When most of us first start exercising, the catalyst often seems to be wanting to look different. And that’s fair enough! Most of us do have body insecurities that we would like to feel better about, regardless of what our bodies actually look like.
And when you move from an unhealthy weight (in both directions!) to a healthy weight, or if you lived a pretty inactive lifestyle and first start working out, the way your body starts to look different, fitter and stronger, is a great indicator of progress!
However, the problem with only focussing on looks starts when you’re at a healthy weight and in good shape already, and then start to obsess over looks that might be trendy right now, or over pictures you see on instagram of the “perfect body”.
Think thigh gaps, huge butts but tiny waists (enter that weird “my waist is smaller than an A4 paper” challenge that went around the internet a while ago), or women who seem to be super lean and shredded all year round, but are at a body fat percentage that’s way below the healthy range. Pictures might be edited, bone structure determines whether or not somebody has a “thigh gap”, and the pictures you see tell you NOTHING about the health and happiness of the people in them.
Those things might fall under the “fitness” umbrella on social media, but if you ask me they have nothing to do with what fitness should be about. Fitness should first and foremost be about keeping yourself healthy, and making sure you are strong, fit and mobile enough to live your life to the fullest for the longest time possible. A great example of this would be my then 70 year old grandmother taking us wakeboarding, and actually participating in it without having any problems at all! If that isn’t “goals”, I don’t know what is.
It’s obsessing over things like thigh gaps that can drag your fitness journey down the deep end, leading to poor relationships with food, over-exercising, and a constant feeling of not being able to reach your goals that might frustrate you enough to make you give up completely.
So let’s have a look at some great alternatives to focus on instead when exercising!
- Stress relief/ mood booster After a bad day at work, head to the gym, power through your workout, and see how you feel then! I’ve found exercise to be an awesome tool for stress relief, and no matter how bad my mood is when I start a workout, it’s always so much better once I’m finished. If you don’t work out at a gym, a walk or run outside, a good yoga class, or even a home workout can have the same effect.
- Confidence and achievement Focus on what your body can do for you instead of how it looks! Nothing beats the feeling of knowing you achieved something through your own hard work; be that your first full push-up, your first unassisted pull-up or being able to do a difficult hike that you didn’t think you could do. And knowing that you can achieve things you set your mind to will give you confidence that will impact other areas of your life too.
- General wellbeing Do you have a job that requires you to sit all day? Or do you have a job that’s very active and requires you to often lift heavy things? Did you suffer from things like back pain, bad posture and low energy? And how did an appropriate exercise regimen impact that? If exercising keeps you feeling and functioning better and more pain free in your everyday life, isn’t that a good enough reason to keep going?
Tell me; why do you exercise?