Fitness and Body Positivity can make for strange bedfellows. On one hand, working on your fitness can help you become more in tune with your body and can help improve your mental health. On the other hand, some fitness instructors preach the tired body shame gospel, promoting major fat loss, bikini bodies and "Fitspo" nonsense. "Loose 100lbs in 21 days", "Get a bikini body", "Become a hot mom" - Oh kindly f*ck off with yourself.
Let me tell you this, it is possible and fantastically liberating to have fitness goals that are not doused in shame. How do I know this? Because I have found the Holy Grail, I have found my very own body positive gym! Since joining Fit 100 in Limerick I have learned so much that flies in the face of the tired, old, shame filled gym rhetoric and it's nothing short of a revelation.
1- Food Is Not Evil.
Can we once and for all kill the notion that food is good or bad? Old-school diet culture has us conditioned to think that certain foods are bad and if we eat them that we must be punished for the bold calories. We don't. It's nonsense. A little bit of what you fancy will stop you going insane, as well as making your plan more sustainable long term. Food: You don't have to earn it, you just have to eat and enjoy it.
2- Weight Loss Is Not The Only Goal.
I nearly fainted when I was asked in my individual consultation, what I hoped to achieve in my fitness plan. I was given options! Weight loss was one but it wasn't the only one. It was beyond amazing to be what I wanted to achieve, instead of having someone look you up and down and expecting that you want to be thinner. Your fitness goals are yours alone and the right professional will not shame you for it. If they even attempt to do so, pretty please vote with your wallet and go elsewhere.
3- Do What You Can!
No shouting, no swearing, no clapping at you like you are trying to win best in show. I will not miss tiny tracksuit wearing terrorists screaming "Push it!!" into my face. Instead, a simple phrase of encouragement- "Do what you can". You need to learn to respect your body's limits, and set your own pace, particularly if you're new to the fitness game. It's far wiser and kinder to work your way up slowly. Otherwise you run the risk of getting frustrated, burned-out or injured and end up not exercising at all. Challenge your body when you can and taking it easy when you need to. If there are moves you'd like to try, but they feel out of reach based on your fitness or mobility level, ask your trainer to show you some modifications that might work better for you. In my gym the modifications are included in the main workout as standard so you are never left feeling "less than" because you need a different work out, based on your ability/ mobility. If this is something that would work for you too, then pretty please do not be shy and ask for it!! Believe me when I say, it makes all the difference not to be left standing there like a spare part.
4- Celebrate All Of The Wins!
My first night at the gym a run was part of the class. I mean it when I say, I wouldn't run for the ice cream man. You were encouraged to go at your own pace and so I did. I jogged my substantially sized ass from the door to the corner of the building (not far at all) and nearly had a heart attack. Last week I managed two full laps of the building for the first time ever! That ladies and gents is a win! I planked for the first time the week before and nearly had a parade for myself. I'm not running marathons or climbing mountains but I'm a damn sight closer than I was two months ago. These are the wins that will keep you motivated. These steps are progress and all progress is good. It won't happen overnight but it will happen. Until it does, celebrate all the wins along the way.
5- Community Is Key.
I'm the first to say it, if there is no laugh to be had I lose interest pretty quickly. If I'm not enjoying myself I will find any excuse not to participate. In anonymous gyms you can become lost in the crowd, feel a bit isolated and personal motivation can go out the window. Whether it's questioning if we really want Beyonce's arse during a squat set or cheering on someone who is beating their personal best, the craic is always mighty. These interactions matter. Of course the trainer is always going to be there to spur you on but unless your trainer is Magic Mike in a thong (or y'know your personal equivalent) they are not going to have you beating down the door. You're only human and you're not always going to feel 100% enthused about your fitness. You're going to have days or sometimes weeks where things are just not working how you'd like them to and that's where your community steps in. They build you up, cheer you on and if you fall (hopefully not literally) they will help pick you back up. Why? Because we've all been there, we know what it's like to be there because we've all been there too. Plus it's nice to be nice.
As long as you're enjoying yourself and are proud of your progress and achievements, you're on the right track. As sappy as it sounds, this concept is crucial for sticking with exercise and keeping it body-positive. Find somewhere you enjoy being and people you enjoy being with and (dare I say it) you may fall in love with fitness.