The Gift of: Your (Beautiful) Body Story

I wrote this blog post about 6 months ago. I thought it would be worth sharing again, especially for newbies to the blog:

A wise person once said: You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

In light of my occupation as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I started to take a second look at the entire fitness industry in light of this statement.

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was something a wise person once said recently (actually it’s the same wise person I just mentioned. I can’t help it, I love wise people.)

I tend to agree that there is an almost universal negative attitude towards our bodies.

I’ve spoken to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.” I’ve noticed 2 types of people:

The Hater

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We devalue our bodies and think ourselves unworthy.

The Lover

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off, becoming completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies (and we know there are plenty of those).  We also become very frustrated by anyone who isn’t like us. We don’t understand how they just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But there’s some good news, kind of.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

The Love/Haters

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. That certainly changes things doesn’t it?

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples, since this is a difficult concept:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, I’ve seen this same doctor light up a cigarette outside the office and I see a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. That doctor is lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.


 

So how do we use our body to tell the truth, specifically with regards to health and fitness?

 

It starts with honesty with ourselves. It’s EASY to lie to others. “Oh yeah, I’ve been sticking with my diet and my training. I’ll be ready for that 5k in a few weeks, no problem!”

Meanwhile, you know you’ve cheated on your diet, eaten ll the wrong things, splurged on junk food, and haven’t gotten a run in because you still haven’t bought a good pair of running shoes (or whatever the case may be).  But no one else knows that! So there’s no one to tell the truth to, except yourself.

If we can be honest with ourselves, by speaking the truth, by admitting our faults and our screw-ups, even if it’s in a journal or out loud to ourselves, it’s one step towards telling the truth with our bodies.

It starts when we stop thinking of our bodies as these “things” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. What a sad way to view ourselves. And we wonder why people are SO interested in the quick-fix diet schemes?


 

We need to re-frame our thinking to understand that our body is exactly who we are. It’s not something to be mocked, abused, degraded and devalued at the expense of others or in the name of vanity and pride. And certainly not the in the name of fitness.

Start telling your story with honesty. If we start there, it might become easier to view OTHERS in a more respectful way, not just ourselves.

If you are telling a story every minute of the day with your body…

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

The Top 9 Pieces of Equipment for the Home Gym

Got a basement? Or a garage? Or some space that you want to fill with cool stuff?  If you want to look buff by Christmas you’re probably dreaming. But, if you want to get fit for life, you’ll need more than just a mat and a ball. Get with the times and get a few good pieces of equipment. Here are my top picks:

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1. Sandbag – My most favorite piece of equipment, ever. I purchased one a few years ago and what’s so awesome is that you can choose how heavy you want to make it. You purchase the bag, but you get the sand from a home improvement store. Of course, if you’re handy, you can just make your own bag I guess. There are tons of exercises you can do with this and it MIGHT be a good idea to get two so you can have a super heavy one and a lighter one for different exercises.

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2. Suspension Trainer – (also known as TRX) – TRX is the original creator of this mechanism and plenty of people have gotten on board, especially athletes like Drew Brees and a bunch of Mixed Martial Arts competitors. What’s so special about it? It uses your own bodyweight as resistance and you can manipulate every exercise to make it easier or more challenging. The foot cradles double as handles and plus…it just LOOKS badass when you’re training with it. The most advantageous part of it for you is that it’s extremely easy to use (takes about 10 seconds to hang it from a beam in your house or a doorway. Not to mention it’s lightweight and portable, which makes it perfect for people who travel and want to use it in their hotel rooms.

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3. Pull up Bar / Dip Stand – I bought this ages ago and continue to use it. I put these in one category although they are two different things. The pull up bar is easily installed in a doorway. The dip stand doubles as a pull up bar but moreso as a body row (pictured). You can also use the dip stand to do some hanging leg raises.  Although it’s not as portable as I would like, nothing beats a pull up as one of the most challenging upper body moves and you can get a great workout on these two.

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4. Stability Ball – I consider these the grandfather of all exercise equipment. Because probably everyone and your grandpa has one. Or knows someone who does. The reason? Stabilization is something everyone must work on. Plus, it’s completely versatile. You can sit on it, you can toss it, you can lean on it, you can lift it, you can lay on it. Just make sure you keep it pumped up air because once these things lose their air, they become UNstable.

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5. Kettlebell – It might look strange but it’s more than just a weird looking weight. This thing can be used to do anything a dumbbell can do but because of the handle, you can do more. You can swing it as I demonstrate here. You can raise it. You can hold it up and lower your body down to the ground. All kinds of torturous things! 🙂

 

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6. Medicine Ball – This is a ball that has weight. So as the stability ball is large and full of air, the medicine ball is small and full of…something. Sand? Whatever it is, it works like a charm, especially the ones with handles. Some of them are anti-bounce balls meaning they are used for more power moves. Others that are of the weight specified can be use to press, pull, twist, raise, and bounce for a variety of exercises.

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7. Powerblocks – I admit I have yet to purchase these but they are on my Christmas list. Why? I know they look strange but that multicolored block is the answer to just one set of weights that every home gym needs. In case you haven’t noticed, dumbbells are usually priced by the pound. So you can spend quite a bit of money on just one set of 5, 10, 12, and 15lb weights. Well, how about getting just two? That’s the magic behind the Poweblock. It’s an adjustable “block.” I also just noticed they make barbells and kettlebells. My Christmas list just got real big…

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8. Bosu Ball – This flying saucer, crazy blue half ball looking thing is awesome. It’s called a BOSU ball because BOth Sides are Utilized. You can balance on the blue side or the black side. You can put your hands on either side, your feet on either side, you can stand on it, sit on it, jump on it, lift it up, twist it across, anything and everything.

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9. A Timer and a Tracker – Not what you’d expect out of all this equipment on this list right? But when you workout you need a way to track and log your workouts. You could also use a really good timer when doing timed metabolic workouts. I recommend anything FREE because I’m cheap so I use the timer called Tabata Stopwatch Pro – Interval Timer. It allows you to choose different sounds for when you need to start and stop your exercises. This way, you’re not constantly looking at a clock or your watch or iPhone. As for logging your workouts, you can just use a document and save it online but I prefer the old fashioned pen and paper. I use a logbook I found on Amazon.com but you can just use a good old steno notebook. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

 

I hope you find this list useful for building your own home gym. Keep this Wish List handy for the holidays and birthdays or after you reach a certain goal, perhaps you purchase a new piece of equipment for yourself!

 

 

 

Hurry up and Wait

ImageThere’s a little saying in the production world where I used to work that if you were on the crew you would say to one another as a joke: “Hurry up and wait.”  I have no idea where this saying came from, perhaps it’s applicable to your job. 

The reason behind it is the rush of trying to get things done, only to have to wait for certain things to happen first.  When I worked as a production coordinator, you would hurry up and get everyone in place ready to shoot a scene, only to have to wait for someone else to make things happen.   Maybe the actor that was hired is still in wardrobe or makeup, maybe the lighting still isn’t quite right, maybe the teleprompter won’t start up (that last one is from personal experience).  Talk about a panic attack as everyone sits there and just waits and stares at you to solve the problem so they can get through the day.  Glad those days are behind me!

I thought of this saying today as I was frantically emailing and messaging various people online asking all kinds of questions about my figure competition goal.  I recently opened up and sent some pictures of myself to a very well known trainer who told me I was way too thin to even think about competing this year.  Granted she made it clear it was her own opinion and she is just looking at pictures of me but it threw me off a little bit. 

I did ask for her advice so I brought that on myself.  And I knew she would be honest.  After thinking about it for awhile I realized she’s only saying I need to train 3 months longer than I had originally planned.  No big deal right? 

See the problem with being surrounded by other trainers and being a trainer myself as well as having a fair amount of knowledge about nutrition, I am constantly researching what the best method is for training for this competition.  At the same time I’m getting all kinds of advice.  So with this advice and research, the self-doubt kicks in. 

All of a sudden I thought to myself “Maybe I’m doing too much cardio.  Maybe I should do what that woman is doing…maybe I should eat like that guy is telling people.  Shouldn’t I be seeing muscle gains by now?  How come I’m not losing the fat quicker?  How long is this going to take?!”

I worked my brain into a frenzy.  But worst of all, I didn’t trust my coach.  I hired this man for a reason and I realized I need to stick with the plan.  There is no rushing this process.  It’s going to take time.  A year?  Well, maybe.  But after I got some great advice from two competitors that I contacted, I understand that I can still do my show as intended in October this year as a “warm-up.”  Then, if I choose to, do another show as the “real deal” in the Spring of 2014.

I also took a step back this week to remind myself why I started this whole thing:  For myself; to change my body; to see how far I could take this body and my fitness level and to essentially show off all my hard work.  I’m not doing this for a trophy, for a prize, for anything more than to say “I did this.”  So back to the drawing board, although I never really left the board.  I just took a temporary leave to get my mind straight.

Now that it’s on straight, I can say this:

“It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop.”

I’m not stopping.  I will keep going.  I can do this.

-Michelle

Progress Pics

I don’t even want to make a big deal out of this even though this is probably one of the more difficult things I have posted.  It’s not like anyone is forcing me to do this of course but if you have a goal you better make sure you note a starting point.  And with weight loss, pictures are pretty much the best route to go.

I didn’t manipulate these photos in any way EXCEPT brightness and contrast because some turned out so bright and some not so bright.  It took me a second to understand how to add text to a picture as you can see from one of the December pics.  I never figured out how to delete the text so….you are left with this.  Photoshop smart I AM NOT.

Left:  October  Center: November   Right: December

I’m at 137.5lbs in the October pics, 133lbs in the November pics and 127 in the December 10th pic.

Thanks to Danielle for stitching these all together for me!!

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