What we choose as our preferred women’s exercise program is often a source of discussion and even derision. How weird is that?
What a strange world we live in to find that women who are attempting to do the right thing by their bodies are still judged on a regular basis. Every woman faces significant change in their body and their fitness levels during various stages of life. From girlhood to puberty, first time motherhood, each pregnancy thereafter and menopause, our bodies change. Hormones influence at all stages. Our bodies are designed to accommodate different circumstances.
Yet we still live in a culture where a woman’s body is questioned. Scrutinised and subjected to standards that are unrealistic.
But it’s important to remember that every woman’s body is special. Our beauty is as wonderfully unique and captivating as our personalities, minds and creativity.
Here’s a timely reminder that every woman’s body is their own and every women’s exercise program is their personal choice. And that we should cherish the differences instead of using them to compare ourselves.
We’re all different. Isn’t that great?
Hands up if you were always at the back of the school photo line. Now hands up if you were always in the back row. Did you know that the girl who was the shortest in the class probably felt as self conscious as the willowy tall girl in the back? What about the girl who had big boobs before everyone else? Or the girl that looked beseechingly at her own flat chest, willing breasts to grow.
During our teenage years, we remember these awkward moments. We remember standing out because of our bottoms and our hips, our height, legs, arms, stomachs, faces, hair and anything else we could pin difference on. We look back as grown women and realise that things weren’t as dire or as tough as we might have thought.
And yet, we continue that baggage into later life. We start worrying about our twenties when things don’t bounce back quickly with the youthful vigour they once had. We worry about the stretchmarks we obtain through weight loss and weight gain. We wonder if our bodies will ever be the same with each passing pregnancy, milestone and decade.
Even choosing our diets and exercise programs is up for debate and discussion. But why is this the case when in reality, most of it is based on opinion anyway?
Who hasn’t looked at their girlfriend’s curly hair and wanted a piece of that? Who hasn’t had that curly hair and spent hours with the hair straightener, willing it to behave? Your full, womanly bottom is something I want. You’d rather have my flat stomach and sharp edges.
Seeing the beauty in others is so much easier than seeing it in ourselves. But this is what makes women beautiful, powerful and something truly amazing.
We’re all different, inside and out. Even the best friends who spend so much time together, the lines between where we begin and end often blur. Even the sisters, mothers and daughters. And yes, even the twins and triplets.
Women are powerful because we’re diverse, unpredictable and strong in our own special way. And it’s time we told the women in the mirror that. Don’t you think?
Seeing ourselves in others can be powerful
When you see an older woman or a woman carrying extra weight jogging or walking in athletic gear, what do you see? When you see her out in the park, stretching or squeezing in her exercise program, what enters your head?
No matter what springs to mind, we should applaud the progress.
At 5am every 2nd Wednesday, one of our supporters Bek sees a man of about 80. Without fail, rain or shine, this man is walking. Sometimes he has an umbrella and his steps are slower. But he is always wearing the same cheerful grin and has a special “top of the morning” to share in his rich Northern England accent.
She always admired his ability to be so cheerful in the morning. And thought it was great that he was out exercising. Last week, she looked beyond the merry greeting and the “gee I wonder if I will be like that when I am 80” feeling.
For the first time, she realised this guy had the best pair of legs she’d seen in a while. The kind of legs English footballers have- lean, honed to the work they do and infinitely strong. Those legs were the legs of a much younger man.
What a small yet amazing thing to notice in another person. Instead of collapsing tired after an early start and a long, cerebral day on Friday with a wine, Bek put on her trainers and went for a long walk.
Those legs switched something in her head and inspired her.
Beyond progress, this was seeing the magic available. How many older Australians worry about falling? Or seem vulnerable on the streets, stepping down from buses or walking through the local shops? Not only was this man fit in the leg department, not only was he cheerful, but you can guess that he probably enjoys more independence and freedom through not having to worry about balance, missteps and uneven concrete.
So perhaps the question isn’t always “what do I want to look like?” or “how many planks do I want to do?” but “what do I not want to miss out on?” when it comes to health and fitness inspiration.
For Bek, the idea of losing her ability to walk with the same confidence as the older man struck a chord. What is your fitness tune? What will get you connecting with your exercise program and healthy living ideas?
Fat shaming and fitspiration and the problems within
Fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry. From exercise plans through to diets, retreats, TV programs and more, the focus on fitness and exercise in business circles is astonishing. Some of the unfortunate by-products of a focus on fitness are fat shaming and fitspiration.
We’re not here to critique the ins and outs of either, but we will say this- being healthy should always be the aim of the game. Your exercise program should empower you, not make you cower and feel overwhelmed.
By healthy, we also mean healthy in the mind as well. Wellness comes from having your body and mind in situ. If you’re creating massive amounts of pressure on yourself to be the fittest and the fastest, it can create just as much unhealthy behaviour as not caring about movement or what you eat. The balance always has to be feeling positive about the body in which you live.
Feeling inspired to be fit should be about personal goals that are achievable. But not only that, they should be positive. Punishment is no way to get someone to create change in their life that is sustainable. Helping motivate yourself is about recognising the road ahead, but also taking a moment to understand and appreciate how far you have come.
You don’t have to love your body right now to want to look after it now. It helps if you can think of it as your ally in your wellness journey.
The motivation is within you
There’s a trailer for the documentary The Temple of Art that writer Neil Gaiman talks about writing a book as bricklaying in. You sit down and write, laying a brick in your story. You sit down and you write again, laying another brick.
This principle is the exact same process for a journey to wellness. No matter if that is starting an exercise program, quitting smoking or changing your eating habits. You start with one brick or one day and you work on laying it down. The next day, you lay another. And on and on until your body and mind grab hold of it and adopts it as a pattern.
You know what? You will get resistance- from yourself, from people around you, maybe even people in the street. There will be times when the idea of putting on your trainers for a walk or trying another episode of Body Beyond Birth seems like such a big thing you can’t even begin to start. But motivation isn’t a magical tree in the garden where we all go to get a top up. It’s something within. We grow it and cultivate it until things like choosing the salad over the burger or making 20 minutes of time for some Pilates core work are all part of the daily routine.
You just have to start that bricklaying process.