Women and fitness aka Let’s start a revolution!
Mile ? – Run to the Beat 2011 (I’m wearing my must-have running accessory – a cap)
Last night as I was watching Aussie Master Chef with one eye and checking Twitter with the other, as usual, I saw a couple of tweets from Bangs and a Bun that made me jump up on the couch like Tom Cruise on Oprah and yelling “yes! yes! yes!”
Fitness IS sold to women all wrong.
It should NOT be about “loosing a dress size in 10 days” or “getting into shape for Christmas parties or the beach”.
Fitness, in my opinion, should be about finding a way to move your body that you LOVE and that makes you feel good.
Let me share my journey with exercise and see if you can relate.
In gym class at school we always played something that I think in English is called dodge ball. A better name for it would be Hell on Earth.
That game was never fun for me. It was only about survival. It was painful when you got hit, and it was humiliating when you got hit early on in the game, and it was dangerous because I had glasses and I knew how much heartache broken glasses caused my mother – she did not have a lot of spare cash to spend on fixing my glasses all the time.
So I hated gym class and the endless sessions of dodge ball and I still have nightmares about it.
The fat American years
When I went to study in the States I got fat. I put on extra 10-15kg onto my usual 60kg self. For the first 5 years that I lived there I ate crap and punished myself on the stairmaster in the gym, never actually managing to loose any decent amount of weight or keep it off for a long period.
I was a typical woman stuck in the awful circle of eating cake, feeling guilty, stomping on the treadmill, feeling tired, wanting cake again…
Starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel
When I moved to Washington DC in 1999 I started cycling to work and for the first time in a while, I started to realise that exercise is not about punishing yourself after you’ve had some cake, that exercise should just be movement… daily movement in whatever you do – walking, cycling, taking the stairs, etc.
I loved cycling from Arlington, Virginia past the Pentagon and into DC. I didn’t loose a lot of weight, but I felt fitter than I had in years.
Punching the air in Estonia
Then I moved back to Estonia for a year and started going to the gym again out of necessity to move. I didn’t go near a treadmill though, instead I went to a Tae Bo class a few times a week. (Remember Tae Bo? You do if you’re as old as me :) )
It was a lot of fun. A lot. I loved punching and kicking the air for an hour at a time. It didn’t feel like punishment and it made me feel tough and strong (and I did loose some weight eventually).
Getting on two wheels in Australia
Then I moved to Australia and got married. A few months later I got a job and since I didn’t know how to drive, I had to take the bus to work. J kept telling me to just cycle like he did, but I thought it would be a hassle to carry my clothes with me and to shower at work, etc. etc. etc.
I was being such a woman, worrying about not looking good when I got to the office :|
Eventually though I let go of vanity, got on my bike one morning and from that day forward I became a cyclist. A mad one. I was kitted out in all lycra in no time (despite initially strongly resisting it) and then got a pair of those cycling shoes that clip into your pedals.
I totally and utterly loved cycling. It was freedom from public transport, freedom from sitting in the office all day long. Often I used to cycle to work with a bit of a detour that took me on a 20km route past the zoo and along the one lake (artificial but huge and gorgeous) that Canberra has, past the Governor General’s house and then some golf courses where kangaroos hopped around in early mornings.
I cannot describe adequately how none of it felt like “exercise” – I never counted calories or measured my dress size. I got all my ‘kicks’ from just feeling like a badass chick on a bike who was able to pass most other commuters on my route to and from work.
Finding my feet in London – Part 1
Then we moved to London. Cycling in London traffic is madness and I haven’t been on a bike in this city since we arrived almost 6 years ago.
For months and months after we moved I had cycling dreams. I missed it so much that it hurt.
I was a stay at home mom at that time and all I could do on most days is walk a lot. Eventually when I went back to work I joined the gym again. For about a year I ran on the treadmill 3 times a week but it was never fun. It was a chore and I never managed to run for more than 30 minutes. Mostly due to boredom.
Finding my feet in London – Part 2
Then came a couple of years filled with pregnancy, miscarriage, secondary infertility, pregnancy again, birth, breastfeeding, etc. Not much exercise happened then but I always made sure I walked a lot.
When Oliver was about 6 months old I started going with him to a Buggy Fit class once a week. It was in a local park and it was my introduction to an open-air gym. I immediately though that this was a great way to be active and get fit. The group environment, the mutual encouragement, the fresh air – it was great.
When Oliver was 1 I joined a gym again but this time I gave up going after a few months. I just didn’t like the gym environment anymore. Row after row of people stomping away on conveyor belts or frantically swinging all their limbs on cross trainers just looked strange and pointless to me. Humans are animals meant to roam in the wild, not be stuck in a large room running on a belt.
So I quit the gym and for a few months joined a bootcamp, another type of outdoor gym, near my office. I fell in love with it instantly although it was hard work and only stopped going when the session times changed to evenings and I couldn’t go any more.
Doing the crazy
Then came the day that J signed me up for a half marathon and I had to start running. I think that because I’d already been doing the bootcamp, my first run wasn’t too bad at all and after that I was hooked and just kept on running and running and running. Always twice or sometimes three times a week. The addiction kicked in very quickly and soon I thought “I may not be a cyclist anymore, but I am a runner!”
At present I am as addicted to running as can be. It’s my
drugexercise of choice and I love it.
I haven’t lost much weight in my 2 years of running and I’m not aiming to. I know that my body is meant to be around 60kg, + or – a few kg on good and bad days :)
So I may still be soft in the middle due to having two kids, but knowing that I can run a half marathon in 1:50:11 gives me more confidence and pride than a gym-honed six-pack would.
Women – let’s get active! Find the movement that your body loves and that makes you feel good – run, walk, dance, swim, zumba, yoga, etc. – whatever it may be.
Let’s abandon counting the calories while suffering in a closed room on a treadmill.
Let’s not punish ourselves when we do have cake once in a while (but let’s not eat it on a daily basis either :).
Let’s NOT put on make up when we exercise! Leave the glittery eyeshadow and mascara for other times, just be yourself, in your skin the way you are, in the body that loves to move and that loves you back for letting it move.
Let’s not weigh ourselves twice a day every day.
Let’s not read those articles of “loose a dress size in 10 days”.
Let’s not buy push-up sports bras and exercise-proof make up.
(And while we’re at it, let’s not wear Ugg boots, 10inch stripper heels and leggings without a skirt :) )