Make Personal Fitness Personal

So, I don’t know if you know, but there’s this little thing called the Olympics going on right now. Big event, all sorts of sporting competitions, featuring people all over the world. This is elite competition on a global stage, people.

And you know what? Someone decided to call an Olympic swimmer fat. That’s right: The Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, put swimmer Leisel Jones on blast because apparently, despite being very, very competitive in swimming, she does not have the super ripped body that people expect from athletes. She is not alone. In the past month, I have heard more negative comments about the bodies of elite athletes (American beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor included) were not up the exacting standards of the public, despite their very real and very apparent athetlic ability.  

Are you kidding me?

In a very real way, this whole debacle – an elite population not conforming to the popular standard of elite bodies – points to a real problem in getting fit, getting in shape, or even just losing weight. We equate super ripped bodies – six packs, gun shows, the works – with being able to perform at a very high level. But the problem is that not all bodies look the same or even work the same. Different bodies store fat in different places and lose it at different rates. This is, by the way, why it’s so difficult to get washboard, picture perfect abs. 

If you look at the Olympics and look at the athletes that are competing, you’ll see all different types of bodies performing all sorts of things. Not all of them are “ideal”, as in, you wouldn’t see them airbrushed to oblivion on the cover of Maxim Magazine. But there is no way that you’re going to tell me power lifter Holly Mangold isn’t strong, or that water polo player Brenda Villa doesn’t have incredible arm and ab strength.

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Ultimately, you’re going to find that your fitness journey is different than everyone else. You will learn that you will find a diet that works for you that will be different than the next person, and what you train for (or what gets you into the gym) will be different from that person, too. You should celebrate what you do well and work on what you’d like to do better without beating yourself up because you don’t look like America’s Next Top Model. I can do 12 burpees in a minute, I’ve completed three adventure races in decent time, and I’ve held a three minute plank without moving. But am I supposed to feel bad because I don’t fit into the realistically incredibly narrow parameters that constitute what ideal female body shape should be?

Heck no.

That’s why you need to make personal fitness personal. You need to make sure that you are doing it for you and not for anything else. People are so caught up in what the ideal is that they forget that not every body fits into that population. A linebacker that is my size is not going to be very effective. There’s a particular population for that. Same goes for an NBA player, or a soccer player. Professional baseball players tend to be taller because those are the guys that can easily get the ball going at a fast velocity.

When it comes to fitness, remember that while you should feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror, make sure that you are not looking in the mirror and letting what you see take away from your accomplishments in the gym. Perhaps you danced another song full out in Zumba than you usually do, ran another lap at the track, or even just held a plank another 10 seconds. Celebrate your progress and your accomplishments and take pride in what your body can do, not in just what it looks like.

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