What does getting in shape mean? I have a lot of questions here.
A while ago, along Music Row, on the way to my business, I noticed some signs for another gym up the street that said, “Stop exercising. Start training.” The pettiest part of me wanted to put a sign up next to that sign that just said, “why?!” And then a sign on the other side that said, “for what?” I didn’t thooo. Like, are you running a marathon? Train for that. Planning on doing an iron man? Train for that. Want to get your StrongFirst Kettlebell Cert? Train (big time) for that. Tryna do something big that you’ve never done before? Train so that you can do that thing! But, like, trying to do life at work and with your friends? Exercise. Trying to feel good in your body? Exercise (maybe). Tryna feel more alert and maybe a bit happier? Exercise. Tryna not get out of breath going up and down some stairs? Forget it! Stairs are challenging for everybody. But generally trying to develop your lung capacity and better cardio-vascular function? That’s something you can work towards… while exercising.
I guess, I just want to know what everybody is training for and what does it mean to be in shape? In shape for what? In shape for whatever it is you think you’re training for? In shape for life? In such incredible shape that you’ll never have to breathe heavily?! TOO BAD THAT’ll NEVER HAPPEN BECAUSE THATS OUR BODY’S RESPONSE TO NEEDING MORE OXYGEN. Is being in shape a way that you look?
When I go run the Capitol steps sometimes if feel like I’ve never worked out before in my life. That’s ok. I don’t love running so I don’t do it often so when I DO run, it’s tough.
Last month I only did Pilates and then when I went to do some high knees I started wheezing. That’s ok. I hadn’t asked my heart rate to get very high for a while.
A few summers ago after I had run and trained for the half marathon, picking up a kettlebell seemed impossible. That’s ok. I hadn’t been lifting very heavy things because I had focused my time and energy into running.
Our bodies are adaptable. So whatever you do a lot of, is probably what your body will be accustomed to. And so if you come into the gym and you need to sit down a lot and breathe a lot, ok. Do that. That sounds like what your body needs. It’s trying to adjust to what you’re asking of it. Your face is getting red? ok. That’s really normal. Need some water (but have been shamed in the past during “water-asana”)? Get some. You can have water when ever you need it.
I’m a big believer in exercising today for the sake of exercising today. Yes, I get the idea of creating patterns and “healthy habits” and all that good stuff, but since I was 8, I’ve been reading articles about how I’m supposed to have a “healthy BMI” and in order to do that, I’m supposed to be exercising for 30 minutes per day 4-7 times per week blah blah blah. Well let me go ahead and tell you something - according to my BMI**, I’m overweight - I almost always have been. Did you know that one of my goals, for a very long time, was to be in the underweight category? Damn y’all - I know I’m not alone here. Being taught at a young age to bypass my body’s needs by sticking to a rigorous exercise and eating schedule had a funny way of sucking the joy out of moving my body completely. And when something SUCKS, we generally don’t want to do it. The only thing that has brought joy back to movement for me has been surrounding myself with folks who also exercise for the sake of exercising today, and learning that whatever I do can be exercise, so now, I only do what I like because I like it… today.*
Learning how to exercise just for the sake of exercising can be a game changer. It’s the act of being present. It’s intuitive movement.
Marketing companies keep trying to come up with a better (read: less triggering) word than “exercise.” There are studies. They look at words like: train, movement, work… Exercise literally means “to engage in physical activity.” So exercise literally means: MOVE your body. That’s it. And moving doesn’t have to be horrible. Innately, it’s exactly what we’re made for - and I don’t mean for that to sound like some able-ist bullshit - meaning, that only those of us who can intentionally move all our limbs and fingers and toes are the worthy ones - absolutely NOT. This world should be made for and designed for all of us and we’ve got to make it MUCH easier, fluid even, FOR those of us who move in different ways to be able to do so freely, beautifully, and safely.
My intention here is to take back the word EXERCISE. Diet-culture doesn’t get to take this away from us. Diet-culture doesn’t get to co-opt a word that means something completely neutral, and make it a word that we’re afraid of or that we have a negative visceral reaction to. Your need for exercise will ebb and flow - just like how right now in this season, I need a lot of sleep - more than I do in the summer. Right now in this season, I need a lot of potatoes. Sometimes I workout every day for months because I just do. Other times, I don’t workout for a month or two regularly, but I pick it back up again when I’m ready or when I feel like I need to.
So exercise. Today. For the sake of exercising today. Ta Da! You’re in the shape you’re in. Today. That’s all I’ve got. I click baited you because diet-culture seems to win over and over and over.
*sometimes, a post like this reads (to some people): “only do what you like all the time and life is a puppy!” Like I’m just a millennial complaining about shit. Actually, I’m not complaining. I’m outraged that I grew up in a society that taught me to hate my body, to not speak up for what I believe in, and to count my exercise by calories and work my entire life to be smaller. Nope. Listen, I do shit I don’t like all the time because it has to be done. Exercise doesn’t have to be one of those things.
** it should be noted that the BMI is an absolutely outdated and bullshit way to navigate health. There are plenty of studies debunking the usefulness of the BMI that you are welcome to google. It is not sound medical advice. It is not a reasonable way to determine ones health. It’s a ratio of height to weight. That is all.