Monday night I got a PR on my back squat. I knew it was a max-out day, so I had a number in mind when I walked in the door of my gym. The week before we had practiced by going up to 90% of our old max, and that felt great, so I was feeling good about it. Sure enough, I hit the number I had in mind and I’m super pleased with it.
But the happiness isn’t just because I hit a particular weight on my back squat. The real satisfaction comes in the fact that I can squat at all. I’ve been working on getting enough mobility to squat at or below parallel for over 3 years now. I’ve spent time with personal trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists and more. I feel like the two things that helped the most were my twice-weekly personal training sessions with Coach Tom at CrossFit 616 and doing my mobility homework on my own time. I can see the difference when I do the mobility work… and when I don’t. (So can my Coach!)
Which got me thinking about this article from Fit is a Feminist Issue: An apology: A thing Sam thinks she needs to stop saying... The article is about how the author has said in the past, “If you don’t love it. don’t do it.” when it comes to exercise. She is currently undergoing physiotherapy for an injury, and doing a bunch of work that she doesn’t love, and realizing that being able to do the only exercise you love comes from a place of privilege.
It made me think about myself. I say something really similar when it comes to exercise, “Find something you will enjoy doing.” True, if you like doing something you’ll want to do it more. And I still think it is good advice if you are thinking about starting an exercise programme and you have different options to choose from. I believe in picking something that is more than just exercise if you can. My first group classes were boxing and they made me feel like a badass. So does weight lifting. I don’t particularly enjoy running, but I love having run. I like the way these things make me feel, beyond the exercise. That makes me more likely to show up.
But we can’t always pick only the things we like. There are plenty of reasons why someone might have to do exercise they dislike. My mobility homework is not particularly fun, it doesn’t make me feel badass, and frequently it kind of hurts in a I-don’t-stretch-that-way-easily kind of way.
There are other reasons to do exercise, even though you don’t love it. Maybe you don’t have money for a particular gym or your schedule only allows for certain things. Maybe you are like me 5-6 years ago, and the idea of sweating with other people in *any* sort of fitness activity sounds like torture. The idea of having to love it as well might just seem like one more pressure. I get that.
The other day during Olympic Lifting I said to one of my coaches, “I wish I could just lift weights.” I love it. And he said, “You can.” It is true, it is possible to only lift weights. I am an adult, I could make that choice for myself. But as an asthmatic, I feel is in my own best interest to do cardio style activities on a regular basis also. It helps keep the muscles around my lungs fit and healthy which only help me as I age.
Being able to move our bodies through space is important. Regular exercise is incredibly good for us in so many ways. So, perhaps the way to think about it is to think about your goals. What do you want? In my case, I really wanted to squat at or below parallel. I can now do that pretty consistently, though it has taken me a lot of effort to get there. I want to be able to run without having an asthma attack. I want to be able to lift heavy things. I want to use my body in various ways so I can keep all that I have gained as long as possible.
Some of these things I love doing, some I love only after I’ve done them, and some I am not that fond of at all. I do them though. So, I am going to try to change my language around this from “Find something you love,” to “Find something that gets you a little closer to your goals.”