Part of my job is writing and talking about wellness – from real, unprocessed food to emotional wellness to the many different manifestations of physical “fitness.”
Right now, I’d like to talk about the “fitness” part.
I am not a trainer. I am not a fitness “influencer.” I am not even particularly gung-ho about gym time. I exercise (I prefer to call it “training”) 3 days a week, and add in nice, long walks – usually with kids – or recreational, family-friendly sports like tennis and soccer when I can.
So, question: if I’m not a gym rat and I’m not a fit-fluencer, what business do I have talking about “fitness?” (Moreover, what business do I have being the “model” in an expert-led fitness program?)
Answer: it’s my business to talk, write about, and model “fitness” precisely BECAUSE I’m not a trainer, a fitness influencer, or a gym junkie. (I don’t have to be a professional chef to eat, buy, or talk about food, do I?)
My fitness values are movement, fun, and being ready to live the happiest, most fulfilling life that I can. It’s zero percent ego and 100% challenging, uplifting, and self-love-building. It’s what I want to represent for my kids, my family, and everyone I know.
There’s no obsession, rigidity, all-or-nothingness, or pressure to change who I am.
Fitness, to me, isn’t physique. It’s not counting calories eaten or calories burned. It’s not spending hours at the gym. It’s not checking how your clothes fit or aiming for the next size down (or up). It’s not even being able to perform some random act of prowess (think: CrossFit) that doesn’t always translate into the real world.
Maybe “fitness” is the wrong word. What I’m talking about is representing a philosophy that encourages everyone – but, given motherhood is my wheelhouse of late, moms in particular – to own their athleticism, to recognize their badassery, and to enjoy training for the daily challenges of life.
This means that mirrors, calories, gym time, and self-judgment are irrelevant. They’re not something we’re fighting (because, even when you’re against something, constantly kicking and screaming about it still makes that thing the boss of you). They’re entirely unrelated, as are all the trappings of “fitness” culture when it comes to what’s already true:
Moms are athletes!
Everything we do – from the stamina it requires to be ready to go at any moment to the physical strength it takes to lift, chase, and care for (let alone gestate and birth) small humans, we are already doing massively athletic things. Every. Single. Day.
When I stopped thinking about training for looks and started enjoying training for life, my entire world shifted!
Suddenly, I was empowered. Excited. THRILLED to be using my body in exhilarating, fun, and functional ways while training to do the things I love (and staying injury-free, because who has time for that).
Above all, it just feels good to start owning the fact that I’M A BADASS…and to stop clinging to all the time-wasting, life-limiting beliefs and baggage that I didn’t even want to carry in the first place.
Moreover: I love my family, and I want to represent true self-care (not what-does-the-mirror-say self-judgment). I want to train to feel capable. I want to be able to do all the things I want to do. And I want my kids to see that.
Side note: I also love playing sports, and I jumped back into them, too! Now I can play tennis for myself and with my kids. We go paddleboarding together, and I’m strong enough to handle it. We play soccer together, and I’m recapturing those skills, too!
Here’s what I want for everyone:
- Stop thinking about what you can SEE in the mirror and start focusing on what you can DO in LIFE. Don’t pretend the mirror is meaningless. Really bring yourself to a place where you understand that the TRUTH is: what you see doesn’t matter. It’s superficial, it’s temporary, it’s a waste of life to be preoccupied with.
What you can do is what will take you and your family through the years – decades, even – in greater health and happiness. Let the other stuff go.
- Realize that no matter who you are or what you look like, you’re an athlete. Own the fact that being a parent (and a human) requires sheer, unadulterated athleticism. And training for life (and then some) is FUN.
And let’s not call it “working out” or “exercising.” Let’s call it training. Because you’re not just burning calories. You’re training for something. In fact, you’re training for the most important something of all: LIFE.
- Find joy in movement. There are different ways of doing this, but hands-down the most powerful is to take up a SPORT. When you’re playing pickleball, you’re not just taking joy in movement. You’re also existing in community with others. When you take up tennis (which I played for the first time ever just 3 years ago), you’re setting personal goals and adding healthy competition that brings you back to yourself in a way you can’t replicate in the gym. When you dribble a soccer ball or shoot a basketball, you’re using your brain in ways you might have forgotten existed. And all of these things bring new purpose and meaning to your gym life.
Sports are the missing link, folks. I believe that with my whole heart!
Because I truly live these ideas, my body and mind are healthier than ever. I’m training like an athlete, because life and the things I care about (family, friends, tennis – usually, in that order) demand it. And for the first time, I’ve been consistently loving the process and doing the thing. It has been 4 years since I started this journey – there have been ebbs, flows, and time off, but I know that it’s truly part of me in a way that it never was before.
My body and mind are healthier than ever. Even better: my family sees it.
Now, the practical part:
What exactly does this look like for me?
It’s simple. I work out 3 days each week for 1 hour, including warm-up and cool down. I work with a trainer, which makes showing up infinitely easier (I’m an Four Tendencies Obliger – look it up, and find out your tendency while you’re at it). I try to walk once a week and play a sport once a week. I prefer tennis, but soccer, basketball, or whatever game my daughter invents for us to play (please don’t let it be tag) will do.
That’s five-ish hours out of the 112(ish) waking hours I have in the week. At least 2 of those hours can be done with kids clinging! (It’s not pretty, but it’s doable!) The others can be done during naptime, Nana time, or nanny time. (Or daddy time, but that didn’t have the same alliteration.)
Because I know a trainer isn’t feasible for everyone, I asked my trainer, Nick Briney, to create an 8-week training program with moms like me and his wife, my friend Britni Briney, in mind. What we came up with can be done with minimal equipment and space, and combines corrective exercise, lifestyle training, and strength building for an amazingly well-rounded experience. (You can join us at Athletic Mom.)
There are also tons of amazing, at-home workout programs available on the internet. My advice: find a program that doesn’t promise aesthetic results or ask you to completely change the rhythm of your life. Find one that’s all about OWNING the badass athlete you already are.
Seriously: if you’re a mom, you’re an athlete. I hope you can see it, too!