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The pressure on women to ‘look good’ means that most women’s reasons for exercising are weight loss or a slim figure! If you aim for fitness instead, wouldn’t the rest follow?
Recently, I joined Fusion Yoga classes. It is a routine which includes yoga, power yoga, pilates, aerobics and other variations of exercise. Basically, it seemed like a different format of exercising, apart from the usual jogging that I did four days a week.
When I went for the first trial session, my instructor, an enthusiastic lady, put forth a pertinent question– “So Anusha, why do you want to join these classes?”
I replied that I had two primary reasons. “Firstly, I needed to set right my morning schedule and was sick of waking up way beyond sunrise. Hence, I expect that that these morning classes will instill disciple in me… somewhere pushing me out of my comfort zone!”
I looked at her. She had a strange expression, almost like that of a ‘sceptic’! She anxiously prodded me– “What is the second reason?” I replied “Fitness. That was it. A productive activity before I could leave for my workplace.”
I looked at her again. This time she had a wide smile. She exclaimed, almost with a sigh of relief – “90% of my clients, who are young girls with no weight issues really, come here with the motive of ‘weight loss’ first and thereafter anything else, if at all. So your reasons are a refreshing change indeed!”
Now I know exactly what she meant! I have noticed in the past two weeks that a couple of girls, slimmer than me by the way, and who were not in the field of modelling or any such related industry, would check their weight each time they entered the studio pre-workout and each time they left from the studio post-workout!
Anyways, at the time I said thank you and immediately turned to see myself in the full length mirror of her studio. I obviously did not have a Priyanka Chopra figure! I could of course afford to lose couple of kilos here and there. However, I have always known inherently, that my goal of exercising cannot be ‘to lose weight’ – it has to be ‘to get fitter’! And there is sea of difference between the two expressions!
Being fit is far more important to me than being of an x number of kilograms. Weight is not an indicator of the ‘fitness’ of your body. Even thin people can be surprisingly unfit! In any case, I believe that losing weight is but a natural fallout of a fitness routine.
At this point, I must clarify that I am no certified health expert! However, my common sense tells me that if a person’s weight is within the BMI (body mass index) range, which is a pretty liberal range, the inspiration for exercising must arise from striving for a fit body that has stamina and power rather than seeing descending numbers on the weighing scale!
Yes – there is no denying that it is relevant to know the numerical figure on the weighing scale. However, obsession with the same is dangerous.
Firstly, it simply kills the joy out of the total exercise experience. It makes you stressed out, and upset about not attaining that ‘goal’ figure. It is actually a very myopic view of exercise. While one must have attained a new level of flexibility on a particular day in a back stretch, it would have, unfortunately, gone unnoticed because the entire mind space is occupied by a target ‘double digit on the machine’!
And that is truly sad. Exercise is a blissful activity! It can be supremely enjoyable, sometimes liberating too – as it declutters the mind and releases toxins from the body and mind, both – provided one exercises with the right attitude!
And secondly, obsession with the numerical figure on the weighing scale also reflects psychological discomfort with one’s own body. I must say this – our body is our temple. It must be loved and worshipped. But if we keep struggling to turn it into what it is not, it will only cause lack of confidence, a poor sense of worth and unnecessarily falling victim to the race for perfect ‘body image’. My simple take on this is – if we don’t respect our own body, how can we expect anyone else to respect it?
To put things in perspective, let me share a completely contrasting situation. Since my Fusion Yoga does not happen on the weekends, I decided to hit Joggers Park. After I was done with 8 kilometers of jogging, I struck a conversation with one of the joggers, a man in his late forties. I had noticed him because I was very impressed with the serious dedication with which he was executing his entire exercise routine. Out of curiosity, I asked him what inspired him to put in so much effort in his exercise. His reply simply blew me over.
He said – “I have three reasons: Number 1 – Exercising makes me feel alive. It is like meditation. I focus on every single breath I take, the sound of my heart beat and the sweat oozing from pores all over my body! Number 2 – It is free of cost! And number 3 – I am ensuring that I am never physically dependent on my children in my old age.”
As I sat down and pondered over his reasons, it struck me, and rather saddened me, as to how easily women are motivated only by the ‘the outward physical look’ of the body. The driving force to exercise is usually cosmetic…aesthetics, and hardly ever the achievement of ‘strength’ – physical and mental.
This of course has roots in how women have been perceived in our society since time immemorial. Media, advertisements, posters in gymnasiums – all of it has a tinge of ‘sexiness’ attached to a well-toned body of a woman as a result of her exercising. It is hardly ever seen from the prism of becoming stronger than before! And that is how women tend to perceive themselves too.
My point is that beauty is good. No doubt. An enviable figure is also very good. But – an enviable figure ‘alone’ is not at all good! Because, the latter can last only for so long… but fitness is forever! Exercising solely to attain those dream dimensions of the body parts robs one of all the benefits that exercise actually has to offer! Trust me, the figure will follow anyways!
So girls, ladies and women of all ages – Please exercise for the ‘sake of exercising’. It is going to give you far more happiness and will be way more fruitful in the long run. All that is required is a mindshift!
Image source: unsplash
Anusha Singh is a writer, public speaker and lawyer. Master of Laws from Delhi University
Excellent perspective! I am sure this will put every woman thinking about why they exercise and hopefully bring about mindshift.
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