In just over a weeks’ time, I will officially be excommunicated.
Okay – that’s dramatic. And completely out of context. (What a surprise!) Let me explain.
I’ve just realised that for the first time in something like eight years I will not have a valid gym membership.
Now, you might read that and think “So what?” If you do, awesome, move on to Question 2.
But I can guarantee that there are a lot of people that might also think “Where will you go now?”
I used to be one of them. Actually, until I remembered last week that my current membership would be up for renewal, I didn’t realise I was still one of them.
Deep in the seats of the congregation, I used to think that to be in control of my body and my health and my size and, therefore, my life I must be a member of a gym. And I must go there (nearly) daily to praise or punish my body; depending on the good deeds or sins it had done in the days before each visit.
It was one of my ten commandments, if you will: Thou shall maintain an attachment to a gymnasium or else suffer loss of control.
So, In the dead of night when I woke up and realised that my devotion to the current house of worship would need to be renewed in a big ceremony (i.e. – me handing over another 500 bucks for a year) I started to think a little more about it all and suddenly had this weird question rise up from the depth of my tummy (You know the spot... that part of your body where your gut talks to you? Your sacred intuition altar)
What if I don’t go back again?
At first I dismissed this voice straight away. Don’t be ridiculous, I thought. Surely that girl talking was one who did NOT know what it meant to be a good little disciple. I wouldn’t get caught up with her and I should probably go and do an extra spin class this week for even entertaining the idea.
But the thought wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t help resisting the idea of going in and signing up again. I thought I’d maybe try a few other gyms first and see what they had to offer this little lost lamb. I scored a couple of free passes to the much-flashier club closer to home but not even the allure of their sauna and steam room could wash me of my dirty thoughts.
I just don’t think I wanna join a gym for another year.
Eventually I sat down to pray (to myself. It’s called meditation, check it out!) And ask for some guidance.
What I realised, with a bit of a rebellious giggle, is that I’ve kind of outgrown the cult.
Woah Woah...did she just use the C word?
* Quick disclaimer* the point of this post is NOT to say that all gyms are cults. Helllo...Personal Trainer over here! I teach Bootcamp, functional strength and circuit classes and I coach (the most fabulous) running clients! I’ve worked in a few gyms and, Lord knows, I’ve worked out in more of them! I value exercise, a lot, actually. I believe it’s vital for your health and happiness and I think the physical benefits of it are just a slither of what it can do for your overall quality of life.
What I’m trying to do, via all these vaguely religious metaphors, is highlight the fact that this is all-too-often what happens in our culture when we are baptised-and-chastised from such a young age with the idea that we cannot trust ourselves when it comes to our body. That if we don’t exercise in a certain way, or a certain place or even at a certain time of day...we are not doing it ‘right.’ And when we don’t do it the right way, we better pull out our cash and repent, repent, repent...
The diet and fitness industry WANTS you to feel confused and lost and like you don’t know what to do with yourself. They actually need you to think that without a gym membership, or a 10 day detox, or an app that tracks it all for you, you’d fall into damnation. That’s how they earn their money. It’s not a crime. It’s not unjust. It’s not even personal. It’s just business.
So, channel that inner rebellious girl for a second and ask yourself: Who the hell makes up these rules?
Who says you HAVE to be sweaty mess, or must workout for at least an hour for it to count?
Who says you HAVE be inside a gym lifting heavy on the legs twice a week, pushing chest, abs and back three times and flogging out some High Intensity Interval cardio in between?
Who says that every session HAS TO BE harder, heavier, longer or faster than the last time?
These rules and restrictions are honest (to God) just the residual junk that gets left in our brain after we’ve heard all the stuff there is to hear about “the best way to get lean/healthy/fit/skinny/toned/ shredded/ripped/yada-yada-yada.” Every time we pick up a magazine, watch a TV segment or get suckered into to a body-bashing conversation in the work tea room, we get left with another version of what we SHOULD be doing because so-and-so told me so...
There is no ONE deity that makes up these rules. Seriously. There isn’t some wispy white clad version of Michelle Bridges and Commando Steve sittin’ up the top of the health and fitness clouds casting their watchful eye over you. (for any non-Aussies playing, Michelle and Steve are our version of television fitness ‘gurus.’ I have nothing against them. I just used it as a funny visual!)
Who says your version of exercise for the day can’t be dancing around to the Dreamgirls soundtrack in your undies with a Turbie Towel on your head to mimic a Diana Ross beehive?! Dunno about you but I’m yet to try a Zumba class that good! And hey – if you wanted to add some resistance, you could always go down to K-mart and pick up a $10 dumbbell for your microphone! (Now, how’s that for a funny visual!)
Let me ask you this.
How often do you see older people simply just walking in the morning?
(I’m aware that’s a generalisation and I’m not about to get into a debate about ageism or whatever. But look around. Old people are always out walkin’ #FACT.)
Now, ask them what they do to keep fit, or how they keep well. Are they doing crossfit or are they a yogi? Do you use My Fitness Pal? Where to they train at? What was their last Parkrun PB?
“Oh, love. I get up and I just do my walk every morning. Down to get the paper, or put my lotto numbers in. On Thursdays I meet Betty for a coffee and a muffin and then we go to line dancing.”
So. Freaking. Uncomplicated
I praise these kind of people. I absolutely admire them. Because they just weave physical activity into their day (I understand retirees have more time to play with) and they move on. But they do it consistently because it keeps them happy. In my eyes, these people are the true saints of the fitness world...
Fitness is an INTRINSIC measurement. And it’s a piece of your relationship with your body. That’s it. It aint got anything to do with the club you’re signed up with (or whether you’re a member of a club at all) or the denomination you follow, or the way you choose to worship.
Any good PT can tell you that fitness is about how quickly your body recovers AFTER a period of intensity NOT about where you do the work. If you move your body (however you want) and can recover well enough to go about your day and move again some more tomorrow – you’ve been blessed with the miracle of fitness!
So, ask yourself WHO you are honouring when you work out? Yourself or the person making these arbitrary rules? And then ask yourself to put a face to the person making the rules. If you can, I can pretty much guarantee it’s someone you have handed money to, be it explicitly or not. Figure out what you value about exercise first and THEN vote with your dollar. If you love the gym environments then cut loose, join away and take no prisoners. If you like socialising, team work, meeting new people and camaraderie, sure - join a team, or a club or a Bootcamp group (shameless plug here, If you’re on the Central Coast – I know a good one!) But if you don’t have access to these things, or don’t want to join a gym – fear not – you actually don’t have to!
Trust yourself. Know that you have got what it takes to design your own perfect approach to exercise. You know how to get your heart rate up and you know how to stretch a bit. You really do.
You can do it in 15 minutes or 50. You are allowed to do yoga AS a workout, and not just as a relaxation activity. You are allowed to do 10 push ups here and 10 squats there throughout the course of the day, when you get a chance and when you feel the urge! You are allowed to swim, or go for a walk, or do the gardening as a means of moving your body. You are allowed to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, WITHOUT the fear that you won’t be allowed into the golden gates of health and happiness.
The catch is doing it. Of course, for you to feel the benefits of exercise you have to, well, exercise! But here is where letting go of the “it has to be a certain way” mentality and renouncing the mental junk that gets in the way, allows you to explore and find the approach to exercise that feels amazing to you. And when you find it, it’ll be so easy to devote your time (and, if required, money) to!
In the week that I wasted worrying about ‘turning my back’ on my gym membership, I looked back and realised that I practiced yoga every.single.day.
Because I found a way to make it feel really good. For me that was downloading a podcast that talks me through half an hour of flowing poses, just like I’m in a real class. I woke up and would head straight down stairs where my mat was rolled out for me. I didn’t have to get in the car and get to a certain class at a certain time (so instantly, that was convenient and stress free). I didn’t have to brush my hair or even get out of my pyjamas. I didn’t have to worry about whether I had enough coins in my purse to scrounge out for a casual visit to another studio if I couldn’t get to the gym class, or consider raiding my husband’s rocketship money box in case I was a few bucks short.
And so, with the logistics of getting to a yoga class AND the mental load of worrying about doing things the right way lifted from my shoulders, I actually reaped the benefits of yoga, because I was actually bloody doing it instead of constantly THINKING about doing it.
So, why the hell do I need a gym membership/personal trainer/challenge/detox plan/coach?
If you’ve skim read until now, you’ll know the answer. The truth is you don’t NEED one. You don’t need ANYTHING. You have it all inside you already.
If you find the right style, trainer, venue, class, coach or group for you; it’ll help you learn the safest and most effective form and technique. Chances are they’ll have the bulky equipment and cool stuff to use that you can’t (and don’t want to) store in your spare bedroom! It can get you outta the house, if that’s what you want. It might be a good chance to socialise and it might help you switch into a mentality that just lets you be with your body for a while.
These are just some the numerous benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with simply getting fit/lean/shredded/ripped/toned/transcended into a wispy fitness guru...and they can all be done right there, in the temple that is your own body.
Worship yourself first, the divine wisdom always comes second!
Check out how you can work with me to free yourself from food fear, body hate and the relentless energy roller coaster...from one off sessions to private packages...I’m here to help you make your life delicious, guilt free and full of love!