Tis the season that I get to watch incredible humans give their health authority over to fitness freaks.
Yes, I am talking to the incredible human that is YOU. I know you’ve seen an uptick in your sponsored ads over the last few days, with dreamy six packs and die-hard burpee-ers and snazzy leggings. And I KNOW you’ve been like, maybe this year, maybe I’m ready. MAYBE. Which means that you then fall into one of two categories of New Year Strength Finders:
1) For some of you, that “maybe” turns into a secret YES as you click “sign-up” or “join now” and you promise yourself that you’re going to do it right in 2018. And for one solid evening, post kid bedtime shenanigans and during Netflix-plus-chocolate bingeing, you feel a constant drip of excitement. You know that tomorrow is going to be the start of your bright self. That somehow, some way THIS TIME will be different. Yet, you wake up in the morning to a kid with a fever or a sudden work deadline or a partner who has to go out of town or a broken water heater or a bill collector or or or or or or. You fall behind on Day 1 of your fitness challenge and then you go full throttle for three days in a row after that. And then because you believed your super fit instructor that "no pain, no gain" is true, that full throttle effort results in you injuring your shoulder and your big toe. So, then you take a day off because, um, you can't walk or pick up your kids, and another missed day due to injury turns into a week which turns into a month and then suddenly it's Christmas again and you're back at square one, with added pounds and a little more pain in your joints than you thought possible at your age.
2) For others, that “maybe” turns into a secret I SUCK as you continue to scroll through, stalker-like, watching sweaty abs and smooth booties and you remind yourself that you are a lost cause. And for yet another evening, post kid bedtime shenanigans and during Netflix-plus-chocolate bingeing, you feel a familiar sense of regret and if-only. If only I had the energy or the time or the worth, I’d do this. But, 2018 won’t be different because I’ll screw it up ... again. You go to sleep and decide that you hate all things fitness and that instead of getting strong in a way that matters, you're just gonna love your pain the way it is and remember that this is simply a part of getting older and being a mom.
Enough. Right? Enough.
I’m so over this process, this weird human orchestration of the line between fit and the fit-not. And I’m so over us believing that fitness leaders are people to whom we ought to be listening, without first vetting their privilege in regards to access to healthy choices and their knowledge of what the female body truly needs. So, in 2018, instead of falling into this trap, I have one goal for you: Take back your health authority and lend a critical eye to the caregivers of your strength. Find a source and a community that reminds you that strength isn't about appearance or being better, but about you functioning in the ways you choose. FUNCTIONING = STRONG.
Here are five facts you need to know while choosing how to get functional in 2018, a luminous goal that every single mother deserves to maintain and cherish:
- Remember that statistically speaking, 11% of human beings are the sort of people who will naturally meet goals without struggle. This means they will go to the gym, they will get enough sleep, they will stop eating sugar - and they will do all of it without a whole lot of angst. They are pre-programmed for this sort of operating. And, when it comes to the fitness world, most of the leaders we see out there are in that 11%. And most of their before/afters are in that 11%. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take their advice or follow their workouts, but it does mean that when it comes to showing up and getting off your ass, they have a privilege you don’t. And, so, in that regard, I am suggesting that you don’t give them authority over two things: Starting and staying put. They don’t have what you need. So, walk away. Keep looking. Find another authority.
- Most fitness leaders and trends require something that 99.9% of mothers do not have: TIME. They have the privilege of giving a lot of time to the art of getting fit. You do not. And I’m so sick of people saying: “Not having enough time is never an excuse.” This is such an oppressive thing to say to mothers, who, in reality, DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME but will make enough time at the expense of their health and wellbeing (aka, instead of sleeping or seeking rest in other ways). It is not a victimy or whiny thing to admit that you simply do not have enough time, that you don’t even have 15-minutes. For many of us, that admission is pure reality. We’re either working moms, single moms, exhausted moms, moms of multiples, moms with special needs kids, moms who are involved in activities, moms with partners who are never home, MOMS. Reality check: You don’t have enough time. So, stop giving away your authority to fitness folks who have ALL the time.
- Almost all the motivation we need to sustain an effective program of change requires a privilege many moms do not have: Autonomy. I have had enough of missing and chasing autonomy. You know what? My life is not autonomous. Not right now. And nor should it be. I don’t want to continue striving for it and I certainly can no longer subscribe to anything that demands autonomy as a factor for success. All that ends up doing for me is creating a deep well of victim-voice about my life. It makes me resent my kids, resent days when they get sick and need me the most, resent my day-to-day grind as a provider, resent my friends who have more freedom and resources, and resent my choices when I opt for a movie over sweating. So, I am no longer giving away my precious motivation currency to leaders and trends that have a whole lot of room for autonomy.
- Drop the tempting belief that any one person or one trend has the answers you have been seeking. The truth is that everyone is broken, including me and including you. And most incredible teachers are incredible because they are teaching what THEY need to know and they are hungry enough to know that they dedicate their life/career/platform to learning it. Period. However, most shiny fitness people won’t tell you that. They’ll keep selling the notion that they’ve got it all together and their huge PR teams will beg them to keep that act up. The folks who admit it are few and far between and that’s because as a society, we’re afraid of each other’s shadows and, thus, we tend to demonize any fitness leaders the moment they show an ounce of humanness. We’re confused about how someone can be inspiring and be a mess. Someone can be beautiful and broken. Someone can be healthy and unhealthy. I beg us to stop putting people up on pedestals and chasing their golden carrots. Let’s chase the normal carrots of the broken people who are still showing up.
- Don’t get sucked into the idea that you can just jump into doing push-ups and squats and sprints without risk of injury. Anyone who is selling you on a bootcamp or a challenge without including detailed instructions about how to heal and work with your pelvic floor is someone you need to walk away from (with love). Perhaps their privilege is that their body has not yet birthed babies or gone through hugely transformative obstacles to their physicality. It is not their fault and they are not trying to harm you, they simply may not have that focus or scope of expertise. But, I can guarantee that if you blindly dive into their programs, the chances of you getting injured or being in pain are very high ... and, this is a danger zone for women, because instead of blaming the container of the method, we often blame ourselves. It is not your fault. You need a different container of strength training that is specialized for your needs. Find it (it exists, ahem).
So, in 2018, all I care about is that you take back the authority over your health and YOUR reality and choose, with a critical lens, what works for you in a real, measurable way.
You are the knower of your life. And you are the owner of your body. There’s no reason to be upset about why you can’t do something or about how hard motherhood is, instead we can just be proactive and determined about find what serves us. We can say to ourselves, these are the things I can change and these are the things I can’t. And then we can find some room in the space of stuff we can change and we can work in there with our whole hearts and souls.
The truth of this whole post is that the privilege I have and that you have is motherhood. It is a time stealer, yes. It is a sleep stealer, yes. It is an autonomy stealer, yes. It is a health stealer, yes. But, holy moly, it’s a privilege and I want to celebrate it. I want to learn to be healthy and happy right HERE, within vomit and neediness and overwhelm and deadlines and messes. I want my kids to feel - even the midst of chaos and grumpiness - that being a guide in our shared time together on this weird planet is an honor. And I’ll only join up with authorities who train me like an athlete so that I can carry that privilege with the care it deserves.
Obviously, I consider the women who are part of MommaStrong to be MY authorities in my wellness journey. Yeah, I’m the founder of it. Yeah, I film the workouts, but I am not the authority. The authority is us - a group of women who ask brilliant questions, challenge me, and help me show up on my mat every single day. And, lucky for you, you can join us on January 1st for a 28-Day Challenge. I can’t promise much to you except that you will see how powerful you are and how amazing your body is with the right instruction. I don’t make a ton of money by asking you and yours to join, so this is not a sales pitch, this an invitation. If you think this is the sort of authority that might help bring some light to your incredible role as a mom, then why not? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Happiest and functional New Year’s to you and yours.