women’s cycling: a mystery to me

I call myself a cyclist. From teaching spin classes to training for century rides to jumping in the occasional race, I’m kind of into the sport.

One of my first summers of riding!

One of my first summers of riding!

That being said, there are a couple places I feel pretty darn clueless.

One of those places is when it comes to the sport itself. I know the Tour de France, folks. I know the Giro D’Italia. I know Clara Hughes. I know lululemon has a women’s team that I want to be on (#bhag).

But seriously, if a little girl who decided to take up cycling as her sport of choice asked me who she could look up to or what her pie in the sky goal might be, I wouldn’t know. I remember watching a video about women’s stage racing and then thinking that it’s silly that there isn’t a women’s Tour De France, although this news about La Course, which will run after the Tour this year is exciting and might be signalling change. I liked this article from The Independent which talked about women’s cycling (in Britain, specifically). It talks about making cycling more desirable to women via its image and encouraging them to take up the sport and why this is important:

“Sport should always look at how it can get involved at the grass-roots level, because only then can you say you’re useful to society. … Otherwise, riding around in circles is fairly pointless.”

I haven’t seen the documentary “Half the Road,” but the trailer and the website offer some insight into the issue around the lack of women’s pro cycling exposure.

On a similar note about increasing exposure and driving up women’s participation in the sport, I saw another story in the news last week that was encouraging: this press release about the British Cycling and the Football Association joining up to increase exposure to women’s sport.They’re talking about using bike riding as a social thing. Sounds good to me!

I wish that it wasn’t the case that we needed to talk about ways to up the exposure but in the meantime, I’m happy that the women’s side of the sport is going after–and getting–more attention. Seeing a pro lady riding a bike is one of those things that I think has a ton of potential. Most little girls learn to ride a bike–and cycling is one of the sports that I think could be within reach for them–if they knew it was an option. Without role models and examples of female athletes in the sport, we’re not raising a group of girls who know that it’s available to them. If we want to change the state of the sport, I think this is one of the biggest problems, which is why I think this news and these kinds of campaigns and partnerships are worthy of talking about. I see the benefits of increasing the exposure twofold: one, you’re helping to advance the women’s side of the sport; and, two, you’re helping to spur on mass participation. It’s not crazy to suggest that the average person go for a bike ride as a form of (easily accessible) exercise–and there are benefits beyond health that go along with more people cycling (consider if they took up exercise and commuting, for instance!)–male or female.

The world needs more cyclists!

nothing compares

 

What do you think? Do you follow women’s cycling?
Are you a cyclist? 

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resiliency, hormones, and trusting the process

The 24th day of Molly’s love your body challenge calls us to appreciate and celebrate the resilience of our bodies–something I talked about a few days ago. I talked about how my body has bounced back from all the crazy things I’ve done to it and how amazing it is that our bodies fix themselves even if we wrong them.

One of the ways I’m most in awe of my amazing body is in terms of the way it’s come to a happy hormone place for the first time in years. WARNING: I’m going to talk about girly things here.

I got my period when I was 11 years old. At the time, I was excited–I always liked passing milestones earlier than my older sister had, and I’d beat her on this one (if this isn’t testament to my competitive nature, I don’t know what is). I had regular periods for the next 5 or so years and never gave my hormones much thought.

When I started to get into the world of dieting and exercising more, I started to have some hormonal issues: migraines, some facial hair I wasn’t too excited about, and missing periods. At the time, the migraines and the hair were obviously reasons for concern, but I sort of celebrated not having a period. I was irregular enough that I brought things up with my doctor. Usually, I ended up taking a pregnancy test–when I graduated high school, I’d KISSED two boys and maybe held the hand of three, so this was always funny to me–but eventually I started to see specialists. By the time I’d graduated from high school (and put on some weight after hitting a low point in my eating disorder story and starting to work with a dietitian and a psychologist), I was still having odd periods. I’d tried the pill, something that lots of doctors will recommend, but my migraines were worse whenever I gave it a shot.

Somewhere along the line, I realized what not having my period meant. Even as I dabbled more in disordered eating and lost a lot of weight in university, I wanted my period back. I didn’t want to take a birth control pill anyways. I thought of it as a band-aid and I knew that if I took it, it would be too easy to ignore the fact that I literally wasn’t doing the right things for my body to function the way it was supposed to. I knew that not having a regular cycle meant my hormones were out of whack, which scared me mostly because I knew what that meant for my bones: namely, I wasn’t doing all the bone building I was supposed to during the years of my youth. I wasn’t really thinking about babies, but I knew that long term I didn’t want to be struggling with fertility issues. I’d had warnings from people around me and I read about the female athlete triad all over–both of my own volition and in my sports nutrition textbooks, for instance. This fact sheet does a pretty good job of summarizing things, in my opinion. Given a bone scan that scared the crap out me, my admittedly messed up eating, and my missing periods, I knew that this was describing me. Giving a name to what was going on made it seem more pressing and made recovery all the more important, in my mind.

What I really struggled with was the weighting (I meant to spell it that way) game. I was told that part of my recovery would be getting to a happy weight where my body would function properly again. I was also told that once I got to a healthy weight, it might take time for my body to start to produce hormones again. I was concerned that I would go heavier than I needed to while I was waiting, wrongly thinking that I hadn’t gained “enough” weight.

What happened for me, and I hope that if you’re struggling with this now, was being patient and trusting that my body would weigh what it needed to to sort itself out. What I found was that at a certain point, it didn’t matter too much whether I upped my exercise or tried to “eat healthier” or whatever–my body was pretty comfy at a specific number. Then, that number changed. And then it stabilized again. And after about a year of being at that weight, I started to get my period. Like clockwork. It was a miracle. I think I might be the only girl who would text her mother and friends in excitement over that time of the month rolling around. It’s been about a year of this steady stuff and it feels so good to know that my body’s doing what it needs to do. I’ve fluctuated within 5lbs all this year and I think that being consistent with making sure that I eat enough–of food in general but also of fat and carbs and protein so that I have the energy, the raw materials, etc. to make hormones–has been part of this stability.

If you ARE struggling with missing your periods, my advice to you is to be patient with your body and to keep in mind that not having your period means something is up: maybe you’re not eating enough, maybe you’re exercising too much, maybe you’re not eating consistently enough (i.e. restricting all week and bingeing on the weekend–your weight stays steady, but you’re still not nourished in this case), maybe something else is up. Call on professionals to help you–doctors, dietitians, and naturopaths were on my side in the process. Most importantly, take it seriously. Your body is trying to tell you something!

trust the process

Have you struggled with your hormones? What helped you get back on track?

 

dr. seuss was right

I can’t believe that it’s day 22 of Molly’s challenge already. I am back onto loving her message for the day–love your body because it’s unique (and because you’re unique)! Maybe she had Dr. Seuss in mind when she wrote this one, because that’s sure what came to my mind:

today you are you

 

Molly’s post included a little bit about appreciating our bodies and not comparing to others’. This is a big thing for me. Even though I try to keep “Comparison is the thief of all joy” in my mind, I can still get caught in the comparison game: case in point, spending 20 minutes this morning (when I’m supposed to be reading, naturally) seeing where I stack up in the CrossFit Open (a competition I can honestly say I’m doing just for fun). Of course, there are 900 girls around here who are “fitter” than me by CrossFit Open standards, but if I left it at that I might be left feeling more mediocre than I should.

compare

Instead, it’s important that I step back and look at where I’m directing my energy and celebrating the ways that I’m “winning” in my broader pursuits–physical and otherwise. I’ve been teaching more spin and exercise classes lately, which leave me feeling rewarded and give me a sense of connection and leadership (things I love). I’ve been personal training clients again, which means I’m working on developing my practical, job-marketable-skills but also that even though at a gym more but don’t necessarily have as much time to get to CrossFit myself. I’ve decided to give cycling more attention this summer (there’s something I miss so much about being fit for something that allows me to get out and about and spend days with people riding around in the sun–or wind, rain, hail<–minor detail!). I guess what makes me unique here and what needs celebrating is my versatility and my passion for health and moving in ways that feel good. 

Not everyone can combine the things that I do and feel like they’re doing the right thing. Some people prefer to pour themselves into one thing–and that’s fine. What makes me unique is that–whether it’s exercise (I love CrossFit! I love yoga! I love cycling! I love trail running! I love triathlon! I love group fitness!) or work (I freelance write! I personal train! I teach fitness! I life coach! I’m in grad school!)–is that I like to have a lot of pieces in the puzzle.

I feel like I got a little bit off track with that, but I think the point of the challenge is to give yourself credit where maybe you used to make yourself wrong. I still on occasion think that I should settle down and dedicate myself to one thing entirely, but that doesn’t agree with what I love: being on the go, being connected in lots of ways, etc. For now, what makes me unique that’s worth celebrating is that I’m a Jill of all trades.

This seems fitting:

do more of what makes you happy

 

As does this:

 

What can you appreciate about your unique self? 
Where do you find yourself comparing when you should be celebrating? 

CrossFit, empowerment, and thinking critically about the way we talk about CrossFit women

Good morning Monday!

First grad school conference presentation: check.

There I am!

There I am!

I had fun presenting what I’ve been working on as of late and what I hope to continue to work on as I figure out what exactly my thesis will be all about. Here’s the gist of my abstract from the weekend:

“CrossFit, which calls itself “the sport of fitness,” has grown from a single website to a fitness empire with over 7000 gyms around the world, leveraging specific narratives appealing to ideologies promoting individual responsibility for health to establish itself quickly even in a crowded consumer fitness industry. What are the narratives CrossFit uses to promote itself and to establish itself as a leader in the crowded consumer fitness industry? How do these fit in with the dominant discourses in contemporary neoliberal society?

These questions are explored using a Critical Discourse Analysis of a Canadian CrossFit magazine, SweatRX. Drawing on discourses of feminine liberation and emphasizing a focus on performance over aesthetics, the representations of the feminine body in SweatRX promote an alternative form of bodily control that is paradoxically oppressive. By constructing the CrossFitting female body as a site of control and offering up identities based on consumption, a potentially empowering and emancipatory practice is commodified into a method for self management and participation in the fitness marketplace. In the context of contemporary neoliberal society, these narratives can remain unquestioned and reproduce dominant cultural ideologies concerning the moral significance of taking individual responsibility for one’s health, diverting attention away from broader social and cultural factors that constrain health. This is an important extension on research demonstrating the shift towards health as an individual’s responsibility and contributes to a growing body of work examining this shift.”

If you’re not a sociocultural nerd, you probably got “blah, blah, blah” from all of that. So here’s what I said:

“For years, women’s participation in physical activity has been widespread. The embodiment of the ideal “fit” woman, however, has changed over the years. CrossFit is a relatively new player in the fitness marketplace and as such, the “strong is the new skinny” and the muscular body type constructed as the ideal CrossFit female contrasts with the previously skinny, then skinny and toned, feminine ideal. Physical activity can be a place of liberation and empowerment for women, but in the past the commodification as well as the focus on the aesthetic benefits of activities have transformed opportunities for empowerment into sites of control. However, labelling any activity as purely emancipatory or empowering will only further limit the opportunity afforded by an activity. My goal was thus not to promote or condemn CrossFit but to examine the ways in which one selected CrossFit media, SweatRX, a Canadian magazine about the sport, represents the female CrossFitter.

I found several themes, some of which maintain the status quo and others which suggest transformation. Firstly, the female CrossFitter as part of a movement with the aim of empowerment and social progress. This is liberating on the surface but simplistic: suggesting that taking up an exercise program is the same as addressing issues constraining women and constraining health turns social progress into something marketable and commodifiable. Secondly, the female CrossFitter as superior (what I call the “Zumba is for dumbasses” theme in my own head) where bulky is redefined as the ideal and any woman who doesn’t strive for a strong physicality is marked as inferior. Then, a sustained focus on aesthetics (training like a beast but looking like a beauty, etc.). A paradoxical call to resist the media and consumer fitness industries in the midst of the promotion of the consumption of CrossFit and its associated products and culture (one article told readers to resist the media “asphyxiating your subconscious, compelling you to be an obedient American consumer”). A reiteration of women’s social roles (as naturally different from men’s)–i.e. CrossFit as the route to help a woman be a better mother, more capable of “tackling dirty laundry.”

It’s not all bad, though. There is a focus on performance, which is where I think there’s hope. Consider the lack of mirrors in a CrossFit gym. I think saying that just because some of the media’s messages might be problematic, CrossFit is problematic, would rob women of a chance to take up an activity where they can focus on what their bodies are capable of–instead of how they look.”

After my presentation, a girl asked me what I would change if I was the editor of the magazine. What’s tricky is being friends with people who write for this magazine, fans of people who appear in there, and a freelance writer myself. I know that when I write an article I’m not trying to “normalize gender asymmetries that limit women’s opportunities” etc. etc. I’ve met the editor of the magazine at a trade show (at least at the time–she was also an editor for a yoga magazine). If I was in the hot seat–because I think as an editor you carry a lot of responsibility–I would change the subtle things. I would keep talking about body image but I wouldn’t make it a woman’s problem uniquely. I would watch for the subtle things: using women models to show scaled versions of workouts, showing photos of female CrossFitters in gowns and things instead of in their element (or at least including profiles of males in the same way).

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.35.14 AM

While I’m critical of the magazine–it’s a critical discourse analysis, remember–I think it’s hopeful. I think women reading it are able to see possibilities for them to experience things outside what has traditionally been considered acceptable for women. I think CrossFit is the perfect platform for us to work on these things given just how much potential there is in the sport. Ditto for triathlon, for running, for whatever gives us a chance to get away from how an activity will make our bodies look to how it feels, what it does for our health and well-being, who it makes us.

Now that I’ve tried to sum up a lot of pages in the amount of words I assume will be just enough to leave you informed but not make you give up on this post, back to my weekend recap ;)!

14.4: check.

open 14.4

My thoughts when I saw this workout?

grumpy cat

Last year, I cried during the open WOD with toes to bar because I got a TON of no reps. This year, I didn’t have much faith in my ability to get through 50 of them, even though I knew I’d have ample time to try (I love rowing and finished those calories in about 3:15). Luckily, my coaches had some strategy and faith in my ability and I surprised myself by getting through the darn things with enough time to dive into the wall balls. I think I had more no reps on wall balls (I blame my surprise and awe at the fact that I did more toes to bar during the workout than I’ve done in 2014) than I had on the toes to bar. I ended up with a score of 140, which was fine and dandy with me!

I think the Open has been a good experience this year because I’ve surprised myself more than once with where I’m doing well. I’m doing it in an environment where everyone is good enough so long as you’re trying your best. I’m seeing that I am stronger and fitter in lots of ways than last year, even if some things (like burpees) feel a heck of a lot harder this time.

Now that I’ve written you my life story and committed the CrossFit crime of incessantly talking about CrossFit, I think I should at least mention the love your body stuff over at Molly’s blog that I’m keeping up with. Yesterday was about feeling sexy–and I feel like my chat on her post earlier in the week does that one justice--and today is a good one, discussing the ways in which our body carries our life story. My favourite part of the post is when Molly talks about thinking ahead to your 80 year old self and looking back on the story of you and your body. Like she says, at the end of our life, I don’t think wanting our thighs to be smaller is going to be part of that letter. I hope that my letter looks back on a life of using my body to do the things that scare me, challenge me, excite me, and fill me up.

crossssfit

 

Happy Monday!

CrossFitters, CrossFit haters, exercisers, writers, personal trainers, coaches: I’d love to hear your take on my thoughts on the magazine analysis and on how we can contribute to a message out there that emphasizes all the good in CrossFit without getting sucked into the bad part of health and fitness writing…thoughts? 

surprising myself

Morning!

Today’s the day — my presentation is this afternoon. Last night, I made sure I prepped by eating plenty of froyo and practicing a run through before bed.

kiwi

The conference yesterday was filled with lots of interesting presentations–I particularly liked one girl’s take on representations of Flo-Jo. I had a busy day with covering a yoga class for a fellow instructor in the afternoon, personal training, and squeezing in a run for myself. It was a weird day too–dinner happened at 10:30pm, after dessert, which is weird but fine.

uncertain

Beyond this update, I am here to blog about day 19 of Molly’s challenge, where she calls us to appreciate the ways our bodies surprise us with their capabilities. Thinking about ways that my body has (pleasantly) surprised me lately, two surprises in the past week have dawned on me:

1. How stable it’s been. Lifting. Cardio. Paleo. Vegetarian. I have tried some things, and I’ve learned some things. But really, my body has been pretty stable in terms of weight and in terms of my hormones for the past year. This is a miracle for someone who used to yoyo like it was going out of style. While I might wish it had stabilized an inch or two smaller through the biceps so my leather jackets and button up shirts would fit, I’ll take it. I’m learning to trust that it will just balance itself out where it needs to be, and that gives me the freedom to stop worrying about what’s going to happen if I start to eat and exercise more intuitively. Winning!

2. Last week’s open WOD. 14.3 was a box jump and deadlift bonanza. While deadlifts are my favourite, box jumps as of late have NOT been. I know that the muscle I’ve put on isn’t a bad thing but I do know that when it comes to things in CrossFit like burpees or box jumps or other bodyweight movements, I’ve got more weight to move now than I did before (ditto for running, biking, swimming). It’s by no means dead weight and it helped me in the WOD with the deadlifts that were heavy heavy for some girls. I surprised myself a bit with my score (130) and for that I was pretty appreciative of my body. I got to thinking about how amazing our bodies are in their abilities to adapt to what we do on a regular basis, too. Two years ago, I could never have imagined being able to lift the things I do now, but I was training for triathlon and cycling and now I wouldn’t be able to keep up with that trained version of me. It’s also cool to think that at any point, we can shift gears and take it in another direction. Winning again!

To sum it up, I guess I’m mostly surprised by my body’s ability to recreate itself–in a new way! It’s a reminder to take care of ourselves and to take the actions that will move us in the direction that we want to go, because even if we don’t feel like we’re changing, over time, we get where we’re headed one little step at a time.

Hopefully, I surprise myself with the ability to be a “natural” when it comes to paper-presenting! Wish me luck!

ha

How does your body surprise you?

 

strength and femininity

Today’s post from Molly is mixing with all my thoughts and nightmares and dreams about presenting my CrossFit stuff this weekend at the conference on campus. I had trouble connecting again with Molly’s challenge today about embracing your strength even though it might be a masculine thing to do.

Hmmmm.

Yes. Strength–at least physically–has been a “masculine” trait. Consult any chart on “feminine-masculine” characteristics and I’m confident you’ll see “strong” listed on the side of the male while “weak” falls on the lady’s side.

I think we need to be careful. Strong is slowly making it’s way into the mainstream for women. I’m immersed in the world of CrossFit a bit which probably makes today’s feminine ideal seem a little more bulky than the average, but I think it’s safe to say that women at least want to be toned–not skinny–nowadays.

While strong is no doubt a healthier way to be than skinny, replacing a skinny ideal with a more muscular one still keeps women in a place where they pursue some “perfect” image (via diet and exercise). I don’t think I’m going to find an online community of men who are talking about embracing their feminine side or their curves. Maybe because I read a post from Sociological Images about the kinds of work that Women’s History Month values   and it got me thinking about the way embracing masculinity might not be all good:

“Amelia Earhart, aviator. Wilma Rudolph, athlete. Sally Ride, astronaut. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, activist. Josephine Baker, performer. Virginia Woolf, novelist. Rosie the Riveter, archetype. Alice Paul, suffragist. Frida Kahlo, artist. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State.

What do these women have in common? They are the 10 iconic women featured this year by womenshistorymonth.gov, the official website of Women’s History Month in the United States….Unfortunately, the women singled out for recognition at the site appear to be considered notable mainly because they excelled at what are generally thought to be “masculine” pursuits. This is androcentric, meaning that it values masculinity over femininity.”

That being said, I understand where it comes from. We still need to be pretty (or do we?) as women and I think that for so long being muscular was considered an anomaly and a no-no. Women are learning how good it can feel to be strong and the side effects–namely, a bigger and more muscular body–comes along with that. So, we need to make this some part of the new feminine ideal. I get it, but I don’t agree with it. Do we really, in the process, need to buy into the idea that it’s masculine to be strong? I don’t think perpetuating that idea is doing anyone favours.

Do you think strength is still a masculine trait?
How do you feel about this stuff? 

community and feeling connected

Morning!

Today’s post is going to get away from me–I already feel some word vom coming on–but I’ll start by just reiterating how much I’ve enjoyed blogging my way through Molly Galbraith’s love your body challenge. Today’s post is about loving your body for its ability to connect you to others. She talks about community and about valuing the sense of connection that our bodies can give us.

I am all for feeling connected. I try to learn people’s names wherever I go. I want to have the most facebook friends in the world. “Real” friends, friends on social media, friendly strangers or acquaintances–they’re all good!

BUT–and for someone who is enjoying a body acceptance challenge over here, this is just a thought: should we be so connected over our bodies and learning to love them? Personally, I’m hoping for the day where we’re not the most connected thanks to our frustration with hating our bodies and our willingness to learn to love them. I might not need a new direction for my blog if that’s the case, but that’s okay.

For instance, it sort of dawned on me yesterday when I was watching CrossFit videos instead of working on homework that maybe that “beauty” is something women are concerned with alone is sad. I know there are guys out there who are struggling and learning to love their bodies, but I think it’s safe to say that body acceptance is made out to be a woman’s issue.

It all comes down to this: what would women do if we weren’t so worried about our thighs? Or now, so worried about loving our thighs? Is our body love quest, which still focuses on beauty and appearance at some level, just taking over as our new obsession? Or, are we learning to live from a place of worthiness and taking care of this on a personal level so we can move on to bigger and better things?

While I’m confused about whether or not I’m contributing to something that’s “good” for us or not, for the time being, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to start loving your body more. I know personally I’ve seen accepting my body more help me be able to think about these kinds of questions: there was a time where I totally took it for granted that I should want to be that perfect ideal of the day (skinny? toned? jacked? WHO EVEN KNOWS!).

What do you think about connecting over a body love journey?
Does it matter if body acceptance is a woman’s business right now? 

worthy and wonderful

Wednesday night already?! Where is this week going? I think it’s flying by mostly because I have a presentation at my first (academic) conference this weekend that I’m prepping for. It’s on CrossFit, the media, and women’s bodies so you can bet I’m excited–and nervous–about it!

Sneak peek?

Sneak peek?

But even amidst the terror excitement, I haven’t forgot about my dedication to blogging my way through that love your body challenge I’m so loving! Day 16 is about appreciating just how attractive your body is. When you put the effort in and dress yourself in the clothes that make you look–and feel–good, you feel that beauty!

For me, this post reminded me to take care in making sure I have clothes around that make me feel good right now. Molly likes how she looks in dresses and heels–I like how I look in clothes that fit, plain and simple.

Getting rid of a huge amount of clothes in my closet that no longer fit me–and that I knew I shouldn’t want to fit–was huge for me in my recovery and in getting to a place where I didn’t have a breakdown every time I went to get dressed. I blogged two summers ago about buying clothes to fit the body I have right now as a way to be more accepting–and I still believe that’s true! Nowadays, I’m feeling a bit like I need a closet clean-out because there are some shirts that are just too snug through the arms (thank you pull-ups) and some pants that just don’t flatter me or don’t zipper any more (thank you CrossFit and squats). That being said, I’m hesitant to get rid of these clothes, partially because I know that come summer, I’m not going to be in the gym as much and they may start to fit again on their own. This is a VERY different approach than keeping them around as reasons to remind myself that I’m “too big” or somehow wrong and I think it’s worth asking yourself whether or not keeping things in your closet that don’t fit you right now is serving a practical purpose or is a way that you’re driving yourself crazy! 

As Molly suggested, I thought about why wearing clothes that fit my body as it is right now make me feel so darn good. I think it has something to do with the message that it sends to myself–one of acceptance and assurance that I deserve to look nice right now, not five pounds or two abs or whatever from now. You are worthy of putting in the time and effort to look like someone who thinks they’re worthy RIGHT NOW. Trust me!

worthiness copy

What are you wearing when you feel your most attractive?

recognizing resilience

Andddd I’m back! I hope you all enjoyed my post this morning. Today’s been filled with a migraine (ugh), breaking my coffee pot (ughhhhhhhh), and getting my act together enough to get going to the gym to teach spin in an hour (I couldn’t find a last minute sub).

I think teaching spin class when I’m hopped up on migraine meds and super duper tired (I took an hourlong nap in my car on campus today and was late for class because of it) is a silly idea. I’d be lying if I said it was the first time. This time around, I’m legitimately doing it because I know that I’ll be okay and because I couldn’t find anyone to cover it for me. In the past, I’ve powered through because I felt compulsive about exercising and didn’t want to miss a workout. This is a perfect lead-in to today’s post from Molly’s love your body challenge, which is about how our bodies put up with our antics and still thrive.

When I went to Molly’s women’s retreat in the fall, I connected whole heartedly with her story about how she abused and neglected and put her body through a lot–and how she learned just how amazing it is given that it still works and takes care of her despite her self-inflicted abuse. .

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Like her, one thing I’ve come to learn through experience is that our bodies are resilient. That being said, my own (complicated) history with my eating disorder involves a lot of self abuse. I paid the price for obsessively exercising and under-eating and bingeing and purging and running myself ragged: from bone scans that made me realize I was hurting myself to the realization that not having a period was NOT something to be celebrated to stress fractures that have reminded me that I need to continue to take good care of myself, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn the importance of taking care of myself. I’ve also been amazed and so grateful for how my body has bounced back from years of being neglected and even abused. It’s sad to me to think about the ways I used to harm myself, but it’s so encouraging to see the way that I’ve bounced back: from sorting out my hormones to seeing one migraine here or there instead of one every week to experiencing previously unimagined levels of strength in the gym, I am in awe of my body.

Thinking back to the things I’ve done to myself that are hurtful is hard–lots of them I thought I was doing because they were “good for me” (cases in point: the time I did a running streak and ran every day for a month before hurting myself to the point all I could do was swim for three OR giving the “Paleo” diet a go and reinvigorating the good/bad diet police that I worked so hard to kick out of my mind), but they give me the chance to come to appreciate all the ways in which my body knows how to take care of itself and does just that. Our bodies really are amazing!

Where have you hurt yourself and seen your body’s ability to bounce back?
Do you appreciate just how resilient your body is?

 

on respect and who you surround yourself with

Morning!

How is everyone feeling after a Monday St. Patty’s Day? I don’t know if people got too rowdy or not–I know I, for one, just took the day as an excuse to wear my green gym clothes and to teach a St. Patty’s Day themed spin class, complete with what came up in my YouTube search for “Irish Dubstep:”

In my element!

In my element!

Friends who spin together smile together!

Friends who spin together smile together!

It’s the halfway mark of Molly’s love your body challenge (I think), but there hasn’t been a post yet today. So, rather than rely on her for my inspiration and starting point today, I’ll dig up some inspiration that’s been on my mind for a while: surrounding yourself with the right people.

As of late, I’ve been overwhelmed with how much I feel supported and respected by the people in my life. I’ve been flip-flopping about what I want to do (my five year plan is a little messy), but I’ve never had so many people in my life just assure me that I’m figuring it out and that whatever I choose, if I choose it for the right reasons, they’ll be happy for me. This kind of support is refreshing.

In the past, I’ve relied on others far too much to tell me what to do and which choices to make. Whether it was which training program to follow, which clothes to wear, which diet bandwagon to jump on, or which career to make my goal, I let other people drive my decisions. Slowly—and maybe as part of growing up or as living and learning through mistakes—I’ve come to realize that the people I want in my life are the ones who will respect me even if what I do isn’t what they do. Examples?

  • I’ve got a supervisor who is okay with whichever politics I bring to the table, even if he wouldn’t write the same thing if it was his own work.
  • I go to a gym where CrossFit and lifting might be king, but no one is going to judge me for wanting to be an endurance athlete, a yogi, or just a recreational exerciser.
  • I’ve got friends who would love it if I came to the pool and rode my bike and signed up for races with them, but who are also just as happy to meet up for froyo or a drink even if I haven’t been training with them.

There is a caveat to this kind of freedom. When you hang out with people who respect you regardless of whether you agree with them or not, it demands more of you. Instead of being expected to assume the same opinion as the people you’re around, you’re responsible for coming up with your own decisions about what is right for you. That requires that you trust yourself a heck of a lot more than buying into the notion that someone else can decide what is right for you.

trust yourself

Next time you’re faced with what feels like a dilemma, instead of trusting the people around you to choose for you, ask yourself what you would do if no one would know about it. Often, what troubles us isn’t not being able to figure out what we want, it’s worrying about what other people will think of us if we don’t do what they want. In the end, the most important thing is doing what is right to you. The people around you, if they’re on your team, will stick with you anyway.

chicken