Every pair of running shorts I own has a knot in the drawstrings. No matter how hard I try to keep that from happening, the drawstrings wind up in a little knot so tight it just about requires a needle to pull the thing apart. Short of a black hole in outer space, nothing compresses matter so tightly as a knot in the drawstrings of a pair of running shorts.
It takes time to get the knots apart, so I typically don’t do it. That means the shorts are limited to whatever waist measurement I last drew them into. That width can thus be hard to get over your hips. So I tug and pull until the shorts finally come up and slide into place around my waist. But then they feel looser than I like. And that puts my mental shorts in a knot.
The problem thus rests with the fact that the shorts and drawstring actually constrict a when going through the dryer. That tiny bit of shrinkage is enough to make it tough to get them back on again.
Occasionally I will sit down and pick at the drawstring knots until I get them loose again. That’s where the phrase “Don’t get your shorts in a knot” comes to mind. The Idiom Dictionary online describes the phrase this way:
To become overly upset or emotional over something, especially that which is trivial or unimportant. Primarily heard in US, South Africa
When I sit down to untie the knots in my running shorts, it can take a half hour to finally get a grip on some tendril of drawstring. When you feel that knot loosening, it’s like the whole universe is opening up. Often the drawstrings wind up in double knots, so you actually have to untie one before trying to extricate the other. It’s all very annoying and absorbing at the same time. So for both literal and abstract reasons, there is no triumph on earth quite like getting a stubborn knot undone.
Both literally and figuratively, I’ve been known to get my shorts in a knot on more than one occasion. The origin of the phrase must have a wide spectrum. Perhaps the “shorts in a knot” phrase applies to that feeling when your package is all wrapped up in material and you have to make some adjustments or go crazy. Or perhaps the phrase applies to that famous condition known as a ‘wedgie.’ That’s when the underwear gets pulled up the ass crack and by proxy, up the genital zone as well. Both are annoying conditions. The tension one feels is quite like the emotional state one reaches as a particularly annoying or stressful situation occurs. Call it Crotch Anxiety.
Knots in your saddle
Cycling shorts can certainly feel like they’re in a knot after spending hours in the saddle. For men, the testicles can feel constricted and the head of the penis can get raw from the merest misalignment of a seam on a chamois.
For women, pressure on the vagina can turn into pain, an abrasion or worse. It all adds up to what feels like a knot in the shorts. Ugh.
That feeling leads to wanting to get off the bike as soon as possible. At Ironman Louisville I heard one competitor say as they dismounted, “Bike for sale!” Riding can get that bad sometimes.
Of course there is a side of riding that is liberating as well.
I have a friend whose Ph.D wife is a psychology professional. She works with veterans dealing with PTSD. She gets them together with horses in a treatment called hippotherapy.
Here’s how it is described by the American Hippotherapy Association:
The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes. In conjunction with the affordances of the equine environment and other treatment strategies, hippotherapy is part of a patient’s integrated plan of care.
It’s all about un-knotting the brain, and by doing that, unbundling the knots in our shorts. The fact that hanging out with a horse can help you un-knot your brain might be a hint why so many of us like to swim, run and ride. It’s all about getting outside ourselves and engaging with the world in a different way.
That seems like a simple enough explanation for why we swim, run and ride. To get the knots out of our shorts.