If I asked you to picture someone fit, what would they be like? Chances are they’d have low body fat, visible muscle and be impeccably well-groomed.
The dominant imagery put forward by the fitness industry is of thin, white, tanned, beautiful people with well-defined muscles. Abs abound, despite being one of the hardest physical attributes to achieve for the majority of people. Though particular fashions change – the big booty movement being a notable recent example – the message is always clear: certain bodies are acceptable, the rest aren’t. If your body isn’t acceptable you aren’t doing enough. YOU are not enough.
Is it really all or nothing?
Working as a personal trainer, people for whom fitness is life surround me. Every day, every training session, every meal, is part of a devotion to fitness that often subsumes all other interests and activities. All we see is imagery of people who are at the top of their field, people for whom fitness is a full-time profession. It’s hard not to think that we should all be at their level.
Yet even these people don’t feel they’re doing enough. Always chasing the next goal, the next sign that their physique is improving, they are unbelievably hard on themselves in the quest to do enough. On the way, they develop a range of behaviours which run from healthy dedication to dangerous obsession. Disordered eating, drug use and overtraining are rife in gyms up and down the country, largely as a result of this culture of competition and comparison.*
And do you know what? I can’t be arsed.
I got into fitness because I love it and I’m dedicated to it – dedicated enough. It’s a huge and wonderful part of my life, but it’s just that – one part of a spectrum of activities which make my life richer.
A healthy balance
It’s common for me to meet people in the gym who are studying a degree, working, or parenting full-time. When we talk they often apologise for not coming to the gym more often. Where have they got the idea that they’re not doing enough? By comparing themselves to people for whom fitness is everything.
Yet seeing the people who work in my field, I too have moments of doubt. Am I really fit enough to be helping others with their fitness? Can I really look credible as a personal trainer if I’m wearing size 16 clothes? If I eat this biscuit does that mean I don’t want it – this mythical, indefinable it – enough?
No. If I eat this biscuit I’m just demonstrating that right now, I want a biscuit – and nothing about that demonstrates that I am not enough.
Consider the possibility that you are fit enough
In this moment, you and I are exactly as fit as we need to be. That doesn’t mean we can’t work towards being fitter tomorrow but it does mean we can stop being hard on ourselves today. Self-doubt and self-hatred may spur a brutal workout in the present, but what do they mean for how we treat ourselves in the future? If my self-image has to take a hit in order for me to work harder, something has gone seriously awry.
So I’d like to invite you to join me in congratulating yourself for being fit enough in this moment. Take time to thank yourself for anything and everything you do to look after your body. Celebrate the part that it plays in your varied and beautiful life. Think about what you want to do to work on your fitness in the future, but see it as a profound act of love for yourself and the people around you. Resolve, in this moment, to accept your body as a perfect expression of where you are now – without judgement, hatred or disdain.
And if you fancy, have that biscuit.
To read more about face-to-face or online personal training with F*it Swansea, visit here.
* There are many studies looking into aspects of this so it was hard to find a couple that really summed the situation up. The gist is that drug use, body/muscle dysmorphia and eating disorders are sharply rising amongst the gym community.
Some articles which begin to discuss the issues are included below.
“One in Three Gym Users Take Drugs or Supplements to Lose Weight – Study | Society | The Guardian,” accessed March 23, 2017.
“Warn Gym Users about Steroid Risks, Says Watchdog,” accessed March 23, 2017.
**My amazing pants and bra combo are from the superb Mardy Bum Boutique.