Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Women and Fitness

I think I've said before, but I put my fitness on a back burner for a while. I quit the gym in November as it seemed a waste of money when I was commuting to Portsmouth, planning on being away over Christmas, working overtime... I decided to prioritise finding a job and moving out of London before the gym. This was great for my mental health as I wasn't beating myself up over not going as often as before. I made sure I was walking everywhere possible so that I was still getting regular exercise, but I did lose a lot of my fitness.

I've been in Portsmouth about a week and a half now, we've got a flat, I'm getting into the swing of things with my new job, so now is the time to turn my attention back to fitness. I've been using a fitness tracker (I'll be sharing more about this another time) and am aiming to hit 10,000 steps a day at least every weekday and run 3.5km - 5km every other day. So far so good!

But I've been thinking a lot about women and fitness and weight and body confidence lately.

The emphasis on women being small in body just feels like an attempt to make us small in every way - in work, in relationships, in our own intellectual power. For me, I only really got into exercise in a big and regular way this time last year. The click for me was that I didn't want to be weak anymore. The thrill in running a 5km for me is not in the run itself - although the more I do it the more I enjoy it - but in the fact that I'm doing better than last time. I'm running more than the last time I did it, or I'm faster, or I notice that I can breathe easier.

Yes, I've also noticed some weight loss and the start of some definition in my legs, but that's actually not what's driving me. The gains in my fitness are what's pushing me forward. There's something hugely empowering in knowing that I am doing this, I am changing my body and making it more powerful. If I can do that, what can't I do?

I've always been naturally slim so weight loss should never have been an issue for me. But it has been. I went through a period in my last teens-early twenties where I became became obsessed with the idea of being a 'waif' - it seemed such a romantic figure to have. I look back at that - and even now, writing it - and think, eurgh.

Women are encouraged to play small. So often the media holds up slender women as the ideal, idolises a woman loses weight a week after giving birth. We are pushed to think that that is what we should aspire to, what we should pursue. And while this is no attack on women who are naturally slender, I am calling bullshit on the idea that everyone of us should be like that.

Because if you are focused on making your body small, what else is that having an impact on, what else do you naturally feel needs to become small alongside it? Your voice, your salary?

Make your body yours. Make it strong in whichever way makes you happy - yoga, spinning, Taekwondo, fencing... Choose your own adventure and focus on your body fulfilling that rather than some outdated idea of feminine daintiness.

1 comment:

  1. When I started working with a trainer last year he asked me about my goals. My #1 is to feel strong. My #2 is to feel comfortable in my clothes. When he asked about weight loss and I said that would be a bonus but I didn't want it to be primary. As I have aged, I have worked at being kinder and gentler with myself. It is not always easy.