I love fitness and physical activity. Faster, fitter, stronger, more powerful? All goals I share.
But I also love the body I have now. Yes, it’s slower than I’d like and not as strong as I hope it to be but it’s a pretty amazing body nonetheless. I posted a bit about why I feel this way here.
What does it mean to ‘love’ this body? I don’t think it’s perfect aesthetically speaking. That’s not what I mean at all. I could list its flaws–I spend enough time with other women to know how to do that–but I won’t. I’m nearing fifty years old. If perfection were ever in my sights, that was a long time ago.
I love my kids. I don’t think they are perfect. (Sorry kids.) I’m not talking about aesthetics and I’m not talking about perfection. I don’t associate either of those values with love.
I associate loving my body with the activity of caring for my body. It’s both a sense of awe and wonder (Wow, I rode my bike 160 km!) and a responding to that awe and wonder with concrete action (Great ride, now let’s go for a massage!). If you’re in London, by the way, I highly recommend Crossfit’s RMT Andrew Jones.
I have a new tattoo this week and I’ve been thinking about that too as a way of celebrating this body. It’s still worth decorating. Photo to follow when it’s finished and healed.
It’s one of my goals for this year to improve my lean/fat ratio (you can read about that here and here) but I don’t think I’ll come to dislike the way I look I now. One of things I loved about philosopher Ann Cahill’s account of losing weight was how she refused to hate the body she used to have. She writes,
“I don’t look back at photos of myself from a year ago and shudder. That was a different body that I lived, with its own set of possibilities, practices, and abilities. And there are certainly cultural contexts where that body would be more useful and conducive to my survival than the one I’m living now. Come the apocalypse, those extra pounds would come in handy.”
There’s so much self hate and negative talk presented as motivation for fitness training but I actually think that self hate is a pretty rotten motivator. For me, thinking negatively about the way I look makes me want to stay indoors, watch TV, and eat nachos for dinner with fudgeos for dessert, preferably while wearing big, baggy, fuzzy PJs. If I do work up enough steam to want to beat this body into shape, then I end up putting in thankless joyless hours on the treadmill which isn’t particularly good for my body or soul.
No quality food or quality exercise there.
Luckily I haven’t engaged in very much of this self-destructive behavior in the course of my lifetime, just enough to know it’s there and to want to avoid it.
What does motivate me then, if not self hate, not seeing the body I have now as an unacceptable mess that needs improvement?
Here are three things that motivate me to stay fit and get fitter:
1. I love trying new physical activities and having a very high level of general fitness means that I can try new sports and physical pursuits without worrying so much about the fitness barrier. General fitness is one of the things I love about Crossfit. Read more about that here, Fitness, yes but fit for what?
2. I like sports competition and if I want to keep racing, I need to keep up. There’s often not very many people in my age group and my racing companions are 20 years younger than me. Fitness helps even the playing field. On why I like racing, read Six reasons not to race and why they might be mistaken.
3. I want to stay active as I age. I’ve got my sights set beyond mid-life and into retirement days and beyond. In my Facebook newsfeed today there’s a great picture of a 73 year old trying out downhill mountain biking for the first time. She’s motivational! I think, what do I have to do to be like her in twenty five years?