August 27, 2015

My Fitness Inspiration isn’t who you Think it Is.

woman strong arm bicep

We see it all over social media, with hashtags like #fitspiration, #fitspo, #fitnessgoals.

Thin, chiseled bodies, in flattering angles and perfect lighting.

Now I’m not saying the women with these bodies shouldn’t be proud of what they have accomplished, or show off the bodies they have worked for.

I’m just saying my fitness inspiration, the person I truly admire, who gives me an emotional response and makes me think, “Wow! She’s so awesome!” is somebody else. You may have seen her around.

She’s the woman you hadn’t noticed before at your gym/yoga studio/pool/running track.

She’s wearing brand new workout clothing that hasn’t yet seen the stretch of unusual contortions or the stains of being covered in more sweat than ever thought possible, or the dulling of the neon colour from having been thrown in the wash with black yoga pants. All her stuff is brand new, to match the brand new person she is choosing to become.

She feels winded after just a few minutes of activity. Maybe she’s doing the modified version of the yoga pose, or just doing a slight stretch of the same muscles. Maybe she’s briskly walking instead of the run she was hoping to do. But you can tell she’s giving it her all.

Under the flushed face and various body bulges and jiggles is something more beautiful than any waist-to-hip ratio, six-pack, toned arm or firm behind. It’s somebody who’s doing everything she can to make a positive change. Someone who’s learning to finally love themselves and give it her absolute best.

Someone who’s making changes out of love.

After years of feeling shame, of looking in the mirror and hating her thighs, of dieting to punish herself, she is finally looking at her body and telling it “I love you. I’m sorry for the way I treated you before. Let me take care of you now.”

I know she’s a bit of a rebel too, whether she feels like it or not. Her whole life she’s been fed conflicting messages that keep her trapped in a cycle.

“Eat this junk food, it will make you happy. Don’t gain a single pound, though. If you do, try this diet. You’ll be starving and grumpy and inevitably reach for that addictive sugar to give you a boost. Then you’ll feel bad about yourself, and keep alternately hemorrhaging money into both the fast food and diet industry ad infinitum.”

She’s decided to stick it to them.

She’s saying “Screw that. I’m going to give my body what it truly needs.”

Somehow after that first run, she doesn’t want to load up on empty calories. She goes for something just a little healthier, maybe a stir fry with lean protein. The next morning she’s reaching for some oatmeal instead of her usual donut. Little steps are starting to add up and she’s realizing she has so much energy now that she’s feeding her body with more nutritious foods. Maybe one day she gives in to a craving for ice cream, but she no longer sees it as a failure as she’s no longer on a diet with strict rules. She just tells herself that she can have three scoops, but not an entire bucket. And that’s okay.

She’s sticking it to the Man and saying, “No. You’re not letting me feel bad about myself for this. I’m living healthy now, and this dessert doesn’t define me.” She’s learning that “guilt-free” is just a marketing term, and that the way she nourishes her body should be based in love, not guilt.

Maybe something happens in her life and she has to forgo the workouts for a week or two. But once she can make it again, she goes regularly, and with extra motivation because she remembers how exciting and rewarding it was last time.

Maybe she’s noticing that “getting started” again isn’t as painful as it was the first time. She keeps at it and eventually she’s reaching milestones that she never thought were possible. She’s feeling good because her healthy changes are made out of love—no longer out of hate, or wishing to be like someone else, or to be skinny because someone told her it would make her happy. Changing her mindset is making things easier, and soon she’s getting those endorphin rushes she once heard about.

It’s starting to become a healthy addiction. When she’s in a foul mood, instead of reaching for the junk food, she goes for a brisk walk and feels better.

Maybe she’s lost a few pounds by now. It doesn’t feel dramatic enough to be posting “before and after” pictures—she’s feeling quite confident enough to do that just yet. She’s proud of seeing results, but it’s slowly becoming less and less about that.

She’s noticing her clothes no longer fit as tightly anymore, but she’s now wise enough to know that her weight doesn’t define her as a person or how she feels about herself. She’s rebelling against conventional wisdom that says, “Get fit, and then maybe you’ll love yourself,” and turning it on its head by learning to love herself so she can be fit. Come to think of it, she hasn’t even craved that ice cream in a while.

Sometimes I want to tell her what a good job she’s doing. But I don’t know her, and I’m worried I might come across as condescending. I’ve been at that beginner stage before, fallen off the wagon and gotten back on many times, and I admire everyone who’s making that start just as much as I admire someone who’s been training for a long time and doing triathlons.

Because to me, making a choice to love yourself and take care of yourself, is one of the bravest, most bad*ss, beautiful things a person can do.


Relephant Read: 

Stop “Shoulding” Yourself to Exercise: Revitalizing Fitness with Mindful Movement.


Author: Sophie Kolodzi

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Boemski/Flickr


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