This week while I was teaching my Yoga Sculpt class, it suddenly dawned on me that summer is right around the corner. As I started my class on a set of calf raises, I took it upon myself to remind my students of this fact: You guys! Summer is coming! You know what that means??? I’ll give you a hint, it’s NOT bikini season. NOPE. Ok well technically, yes, we are approaching summer. But at the risk of ruffling some feathers in the fitness world, I’m just going to come right out and say it: the idea of “bikini season” and getting a “bikini body” is utter and total BS.
Group fitness instructors use it as a bribe to get people to work hard in class all too often. Advertisements use it to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we’ll spend money on their program, powder, or pill. For the most part it works. It sells stuff. Unfortunately, this mentality leaves almost everyone feeling inadequate, like we can never measure up. The current beauty standard is so fake and airbrushed that even bikini models don’t look like the bikini models anymore. Statistics show that 69% of elementary school girls who read magazines say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight. It’s alarming and sad to think that many of my young dance students probably feel this way about themselves. It starts so young, and for many (myself included) it’s something that can stick with you for decades. That is, until someone shows you that there is a different way.
I’ve been struggling to find my place when it comes to my stance on fitness as it relates to my newfound body positive beliefs. Especially as a dancer. It’s messy to navigate, because I don’t fit neatly into either world. For example, I have thin privilege (my body type is traditionally accepted by society), but I’m too “bulky” to ever be hired into a professional ballet company. I am a certified personal trainer who believes in Health At Every Size. As a yoga, group fitness, and dance teacher I want every BODY to feel welcome in my class. I genuinely love squats AND spinach AND sweets. And I’m starting to accept that it might be ok to be all of these things. I know that a side effect of exercise could be weight loss or a change in body composition, or it might not be. That shouldn’t stop us from doing it anyway.
The good news is, you don’t have to choose between buying into the BS of bikini season and being completely sedentary. There are a ton of good reasons to get your sweat on that don’t involve bullying yourself into into a smaller size swimsuit. Next time talk of bikini season starts to taint your opinion of exercise, adopt one of these reasons as your “why” instead.
- Self-sufficiency. There is something so empowering about being able to tell the cashier you don’t need help with your groceries, and carry all the bags out yourself. (Especially when you are like me and tend to get carried away at Trader Joe’s) You can save money if you ever move because you can lug your own boxes up the stairs instead of paying movers. If you can strict press a barbell, getting your own bike down from the ceiling rack in the garage becomes no big deal. Who needs a man to help?! Not you.
- Spring and summer activities. So many fun things happen when the weather is nice. There is often more time for vacations and travel. Being in good shape can help you make the most of it without tiring out too easily. You have to climb stairs to get to the top of the waterslide. Amusement parks always involve a ton of walking. So do cities and mountains. There are generally more opportunities for things like swimming, waterskiing, and paddle boarding. Bikini body (whatever the heck that even means) is optional, and quite possibly beyond your control.
- You can learn a new skill. When was the last time you did something for the first time? For many of us, once we officially finish school, we stop learning new things. There is something refreshing and exciting about getting to be a beginner at something. When that new something is a physical activity, you get to challenge your mind AND your body. Plus you get a free pass to ask rookie questions and even fall on your face.
- You can use strategic exercises to improve your performance in an activity you already love (or your job). I discovered yoga as a way to enhance my flexibility for dancing. Later, I discovered strength training as a way to maintain my athleticism as a dancer as I got older. Maybe your job requires you to be on your feet a lot or lift things. Perhaps you have to sit in an uncomfortable position, or repeat certain movement patterns over and over. If you play or sport or even just enjoy activities like gardening, there are specific exercises you can add to your routine to become more efficient at these things. I can even help you figure out what that might mean for you.
- It’s fun to move! Think back to when you were a kid. If you were anything like me, you probably rode your bike all over the neighborhood. I bet you spun yourself dizzy in the front yard. You probably jumped on the bed until your parents caught you. When did exercise stop being play? When did it become a chore that you begrudgingly do because a magazine article told you aren’t skinny enough for swimwear? I say bring back the fun!
- Stress relief. It’s hard to turn your brain off when there are a billion things to worry about and a mile long to-do list. I’m a big fan of meditation, but I’m the first to admit that sitting still is HARD. Things like walking, running, yoga, dancing, and even lifting weights can be very meditative too. When you are focused on something that requires all of your attention, it’s hard to be anywhere but in the present moment. Bonus points for the mood boosting endorphins that come from a good workout.
- You can spend more quality time with your loved ones. I don’t have kids, but I do teach them, and I know they have a lot of energy. I bet yours will appreciate you taking the time to play with them. Same goes for pets. My dog loves getting an extra long walk, and being chased around with his ball. Don’t have actual children OR fur children? Maybe your next excuse to do something active could be with a friend, significant other, or family member you haven’t seen in awhile.
- You won’t need Life Alert when you are older. Remember that commercial from the 80’s? (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) I used to make fun of that as a kid, but the reality is that today’s world isn’t designed to to keep us strong and mobile. More things are automated. Chairs and toilets are taller and don’t require us to squat below parallel. Functional movements like squats and burpees can help you build and maintain the strength you need to lift yourself up. The majority of adults are unable to stand up from the ground without using their hands. Mastering these movements could literally save your life one day.
- Cute shoe season. How is footwear any different than a bikini?! This is where I was going with my with my Yoga Sculpt class that I mentioned earlier. If you must make your fitness about fashion, think of all the cute wedges! The espadrilles and the strappy sandals. I spend the majority of my days either barefoot or in gym shoes. I KNOW the struggle that comes with trying to walk in peep toe pumps. It’s so easy to roll an ankle while wearing those things! So…calf raises for the win! They increase ankle strength and stability and keep you safe from a sprain at the end of a long girls night out. 😉
The next time you think about hitting the gym, take a moment to consider your “why”. If it’s to achieve some sort of physical ideal that’s being pushed on you by the media, ask what they are trying to sell you. Then call BS on the threats of “bikini season” lurking around the corner. It’s possible to enjoy pursuing fitness without trying to hate yourself into a different body. On the other hand, being “fit” is not a prerequisite for wearing a bikini. And if you have no interest in bikinis, one pieces are apparently very trendy this season too. Just sayin’.
Did you like this blog post, but still struggling to let go of some of your destructive views on exercise? Did you ever wonder why you are doing everything “right” in terms of your health and fitness but just not seeing the results you want? I’ve got a list of 10 good reasons that you may not have considered. Want it?