Finding Motivation: Marathon Monday

Yesterday was Marathon Monday, truly one of, if not the best day of the year in Boston. The city comes alive with such energy and love on this day every year, and this has only been amplified since the horrific bombings two years ago.

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Before the rain… getting ready to cheer on the runners from Mile 24!

In my 15 years in Boston, I’ve missed the Marathon only a handful of times due to work. I’ve been a medical volunteer at the finish line, and I’ve cheered my butt off for the runners along the route both at the finish line and a few miles out. Every year, I’m amazed at the perseverance it takes for people to reach these points. How do you run 24 miles and then push yourself to run 2.6 more when your legs are screaming and you’re having pain in places you didn’t even know existed? These are the types of things I may never know, but I love watching it all the same.

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This year’s marathon was a rainy, dreary, chilly day, but this didn’t stop thousands of runners from crossing that finish line. And that is the reason that the people of Boston and visitors from around the world were still out there cheering, still holding signs and ringing cow-bells. Because if these people, after training through the worst winter in history, could run 26.2 in pretty miserable weather — well, we could cheer in that same weather.

And the wonderful thing is that the rain may have soaked the city and every one in it, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of the day in any way. 

Watching a marathon is truly a magical experience if you pay attention. There are people of all ages, all sizes, all skill levels all completing the same goal. The elites are awe-inspiring to watch because of their grace, speed, and efficiency.  But the people at the back of the pack are just as inspiring, because they have put in just as much of a grind to get to that point.

Pushing yourself beyond what you previously thought your body is capable of — that’s inspiring. Running the course in fatigues and combat boots– that’s inspiring. Trekking through the wind, cold, and driving rain to reach your goal? That is inspiring. Pushing someone in a wheelchair who wouldn’t be able to complete that course on their own — that’s beyond inspiring.

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The lead women’s pack at about Mile 24. Love that there is 1/6 feet on the ground here! 

The truth is, even as someone who may never run a marathon in her life (I’ll never say never, but it’s pretty unlikely I’ll admit), watching a marathon is one thing that motivates me the most to be better. It doesn’t even necessarily motivate me to run more, as I’ve found a pretty great balance between running and lifting over the past couple of years. It just acts as a reminder that sometimes there are goals that seem bigger than us, goals that seem insurmountable, that we can reach if we just push beyond our comfort zone.

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One of the lead males. The stride is amazing! 

The marathon is a reminder that we all have a little bit more in us when we feel like we have nothing left. It’s a reminder that heartbreak (hill) is not a reason to stop, but a reason to push further. It’s a reminder that we all can come together for a common goal, in support of each other, and find motivation from thousands of strangers.

And now for my favorite shots of the day…

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Hometown hero Shalane Flanagan… Photo credit here goes to my good friend Todd!

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Meb! Winner of last year’s Marathon. Had a tough race this year but finished with his head and hands held high! 

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Uzo Aduba.. AKA Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black! Yes, I was tracking her, Yes, we screamed her name, and YES, she waved at us :) 

On Food: Letting Go Of Shouldn’t

This weekend was full of great times with friends, but it was also full of decadent foods. Will and I went out to dinner with friends on Friday night at Bondir, a lovely restaurant in Concord, MA. It was an amazing 4-course meal, including dessert. Granted, each of the plates/courses was quite small, but it was 4 courses nonetheless. The entire meal was absolutely delicious, full of rich flavors and interesting pairings, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave a morsel of food on any of my plates. It was a wonderful dinner, but with great conversation flowing and a few cocktails, I probably consumed more than I should have at one meal.

The following morning, I went out with some girlfriends to the Langham Hotel’s Chocolate Bar for a birthday brunch. Yes, you read that right — a Chocolate Bar. There was basically a whole room full of all of the chocolate and desserts that you can imagine. From truffles and cookies, to mousse and pastries, to crepes and a chocolate fountain — it was like a chocolate lover’s dream. And even for someone with an impressive sweet tooth like myself,  it was almost a little bit too much.

I ended up filling my plate with lots of yumminess (although the pictures I took didn’t come out great, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one), and took a few bites of each selection. Since there was so much to choose from, I really just had a little bit more of the things I loved, and passing on those that I didn’t love as much. Even with this strategy, I ended up eating more chocolate and sweets than one should eat before noon on a Saturday. Trust me, I paid for it in the “sugar shakes”, and it’s not something that I’d do regularly every weekend. But for a treat once per year or so? Chocolate me up.

As a “healthy blogger”, is this something I should have done? Should I have followed up a 4 course meal with a chocolate bar the next morning? Probably not. But would I do it again? Probably, with the right circumstances. As I mentioned above, this is not a typical weekend of eating for me; I would not do this on a regular basis, because honestly it didn’t leave me feeling great. But the experiences with friends made it worth it, and the way that life works means that I can’t always control timing when it comes to dinners out, birthday brunches, etc. Sometimes, schedules only match up so that we end up over-doing it for a few days.

What if after dinner on Friday night, I had called my friend and told her that I would no longer be going to her birthday brunch because I had had a big dinner the night before and I “shouldn’t” go to the chocolate buffet? No, we don’t always have to eat cake when it’s offered to us, but missing out on experiences with friends just because you “shouldn’t” do this or that seems pretty sad to me.

On the flip side, there are those times when we’re offered a treat that we know won’t make us feel great, or maybe we’re doing really well with healthier eating and don’t want to be de-railed by a mediocre cupcake. These are the times when “shouldn’t” tends to escape our mouths, but might that be doing us a disservice?  IMG_0018

If you’re constantly telling yourself that you shouldn’t have something, you’re putting an awful lot of negative connotations around certain foods. That tells your brain that the next time you do have a delicious cupcake or slice of birthday cake, that you’re breaking the rules and doing something bad. We’re conditioned to think that when one breaks the rules, punishments are necessary.

Congratulations, you’ve just entered yourself into a damaging negative feedback-loop with food, all because you told yourself you “shouldn’t eat that”.

So how can we go about changing this mindset? How can we avoid the negativity, the punishments, the self-berating for eating something that you “shouldn’t”? The answer, simplistically, is that it’s all about perspective.

If you are offered a treat that you don’t think will be amazing and worth every bite (because those are the ones that are worth splurging on, in my opinion), instead of the “S” word, try using a phrase that puts you in control, instead of letting some set of arbitrary rules control you.

“I choose not to”

Yes, giving yourself the control over what you do and do not eat will help you to believe that you are not allowing/disallowing foods because of rules, rather you are doing what is best for you. You are choosing to eat what makes you feel good, you are choosing to treat yourself to those things that you feel are truly worthy of your splurge. But more importantly, you’re choosing not to shame yourself out of eating certain foods, and you’re choosing not to shame yourself when you do indulge.

So let go of “shouldn’t”. Take it out of your food vocabulary, and take back control of what you choose to eat (or not). Your choices are up to you, what you put into your body and how you treat yourself are under your control and your control only. The only thing you shouldn’t do is shame yourself for the choices you make.

I Like Myself and That’s Okay

I get the feeling that as a woman, I’m not supposed to like myself.

As a female, I am bombarded with images on a daily basis that show me how I can be better/skinner/prettier/insert-feminine-adjective-here. Every time I turn on the TV, scroll through Facebook, or even while doing some much needed internet shopping, I see countless images of products that are supposed to make me appear slimmer, younger, less wrinkly. (God forbid, I have crows feet at 32 years old).

Every spring, images are thrust into my face describing how I too can get my “bikini body” back after the winter months, or that so-and-so has the perfect plan for a “summer slim down”.

Every time I cruise around on the internet, my page clicks are chased by ads promising the newest weight loss supplement or workout class that will give me “long and lean” muscles, just the way I’m supposed to want my body to look. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are filled with images of sexed up women with rock hard abs, glistening with oil (I mean, really, oil up before your next workout and tell me how good your grip is), telling me that I just need to work harder, have no excuses, and I too will look like them.

Sexy-Fitspo

But the thing is, I don’t want to look like them. I actually like myself, believe it or not. I don’t need a special diet plan, a miracle supplement, or even Photoshop to appreciate my body.  I don’t need a “fitspo” image to tell me that I don’t work hard enough. I don’t need some marketing guru to tell me what I need to become their ideal of a perfect female.

I think I’m fortunate though, that I don’t need those things. A lot of women, when slapped across the face with these images, believe that they need these things to become the best version of themselves. Women aren’t supposed to like themselves, because if we all did, there would be a lot of people out there who stopped making money. The more you hate yourself and every part of your body, the more money these people make under the guise of helping you “improve”. Really, they’re just feeding on your negative feelings about yourself, and providing you with reasons to keep having these negative feelings.

For instance, just the other day I was scrolling through my Groupon email, I came across this image of an “Arm slimming compression garment”. Essentially, these are Spanx for your arms.

arm sleeves

SPANX FOR YOUR ARMS.

I’m just going to let that sink in a little bit before I move on.

At first I laughed, because the picture is downright ridiculous. Then I let the thought settle into my brain, and realized it’s much more sad than it is funny. As women, we’re constantly provided ways that we can make ourselves “better”, although better to whom, is the question. Would it make me feel better about myself to wear compression sleeves to make my arms appear slimmer? First of all, I question their effectiveness, but more importantly, the answer is no. And I’m pretty sure the discomfort that I would feel from my brachial artery being compressed would far outweigh any “slimming” effect from the garment.

This is marketed to tell me that my arms aren’t good enough, that I shouldn’t like them, but that I could like them if only I bought something to make them appear slimmer. The whole concept is just ridiculous when you spell it out like that, doesn’t it?

Yes, I do wear make up and do my hair (occasionally), and generally try to look presentable when out in public. I’m not saying that all women should be unshaved, un-groomed and makeup free, but there is a line there. I do not wear a mask of makeup to make myself appear to be what society wants me to be, I wear a little bit of makeup because I think it plays up my eyes a little bit. And you know what? I like my eyes. And it’s okay to say that.

love yourself

I am not saying that I’m anywhere near ideal or perfect, but since when in life are we all supposed to be striving for perfection? As women, I think we’re expected to constantly put ourselves down, to agree that we hate our thighs when one of our fellow femmes complains about hers. But you know what? I like my thighs too.

Imagine that — a woman who likes her thighs. Yes, I have cellulite, no I don’t have a thigh gap, but I still like my thighs. They are mine, and they are powerful, and I appreciate them. So ladies, it’s okay to like yourself, believe it or not. It’s okay to talk about yourself in a positive light, and it’s okay to not give in to the latest marketing scheme that’s trying to tell you that this is NOT okay.

And you know what? It’s also okay if you aren’t quite there today–  it takes time to truly like yourself, especially if you’ve spent years doing just the opposite. As long as you are committed to treating your body with positivity and compassion, in time you will come around to appreciate all that your body does, even though it’s not perfect. In time, you too will come to like yourself. At some point, when another female who isn’t quite there yet will complain to you about X body part of hers. And you will smile warmly, and say “You know what? I actually like my “X”. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine”.

And maybe in that moment, you’ll inspire another woman to like herself too.

Because liking yourself is okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re self-centered or narcissistic  and it doesn’t mean that you think you’re better than those around you.

Liking yourself simply means that you accept your body and your self for what you are. Even during those times that you’re working to improve or change yourself, you’re doing it out of love and acceptance for your body, rather than hate.

I’m not perfect — I am currently working at getting stronger and faster. But I like myself, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that I’m complacent, or lazy, or not working towards goals. It just means that the change that I’m working towards comes from a place of positivity.

I don’t work to better myself because I hate myself, I work to better myself because I like myself, and I know that I deserve to be the best version of me that I can be.  And that is more than okay, that is the best of both worlds. Progress plus positivity? It’s a powerful combination.

Readers: Tell me something that you like about yourself in the comments — and get more comfortable telling others too. The more that women start to like ourselves, the less silly things like “compression arm sleeves” will be made and marketed at us! 

Deload Week: What, When, Why

If you follow any sort of strength training or fitness regimen, hopefully you’ve at least heard the term “deload” thrown around at some point. What you may not know though, is what does deload mean, and how does it pertain to your plan and your goals?

Last week was a deload for me, so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about this part of training. It’s the part of training that’s not glamorous or sexy, and it’s not going to give you any bragging rights. But what it will give you is a refreshed and recovered body, ready to take on your next training session with a vengeance.

What is a deload week?

To put it simply, a deload period is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a time to reduce the loads and stresses that you’re putting your body under, in order to let your muscles, connective tissue, and CNS recover from all of the demands of training. We’ve all heard it before, but it’s true that your muscles don’t necessarily get stronger in the gym, they get stronger during recovery. And unfortunately, a simple day off every once in a while isn’t enough to let that happen. Extended recovery time can happen in a multitude of ways, depending on what your training has been like and how your body is feeling overall. There are a few different ways to go about this:

  • Decrease Intensity/Volume: For instance, if you follow an upper/lower split strength training program, you will keep your same lift days intact, but train under much lower load than normal. This generally means decreasing the weights lifted, decreasing sets and reps, and just generally doing less. This is not a time to push your max, and I honestly try to keep loads of the big lifts at around 50-60% of my max during a de-load period. I use this time to really groove my movement patterns, still allowing my body to work through the full range of motion, while placing it under much less stress than normal.
  • Cross Train: Depending on what your normal training regimen is, you can use a deload period to allow your body some new movements. If you’re a distance runner, you could spend a few days in the pool or on a bike, still allowing your body to exercise but with little to no high-impact activity. The same can be true for weight lifters. This past week, instead of hitting the weight room, I did a couple of light jogs and some kettle bell work. This felt good to me and kept my body moving, but was much less stressful for my CNS than heavy deadlifts and hip thrusters. You could also spend this time on activities that will nourish and enhance your movement patterns, such as yoga, leaving cardio and the weight room out of the equation entirely.
  • Do nothing: I don’t mean “do nothing” as in lay on the couch all week, but there are some times when it’s necessary to take a short break from exercise all together. It can be hard for some people to accept this, but sometimes life just takes a toll on us, and exercise is just another form of stress that’s weighing us down. Taking easy daily walks, meditating, stretching and daily foam rolling are great ways to take care of your body when you really need a true, do-nothing, deload.

When should you take a deload week?

Like many things in the fitness world, this all depends. Many people have them scheduled into their training programs, building a recovery week in after every 4-6 weeks of training. This is a great way to ensure that you’re giving your body the rest and recovery time that it needs to perform at it’s highest level, and is a great way to ensure that you aren’t over-training. People who train at a much higher intensity will need to do this more often, while people who train at a lower intensity can generally get away with going longer in between (6-12 weeks, depending on your training style).

If you don’t have a program written out for you though, how do you know when you your body needs a little bit of a break? You could just write it on a calendar and schedule them yourself, but you could also just do a little listening to your body. If you’ve been training for 4 weeks straight (or more), and you start to notice any of the following, a deload might be in order for your health.

  • Unusual fatigue* – If you find yourself unusually tired all the time, not being able to make it through workouts, or just feeling generally run down, it may be time for a break.
  • Persistent soreness:  Yes, when you first begin a workout program, you will probably be sore at first. But contrary to what some believe, you should not be sore all the time from your workouts, and you certainly shouldn’t have lingering soreness for days after a routine or lighter session. Last week, my legs were sore all week, despite keeping my lifting numbers relatively low. This told me that I needed a break, even though I didn’t have a deload scheduled!
  • Injury – I hope this one is obvious, but if you’re battling an injury that won’t improve, please take some time off. There can be a fine line between training hard and training too hard, and an injury can tip you over that line pretty quickly.

Does it have to be a full week?

The short answer here is no. If you train at a high intensity 4+ days per week, I would recommend a full week of recovery time. But if you train at a lower intensity, or only work out 2-3 days per week in general, you could probably get away with 3-5 days off instead of a full week.

This can also take some tweaking at different times too; just because you took 3 days off a month ago and felt great, you still might need a whole week this time around. Please listen to the things your body tells you, you are the only one who lives there. I can tell you that you need 3 days of deload, but if you get to day 3 and your legs are telling you that you need at least one more day, than that’s what you need to do.

Hopefully this helped some of you figure out how to work a deload period into your training program, if you don’t already include it on a regular basis. As I mentioned, after feeling overly sore and tired lately, I spent last week just doing a couple of easy jogs, some kettle bell work, and just walking a lot on a regular basis. My legs feel refreshed, my overall energy level is back up, and I can’t wait to get back into the weight room for my deadlift day tomorrow.

*Please also be aware that unusual fatigue and persistent soreness/pain can be indicative of something other than too much training. If you’re concerned about your health and things don’t improve with some time away from the weight room, please see your physician for a check up. Know your body!

Vacation Workout Quickies

If you are a fellow Bostonian, can I get a HELL YEAH for the weather this week? Finally some sun, temps into the 40s and 50s, and a reassurance that we may get out of this winter alive (and sane) after all. I know I can’t be the only one who has been basking in the sun for the last few days. I’ve made a point to get off the train a couple stops early just to walk more, and even made it out for a beautiful 4 mile run along the Charles River on Wednesday. Since I hadn’t run outside since the fall, I wasn’t sure how things would go for these old legs. But honestly I think the pure joy of sunlight took over, and it was a pretty blissful experience! The juxtaposition of the snowy views and the warm sun on my back didn’t hurt either. There really is a lot of beauty in our daily lives that we can miss if we’re not paying attention!

Ok, off my little Vitamin-D filled soapbox about appreciating the little things. Today’s post is inspired by the fact that although the warmer temps and sun this week have been encouraging, I’m well aware that we’re not in the clear yet. It’s only the beginning of March, and I’m sure Mother Nature has her own ideas about when she’ll actually let us fully thaw for spring.

Because we’ve still got some cold to go, most people I know are either in the middle of or planning a tropical vacation right about now, hence why today I’m giving you a couple of workout quickies. I know that when I’m on vacation, I still like to get a good sweat going on most days, but I don’t want to spend all of my time in the gym when I could be enjoying the beach. So whether you’re heading to a tropical resort, or just looking for a couple quick workouts for some busy days, here you go!

These are actually two quick workout circuits that I did while on my Honeymoon in December. This view from the resort gym made it easy to get things done, but all in all each of these will only take 20-30 minutes, depending on how tough you make them. The other good thing is that they both require very little equipment, just a treadmill for one and a dumbbell or kettelbell for the other. So even if your resort gym (or home gym) isn’t fully equipped, you can still get some good work in!

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Just to be clear, you are first completing 10 reps of the burpees and squats, then 9, then 8, and on all the way to 1 each. As the graphic says, try to take as little rest as possible and complete this for time. To make this workout harder, start the pyramid at 15 instead of 10 — this sounds a lot easier than it actually is if you’re working hard! Additionally, use a little bit more weight on your goblet squats if you want more of a challenge, or make the push-ups traditional, and not incline.

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As much as I don’t love treadmill work, I actually really loved doing this workout. Make sure you get a good warm up in before your sprints though, in order to avoid muscle strains or other injury. Make sure to go all out on the incline sprints, and set the incline at a level that is challenging for you. I think I did these at a 10% incline. In the “recover” aspect of the treadmill work, you are simply standing on the sides of the treadmill, NOT incline walking. If you are not accustomed to treadmill intervals in this manner, be very careful getting on and off the belt — use the hand rails!

The floor work is pretty self explanatory. To make this workout harder, take only 1 min rest between the treadmill and floor sessions. To make it easier, take 3-5 min rest.

Readers: Do any of you have tropical vacations coming up? What types of workouts do you typically do on vacation? 

New Balance and Barry’s Bootcamp

A few weeks ago, I arrived home to a glorious surprise on my doorstep. Unbeknownst to me, New Balance was (is) pairing up with Kate Spade Saturday to create a line of fun, funky sneakers that can take you to the gym, around town on a Saturday, or anywhere in between. When I opened the box, I was excited to find a handwritten note about the product, as well as these beauties right here:

New Balance NBxKSS

Needless to say, after the winter we’ve had, the burst of yellow was akin to some MUCH needed sunshine in my life. Also in the box was an offer to try out a Barry’s Bootcamp class here in Boston. You may remember I’ve tried one of these before with New Balance, and it totally kicked my ass.

Today, I just want to talk a little bit about the class and the shoes, and what I love about them both!

The Class

I was trying to figure out a time to go with some other Boston bloggers, but with my weirdo work schedule, it just wasn’t going to work out. I ended up going solo to a weekday morning “butt and legs” class, which I was equally excited and nervous for. If you remember, the first Barry’s class I went to had been after work, and training after work for me has always been deathly difficult. Going before work, plus going to a butt and legs class would hopefully make this time around a little bit better.

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Class setup. You can see the treadmills on the left, and floor section on the right.

The class was taught by Sarah, and was super high intensity and high energy throughout. Barry’s classes are split into floor work and treadmill work, alternating between the two. There were a lot of incline sprints, lunges, squats, and burpees, and at the end of it I was dead, but in a good way. I would say the hardest part was the “manual” mode on the treadmills, when the power was turned off and we were pushing the belts under our own power. With the manual power, running at a 4.0 felt like a hill sprint, and left me totally gassed.

It was helpful my second time around to know what to expect with the treadmill work, but that didn’t make it any easier! If you’re looking for a high intensity workout to add to your routine, I definitely recommend checking out a Barry’s Bootcamp in your area.

Barrys Bootcamp

Sweaty post-class pic with Sarah — Thanks for a great class! 

The Shoes:

Can I say enough about these shoes? I love them. The color is fantastic and fun, and they are seriously comfortable. I will admit that I was skeptical to run in them at Barry’s, because my feet/legs tend to be very picky about what shoes I run in, but it ended up going just fine and they felt great. I don’t think I would run in these long distance, but for a class, they offered the perfect amount of support.

Barrys Bootcamp 2

Not only are they comfortable and supportive, but they’re definitely cute enough to wear around for a casual “Saturday” (hehe, get it?) or any day! I have received so many compliments on these shoes every time I wear them.  And trust me, it’s hard for me to find sneakers that I want to wear around on a regular basis. I have a hard time finding sneakers that I feel work with casual, non-athletic outfits. These work. They are cute and casual, and low profile enough to not feel like you’re wearing big clunky sneakers (does anyone else feel clunky when they wear sneakers with jeans, or is that just me?).

There are a couple different models of the New Balance Kate Spade Saturday, the WX711 (what I have) and the WX811.  These are limited edition shoes, so if you want a pair I’d snag them now! However, if you can’t get your hands on one of the NBxKSS styles, New Balance does have the 711 and 811 outside of the limited edition KSS, which are available now.

Here’s a little bit of information on each one to help you make your decision. :)

811
“For spring 2015, New Balance introduces a new fitness trainer for women in which science meets style: the 811. Inspired by Kinesiology taping techniques and the aesthetic it creates, the 811 provides bonded lightweight, strategically-positioned support for athletes. The versatile shoe can take women from studio and circuit training to cardio workouts without sacrificing style. The full CUSH+ midsole provides lightweight cushioning, and Fantom Tape technology enhances the mesh upper to deliver dynamic support to move with the foot.”

711
“The WX711 features Cush+ technology, providing one of the softest midsole foams offered by New Balance designed to comfortably take you through your whole workout, whether in the gym or the studio. But its extra softness doesn’t mean sacrificing durability. Cush+ is responsive, offering extra bounce to help keep you moving. Forefoot flex grooves enhance flexibility, enabling you to move freely, while a minimal upper construction provides a contoured fit.”

So there you have it, great shoes, great class, I couldn’t ask for more! I want to send HUGE Thank You to New Balance and to Barry’s Bootcamp for their generosity. Now, I’m off to brighten the world a little bit in my NBxKSS kicks!

New Balance NBxKSS 2

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, although I did receive a pair of NBxKSS sneakers as well as a complimentary Barrys Bootcamp Class. All opinions, as always, are my own. 

The Biggest Lie In Women’s Fitness

As a blogger, I am extremely fortunate to be contacted by many fitness studios, brands, and other things fitness related to try out their products, classes, etc. I normally love these offers, and even when something is not necessarily in my wheelhouse, I’ll usually give it a try, unless it’s something that I do not feel comfortable supporting on my blog.

However, recently I was contacted by a new fitness studio about giving one of their classes a try. I’m not going to specify here, because I’m not here to make any enemies, I just want to get my point across. Anyway, this particular studio described their class to me in the email. And I’ll admit, they had me for most of it. I was just about to click “Reply” and write, “I’d love to try it out!” when one of the last lines of the email stood out like a sore thumb.

Our classes help to create lean, elongated muscles, they said.

Wait, what?

 I’m open to trying different types of fitness classes. I’m not so stuck in the weight room that I can’t see the rest of the fitness world out there. But when you flat out lie in your marketing to women about your product, that’s where I draw the line. There is no class or fitness routine that will elongate your muscles — that is actually physically impossible.

If your class is something that gets women off their couch and gets them moving and having a good time, that’s wonderful, and I’m all for it. But it’s these lies that get to me and make me question your product. Why are we perpetuating the myth that women should work out to create “lean, elongated” muscles? Why are we not teaching women the truth, that if they want to appear more defined, they must build muscle and lose body fat. And if they want those muscles to appear longer than they already are, than the only option there is, quite frankly, to get new parents.

It’s this lie that keeps women paying for these fantasy fitness classes, even when they’re not developing the ballerina’s body they’ve always dreamed of. Scientifically speaking, the length of ones muscles is determined strictly by genetics, and cannot be changed over time into a longer, leaner form.  Do you know why ballerinas have the long, thin bodies that they do? Genetics. Trust me, years of plie squats will never turn my legs into dancers legs, and I know that because it’s pure science. Some woman who is promised “long, lean” muscles who dreams of that dancer’s body? She may believe that that can be achieved by certain classes because she does get an awfully good burn by doing endless reps of leg raises. But what happens when she never achieves this look — has she failed, because she can not recreate her genes into a thin dancer’s body? Of course not, but she may not know that.

ballet

[Source] Sorry, but this body type is NOT possible unless you were born with it. 

I recently had a conversation with a local fitness instructor who told me that most of the women that come to her classes only want to do body weight exercises, because those are what they think are going to give them the body that they want. Should this instructor continue giving her clients what they want, even though those desires are built upon the “long and lean” myth of women’s fitness? It’s a tough call, especially when you consider that because there are plenty of classes out there pushing this myth, going against the grain could potentially cause this instructor to lose paying clients.

So I guess the question is, are fitness studios just savvy marketers for using the key words that women want to hear — lean, long, sculpt, and tone? I, for one, believe that it’s not smart, but deceptive, and there is a huge disservice being done here. Women’s fitness should not be built upon lies, it should be built upon positivity, motivation, and reality. Women need to know that they will not develop a long, lean dancer’s body just by going to certain types of classes, just as they won’t turn into hulked out body builders by going to other types of classes.

Women need to be taught that the Tracy Anderson’s of the world are frauds, and that their legs will not become too big from spin class, nor will they become bulky from lifting heavier than 5 lbs.

This all being said, I just want to be clear here. There are many types of classes out there that are so far outside of what I normally do for fitness. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad, or that they’re not worthwhile, there are just certain things that I feel are more beneficial and more fun for me. When something comes across my inbox, I’m not usually one to poo-poo it just because it’s different, or because it’s not my go-to fitness method — I’m certainly not of the mindset that everyone out there has to be following the same routine in order to be fit. Heck, I’ll try a Zumba class if it’s offered to me, mostly because I just want to dance! It’s the lies and the wrong information that I have a problem with — feeding into women’s fitness myths through shady marketing is not the way to help women become healthier.

Buzz words aside, women deserve realistic expectations of how their bodies can change and what their bodies can do. There have been some amazing campaigns lately, such as the Like A Girl from Always, I Will What I Want from Under Armour, Be More Human from Reebok, and my personal favorite, This Girl Can. These are the types of marketing campaigns that truly show us what women’s bodies are capable of, and that show us that there is so much more to fitness than creating impossibly elongated muscles. Luckily, I think these are the future of women’s fitness, we just need to get more fitness studios to realize that there is so much more to a quality workout than creating a slim aesthetic.

Readers: Are you more attracted to classes that promise a long, lean look? What is it about a fitness class that attracts you to it? If you don’t really do classes, what types of fitness marketing appeal to you more– Aesthetic or performance based?