Beyond Looks

I stumbled upon a striking post from someone who has suffered from anorexia at least in part due to relatives criticizing her weight. There is no shortage of posts on the Internet about body-shaming, but this one stood out specifically because of how it began by describing an all too familiar situation: that of a relative calling you fat.

Now, this hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. If anyone comments on my weight, it’s to say that I’m looking thinner. This isn’t surprising, given my increased power endurance work, but it’s a bit disappointing to hear people tell me that I should stay thin because it’s a good look for me. Leaner, yes – I want my body fat down to around 15% – but personally I dislike being on the slim side. I think it looks weird on my broad shoulders, and I don’t like the look of loosely hanging sleeves on myself.

Mainly  I dislike looking anything like I used to feel: powerless.

That’s what being unfit was like. I felt incompetent, incapable of anything significant. I couldn’t run ten minutes without risking an asthma attack, and the thought of ten push-ups was downright terrifying. There are many other things I could say about that time in my life, but it should suffice for me to say that one of the reasons I value the roughly 58 kilos of muscle I have so much is that the process of developing it, strengthened my mind as much as my body.

Being fit is about more than looking good. It’s about feeling good, whatever that may mean to you. If fitting into a size 0 – and I call bullshit on that being a thing – actually makes you feel good, hey, who am I to say it’s wrong? So long as you don’t push it on others – so long as you don’t force them to accept that everyone should be the same – then more power to you.

The thing is, I think very few people fully appreciate what it means to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t just mean that we accept others have different physical standards of beauty, but that others also find different meaning in those standards. The common ground is hard to find and often narrow, which is why appearance is such a controversial topic in the world of fitness.

Personally, my appearance is only important insofar as it is representative of what I can do. I associate my relative muscularity with the things I can do: one-arm push-ups, pistol squats, 300+ pound deadlifts, and 2000m rows are within my abilities, and I am glad to look like it. Thus, I dislike being told to get thinner or lose more weight because I refuse to sacrifice these things for the sake of someone else. I can do 10 handstand push-ups, and that’s more important to me than your approval.

Similarly, I find athletic women far more attractive than thin ones. Melissa Benoist on Supergirl, for example, has wonderfully muscled arms and legs. Her physique is undoubtedly feminine, but still projects strength, power, and capability. I would say the same about certain females I’ve trained and worked with – not that they were thin enough for the catwalk, but that they understood strength and hard work, and it showed. It’s the same thing I keep trying to tell a certain co-worker with concerns about her physique: women with muscular arms and legs can be quite attractive, as she is.

But guess what? You don’t have to give a single shit about what I think regarding your looks. If you’re healthy and comfortable with what you look like and what you can do, honestly, you’re a step above me. If I have a problem with body-shaming, it isn’t so much because it’s unrealistic, as because it assumes standards that have no place existing and wouldn’t be agreed on by everyone anyway. It’s especially ridiculous because the fittest people on the planet – the ones who presumably have the best reasons to look the way they do – would fall well outside the “normal” standards of beauty. Female runners would disagree with the desirability of a thigh gap. Men who squat think skinny jeans are stupid. And if you’re one of those designers who thinks everyone should have tiny shoulders and be rake thin, you’re dumb and I hate you.

But I digress.

I realize that I sort of turned this into a rant about how fit people shouldn’t have to justify how they look to anyone, but what I have (perhaps poorly) been trying to say is that we will always be most comfortable when we understand why we look or act a certain way. I don’t worry about people who tell me to be thinner because I know what’s important. Similarly, the blogger I mentioned at the start of this post, learned to love herself because she realized that arbitrary numbers don’t equal happiness.

 


 

Workout – Skill + Strength / Power Endurance

60x each Jumping Jacks, Front Jacks, Twist Jacks, Seal Jacks

Superset

2 rounds

2/4/6/8x Dip

2/4/6/8x Pull-up

Skill

6×6 Ring Dip – focus on depth and control

Circuit

For time – finished in 14:34

10x DB Bench Press @ 2x60lbs

30x Burpee Pull-up

20x DB Bench Press @ 2x50lbs

20x Burpee Pull-up

30x DB Bench Press @ 2x40lbs

10x Burpee Pull-up

Core Work

10x 30s Plank / 30s Rest*

* Hands on TRX every other round

Notes

  • I need to improve my dipping strength if I want to clean up my muscle-up. 
  • The open circuit turned out much harder than I thought it would be. The bench press weights aren’t anything special, but bench pressing anything even remotely heavy is far worse when you’re still trying to recover your breath. I wound up breaking those into sets of 10, giving me more time to breathe. Fucking burpee pull-ups.
  • My isometric core work tends to be neglected due to the glamor of toes-to-bar and similar strength-oriented ab work. I can’t help but wonder how much of my deficiency in the front squat is due to a weaker core than the one with which I squatted 120kg, about two years ago. 
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