I do not exercise because I hate my body; I exercise because I love it. In fact, I wouldn’t say I “exercise” at all. I climb. I do yoga. I move. I hike. I play. I train. It’s becoming less about setting aside a certain number of hours in the day and days in the week to “exercise”, and instead realizing every choice in my day affects the type of life I want to live.
It’s amazing to be able to choose yoga or spinning or CrossFit or the Bar Method or online videos or running or...the list goes on and on; however, the vastness of options also brings pressures to reach a certain aesthetic or be a certain type of fit. Our bodies are continuously changing throughout our lives. We will make ourselves miserable by chasing an idea of perfection.
Just as ab days never stuck, neither did any other muscle sculpting regimen. When I find myself wishing my arms were more toned, I don’t relent to include “arm days” in the gym. Instead, I ask myself why (or count on Dave to ask me). What’s the point? What do I want to be able to do with stronger arms? When my focus shifts to using my body, I’m happier. I can celebrate where I am, while continuing to challenge my body to redefine my limits. These can be big challenges, like my current desire to be a 5.12 climber or do a handstand pushup, or they can be “simple”, daily challenges like walking more, trying to stand from the ground using only one leg, mixing in handstands throughout the day, or even just tidying up to move around the house more.
#3 Challenge it.
I am not going to beat my body into submission, will-powering my way into the perfect body. I am making my body good for something. This is a phrase I first heard from Dave years ago, and it entirely changed how I approached my body. My focus shifted away from “looking good” and moved toward pursuing specific strengths and physical feats. I felt happy and confident in my body. Though I’ve only become stronger since, these feelings withered. Recent dissatisfaction stemmed from worrying about body fat instead of celebrating how strong I am. Focusing on weaknesses left me deflated. Once I realized I’d drifted away from a performance-centric approach, I saw how disconnected from my body I’d become. Of course I was unhappy.
Challenging my body is where I learn I am stronger than I realized. It goes beyond changing our physical form. When we face a physical challenge and come up against our perceived limitations, we can push against them, overcome them, and redefine our limits. Within each moment, we become stronger for striving. This strength isn’t limited to the physical. It pierces every aspect of my life.
Challenging my body not only connects me to it, it’s a way to celebrate how amazing it is and what it’s able to do. I see myself as more than the reflection in the mirror. I feel my strength radiating out into who I am and how I truly see myself.
How do you challenge your body? What purpose do you give it?