There’s quite likely been a time in every gleaming, suave, and buff fitness fanatic’s life when they’ve felt self-conscious whilst exercising. Whether it’s tripping on a skipping rope, catching a glimpse of a tummy roll or comparing bodies in the gym dressing room, at some point it’s likely that even the fittest, most sculpted people have felt uncomfortably self-aware working out. So what hope is there for those of us whose particular shape, size, age, or ability does quite fit the mould of a ‘lean fitness machine’?
Feeling self-conscious or being overly aware of our bodies can make the thought of exercising (particularly in public) fill us with mild dread! And if we’re using exercise to try and change the size or shape of our bodies that can feed into the sneakily persistent belief that our bodies aren’t ‘good enough’.
We’re here to say that EVERY body can be a fit body!
Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes but one thing is absolutely consistent: we all have one! It’s the longest relationship we’ll ever have in our lives. And like all relationships, it’s unrealistic to suggest that we’ll feel deliriously happy and madly in love at all times. So, first things first, it’s ok to not like our bodies all the time. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look after them.
“Forget your good angles, forget your airbrush. Forget your no panty lines. Forget your smooth bellies. Forget your perfect hair. Forget your hairless armpits. Forget your clean rooms. Bring me your real bumps and curves and your forehead zits. Bring me your granny panties and your scars. I’m here for it.” – Lauren Leavell
There are loads of reasons why we might be feeling apprehensive about dipping our toe into the world of fitness; shame, embarrassment, body distrust, old stories, or fear of failure. But what if we could rewrite our fitness story? What if exercise was joyful, fun, and had absolutely diddly-squat to do with our size, shape, or abilities? What if we let go of beating ourselves over the head with the ‘should’ stick (“I really should exercise…”)? What if we stopped worrying about how we look or what other people might think of us?
Yes, that’s all good and well, but HOW?
First, we need to realise that fitness is for everyone. EVERYONE! It’s not just for the naturally svelte people in the world. We’re not cookie-cutter Calvin Klein models. We don’t need to look like Jason Momoa or Nicole Scherzinger to be active.
Our bodies, no matter what they look like or the abilities they have, are absolutely amazing! Just pause for a minute and think about all the wondrous things our bodies do for us. Exercise and fitness is an act of self-care. And sod what anyone else thinks!
Let go of the notion that exercise is to change our bodies
For most people, wanting to lose weight isn’t enough to sustain a lifelong, healthy relationship with fitness. When we exercise to change the way we look, it can lead to an on-again, off-again jig and an all-or-nothing mindset. When exercise feels like punishment or we’re forcing ourselves to do it, it’s a sure-fire way to end up quitting.
There are LOADS of good reasons to move more and get active.
Here are just a few:
Lifts our mood! ‘Runner’s high’ – the feeling of elation after a run – is real! Even mice get it!
Reduces anxiety and depression (have a read of our blog ‘The power of movement on mental health’).
Boosts our memory, brainpower, concentration, and creativity! Boom!
Can help us live longer! Nuff said!
Find movement that you love (or the very least like)
Instead of starting with what we think we “should do,” start with what feels good.
Maybe the thought of weight-lifting or running brings on a cold sweat, so what about Zumba or Pilates classes? Hate the gym? How about cycling instead? Can’t bear the thought of being outdoors or in public? Buy a hula-hoop and pop on a YouTube video. Sign up for an online dance class (camera on/off optional), play rounders with the kids, plan to do some geocaching, sign up for a beginners team sport, skip in the garden, blast out some tunes and get our groove on, have sex (solo sex is great too!), take the neighbours dog for a walk, go hiking, try Muay Thai, consider boxing… Find out what you like and forget the rules!
“When we change our mindsets and exercise for pleasure and fun, then moving more becomes intrinsically motivating. If it’s not enjoyable, or we’re forcing ourselves to do it, then it can be very difficult to remain motivated!” Grace McMahon, Beingwell Life Coach
There’s a great kids poem by Shel Silverstein, that begins:
“Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae, who ate a monstrous whale? She thought she could, she said she would, so she started right at the tail.”
The poem goes on to say that she ate the entire whale, bit by bit. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time. To get fit we just need to make a beginning, not even a big one either, a very small beginning.
So, make a beginning…just a little one
Seriously, movement begets movement (it’s science. Remember learning about kinetic energy and Newton’s laws of motion in school?). On the days when we feel like doing absolutely bob all, get up and walk around for 3 minutes only! What? Why? Because once we’re in motion, staying in motion becomes much, much easier.
We’d be forgiven for thinking that motivation is what drives action, but it’s actually the other way around – action creates motivation.
Ever felt like NOT going to the gym, but then popping on your trainers, walking out the door, getting in the car, and only then (or maybe a bit later if we’re honest) feeling motivated and ready to go? That’s a classic example of motivation coming after the action.
For more info on why motivation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be here’s ‘Why motivation isn’t shooting for the moon’.
Keep going: When self-consciousness hits, accept that it happens to everyone. Our bodies are amazing and anyone, regardless of size, shape, or ability, can work towards being fitter. Don’t give up! Try a new activity, have some fun, and remember the road to fitness is more like a marathon than a sprint!