A couple weeks ago, Susie wrote a post on fitness shaming that addressed something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, because it feels like there’s a very unfortunate air of negativity that seems to purvey the internet these days. I’m all for advocating for healthy lifestyle changes and loving/being proud of what you do, but sometimes, it gets taken a step too far.
I’d like to think that there is no single perfect formula to reach your fitness goals. There is no real perfect method that will work for everyone.
Case in point: I love lifting weights, because I’m actually fairly decent at it, and it makes me feel like a badass (most of the time). It is still very much a male-dominated sport, but the guys (or really, everyone) at the gym that I’ve interacted with have always been very respectful and super supportive!
I actually usually get more negative-ish comments from females (usually along the lines of a backhanded compliment, like “It’s cool that you do this, but I wouldn’t. I don’t want to get too big and look like a man.” …Trust me, you will not.).
However, that’s purely because I don’t derive the same amount of joy out of it that others do; I’ve never experienced this elusive runners’ high that they speak of, and I’m more the variety of human being that gets the dying, gasping-for-breath, how-much-longer-until-I’m-done-what-was-I-thinking-when-I-started-this feeling. If I’d been blessed with more super-awesome type I muscle fibers, I would probably love running.
But it’s just not what works for me. (Notice that bold there!) And it’s not like I never gave it a chance.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
But there is something wrong with bringing someone else down just because s/he doesn’t do exactly what you do.
As a female lifter aspiring to someday lift the equivalent of 3 me’s or more, the kinds of [negative] comments* I usually get include the following:
- “Don’t get too big. It’s unattractive./You’re going to scare away all the guys and be alone forever.”
- “No guy’s going to like you if you’re more muscular than him.”
- “Girls don’t need to lift. You can just ask guys to carry things for you.”
- “It’s bad for your knees/back.”
- “I thought I had a daughter, but you’re so masculine, you’re basically like 3/4 of another son.”
- “Why don’t you take up running instead? That’s more of a girl’s sport.”
*These are actually all comments from my family members. Fairly recently, my family has mostly let up on it because they’ve realized that:
- I’ve been lifting for several years now, my eating habits (aka the fact that I eat enough to feed a small family) have not changed, and I still haven’t gotten any “bigger.”
- It’s actually kinda useful to have me around because I can help them carry/move all the things that they can’t lift.
- I’ve casually mentioned to my dad that mayhaps insulting someone with more defined biceps than him isn’t exactly the smartest of ideas.
- I staunchly refuse to ask anyone to do things for me if I’m completely capable of doing it myself. (One of the guys in BJJ the other day saw me dragging the giant punching bag back against the wall and said, “I’d totally help you, but I hear you’re a champion weightlifter, so I guess you don’t need my help.” We had a good laugh.)
- There’s a 99.99% chance that I would be entirely uninterested in anyone who’d be “scared off” by the fact that I had muscles. I’m not sure why but somehow, I just get the feeling that we wouldn’t get along.
I’ve been lucky in the sense that everyone else has been incredibly supportive (especially my friends and the dudes at the gym that I share the weight room with). They spot me and cheer me on, and tell me about competitions they’d love to see me enter because I’d be a total badass and win everything.
On the other end of the spectrum is my other favorite fitness activity/hobby: pole dancing, which is classically associated with females, femininity and sensuality. Lifting weights definitely helped me out a lot when I first started poling, because, for better or worse, if I couldn’t do a move, I could at least muscle my way there. (I learned to do it more gracefully later on though, I swear!)
Pole dancing also tends to come with a whole host of other assumptions though–usually that I must be a stripper, because surely that’s the only reason why anyone would ever have any inclination to hang off of a pole!
I’d just like to point out that there are a lot of guys who pole dance or do Chinese pole (or some such variation), and no, not all of them are strippers either.
Since I’m still living in a fairly conservative area, my close friends (and also readers of this blog; hello there! <3 ) are pretty much the only ones who know that I do this.
Is it because I’m ashamed of it?
Definitely not. I’m just still half-in, half-out of the pole closet. Mostly, it’s because I feel like I have to deal with enough creepers as it is. I don’t want to deal with comments like the following:
- “So…can I watch?” (winkwink)
My, aren’t you a clever one? I’ve definitely never heard that one before!!!
That opens a whole ‘nother can of worms though, so why don’t we just leave it at this:
All of us are at different stages of life, working towards different goals, dreams, and areas of focus. Why can’t we turn the negativity around and support and encourage each other instead?
I applaud people who can run more than 3 miles without wanting to die. At one point in my life, I could do that too! (Long, long ago.) I think it’s awesome that people do mud runs, 10k’s, or marathons of any type, that there are mixed martial artists who could easily subdue me and/or beat the living snot out of me in perhaps 5 seconds or less, weightlifters who can lift several times their own bodyweight, aerialists and dancers who make their performances so flawlessly and effortlessly beautiful that for a second, you actually believe that what they’re doing is easy. We all have our little niche in the world. We just have to find it!
At the end of the day, this is the message I wish people would promote instead:
What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else.You just need to find what you love and go with it.
It’s a very simple concept, but somehow that gets lost in translation.
That’s what I try to explain to “my” [preceptor’s] patients when I’m counseling them. A lot of them don’t know where to start when it comes to making healthier food choices, or starting up an exercise routine. So many of them think they “have” to take up a certain activity to get in shape, or that they “have” to go on a strict diet and give up everything at once.
I like to tell them to start with the little things, and to make small changes. Do you drink 6 cans of soda per day? Why not first try gradually cutting that down instead of quitting cold turkey? Do you like to dance? Why not start with some Zumba or dance classes? Do you usually watch TV after dinner? Why not try spending some time with your spouse instead and go for a walk with them around the neighborhood or park? Hooray for spending time with people in real life, and actually engaging with them! (We as a society are probably way too dependent on/distracted by technology these days, myself included.)
Celebrate and support others with their accomplishments, however small they might seem. Everyone has to start from somewhere!
For the record, I listed a lot of the negative comments just because of the point I was making with this post. I’ve actually been really lucky in the sense that most of the people in my life have been super supportive.
- Have you experienced negative remarks/comments based on what you like to do? How do you usually respond?
- What’s the weirdest thing someone has ever said to you regarding your sport/physical activity of choice?
- What’s your favorite way to get your fitness on?