As we begin the 52 Weeks to Peak Physique challenge, I wanted to share with all of you what my experience with fitness has been up to this point, and why I'm embarking on this journey. People who know me (and my boyfriend, who is also doing this challenge) have questioned why we are doing this since we are already healthy and active. And it's true, we are. We genuinely enjoy the gym and other active outdoor hobbies, and we like to eat healthy food because it makes us feel better. But while I've always prioritized health, it hasn't always looked the same for me - and I didn't always love the gym. In fact, until last year when I met JC, I didn't go to the gym much at all.
As a 5'1" 110lb woman, I always had the mindset that the gym was not for me. I thought of the gym as the place that huge body-builder dudes went to throw massive weight around. It wasn't a place that I thought I belonged, or truly that I wanted to be part of. I was intimidated by both the equipment and the clientele, and so I pursued fitness in other ways - you know "girl" fitness, which consisted mostly of yoga, sometimes pilates, the occasional job on the elliptical. Things that I felt were manageable for my body type and abilities. And even THAT was an improvement for me! Through high school and college, I would work out sporadically, at best. I'd go a few months without working out, then start to think I should really start doing that again, then do one workout, which proved so difficult and left me so excruciatingly sore the next day, that I didn't work out again for several months. In all truthfulness, it wasn't a huge issue because I had very active jobs which kept me moving, I made fairly healthy meals, and I was young and resilient ;) but I knew that wasn't sustainable. Add to the mix former partners who flat out refused to exercise, and it was starting to become a sedentary life.
It wasn't until I got divorced that I really started a consistent fitness routine. I joined a yoga studio - the first I'd ever joined a gym of any kind - and I started going a few times a week. And it felt great! This was a whole new world for me. And then I started dating JC, the firefighter with a really strong passion for fitness, and extremely limited time. It became obvious very quickly that if I wanted this guy in my life, our relationship was going to have to develop in the gym, and so I decided to jump in and let him teach me. It was still intimidating, but much easier having him there to show me what to do, and explain the different machines and exercises we were doing. I gradually started learning more, and getting stronger, and to my surprise, I started to love the gym!
Once I started lifting weights, I started seeing my body change in ways that it never had with yoga and cardio alone. And this brought up a wide range of emotions. First, I started to realize (and this is an ongoing process, even now) that I'm much stronger than I thought. I had once believed that I couldn't lift weights at all, but now with JC's encouragement, I was lifting weights that I never imagined possible! Being a small woman, a lot of people (myself included) have held the belief that I am fragile and weak. I've often been told I'm too delicate or too tiny to do these things, and I just accepted it as truth. In school I never had much aptitude for team sports (still don't) but I took that to mean that I couldn't be athletic in any way. For the first time in my life, I proved myself wrong, and it felt great!
But there were other conflicting emotions too. I was fairly tiny to begin with, and even though my muscles were starting to develop more, I was also getting tinier in other ways too. The numbers on the scale didn't change much, but my body did - a lot! I've always had trouble finding clothes that fit well due to my petite size, but now, EVERYTHING hung on me like a burlap sack. I constantly felt like I looked like a kid playing dress-up in her mom's clothing. Not a very sexy look. On top of that, my already small size 32A chest also started shrinking. This is something I've struggled with a LOT throughout my life (more on this to come in a later post) and losing weight in this area proved to be really hard for me. It seemed that the more I worked out, the worse I felt about my body. I started to feel unattractive, abnormal, and generally very bad about my self-image. All my life I've been told I was so tiny I looked like a kid, and it always felt bad, but now, it felt like a stab in the gut. But I knew I didn't want to stop working out either because I genuinely valued the new life I had created. I started to work on finding little ways to solve these problems, but I just needed to find the right long-term solution.
So when JC mentioned that he wanted to try to get into the best shape possible, and truly feel excellent about our bodies, I realized that this could be the perfect opportunity to transform my body in a more conscious way, and also transform my mindset at the same time. I loved how the gym caused me to question the beliefs I had held about gym culture and my own strength and abilities, so I want to continue to prove myself wrong and show myself that I AM strong and capable of physical strength - and that I have the power to challenge many of the beliefs I've held about myself as well. I want to show myself and others that a fit body is a sexy body, even if it's smaller, and continue to develop my muscles to a place where I'm satisfied, while also working on changing my mindset about my physical looks and prove to myself that I can be whomever I want to be along the way. Along with that, I want to prioritize TRUE health. As I've worked out more, I haven't really changed my diet much to keep up with my new routines, and I want to make sure I'm giving my body what it needs. For me, this is not about "how hot can I look by next year" as much as it is about developing a truly healthy, sustainable system for long term health and wellness. It's as much for developing my mental fortitude and challenging my beliefs about myself as it is to challenge myself physically. And to me, that's a battle worth stepping into the ring for!