Rewind a week and a half ago at the gym. Here I was, workin’ on my fitness, and two men approached me.
“Are you competing?”
I’m pretty sure my response was first in the form of a laugh.
“No. No, no, no.”
And they both looked at me in disbelief.
“Well, what are you training for? You should think about competing, you’re already shredded!”
And then they went on to talk about how THEY are competing, how I SHOULD also be competing, and all I could think was, EFF no, kind sirs.
First off: the word “shredded” has got to be one of my least favorite words to describe a person’s appearance.
Secondly: there seems to be the assumption that if I was working hard in the gym, I MUST be doing it for the end goal of changing my body aesthetically, or competing.
Ever notice how the fitness industry tends to live in extremes? Ever think it’s possible that some individuals don’t actually use the gym to change the body they live in, but rather just to feel physically healthy and strong? Of course, our bodies will very likely change composition (through consistency); however, it doesn’t mean it’s always the main focus or end goal.
We’re often led to believe that the more extreme, the better. The bigger, the better. The more intense, the better. Sometimes being “enough” really is good enough. By no means am I saying that we shouldn’t want to improve ourselves and can’t improve ourselves, but what happened to the concept of sustainability?
I don’t think any of us are strangers to what it takes to compete, or what it may take to be “shredded” 365 days a year. Often, it includes compromising a lot of other things in your life. I can remember when I became exercise-obsessed during my senior year of college. It was what I believed would make me more “worthy” of a person, more attractive, and made me feel more “organized” emotionally. It was an escape. If I fixated on my body, then it meant LESS time to fixate on everything else in my life that I didn’t have the energy to think about, nor did I WANT to think about.
And so I began to say “no” to plans I actually really wanted to attend. Why? Because the gym won. Because this unrealistic goal I had for myself seemed to take a priority. Because having a certain appearance would OBVIOUSLY help me reach a state of happiness. *shaking my head*
The problem that I sometimes find with the fitness industry (AND YES I AM PART OF IT), is that it markets completely unsustainable measures to reach our goals. Workout programming that has us feeling burnt out and resentful after day ONE. How is ANYONE supposed to stay on top of a workout routine that has you doing 100+ jump squats followed by 100+ burpees followed pull-ups that you aren’t quite able to do yet without a modification (which the workout plan fails to provide you with). Yes, this is a slight exaggeration here. But, you get the point.
Of course we’re meant to challenge ourselves with exercising. However, the workout itself isn’t meant to destroy our bodies and create a sense of hatred towards it.
The problem is that we’re exposed to fitness routines that guarantee results, so LONG as you remain consistent with completely unrealistic programs. And so when we fall off of the program, we feel a sense of heavy disappoint. A sense of failure. Leading us to be less likely to start up again in the future, OR if we do, then we experience the same sort of self-defeating mindset.
What I advocate for is sustainability. What do I mean by this?
Recognizing what it is that you value OUTSIDE of the gym. Is it going to happy hour with friends weekly? Grabbing dinner with your significant other on Friday night? Sleeping in on Sunday morning? Great. Sustainability means that ALL of these different things can STILL be a part of your life while you STILL make progress in the gym!
Building a workout routine that will challenge you, but one that is also DOABLE! This means that your program allows for flexibility. It means that some days you may want to lift weights, while other days you may just want to get your body moving by riding your bike outside. BOTH are forms of physical activity. And BOTH reap benefits.
It means committing to a number of days to workout that feels reasonable with your other responsibilities, events, obligations, yadda yadda. It means that you commit to a number of days out of love for yourself and respecting the hell out of your body, versus wanting to punish it. It means that if you commit to three days a week, and make it to the gym for FOUR days, then AWESOME for you. You’ve just increased your level of self-efficacy and confidence. And if you commit to three days but only workout for two? Then you simply get back on the consistent track next week. It’s okay. You’re human.
Not every single individual in the gym is looking to make drastic physical changes or get “shredded.” Some of us just enjoy getting our bodies moving, and seek to maintain our health 365 days a year in a way that feels more sustainable.
Extreme measures are not the ONLY way to maintain our health.