“I hate my chest,” I mutter, staring into the mirror. “I must be doing the wrong exercises for my upper chest.”
My other half knows a little something about muscle groups. He shrugs but looks sympathetic. “Well,” he says slowly. “You may want to vary what you’re doing. You may not want to focus so much on pushups and maybe add in some other exercises.”
I stare into the mirror. I do focus an awful lot on pushups. And I probably should vary things up more. “Like what?” I ask. “I don’t want to use weights and if I’m swimming shouldn’t that work out most of my other muscle groups?”
Which makes me sigh. I need to start swimming again. I need to get back into the water.
“You’re putting too much emphasis on your chest,” he says. “Think about it. Swimming is a lot of chest. Push-ups are a lot of chest. You need to involve more back and shoulders and arms.”
“Like how?” I ask again. This is why I gravitate to push-ups. Because they’re easy, there’s no special equipment and it feels like I’m using my arms and back and shoulders.
“Try walkouts, burpees, chair dips and arm raises,” he suggests. “You can still work in some push-ups, but vary which type you do. Do some raised, do some with hands close together, others wide apart.”
I turn away from the mirror. I don’t want to look at myself any more. “Do you think it will really help?” I ask.
“I think your shoulders roll forward because you have a weak back,” my other half says. He’s being as gentle as possible but I still feel like a drooping flower.
And I am. But the affects of aging and mirror frustration are pathetic reasons for working out. Because it’s all about vanity and poor self-image. We all have parts of ourselves we don’t like. For me, it’s my chest. For you, it might be your legs or arms or hair. Or it might be something less noticeable or less specific. But we all have something. And for most of us, it make us feel ugly, self-conscious or inferior.
But those kinds of feelings are not good reasons to work out. Trying to make yourself look better isn’t a good reason to work out. Because as soon as we look a little better, feel a little less self-conscious, we quit. Or we see start comparing our progress to other people and become discouraged when we don’t measure up. Or we fail to see the results we want from our workouts and we give up.
Take all those negative feelings about yourself and get rid of them. Stop staring at your chest or your legs or your tummy or your arms. Stop staring at the scale or staring at your reflection. Stop perusing magazines and websites plastered with photogenic models in peak physical shape. Stop beating yourself up over what you are and how you look. Stop staring, stop comparing, stop obsessing. Just stop it.
Instead, start with love. Love your unique self and care for your body as it is right now. Your body has nutritional needs - so feed it like you love it. Your body needs physical activity, so exercise it like you love it. Your body needs sleep, so rest it like you love it. And your body needs love - so love yourself. You are living in the only body you will ever have - it needs your loving care to thrive.
If you’re like me, it won’t be easy to shut down all the negative feelings and comparisons. It won’t be easy to stop staring critically into the mirror. It won’t be easy to work up love for your unique self. If you’re like me, every time you see that part of yourself you don’t like, you’ll struggle to love it, struggle to get past it.
But don’t give up. Keep on loving. Love yourself enough to examine what you eat and drink and consider its impact on your health. Love yourself enough to find the time for appropriate physical activity, even when you don’t feel like it. And love yourself enough to sleep. Stop looking for results, stop mirror watching. Just keep on loving.
Here are a few steps we can all take, no matter where we are with health today:
- Smile at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning - it’s good practice for smiling at others.
- Drink water throughout the day - your body needs water more than any other liquid. You can even download apps for your phone that will remind you to hydrate.
- Do something physical for at least 5 minutes once per hour - get up, move around, climb a flight of stairs, do a 7-minute workout (there’s an app for that), etc. You pick, just get moving.
- Eat something fresh and raw at every meal - peel an orange, scrape a carrot, dice an apple, grab a salad. Raw, fresh foods contain the best nutritional value and are easy to prepare.
- Pick one night a week to sleep at least 8 hours. Shut off the television, close your laptop, turn off your phone and just sleep.
I hope to make health a regular part of this blog. I’ll share what changes I’m making in my life and what helps me to improve my own health. And I hope you will share too. But this is not a weigh-in club, this is not about calorie-tracking or body-shaming. This is not about weight-loss or getting ripped. This is about love and caring for our bodies in a loving way.
Next time on health, I plan to talk food. Because this is kind of a food blog.