Being Better Than You Used To Be

Not too long ago I was out  running errands wearing one of my Long Beach Boot Camp tanks.
I had gone to the 5:30 am class and was still wearing the outfit I had worked out in hours before.
This is pretty typical for me, as I jump right into my day as soon as I get home from Boot Camp and don’t always have time to shower until late morning (or on bad days, afternoon).
One of my kids told someone recently that I wear my workout clothes all the time.
It’s true, I do.

On this occasion I had stopped at an estate sale near my house, and jumped out to see if there were any treasures to be had.
While looking for vintage tools or coolers in the garage, one of the men at the sale looked at my Boot Camp tank top and said, “so how’s that boot camp working out for you?”
I looked at him without the trace of a smile, flexed my bicep, and said, “I don’t know.  How do you think Boot Camp is working out for me?”
He got a big grin on his face, started laughing, and said, “I think it’s working out pretty good.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said as I walked away.

It’s true, I do think that.
So good, in fact, that for the first time since I was 17 years old, I like my arms.
Like so many of us, I have parts of my body I wish were different.
I struggle with body image.
Don’t we all?
It might hit us at different times, and in different ways, but it hits us eventually.

I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of my childhood and teen years not struggling with body image.
I don’t think my parents set out to make sure I had a positive body image, but they gave me a life that fostered it anyway.
We ate good, nutritious, home made, food together nearly every night.
My Dad, brother and I were active, and played plenty of sports for fun.
And I can’t ever recall hearing my mom or dad tell me I needed to diet, or lose weight, or any other kind of heavy statement like that.
By the time I was a teenager and had friends struggling with weight and body image issues, I still felt good in my skin.

Then, when I was 17, I went to India for the summer.
It was a wonderful trip and I loved it.
One day I was getting fitted for a sari to take home as a souvenir.
The blouse worn under the sari is called a choli, and it often has a very fitted, tight, short sleeve that hits just at the wearer’s bicep.
As the tailor was measuring my arm for the choli, she pinched my arm and said, “too fat!”
“It was true!”I thought, as I tried on more ready-made choli blouses.
I could hardly get my arms in them and then they were so tight around my bicep they felt like they were cutting off my circulation.
“How had I never noticed my arms were fat?”
And for the first time, I looked at my arms and didn’t like what I saw.

I have looked at my arms in that same way ever since.
I admired other women’s thin arms.
I admired other women’s muscular arms.
And I looked askance at my own arms, which to my mind were neither thin, nor muscular.
Over the years, I would become motivated to do something about my arms and would tear pages out of magazines that boasted “tone your arms in 2 weeks!”
And I’d try.
And fail.
I never stuck with it.

Until Boot Camp.
For close to 2 years now I have been lifting weights.
Not huge weights–they’re 10 pounds.
But consistent bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep dips, and heaps of pushups have shaped the muscles in my arms.
And now I can stand in front of the mirror, flex my muscles, and feel really good about what I see.
My arms still aren’t thin.
I don’t think they’ll ever be.
But they are muscular.
They are strong enough now to lift and carry heavy furniture, and big bags of mulch or compost for the garden.
They can do hard work.
I like that.
And though they still aren’t exactly where I want them to be, I have learned to be proud of, and happy with, where they are now.
Because I have worked hard to get them there.
And I know I’m going to keep working hard to make them even better.

One of my favorite things about Redcliffe is seeing that mindset being acted out in every class.

There are men and women of every shape, size and fitness level working out together.
And with each workout, we see our bodies become stronger, more capable, and more fit.
We celebrate being able to do 5 burpees without stopping, and then 10, and then 50.
We up our weights, run half a lap instead of walking the whole thing, and hold a plank for longer than we ever thought possible.
Each of these feats make us see our bodies in a new light.
Rather than seeing all the things that it is not, we appreciate what it can do.
And we keep coming back to class and pushing it to do more.
It’s a pretty great thing to be a part of, I think.

It is easy to sit at home, hating our bodies, wishing we looked different, but never doing a thing to make those changes a reality.
It is much harder to pull on our workout clothes and show up for class day after day.
It is hard to make good food choices, to give up our favorite soft drink and have water instead, and to pack a lunch rather than go out for fast food.
But we’re doing it!
One day at a time, we are making the choice for health and that is something to be proud of.
In honor of that idea, next week I’ll be sharing my first Boot Camper story.
I’m excited to share your fitness journeys and celebrate the changes you have made in your life.
It’s going to be great!
Above all, I hope sharing the stories of your road to health and fitness will be a reminder to all of us of the truth in this statement:
Until then, keep on Living Fit!