Exercise Should Not Be Punitive

The other day, in the midst of a 70lbs kettle bell swing workout, I look around and notice the faces of the people around me. Doreen, who is training for her first strongman competition, is red faced. Dianna, in the depths of an Ido Portal leg workout, lets her mouth hang open as she catches her breath. We all have these looks of pain, but I also know we’re all having the time of our life.

One of the things that I love about CrossFit is that legions of people have found a way to train that let’s them feel like athletes. They’ve taken their sights from bicep curls and scale weight to Olympic lifting and athletic performance. It’s introduced swarms of women to the wonders of weight training, and through these initial swarms, shown that women can be strong, powerful, and confident without be “manly.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

All Athletes

You don’t have to do CrossFit to achieve this. I personally have found movement joy through dance, capoeira, circus arts, and a variety of similar-to-CrossFit but not CrossFit strength sports.

But something still makes me sad. And that’s when I hear people talk about their choice of exercise like it’s a penance that must be paid for their lifestyle.

As though training is a punishment for other choices you have made. Usually in reference to food and drink choices.

“I went over board at dinner yesterday, so I need to hit two classes today.” “Our company party is coming up, so I need to work extra hard now to make up for it.”

Besides the fact that fitness doesn’t really work that way, what I hear are people that work out based on the extrinsic motivation of “OMG I’m gonna get fat.”

Often, the people that workout from a place of fear, or a mentality of “should,” are the people that don’t really see changes year to year. But they keep going out of fear that if they stop, their carefully constructed health castle of cards will come tumbling down.

They wonder why they don’t look or perform like their coaches or trainers. But what they haven’t connected to is that (usually) their coaches don’t look the way they do because of some external push, but because they honestly love to move and train.

This guy is obviously in a hate fueled war with his car.

Josh Hillis says, “You take care of what you love.” Your pet, your car, your golf clubs. This same mentality applies to your body, too. Rather than working out to defeat your body, as though it’s some enemy waiting to ambush you with fat, think about training (and eating for that matter) as the treatment your body deserves. That jog to your body is like the waxing of your car.

The body acceptance movement isn’t about being stagnant. It’s not about being unhealthy and fine with it. It’s about starting from a place of self acceptance and working WITH your body and your psyche to get to where you want to be, as opposed to starting a war from a place of frustration with your body.

So find movement that you enjoy. That might be CrossFit or weightlifting, but it really doesn’t have to be. Maybe it’s Barry’s Bootcamp or a run around the neighborhood, maybe it’s circus classes and adult dance classes. Get moving, get sweating and find something that makes you smile from ear to ear because you just did something awesome.