Body confidence and fitness

Just about two weeks ago, I posted this video of me working harder than I could have imagined to raise 3lb weights in front of me and to my sides. Rob (my trainer who is also a monster of some sort) and I were having a good laugh about it, because I can’t recall the last time I used 3lb weights for anything and because he and Shirley have had me lifting much heavier weights — albeit for different exercises.

Now, we originally recorded this as a bit of a joke, and when I saw this video immediately following my workout, a lengthy list of reasons not to post it started running through my head.

But I went ahead and posted it for a couple of reasons. First, it made me laugh. Second, I felt it was important to show people that, yes, I struggle through my workouts. Third – and building from the second – sometimes, I struggle with things that most who know me would never think I’d struggle with.

How is this a feminist issue?

Because since posting that video, I have received a lot of feedback thanking me for showing that I’m not actually Wonder Woman; that as much as I describe my workouts as intense and people hear of me pushing 90+ pounds on the leg press for two sets of 100, sometimes things that seems ridiculously easy are really difficult. And that’s okay. It’s okay to struggle through a workout and laugh about it and admit weakness or failure.

More than that, though, since posting that video, four men have approached me to talk to me about their body confidence issues, fear of the gym, fear of people seeing them workout, etc. To every single one of them, I’ve said, “oh, gawd, and you can’t talk to any of your buddies about this,” to which each of them has scoffed and said, “hell no,” or some variation of that.

Admitting their perceived weakness or their fears to me is one thing. Admitting it to their buddies is entirely another.

A patriarchal system doesn’t permit these men to share their feelings about this (and numerous other things) with other men. Feminism recognizes men struggle too and encourages this sharing.

And this is part of the motivation for Underdogs Boxing Club (yes, I’m giving our project a plug here, because it’s relevant).

At the beginning of my fitness journey (does that sound hokey?), I was in a place where I didn’t want people looking at me – either to judge my form/technique or my body (though my reasons were different than the reasons of the men I’ve been speaking with); I had little natural athletic ability (even though I’d tried to play several sports, but also my parents never would have permitted me to try boxing); I have a permanent knee injury; and I was all too familiar with the self-doubt and negative self-talk that came along with all of that. Oh, and I could only do three pushups.

Today, I have participated in two Tough Mudders; trained for three fights (though fought only twice); cycle regularly; have undertaken weight training; very rarely think about what others are thinking of what I look like; have found a way to focus so as to silence the self-doubt and negative self-talk; and can easily drop and give you 25 pushups any time you ask, but sometimes I still struggle with 3lb weights and I can’t do a chin-up to save my life.

I want Underdogs to be the place where people – women, men, girls, and boys – feel like this can happen. I want everyone to feel included and know that they’re not being judged for their fitness level, their athleticism, or their strength, and especially not for what they look like.

Most of all, I want Underdogs to be the place where people not only feel they can acknowledge these things, but also a place where they can work through them.

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