The conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: True fitness is about health and personal power!
Her: Health… and what?
Me: Personal power!
Her: . . .Oh.
Much has been written, by me and others, on the quantifiable health benefits of regular cardiovascular activity and strength-training for women. A healthy heart, strong bones, mighty lungs, and increased mobility are all important outcomes of a quality fitness program. All of us would benefit from prioritizing the health of our bodies.
What about our minds and spirits?
The 21st century, western culture concept of “fitness” is dysfunctional at best. It’s largely predicated on the belief that our bodies are aesthetically deficient as they are and in immediate need of correction. In other words, we are taught to feel shame about the extra squish around our middles, disgust with the jiggle in our thighs, and anxiety about the shape of our arms. We are told, through messages delivered by numerous sources, that a physical ideal exists and our bodies simply don’t measure up. The same voices that criticize what are natural elements of the female form are those that exhort us to buy their product, their program, and their diets. They promise that if we spend enough money, we’ll achieve the ideal and our lives will be perfect.
This paradigm has completely perverted the perceptions of our own bodies. It has succeeded in divorcing our spirits from our bodies, so that we experience them as 2 separate entities locked in constant combat. It hurts all of us and it’s absolute nonsense. 100% malarkey. Total baloney. And I’m calling shenanigans!
When the fitness journey is motivated by contempt for our own form, our efforts become a disempowering drain on our psyches. They serve to restrict the full expression of our lives and ensure a persistent deficit of self-esteem. When we become so focused on shrinking that we show up to Thanksgiving dinner only to eat steamed asparagus and chicken breast out of Tupperware, we miss out on life. When our sole priority becomes body fat percentage and we place workouts ahead of time with our loved ones, we miss out on life. When our mood is dictated by the number on the scale, we relinquish our power as inherently valuable, worthwhile human beings.
There is a much better way.
Personal power is defined as the confidence, strength and resiliency arising from an individual’s skills, ability and knowledge. It is the inextinguishable flame at the core of each of us, so often obscured by the detritus of dysfunctional ideology. It is our inner Kali, mighty and ferocious, simultaneously destroying and creating with each breath. It is what makes each of us a force of nature.
Two opportunities with fitness exist – embrace the journey that illuminates your flame, or meander the path that further obscures it. Wisely chosen, a fitness journey can be the greatest investment you can make in yourself.
Understand you are free to reject the disempowering messages delivered to you. Cultivate your social media consumption with care. Take note of the images and messages which enforce negative ideas about your body. Hide, block or delete the sources. Note those that make you feel excited about fitness. The ones that fuel your desire to feel good in your body. Get yourself more of those! Spend time on mydivinecompass.com and decide to begin appreciating your body for all of the things it’s doing this very moment to keep you alive, thinking, and feeling.
Embrace fitness as an adventure. Experiment with numerous modalities to discover the ones that feel best – to your body and your mind! Take a break from weight loss goals and chase skill and ability instead. Want to feel powerful? Commit to busting out 10 pull-ups, or performing a standard pushup, or climbing a mountain, or climbing the stairs without losing your breath. Work towards goals that emphasize improvements in mobility, strength, speed and endurance.
Importantly, have fun with it!
Try to find physical activities you simply enjoy doing, without any concern for your weight, metabolism, size or shape.
Do something just because you like it.
Take time to intentionally value your body as the truest home you’ll ever know.
Your physical form will vary based on life circumstances. But regardless of the changes, your body will always be with you. Breathe into the miraculous fact that your first home was your biological mother’s uterus. Your cells are infused with an essence of her body, in the form of DNA. Remind yourself as often as you can, that all of our bodies are wondrous living organisms that deserve nothing but respect and love.
Fitness is for you. Your body was designed to move. And regardless of your size, shape or perception of self, you can always be stronger, faster and possess greater endurance and mobility. Reject the lies that value the flatness of your stomach over your ability to carry a heavy load. Find something you love and commit to mastering it. Tackle challenging performance goals and celebrate when you conquer them.
Find your power, embody it and live it out every single day. Onward!