also gotten a little cocky. I’d been posting my unique link referring others to my super bargains, and so many friends had fallen prey to my powers of persuasion that I’d gotten some of my vouchers for free. That was why, when the opportunity to buy a package for pure barre showed up in my inbox, I broke one of my cardinal rules: never pay to exercise.

As it turned out, I didn’t get that deal for free. But my body needed a tune-up before a beach vacation, so I happily scheduled the purchased classes anyway. Pure barre was an awakening – a painful, booty-kicking one. Every 55-minute workout was harder than the previous one, with its small movements and isometric holds, its ballet barre work and fiendish double tube sprints. But I left each class reinvigorated physically and mentally, since the focus required leaves no room for thinking through my to-do list or playing back tapes of conversations gone wrong. I was quickly hooked because of both benefits.

Most importantly, though, barre work enabled me to come to terms with my body. I have never begrudged my height, all 4’10” of it. I have lamented how quickly that extra slice of pizza shows up (to my mind) on my backside. I have also spent many a morning cursing my adult acne, wondering when my miracle creams will finally work their wonder. These preoccupations have made me a hypocrite, seeing as how I’m a minister in a very incarnational faith. I tell young girls to love their look even as I’ve hardly been able to look at myself in the mirror. I’ve preached that God intentionally made us the way we are, inside and out, even as I’ve wished wholeheartedly that God would have spent a little more time tweaking my design. I’ve reminded people that God loves bodies, or else God wouldn’t have given Jesus one. But still I’ve found mine wanting.

It’s not been a complete 180, but it has been major progress. I know it because of my love of spandex.  Oh, spandex, we spent some ill-advised time together in the late 80s and early 90s when bicycle shorts counted as, well, shorts. Since then, though, I’ve steered clear of you – until barre work came into my life. Barre exercises require stretchy, breathable clothing, and spandex best fits the bill. I’ve found that the more form-fitting the outfit, the more comfortable the workout … relatively speaking. So I wear it, tight as it can be, as I tuck and pulse. And the more I wear it, the more I flaunt it. I love the way it feels, and I like the way I look in it. My glances in the mirror now are to measure my muscles’ progress rather than to check for pimples (on my face) and dimples (not on my face). I no longer put my tights on just before a workout and take them off first chance I get – if I have to run errands before or after I torture my thighs, I do them in spandex.

My spandex has covered me in comfort through some difficult times. Pregnancy left me blah most of the time, such that I only felt normal when my tights and I were at the barre. When my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, spandex and that blasted double tube anchored my body and my mind in the midst of physical and emotional chaos. My spandex has also reminded me of my strength through change and the upward creep of my age. The visible curves of my muscles – even beneath the post-baby weight that might be here to stay – are proof that I can hold my own, come what may.

No, I don’t wear spandex under my preaching robe or to conferences or pastoral care visits. But you just might see me in it shopping at Target, running after my son, or grabbing coffee. I don’t don it to allure or to fit the mom dress code. It’s sort of my power suit. I invite you to put yours on too, whatever that looks like for you. Let’s be powerful and beautiful together.

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