I’m all about empowering yourself through fitness, and I’ve been working on a project specifically around that theme (coming soon!). Something has been irritating me lately on how we let the empowerment of fitness override empowerment of anything else. People so often fixate on changing themselves physically that nothing else changes mentally — at least not for the better.
Whether it’s a bodybuilder trying to bulk up then lean out for a competition, or an obese person that is trying to lose weight to protect their health. Fitness can help you change your body, which is awesome, but do we need to constantly strive to reach new aesthetic goals?
If you’re overweight or obese, of course you should work to pursue healthy weight loss goals. If you’re underweight, of course you should work towards healthy weight gain goals. I personally struggle to encourage competitive bodybuilding because it does not encourage healthy behaviors for life.
Sure, it takes a ton of dedication around diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices to reach your “peak” body size. However, not even the most successful bodybuilders will tell you that peak is permanent. It is not healthy to sustain for long periods of time. So, I ask how this mindset affects everyone else’s fitness journey.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t worry — I don’t plan on running a marathon anytime soon and you can definitely find me sprinting in fitness classes. I’m talking about the metaphor to lifelong health. If you are so focused on reaching a certain body size for a short period of time, what are your long-term goals? Where do you want to go next?
I love fitness because everyone can always improve. It never gets easier because you only get stronger. Love. That. But, if you do reach a healthy size with healthy habits and you find yourself still trying to push harder and harder, you’re eventually going to wear your body out.
During my eating disorder, I wanted to be leaner and thinner always. Even when I reached my goal size and weight, it wasn’t good enough. Who said I couldn’t be “better?”
Now, I have learned to love the awkward curves that come with my natural lankiness. Sometimes, I get sucked into the belief that as a fitness instructor, I need to be leaner and stronger. Of course, I always want to be stronger, but as I’m struggling with shoulder pain and TFL pain, I’m realizing that shouldn’t be a priority.
The amount of stress in my life, whether through high impact workouts or mental stress, might be affecting my overall performance, signalling a need to dial it back. I’ve been working out less, and while this may possibly mean my shoulders may not be as chiseled, it’s all about allocation of priorities. My muscles may not be stronger, but will I be able to focus on empowering myself through other areas of my life?
Maybe I won’t workout as much, but I’ll be able to spend more time reading, writing, spending time with friends, and many other priorities of mine. I empowered myself through fitness to realize my potential, but that doesn’t mean I need to constantly empower myself through fitness. I’ve realized other areas where I can empower myself.
- I’m back to being a bookworm and loving it!
- I’m writing another huge project which energizes me beyond belief.
- I’m learning so much more about tech to apply to my full-time job.
- I gained another NASM certification to now be a Behavior Change Specialist (again, always learning more!).
- I’m prioritizing socialization, something that has lacked severely from my priorities in the last couple of years. Strengthening some relationships, ending toxic relationships, and expanding my network of inspiring, forward-thinking people.
For the first part of this summer, I learned that I love embracing my morning bird mentality and thought this meant always working out — even if that meant working out twice a day. As much as a good workout empowers me in the morning to take on the day, I’m learning other activities do, too. Waking up early to read in the sun, bake some peanut butter bites for friends, or even grocery shopping (if the stores are open early enough…). My strength as a morning person is not confined to exercising. Empowering myself should be the opposite of limiting — it should be liberating!
Again, health is a lifelong journey, just as every other aspect of my life. As life changes, priorities change and time is allocated accordingly. I’m not as stressed as I used to be, but I still struggle with some stomach issues and teeth grinding. Stress reduction is a main goal of mine currently, and that may mean working out less. I’m still just as strong, if not more empowered. It’s simply time to strengthen other areas of my life as much as I’ve focused on my body.
++ Mary K