Speak to My Strengths, a Critique on Workouts and Wording

In the midst of this 23 degree Missouri winter, I am open to trying any sufficient replacement to layering up and going for a run. The wind makes my face sting and eyes leak tears of sadness as I think thoughts of self-hatred. That last sentence is a fitting description for all of winter.

That being said, I often find myself searching Youtube for “cardio kickboxing,” “full body pilates” or, sometimes, “hip hop dance workout,” because I love the arts. I occasionally stumble upon a treasure such as Yoga with Adrienne and hang onto those videos for dear life and heart health. But I’ve noticed one trend in Youtube fitness that really chaps my hide. It burns my boots. It rattles my radiator.

This vile trend is The Cursed Quest for the Bikini Body (which might also be the title for the inevitable 9th Harry Potter script, but don’t say you heard it from me).

If you’ve ever been a woman trying to work out in her living room, you know what I’m talking about. You drag your sleepy bum out of bed around 7 a.m. clad in the workout clothes you strategically slept in and spend five minutes scrolling through titles like “Six Pack by Spring Break” and “Beach Body by Blood Moon.” Peppy faces of women in their Fabletics gear smile back at you, promising a workout where you’ll have a good time and, don’t worry, Karinda will do the modified version!!

Although these videos themselves may not be bad workouts, the language and aesthetic used implies that even in the fitness world, women have a place. It’s not in the big leagues where sweat drips off your nose during a plank as long as a feature film, or with burpees that make you feel like you’re about to burp it all up. These videos teach me that women are supposed to look “adorbs” in matching workout gear while our long hair remains dry and bouncy and does not stick to our necks. After thirty minutes of jumping around, I will feel great about myself, shake my Brazilian butt and fit into the entire summer swimwear line at Target. However, I find this idea that exercise is about anything other than feeling better in our own bodies a dangerous mindset to behold.

Fitness is an incredible goal and even a week of regularly working out and eating good veggies can make you feel like a zombie given a second chance. But it’s unhealthy to subject yourself to anything that implies your hard work is for others’ viewing pleasure. My issue with the words ‘Bikini Body’ is that they use sensitive insecurities to gain viewership. It perpetuates the idea that the female body is a thing to be consumed as opposed to a vessel of life in which we reside. We should be teaching women, and everyone else, that fitness is for strength, confidence and increased energy. It’s about accomplishing something you previously believed to be impossible. It’s about jumping mental hurdles, sometimes by completing the interval, and other times by simply showing up.

Truthfully, I have partaken in these bikini body workouts. And you know what? Some are really hard. Some of them have me going into child’s pose before the warm-up is through. I spend the rest of the day clutching my sore calves and resisting laughter I know will haunt my core. So if they aren’t easy, laughable routines, what’s with the façade? Why do workout producers feel the need to feed the idea that girls only squat because, by God, there is a sandy lifeguard somewhere who only saves the ones with the good glutes?!

I’m calling you out, guys. It’s lame. My body is not some ice sculpture that you get to pick away at until it’s perfect enough to display at a party. It’s a powerhouse. The mitochondria, if you will, and it’s capable of so much more than looking good on a beach towel. The female body can carry through an eight hour work day, only to come home and carry all three children up to bed. It pushes us up hills and mountainsides and can also push out live humans, which is another conversation entirely. It stands up in courts of law and sits at research labs and lies down in tiny break rooms in between performing major surgeries. It is the vehicle by which we dance, sing, rap, act, run, play, write and do all other verbs.

We deserve better than this. We deserve better than the weak promise that our thighs might not shake during beach volleyball. We deserve a culture that promotes health while maintaining that it’s okay to not look identical to Pamela Anderson. We deserve fitness professionals who tell us the truth; that ‘healthy’ is not a size, rather a lifestyle.

Please, do not reduce our importance to the ways in which we do or do not fill out a glorified loincloth. It is a great misjudgment on your part.

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