Running: Why I’m not taking a shower

If you see me in the afternoon at work, chances are my hair is in a ponytail.

And most of my makeup is gone.

It’s all because I have a secret.

A dirty little secret: When I go for a run at lunch, I often don’t take a shower when I’m done.

This topic has spawned disgust with my best friend (who would rather die than not have perfect hair at work), solidarity from my sister (who looks great in a ponytail) and, surprisingly no comment from my coworkers, who have had to sit near me for 13 funk-filled years as I return to my desk, glowing and happy from an outdoor run – with a little extra deodorant.

When people ask me how I find time to exercise regularly, I try to be honest: I cut out some things that might be really important to other people. Like sleep – a few days a week, I get up when the clock still flashes the 4 o’clock hour and head out for a run. I’m lucky to be able to grab a nap sometimes on the weekend – when the week catches up with me and I collapse and my husband tells me to go sleep for an hour.

And during the week, when sometimes the only option I have to run is at lunch, I skip the shower. I’d rather go 7 miles and look sort of horrible all afternoon than only get in 5. When it comes down to it, I’d generally rather feel good than look good – which is also why I hate high-heeled shoes. It’s not that I embrace the frump – I wear nice clothes to work (OK, sometimes that means dark jeans), earrings, all that stuff. But you’d be surprised how far a little deodorant and lip gloss can go at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Don’t get me wrong – when I teach spin classes, I sweat so much, I have to shower before I return to work. And in the summer, there’s no way around it, either. But spring, fall, dead of winter? Come on. If I run outside, and I do most of the winter, I sweat but it isn’t as … horrifying as the crust that forms mid-July.

I know this really grosses some people out. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, sometimes it’s true that I look slightly disheveled. But then I tell myself that if you’re in shape, you look better anyway, so it all balances out.

Everyone finds a place to cut corners in their life – I rarely get all my laundry put away, wear the same earrings all the time instead of planning them with each outfit and keep a ponytail holder around my wrist to combat the inevitable bad hair day related to parenting, running or just not having my own personal hairstylist.

I try to plan my work outfits to look OK with a little grime on the days I know I have to run at lunch. It would definitely be harder if I had to wear a business suit every day – but not impossible. I have a friend who told me when you feel intimidated before a work meeting, put on some lipstick and comb your hair. It’s the same thing after a run at lunch.

Being in shape, defining myself as a runner, makes me feel good about myself. Great, actually. And I really think when you feel good – not just about yourself, but in general from enjoying fresh air and the friendship that can come with a run at lunch — you probably look OK, too.

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