In this commercial, photoshop, environment we live in it is easy to fall in to the trap of thinking fitness = skinny. However, fitness has absolutely nothing to do with “skinny”.
Let’s start with the technical definition of fitness. Fitness is to be fit or, as Merriam Webster puts it, “the quality or state of being fit”. Notice the obvious lack of weight, size, or any visible criteria. There is nothing defined about even a physical attribute. Being fit is relevant to the topic, and is about skill. How you do it, can you do it; not how you look doing it.
There have been a considerable number of years that I was in that trap set for us in our all-about-the-image world. A couple of decades beating myself up because I was not “fit” – meaning I was not skinny or did not look like what was presented to me in every media from print to sound. In an effort to expand marketability and pull consumers in, health terms and ideals have been contorted and do not represent their actual intent or definition. When I was younger, I was heavily involved in dance and was always going a million miles a minute…naturally burning every calorie that came in to my body instantly. I was thin, but because I was dancing I was also capable. Also, interestingly, I did not care one whit about how I looked or if I fit any sort of presented ideal. I was fit, but not because of my measurements; I was fit because my body was capable and my mind was in a state of being fit.
If you judge a fish on his ability to climb a tree, he will forever believe he is stupid
Ever heard a saying like this? Well….it’s completely true. If you judge a creature on abilities it is not made for, then there is nothing but failure. After I had my first kiddo in the late 1990s, I decided to get “back in to shape” and be fit. First, I tried walking with the intent of working up to running. This was my first failure. Walking hurt my lower legs so much (due to tight tibialis anterior muscles) that I could not make it far and running was just never going to happen. Second, I joined a gym in my office building and began attending a cardio kickboxing class. I was so in love with that class. I did that three times a week, but did not really lose much in the way of weight or inches. Because I had the idea that fitness was about looking a certain way, I was sure that I failed again.
Over the next 15-ish years I would start and give up several plans and programs: circuit, yoga, step, at-home discs, walking (again)……and the list goes on. Then I discovered dance “fitness” classes. I was a mom of two and about 80 pounds heavier than my dancing days…but the idea of dance fitness tugged at something in my soul. Certainly when I started I was a spastic mess; I didn’t know the music or the moves or what I was capable of. Something about the method being dance, though, spoke to me on a different level. I could stick with classes and trying without feeling like I was failing…even when not perfect. Jump forward to now, and I teach these classes to others and it’s part of my life every day. I’m still about 75 pounds heavier than when I had my first kiddo, but I am FIT: I have ability, my heart is healthy, my cholesterol is low, the machine that is my body WORKS. So what’s the difference?
Fitness is a gauge for your goals. Everyone has a different goal, is built differently, has different interests, and so has a different fitness. We should be thinking of fitness as ability to accomplish – not a look or a number (unless that goal is a specified number like 10k steps a day). YOU are not the person whose photo was edited for a magazine ad. YOU are not the person on television who has a different metabolism and so looks wafer thin on the screen. YOU are the one with something unique to achieve, that is all your own. NO ONE will look like you, accomplish what you accomplish, or feel how you feel. Embrace what is yours!
Here are my tips for focusing on fitness
- Determine your own goal. Make you goal about a skill or event, not about a size or a number.
- Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to accomplish your goal. It is far better to set your target out farther and accomplish it sooner than to have it set too soon and miss your mark. You cannot train for a marathon in only a week.
- Find a coach who can give you guidance and feedback along the way. This can be a tutor, a personal trainer, a group fitness instructor, a professional mentor. Someone with experience in the field your goal is in. Check in with them regularly, and take feedback to heart.
- Find a partner in crime. Whenever possible, work toward your goal with a friend or colleague who shares the same interest. Go to a class with a friend, find a community on social media, etc. Having someone who understands what you are doing and where you are going that you can talk to about all the ups and downs is invaluable.
- Remember that all good things take time. You will not remarkably be able to achieve your goal overnight. Each day is a step, and each day is a chance to move forward…but if you have a day that you don’t, it’s ok. Another day is just a wake-up away.
Enjoy the process of change and evolution. You get to control it. Setting goals and achieving fitness in those areas builds the momentum to do more and builds that belief that you ARE amazing. Because you are!