I knew it would happen. It was inevitable really. As a member of the fitness industry, I assumed that eventually body image would become "a thing" that I was drawn into. After all, the fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is largely focused on looking fit, chiseled abs, and thigh gaps. In recent years, there have been improvements and progress to have a more diverse range of bodies represented but we still have work to do.
The other day in my post, I made a random comment about wondering if my body is right for the fitness industry and I was really interested in the comments that rolled in. For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable with my body. I understand it. I know it. I am honest with myself when I need to cut back on the treats. I know when I need to bulk up on calories when I am marathon training and historically, have dropped lbs. Most of the time, I don't obsess over my size. Every once in a while, I'll think about what would happen to my abs if I quit eating ice cream. But then after dinner, I say "screw it," cookies and cream ice cream is delicious. I have a pretty healthy relationship with my body and food.
It started last week with a few simple things. A meeting at the gym led to discussions of fitness videos and ensuring the trainers had the "right look" for the videos. Immediately I wondered if I fit this image. In my head, I assumed not, thinking about my thicker thighs and less than perfectly sculpted abs. And then a client asked if I had played soccer. I told them "no" and tried to put it out of mind. Deep down, I knew the question was an inquiry into my thicker (read: strong) legs. It stung a bit. I'm not ever going to be a leggy girl. It's just not my build.
When I think about my legs, I don't usually worry about their size. Instead I worry about what's going on inside. Are my quads strong enough to support my creaky knee? Are my hamstrings smooth and long, instead of adhesion-filled knots? These legs have carried me countless miles. They have helped me hike technically challenging trails. They have pushed off thousands of pool walls. They helped me leap off the blocks at swim meets. They have carried me across four marathon finish lines.
And then there are abs and the ever-present photos of abs that often surface in the fitness industry either as motivation or progress photos. In the last year, I have developed my own set of baby abs. I don't really bare them much unless I am in a bathing suit. I have to work really hard for them. My mid-section tends to be the spot where any excess fluff collects. So when my baby abs start to pop out, I feel psyched. But they're not Jillian Michaels-quality abs. They are Christine Suter abs. And in all honesty, I'm pretty stoked to see them peeking out these days. They remind me that I am getting strong and lean.
When the topic of fitness bodies or runner bodies surfaces, I can usually count on my circle of friends to come to a quick and simple consensus - there isn't one body type that represents fitness (or running). And I agree, 110%. It isn't about being a size two, having ripped abs or a big thigh gap. As a trainer, I would much rather see a client improve basic health metrics like blood pressure, BMI, lean body mass, and waist to hip ratio than get down to a size two. So I guess it's time to apply this logic to myself, yes?
I've spent several days pondering this and have arrived at my own thoughts on what having a "fitness body" means.
- Possessing endurance
That sounds pretty generic, doesn't it? Well in some ways it is. I don't really believe being fit is about having a specific look. Some people are blessed with a predisposition for slender legs while others are blessed with dense muscle fiber making muscle definition easier to attain. At the end of the day, if someone is an appropriate weight, and seeks opportunities to enhance their physical well-being, they're good, right?
- Why aren't more gyms and fitness trainers embracing body positivity? from Well+Good
- Yoga Bodies discussion from Well+Good
- Fitness Professionals: Do you Feel Pressured to Maintain 'The Look'? from Fitknitchick
- The Fitness Industry: Does it REALLY pressure you to look a certain way? from LAQFitness
So tell me, what does the term fitness body mean to you? How do you define fitness in a physical context...or do you?