So, two things happened to me last week. One was seeing my body weight in films, but that’s another post. The other was that I finally got the motivation to head to the pool.
This might seem boring and absolutely not news-worthy. And really it isn’t. But it’s been about three hundred years since I’ve been in a pool for the purposes of fitness, so I figure this is a bit of a cool milestone for a previously fairly-talented swimmer.
Milestone? More like tombstone. Oh my god.
The truth is that you really don’t have any idea how unfit you are until you try to kick your butt into gear. Then you do an embarrassingly minuscule amount of laps, nearly die halfway down the lane, and wonder how the hell you ever got to this point when once upon a time, you would swim a hundred laps (and only get out when it was dark and people were yelling at you for being anti-social) with your cousin on Christmas Day.
As a swimmer from way back, with family scattering the coastline, the ability to swim well is something I’ve always been silently proud of. But it’s also clearly something I’ve taken for granted. Or at least, I’ve taken the notion of it being something I could easily slip back into as granted. I think I forgot the bit about actually needing some strength and vague fitness behind me too.
They say that when you’ve been out of the fitness game for a while, the trick is to set attainable goals and not to let a bad day demotivate you. Well shit, that’s all very nice, but I’m not hugely keen to go back again tomorrow and publicly drown in an effort to prove something to myself. Would you be? I didn’t think so. But I guess that’s all part of conquering the demons isn’t it? Those voices that let you make excuses from being good to yourself and taking care of the body that houses you.
It’s so easy to put things off because other “more important” things come up and get in the way. It’s easy to make crappy choices when you are the absolute last person on the priority list. The problem with that is you only have one body. When you treat it like shit, it’ll invariably kick your ass with karma, no matter how many times you say “oh but I’ll go for that run tomorrow, I will.”
It took me months. I bought my new togs about three months ago for my birthday, promising myself that I’d be in the pool the next day. That was August. It’s now mid-November, and summer is basically here. What have I been doing for those months you may ask? I’ll tell you. Being entirely exhausted from crazy (but awesome) job that I love which has smashed my timelines to smithereens, and using what time I have off to lie in bed and watch films. That’s what I’ve been doing. And I’ve enjoyed it. But I look back at the last three months and see so many spare spots where I could have been swimming, jogging, Zumba-ing even, and I didn’t. All because those demons kept telling me I deserved a rest and that I could do some pilates in the morning if I got up a little earlier than usual. (FYI, I am the worst version of myself in the mornings, there is no way I would ever keep that promise to myself.)
I guess my point is that it’s easy to get lazy about fitness, and turn a blind eye when you put on a kilo or two – because hey, that isn’t that much weight right? But if you’re not careful, that one or two will turn into four or five, and soon you’ll go up a dress size, and if you’re me you’ll start feeling horrible because your jeans are tighter and why the fuck is that skirt now only just covering your thighs?
Weight is always a pretty sensitive issue, especially for women. Our world is saturated with images of skinny, successful women knocking it out of the park and being idolised for not doing a whole lot except looking good in a bikini. And you know what? Good on those ladies for having a rockin’ bod and not being afraid to flaunt it. Every girl has the right to feel beautiful, no matter how big, small, short or tall they are. But it’s not okay that so many of us feel inadequate because of the global fascination with size 0 models. I’m a firm believer in beauty having nothing to do with size. But I also think that weight matters (in a personal sense, not from society’s point of view) when you feel uncomfortable, when you feel unhealthy, when you don’t like yourself because of it.
When I was a teenager, I absolutely despised myself. Every part of me, every single thing that made me who I was. I could not have cared any less about myself than I did back then. And it wasn’t purely a weight thing either, but that contributed somewhat. It’s a toxic feeling, and it leaves you with battle scars that you will carry forever. Nobody should ever feel like that. For whatever reasons it exists, no one should ever have to suffer that kind of crippling self-loathing. When I got older I realised that my self-perception was entirely warped, and I learned to separate the objective view of myself from the reactionary, judgemental, subjective one. It’s how I was able to have the Body Appreciation Day, and it keeps me in check still.
So what am I even rambling for? Am I going to change my life after this epiphany? Will I be back in the pool every day now, shaking off those voices? Well here’s hoping. So far, a week later, I’m struggling to find the motivation. It may even require a trip to the dreaded scales to see the real damage I’ve done in the last six months. What I think I’m trying to say is that it’s not as simple as some people think it is to get started on the path back to fitness, and to say that if you’re facing the same difficulty, to let you know that you’re going to hate yourself more if you don’t just try. It’s fucking hard and you won’t always get it right the first time. I sure as shit haven’t. But I started somewhere, and really, isn’t that essential?
Don’t beat yourself to a pulp and give up before you’ve even really begun, just realise that it’s about stepping forward. Even on the days you take a few paces back.