Tuesday, September 27th, 2011...11:02 am

Exercising and Body Image

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By Mary Greathouse

Twice a semester, all the group fitness instructors and personal trainers gather together in the conference room and relinquish two of their precious free hours on a Sunday to continue their education. These presentations cover a variety of material, ranging from reviewing the basics of nutrition to learning how to use the newest fitness tools. I’m going to be honest: I don’t normally look forward to them. Sure, it’s good to review and our bosses provide free coffee from Wawa, but those are two hours I could spend studying (read: facebook stalking). However, I was intrigued when I saw our first one this semester was about body image, and the presentation did not disappoint! The discussion that stood out most to me focused on why people exercise.

Think about it – why do you exercise? Is it because you love how refreshed and energized you feel afterward? Or are you trying to sweat off those last five pounds? Maybe it’s a punishment for eating dessert last night? Be it weight loss, muscle gain, or a way to make up for having eaten something, most people go to the gym to change how they look. The root of the reasoning is that, at present, their body isn’t good enough. We’re unsatisfied with our appearance, and we turn that negativity into a dreaded workout. This is such a negative thought to associate with such a healthy and vital activity. Now, let’s be clear – I am not judging this sentiment nor am I saying that I’ve never fallen into this category. However, taking BODYPUMP classes changed that for me.

The first time I ever took a BODYPUMP class, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. For those of you who don’t know, BODYPUMP is a high repetition barbell work out that uses ten tracks to work every muscle in your body. Needless to say, it was a challenging work out. I barely made it through that first class! But as I stretched out during the cool down, I was overwhelmed by how proud I was of myself for completing the work out – it was this amazing boost to my self-esteem as I realized just how much my body was capable of. After that, the dialogue of my workouts changed. I couldn’t go back to the negative “I need to change” motivation because I was so grateful to my body for getting me through those classes. I couldn’t hate my body and how it looked anymore. Instead of exercising to change what I didn’t like, I began to exercise to challenge myself, to go up in weights, to run farther, and to keep improving. I started to leave the gym feeling more capable and confident, rather than overwhelmed by how much I needed to do to fix how I looked.

I think, ultimately, that’s why I became a BODYPUMP instructor. In BODYPUMP, I found a way to appreciate my body exactly the way it was and I wanted to help other people find that same appreciation. But whether it’s BODYPUMP, running a marathon, hiking a difficult trail, or achieving other goals, I think it’s so important that we each strive to find a way to motivate ourselves that isn’t so negative. Our bodies are our home; they get us through the wear and tear of day-to-day life and protect us. Its time to put an end to our self-loathing and to start appreciating how lucky we all are to have strong, healthy bodies, no matter how they look.

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