How to give the middle finger to the fitness industry
I’ve been called a lot of things in my training life.
I’m always astounded at the unsolicited advice I get during my workouts. It’s a constant mish mash of too much or not enough.
Last week I counted five comments I received on what I was or wasn’t doing. Some of these were:
There is a monthly challenge at my gym. One of the regulars said to me ‘Spose you’re not going to do that—not heavy enough for you,’ followed by a cackle with a couple of the other trainers.
I was loading the bar to do Romaninan deadlifts and one of the trainers remarked: ‘Guess you’re going to throw that over your head?’ insinuating a heavy load. The truth was I wasn’t—but I could. Is that a bad thing?
I was just cruising on the bike. Warming up. A trainer walked past and said ‘You’re going a bit slow on the bike today aren’t you? Your hair isn’t as wild.’
I shrug all of this off because I’m really not bothered about these comments at all.
What I know to be true is this: how someone experiences us has nothing to do with us.
But what's interesting is the comments are about how hard I work. Don’t get it twisted, I am not busting balls every single time I workout. Some days are a bit more sweaty and breathey than others. But whatever the intention is, my effort—whether that be fast, slow, heavy, light—is always 100%. I am very present with my time I commit to working out.
Why is it unusual for women to lift heavy (ALWAYS relative!), to work hard, to be in her own zone and to workout for no other reason than because she WANTS to?
Why is it that we are still in this place of seeing working out as a necessary chore to burn calories and do everything we can to conform to the thin ideal? And if we do anything different we get commentary on it?
It’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground between aesthetics and performance. We can be motivated by both, or none or reasons completely different, like knowing that intentional exercise contributes to our well being mentally and physically. Can that be enough?!
I’ve got stuff to do in my life—I know you do too. I’m interested in doing my workouts then getting on with the rest of my day.
I am not there to impress.
To get a boyfriend.
To show off.
But, conversely, I’m not there to shrink in any way.
To play small.
To adhere or meet expectations.
To workout in a way that is ‘acceptable’.
To only focus on doing hip thrusts and booty exercises because isn’t that what all women want?
To not live my full potential and express what I am truly capable of mentally and physically.
I don’t workout to let others' comments dictate how I feel about myself or the intention I bring to how I decide to move.
As women, but moreso as individuals, we don’t need to be tamed, to be quiet or to apologise for how we decide to show up and what we choose to do with our body. We can workout for the desire to challenge ourselves, to build our humanness—
... but we can also decide to build a booty too! I mean, THIS is the true middle finger to boxes we’ve been taught to fit into, to the oppressive systems that want to keep us there (diet culture, the patriarchy)—true, informed, conscious decision making for ourselves.
This is just a reminder that you have the freedom to choose how you want to spend your time working out and you do not need to explain, to justify to anyone else why you’re doing it or what you’re doing.
When those that like to comment on your actions get in your way, give them a kind ‘Mind your own beeswax’. A polite and affirming way to acknowledge ‘I don’t give a s*&% what you think.’
I’d love to know: have you had unsolicited advice or comments while working out? Hit reply and let me know what they were!
If you want to give the middle finger to the ‘shoulds’ of the fitness industry, you can pop your name down for the waitlist for the next cohort of Grit and Grace by clicking here.