This link is making the rounds among my FaceBook friends, a lot of whom are singers and into Crossfit, Paleo, and just fitness, plain and simple. (Thanks and props to the inspirational-in-so-many-ways Twyla Robinson). But it really resonates, and ties in with another recent article from none other than the fabulous, intelligent, totally normal person who happens to be a major Hollywood star Ashley Judd. Ms. Judd refuses to sit back and be silent about the media and public trashing her looks and makes a strong case for standing up to society's pervasive misogeny which so insidiously focuses on women's bodies and looks as the wellspring of their worth. Both of these articles are tremendously empowering, and considering all the scary legislation that is currently being proposed and sometimes passed to assert control over women's bodies, quite timely.
I love what Ms. Judd says: "I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself".
And yet, fat people --- especially women, whose bodies are largely considered public property, at least in a popular sense --- frequently do this on a daily basis. It takes a great deal of vigilence to avoid it. I struggle with it constantly. As a woman in her forties (and sadly, I have a really hard time with the aging thing) who is not and never has been actually skinny, who has always felt like an outsider when it came to fashion and beauty and all the media holds up as that to which I should aspire, it is a daily and sometimes hourly battle. And I am not a person who has particularly low self-esteem. My ego, if you hadn't noticed, is probably the most robust part of me. How much harder and discouraging must it be for people who really do have to fight for self-esteem in all areas of their lives?
So, how amazing is this "Celebrate Strong" post from Eileen Schreiber? She's had enough of being bombarded with images of what she calls "SkinnyStrong" women (mostly fitness models and professional fitness competitors) being held up as the ideal representative of her own fitness community (in this case, CrossFit). And for the record, she's not bashing SkinnyStrong women. She just wants people who look like her --- like you and me, complete with jiggly bits, whose abs will only see a sixpack if we hold the Bud Light up in front of them --- to be represented as ambassadors of strength and fitness, too. She calls this RealStrong. And Ms. Schreiber has even issued a call to action: "Post pictures of yourself, of real people you know, and say something uncool like – that fat chick over there motivates me because she is hammering that workout! That chick over there, yeah, thunder thighs over there, just deadlifted 300 lbs. She happens to have 3 kids. That is HOT. Make RealStrong the sexiest, bestest positive thing ever for people like you and me who shine our strength from our hearts, want to share that, and are saying NO to the SkinnyStrong is the New Perfect bullshit that repeats the body image crap we say we have overcome."
Can I get an AMEN?
You know that Rolling Stones song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want (But You Get What You Need)"? (Young'uns, Google it).
Well, today I got what I needed, and once again, it came when I needed it. Today, having girded my loins with my hot pink Fit Club tee shirt and my tie-dye hippie bandana, I headed off to the gym for my first kickboxing class, followed by a TRX suspension class. Two hours of ass-kicking awesomeness, and you may take it from me, all available ass was kicked.
The spirit of this class of women was tremendous. Led by Magda, a tough, muscley little drill sergeant with a heart of gold, I fell in love immediately. The women in this class were mostly regulars, and one of the first things Magda told me (and the two other newbies) was that if you come to class three times, you get a nickname. She introduced the regulars: Shanti, Xena, Mighty Mouse, Hollywood. (I'm probably forgetting someone --- sorry, ladies). They were friendly and helpful, and this class was a group effort. I've never felt so welcome so quickly.
It was hard work but SO MUCH FUN. Talk about empowerment! You're kicking and punching, and in between, doing sets of burpees, squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, and all manner of punishment. You get to hold this big pad, like a shield, and take turns whacking at it, kicking and punching each other across the room. IT IS BADASS. You're a badass for doing it.
And even though I was a newbie, and not in the kind of shape these girls are in, Magda zeroed in on my strengths and encouraged me through my weaknesses. Turns out that P90X Kenpo I've been doing is good practice for a kickboxing class. And turns out, at least according to Magda, I'm pretty strong.
Strong was the word of the day for me. Magda praised me a lot for my strength. (She also tells you when you suck at something, or your effort sucks, and I like that).At one point, she told me I was a rock star. Well, of course I had to correct that impression: I am an OPERA star.
And that's how I got my kickbox class nickname on the first day. Star.
TRX is also a mighty, mighty workout, endlessly varied, and doing it right after kickboxing was fantastic. Most of the class stayed on, and we were joined by some others. Whenyou're not doing body weight resistance work (rows, push-ups, bicep curls, squats, and various things I don't know the names of) you're doing more burpees, planks, push-ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and squats.
I ended up singing for the class while doing bicep curls on the TRX bands (by request of course, I don't just belt it out whenver I feel like it). Turns out one of my classmates is a regular opera goer, and was excited to meet one of the singers. When I left for the day, the instructors clustered around the front desk asked, "Was that you singing in there?" Apparently they could hear me over the music ... well, it was Amneris' curse.
When I started off the workout day, stretching out alone in the studio before anyone else got there, what I was noticing was the undesireable prominence of my gut when I bend over to stretch back and hamstrings, thinking ruefully, "Oh well. Just ignore it. I'm here to get fit, not model underwear."
And when I left, I was noticing how strong I actually am, and thinking, "Now that I'm all pumped up with all that resistance training, maybe I should wear a tank top to rehearsal tonight."
So, yeah. Empowerment. It's kind of awesome. Try it.