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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Modesty or Vanity? How do you Handle Nudity?

When I was a child, I wore long dresses with white buckle shoes on special occasions.  When I wore short dresses, above the knee, I wore knee socks.  Always.  Somehow, somewhere, I was taught modesty, or perhaps it was vanity.

When junior high hit (7th and 8th grade) I was mortified by the fact that physical education students were required to shower NUDE (as if showering clothed was an option).  The idea of striping down before 30 other girls, plus the P.E. teacher horrified me.  But I had to.  If I didn’t, it meant 15 points taken off my daily score.  And I was aiming for that 4.0 grade point average.  Nude I had to be.

Jumping forward, this 46-year-old woman never wears skirts or dresses more than a few inches above the knee.  I RARELY show cleavage.  When I first began running (in my late thirties) I wore running pants, or maybe capris – never tank tops or anything tight on top. 

When I finally moved to the trail I realized that pants were not going to suffice. I overheated too quickly in this type of clothing.   So, I switched to shorts.  My ideal short length has an 8” to 10” inseam.  Even in high school when I was slender, I wore Bermuda shorts.  Thing is, have you ever been shopping for female running shorts?  “They” only sell them with 2,3, or 4 inch inseams!  Of course, I can get longer inseams, but it’s those skin tight “cycling-type” shorts that will not do with this modest woman.  I’ve tried men’s shorts, but they have too much material for my comfort.

Let me digress even more just a tad.  If you belong to a gym, do the people in your locker room walk about stark naked?  They do at my gym.  But I don’t.  In fact, I shower in my swim suit, then quickly emerge from the shower scrambling for my towel to cover myself.  Yet, women of all ages and all sizes walk about freely without clothes in my locker room.  They blow dry their hair, apply their make-up NAKED.  I once dressed next to woman at her locker when she accidentally locked her locker with everything inside.  There she stood, nude, saying “Oh Sh**!”  Well, I didn’t know where to place my eyes as I offered to help.  I went to the manger and asked for someone to cut her lock, and they didn’t have anyone to help her just then.  SO, I RETURNED THIS NUDE (VERY SLENDER) WOMAN to tell her, she had to wait, she had to stand there completely naked for who knew how long before someone could cut the lock.

The horror! 

Would I wear short-shorts, mini-skirts or walk around the locker room stark naked if I was a slender long-legged woman?  That thought has crossed my mind.  Why?  Because I despise vanity.  Maybe I despise it because I suffer from it.  I’m not sure.  But even when I was slender, when my thighs were thin, I still wouldn’t walk around nude amongst peers.  Perhaps I am an old soul and that’s what I’m used to.  I’m wondering now – perhaps your country or state has different traditions.  Do men or women walk about nude in your locker rooms?  How does that make you feel?

Why bring this up on my running blog?  It’s the shorts issue.  I have some wonderfully comfortable 3 and 4” inseam running shorts that I ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT WEAR IN PUBLIC.  Why?  Well, for vanity sakes (or is it modesty)  – my thighs are wide and now with wearing 8” inseams, they are SO, SO WHITE.  I might as well run in my underwear. 

So, secretly on solo runs recently I’ve been wearing 4” inseams to test out the comfort level and also to get rid of that terrible tan line that begins about 8 inches down.   I’m about half way getting rid of that tan line. 

This morning, after waking way too late for an early  run, I put on my short-shorts and went for a run anyway.  I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to see anyone, so no need to worry over running practically naked. 

Wouldn’t you know, first thing, I saw my running friend Tom as he finished up his run?  I couldn’t pass him by like I didn’t know him.  That would never work.  We chatted a bit.  Then not a quarter mile later, I ran into the cashier at my grocery store and his son taking a hike in Aliso / Wood Canyons.  I felt naked.  I really did.  I could have run right past the grocer.  But I’m not like that, I HAD TO say Hi. 

Embarrassment -- all in an effort to get rid of these tan lines and start wearing these comfortable shorts that I own, despite wide thighs. 


Actually this is a funny story.  And I laugh when I think of it.  Am I vain, or am I modest?  I think both.  I really shouldn’t be vain.  I am 46, I have a wonderful husband, 3 lovely boys – no need to be a swimsuit model here.  And so, I will continue to occasionally run in these comfortable short-shorts.  But it is VERY unlikely that you will ever see a full frontal picture on this blog in those shorts.

Back from my digressed, digression, I didn’t hit the dirt until after 9AM.  It was hot, hot, hot.  Yet, it was LOVELY.  I still felt strong.  After running past my two friends/acquaintances, and tugging at these short-shorts, I took a detour onto Wood Creek Trail.  I took a few detours actually, lackadaisically, stopping often to take pictures.  Once I hit Wood Canyon for good, I put the camera away and focused on running up Meadows Trail without overheating

On Wood Creek Trail / Wood Canyon in backgroundSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Magical Tree on Wood Creek Trail (Perhaps Coyote Run Trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

First time seen (by me) red berries on Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About half way up Meadows (running all the way) I heard some lovely natural music – a sound of wind blowing through the grass.  And I turned and stopped briefly to take in this summer beauty.  There before me stood a field of brownish grass lazily blowing in the wind, sending out the sweetest sound. 

I reached the top of Meadows after running the trail in its entirety.  I felt fatigued, but NOT overheated.   I practiced at the mid-foot strike, and on the uphills keeping my cadence quick.    


After my fun, I continued my new tradition of recovery calories.  Instead of driving to the closest fast food restaurant (Burger King) for a chicken sandwich, I went for coconut water and the lovely apples (Hollywood Apples) from my father’s tree.

After run snack (I guzzled the water and ate 2 of the tiny apples)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Elevation on this hot summer day:My Activities single loop clockwise from cyn vista 8-23-2011, Elevation - Distance

ps.  After such a wonderful run, back spasms began this evening.  NOT GOOD.  I did what I could, neuro-flossing, ibuprofen, foam rolling etc.  Here’s to hoping for the best.   I thought I had conquered back spasms long ago.   Confused smile  If you have experienced back spasms, you may know that they can THROW you to the floor.  LITERALLY.  I have worked hard this evening at avoid that.  I had my youngest son walk on my back.  Then my middle son (100 lb+) walked on my back and that did wonders.  Still those spasms scare me.  They really do.  Have you ever experienced  them? Hopefully not.


  1. This made me smile. I respect you a lot for your modesty or is it vanity? I don't go to a gym so I don't know what happens inside. I do know that some women can show far more than I think is needed. With ultra running it can be different. I've run through the nights and even changed clothes with some running girl friends around. Believe me, if you've been running together for more than 20 hours and are all stuffed, you don't see each other's bodies at all. I've been asked by women I didn't meet before the race to help them with vaseline where they were having problems with chafing. I've seen women undress after 28 hours of running and neither me nor them even lifted an eyebrow or noticed anything. But that's during ultras...

  2. Sorry to hear about the spasms. Hope the subside soon!

    Thanks for your insight and your candor. Especially the Vanity vs. Modesty debate.
    I'm a little bit opinionated on the issue of nudity. With a teen daughter, I reflect on this issue often.
    First and foremost it is choice. If one feels comfortable showing more skin, then go for it.
    Like you, in my youth there was forced nakedness in semi-public spaces (gym class, rugby, etc...I also had to suffer the indignity of "shirts vs. skins" games) I was chubby, had skin tags in strange places and (later) sprouted neanderthal-like hair on places where there should be no hair. It was very embarrassing. But it was very tied to self esteem. I worked on that and as my self esteem grew, so faded my reluctance to take off my shirt in public. I still remember being at the pool doing laps when my then pre-teen daughter was doing synchro. Getting out of the pool, one of her friends pointed at my hairy back saying "ewwwwww". My daughter smiled and said "that's my dad...he's so cudly."
    She doesn't have the self-esteem issues I've faced.
    The dividing line for me is provocation.
    If someone dresses a certain way because it is comfortable, appropriate (for the setting)or necessary (tank top or shirtless, for instance) then more power to him or her. If they dress that way to get attention, to be noticed (shirtless or tank top, for instance), then they will get attention and should expect no less. It is all about intent.
    We spend far too much time worrying what others think, when most of the time, they don't even notice.
    Growing up, I spent a lot of time on topless (and bottomless) beaches on the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Sure, there were the people showing off their assets and other gawkers...gawking. But the majority, were just there. Laying it all out and being themselves...in every imaginable size. I learned a lot about being comfortable "en sa peau": in your own skin...It is no different than being comfortable with your beliefs and convictions.
    Be yourself. Whatever that is...and people will recognize you for being sincere.

  3. I don't like being naked and I don't like seeing other naked people. Sorry to hear about the back spasms. :( I have never had them but have had other back issues. Pain in the back can really mess with your quality of life! I love the musical field pic. :)

  4. I'm glad it made you smile Johann. I'm sure if I was on one of those ultras, I'd be the one behind the tree. : ))

  5. Windnsnow, what a sweet, sweet daughter you must have for her to say that. I read that part out to my husband and we were both so impressed. When I see how much the girls show in middle and high school, I think to myself, "Oh my, I'm glad I don't have to deal with that issue." (We have only boys). Thanks for commenting.

    ps. re: provocation, I was floored when I first started going to the gym by the women with enhancements who showed them off beyond reason. Now I don't even notice them (the women).

  6. Thanks for reading Kate. I giggled reading your comment. I'm glad you like the musical field pic. It was amazing how clearly the sound came through.

  7. I don't think those are berries - they look like rose hips - the ripe ovaries on a wild rose. They make a great tea!

    Hope your back is feeling better. And thanks for the invites up Saddleback. Soon Lauren. Soon....

  8. They are rose hips Glenn! Boy! Nothing gets past you! Those are rose hips. I haven't tried the tea. Can't get nothing past you!!! I have a 10 mile out-and-back scheduled for end of September. Hopefully I still have the energy. Maybe you can make it??

  9. I will try! And yes - I know those are rose hips because when I was a young'un (many years ago) traipsing around in the Sierra, we would collect them up and put them in some boiling water in the backpack stove to break the monotony of Tang on the trails.