The following excerpt comes from my upcoming fifth book, I Can See Your Underwear: My Journey Through the Fitness World. It's been a decade since I first took the plunge into fitness as a profession. As I look at that experience through the rear-view mirror, I can honestly say that I entered the fitness world for all the wrong reasons. Have I piqued your interest? Read on...
Did I Ever Look Like a Fitness Professional?*
I have spent many years, decades even, focused on dieting and never being truly happy with my appearance. As I said at the beginning, a huge part of me believed a career in the fitness would accelerate the process of changing my appearance.
It has never once occurred to me to judge someone else based on their appearance. Instead, I look at their character — how they treat me and others. Are they reliable? Do they keep their word? Are they kind to those less fortunate?
Yet, when it came to me, I always assumed no one would accept me unless I was skinny and svelte, especially as I transitioned into my new career in the fitness industry. What if clients wouldn’t accept me as a fitness expert because of my appearance?
More than once, I heard, “You don’t look like a fitness instructor.” What, exactly, is a fitness instructor meant to look like? People come in all shapes in sizes. Shouldn’t that ring true for individuals, no matter their profession? Rhetorical question.
I also heard, “I like taking classes with you because you look like a normal person.” Where does that come from? An unrealistic expectation and representation of everyone in the fitness industry as rake-thin, that’s where.
Skinny does not equal fit. There, I said it. A skinny person can be unfit just as easily as someone who is not as skinny. But there’s always been a part of me that doesn’t believe that for myself. Yes, I have a double standard, in that I judge myself more critically than others.
Don’t worry, I know I’m not the only one setting up base camp here. The problem is, being in the fitness industry was a constant reminder that my internal voice was judging my fitness, or rather, my unfitness to practice.
And our new-found selfie culture doesn’t help. Too many svelte fit pros spend too much time touting their amazing bodies. Or we see the before and after photos of “incredible transformations” of their previously fat clients. The “fitspiration” (fitness inspiration) images on social media imply that you’re better off being skinny and photogenic than being your true self and healthy.
My fragile ego has had enough. Even when I was starving and over-exercising to maintain what I thought was the proper form for a fitness professional, I still lacked the confidence to have my picture taken while wearing a swimsuit.
The anxiety of not looking the part created a cycle of overeating for me that collided with the start of menopause. I’m sure you know what happened next: a self-fulfilling prophecy of not “looking” like a toned fitness professional. Yes, it was self-sabotage at its worst. But the messages online also said I should look like a ballet dancer, and I’ve always been built like a soccer player. These messages, by the way, came directly from fitness gurus and their most avid followers, including fellow fitness professionals. No wonder I wasn’t able to accept myself — I didn’t feel accepted by fitness colleagues and mentors.
*Copyright Amanda Sterczyk 2020, all rights reserved.
Repeat after me: Move more, feel better.
Again: Move more, feel better.
One more time: Move more, feel better.
Is it starting to stick in your brain? That's the slogan I adopted when I created The Move More Institute™ four years ago.
It's not "Move more, look better," nor is it "move more, shed fat." It's "Move more, feel better" for a reason. Physical activity guidelines, created and promoted by national organizations in many developed countries, recommend the minimum amount of physical activity your body needs to maintain optimal health. That means how much you need to move to reduce the likelihood of many chronic diseases that will negatively impact your health and shorten your life span. And it's not a lot; we're not talking about living at the gym, we're talking about less than 30 minutes a day. Specifically, 21 minutes and 25 seconds of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. It's an achievable goal, even for the busiest person.
Breaking down a 24-hour day: assume you sleep for eight hours, that still gives you 16 hours in which to complete your 21 minutes-and-change of physical activity. And this movement doesn't need to be accomplished in one session; you can accumulate the activity over the course of the day. So if you're strapped for time at work and you're waiting for the elevator, consider taking the stairs. Even one flight of stairs works, and won't render you sweaty for that all-important meeting. If you're running errands, try parking further away and walking briskly to your destination. Or leave your car at home and "walk your errands."
I created these activity clocks to help you audit your day and figure out how you can incorporate more movement into it, without breaking the bank. This is just one component of my movement coaching course.
If you are looking for new year's goals that are achievable, try starting out with snacks of exercise. Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated, costly, or even sweaty. But it does need to happen every day. And if you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
My goal for 2020 is to update my website and offer all of my online courses for free. That's my gift to you: help you achieve your movement goals.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.