I work with a lot of women who have reached a certain age. This certain age also happens to be my age. We spend a lot of time sharing experiences about the changes we are going through in body and in mind. Much of this time is spent giggling about them because, hey, what else can you do? Weird body temperature changes, forgetfulness, trouble sleeping, and, yes, a little, umm, leakage.
You might think I'm writing about incontinence in middle-aged women to bring more attention to a previously undiscussed problem. No. That's not it. I don't really care if more people know that there's a little tinkle that drips out while doing jumping jacks. What I do care about, however, is how people react to their bodies. How we accept them, work with them, and love them.
Both women and men can fall prey to what I call "hyper-examination" of their bodies. They point to different parts of their body and say "I don't like that," or "look how flabby my butt is," or "can you help me get rid of this." It's so rare that a client looks at his or her body in the gym and says "I look pretty good."
I wish everyone could love and accept themselves a little more. Here are a few tips that might help you get there:
1. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
You are NOT wide hips. You are NOT cellulite. You are NOT back fat. You are NOT a flabby belly.
Remember that when others see you, they are seeing a whole you that includes things beyond the physical. No one is inspecting your body inch-by-inch (well, maybe your dermatologist is). When your friends and loved ones look at you, they are seeing into you. They see your personality, your quirks, your shared history and memories, your faults and your future. Next time you look in the mirror, look at your whole self and not the flappy skin underneath your arms.
2. It's ok to be in transition.
Life is a marathon. No one lives at the finish line. There's always a goal or a path we are following. Working on your fitness is a process. You may wake up one day and get to the gym and not be able to balance on one side as well as the other. Or you may not be able to lift as much as you did the week before. Be OK with that. It doesn't mean all the work you've done is gone. It just means that you have to adjust for the day. You are still moving forward.
3. Define your goals.
This is the logical follow up to point #2. The more defined your goals are, the more successful you will be at achieving them. Yes, everyone wants to get fitter and be healthier. But not everyone wants to look amazing for their son's bar mitzvah. YOU want to look amazing for your son's bar mitzvah? Say it out loud, work for it, achieve it.
4. Understand there will be hills and valleys.
See this graph? The curvy line represents the hills and valleys that we experience not only in our pursuit of improved fitness, but in our regular lives. It's important to remember that, like in this graph, what goes down will come back up.
A client once asked me to help her move past the curvy line and find the straight, even line. I paused and then said, "That line is a professional athlete." We are NOT professional athletes who live, breathe, eat and sleep their training. Don't expect your body to perform at its highest level each day.
5. If you pee in your pants, just change your undies and move on.
Some days might really suck. In fact, some days you might set out to do a 2500 meter swim, run 3 miles or do a TRX class and halfway through you just realize "I don't have it today." Listen to your body and your mind, give yourself the break, and make sure to set your alarm and do it tomorrow.