Close the (Thigh) Gapby Jen Sinkler
So if your feet are together and your thighs don’t touch, that’s called a Thigh Gap.
What’s it called if your feet are 4 inches apart and your thighs still touch?
I burst out laughing. The push to attain a so-called “thigh gap,” a body structure being pushed as a must-have trait for women, has been horrifying many of my friends lately, and rightly so. Combating the trend with humor and grace? Totally Molly’s style.
If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, bless you, you lucky thing. Because once you know, you cannot unknow.
The thigh gap is how much space exists between your upper legs when you stand with your feet together. I am proud to say that I have exactly none north of my knees, and that even my calves touch (yes, really).
If more skin-on-skin contact were the goal, I would be golden. Alas, in our cultural pursuit of becoming less, the goal is, of course, less contact — more daylight, shining right through your legs.
Many women remain unmoved by this campaign, and relish quite a different aesthetic for themselves (while hopefully remaining mum on other people’s choices for themselves). I am one of those. During the past several weeks, as part of a video project I’m involved with, I averaged approximately a thousand lunge reps per day, and as a result, I noticed an increased girthiness to my own thighs. This was a pleasant realization — in my world, juicy quads are a good thing. All the better to squat with, you know?
Regardless of whether you squat or don’t give one, this is a discussion worth having, because to position the thigh gap as a fitness goal indicates that it’s achievable based on your behavior…and this, frankly, may not be.
MIND THE GAP
To be clear, I don’t mind the gap itself. Bodies are bodies, and as Hanne Blank wrote in her fabulous essay, “real women,” “There is no wrong way to have a body.” Some legs touch, some legs don’t, la dee da. What I do mind, very much, is the marketing of the gap to women everywhere.
Because here’s the problem, which exists in nearly every aesthetic-based fitness goal you can set: It may not be the right goal for you. In this case, the existence (or not) of said gap is due in large part to body type, skeletal structure and connective tissue length.
By body type I mean the flesh on your bones. Ectomorphs — naturally thin, lithe types who have a difficult time putting on muscle or fat — are the only ones of us who may feasibly be prone to gappiness, and they make up a very small percentage of the population.
Mesomorphs, with their propensity toward muscularity, and endomorphs, who naturally tend to carry greater amounts of muscle and fat, are likely pursuing a goal they don’t have much hope at achieving — at least not without great insult to their own physiology. (Granted, most people consist of a blend of two types, but my point remains — ectomorphs ain’t all that common.)
Another consideration lies in our very bones. As I was pondering this topic, I recalled a blog post I’d read earlier this year about the four different types of pelvic structures. In it, Dean Somerset, exercise physiologist, strength coach, and creator of Post Rehab Essentials, made a strong case for the shape of your hips — that is, the width and depth of its sockets, and the angles of the bony interactions of your pelvis and femurs — directly affecting your ability to deadlift well, not to mention squat, move laterally and even touch your toes.
Not surprisingly, these four types of pelvic structures don’t just act different from one another. They look different, too.
When I approached him with the theory that perhaps these same pelvic shapes could give one a leg up (pun intended) on achieving a thigh gap, he wholeheartedly agreed. “There are absolutely differences in pelvic structures — and more specifically in femoral neck angulation — that can predispose someone to having more of a gap than others,” says Somerset. “Essentially, the wider the pelvis and the closer the femoral neck angle is to 90 degrees, the greater the spacing between the thighs will be, irrespective to leg length, body fat, muscle mass, and so on.”
What does this mean? You can have two women who have identical leg lengths, thigh circumferences, and body-fat percent and distribution, and the one who has the right combination of bony alignment at the pelvis and femoral neck will show a gap, whereas the other won’t.
Think about that: Is your goal really to alter your skeleton?
There’s more. “Another feature is the positioning of the belly [the thickest part] of the adductor muscles [of the inner thigh] in relation to the tendon. Some people are born with the thicker part of the adductor muscles in a higher relative position on their thigh than others, which would limit the amount of spacing in between the thighs,” says Somerset. “If someone is born with a longer tendon length to her adductors, she will show a gap much easier than someone with a shorter tendon length, completely irrespective of fitness, body composition, or workout history.”
In other words, there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
Close the Gap
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have goals, and that they shouldn’t take work; the sacrifice of our time and energy. But I am strongly suggesting we examine whether or not our stated goals make a lick of sense before we pursue them. I’m suggesting that we consciously, joyously choose not to let one shred of our self worth be determined by what is — or is not — between our legs.
And, I’m calling all women for whom the gap isn’t a sensical or desirable goal, and suggesting that we instead celebrate our strong, full, meaty-ass gams, either privately or publicly. If you opt for the latter, send a photo — like mine at the top — to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add them to the #closethethighgap album at my Facebook page, Thrive as the Fittest.
Note: Any disparaging comments directed at those with or without a thigh gap will be promptly deleted. It ain’t really about the size of your thighs, it’s — to quote the philosopher Byron Katie — “loving what is.”