To every woman who felt the need to fit into those tight yoga pants and for every woman who stresses out about finding time to work out, I apologize for the myths, misrepresentations and misogyny the fitness profession has perpetuated.
My first exposure to fitness was in 1982, where as an impressionable 8 year old, I latched onto the images presented in the Jane Fonda Workout video. Who didn’t want a body like Jane Fonda and her bouncy co-horts? From there, the leotards got skimpier (remember G-Strings?) and the pressure to look good increased.
All the while, our lives became more sedentary and our foods became less nutritious. And in one hour a day, we were going to fix all that. Many tried and failed to attain the body of their cute and perky aerobics instructor. So…. the workouts got harder and, now, bodies that are sedentary 90% of the day, are trying to launch into high intensity, quick fix workouts, and we are becoming injured at an increasing rate. This method is NOT sustainable.
About 2 years ago, I bought my first gym membership ever (never had to buy one as a personal trainer my whole career) at a local, family owned gym. After a few months of tripping over other participants in classes with 40 or more people and becoming nauseated by the guys flexing at themselves in the mirror, I had enough. I couldn’t even finish out our year long contract.
Is this what fitness has become, I asked myself? It certainly doesn’t appear healthy to me. And why do I need the pressure of wearing the right shoes, the most fashionable workout wear, and maintaining a body that can only be attained by teaching 3 – 5 exercise classes per day.
Don’t kid yourselves ladies. That instructor leading your classes likely leads more than 2 classes per day. That’s how she got a body like that.
Seriously, who has the time for all that? And furthermore, do you really want to spend another minute indoors, using machines in a germ-infested environment? Isn’t it ironic that our lives have become so mechanized that we have to use machines to keep ourselves healthy?
About a year ago, I discovered the work of biomechanist, Katy Bowman. She promotes the idea of Nutritious Movement™. Movement is as essential as a healthy diet. Katy explains, “It’s richly varied, it’s well-balanced, and it drives your body on a cellular level.” In her view, exercise is a supplement and much of what is offered in today’s trendy fitness world is junk food.
I read her book, “Move Your DNA” last winter. The notion of eliminating assistive devices (chairs and shoes) that impede the body’s natural inclination to move and adjust struck a chord in my brain. I was ready for the revolution and the return to natural movement, free of exercise machines.
Since February 2016, I have not set foot in a “gym”. All winter I walked and ran at the lake near our house, snow or shine. The monkey bars at the playground became my primary method of strength training and I have gone from doing 2 shaky pull ups to 9 solid pull ups in 4 months. Yoga is my mainstay that grounds me and supports a supple body and present mind.
Workout plans, sets, and repetitions lie in the periphery and I may use them in a traditional setting with my clients, but, as for me, I am aligned with my body and what it needs. This can’t possibly be written into a plan to follow. It comes from showing up mindfully each day, and responding to my body’s needs.
I grant that the average person, new to fitness, will want a plan to follow. Self-awareness is a skill that develops over time. Plans offer structure, and when a person is adopting a new habit, it is useful to follow a plan. I’ll be honest, I never have kept notes or records or workout plans, and that works for me. My assessed body age feels more like thirty-something than forty-something, so it must be working.
Before you take another look at yourself and judge and assess how you should look, consider this. . . you are perfect as you are and the key to change starts with making the decision to slow down and turn inward. All the answers to your unique needs are there. Focus externally, outside yourself, and you will continue to become discouraged. And, most importantly, stop buying those magazines that make you feel like you should look like someone else.
Gina is a fitness professional turned movement specialist who aspires to redefine the way fitness is perceived in this country. Realizing that traditional fitness programs neglect the individual needs of each person’s body, Gina set out to create more movement opportunities for people by lifting the restrictive rules found in traditional fitness. Gina intuitively reads bodies and she uses evidence based movement assessments to adapt exercise programming according to the needs of her clients. This is a skill that could only be collected through 20 years of extensive experience working as a fitness professional in a variety of settings including public recreation, corporate centers, athletic clubs and retirement communities.