My personal trainer is a professional cagefighter. I like saying that because it makes people think I'm tough, too... OK, maybe it just just makes people think my trainer is tough. Which he is. He could totally kick your ass, and he kicks mine on a regular basis. He has his initials tattooed on the front of his shoulders, which I assume is so that when you do get your ass kicked, you'll remember who did this to you! Scary!
Despite his being tough and scary, I actually really love working with this guy - and, it's not just because he's cute in a blue-eyed-bad-boy kind of way, although he totally is. Good thing my husband isn't the jealous sort. :) Anyhow, the main reason I love training with him is because it is surprisingly fun. I wish I had been encouraged to try boxing and kickboxing a long time ago! Most of my early experiences of moving my body included torturous picked-last gym classes, heavily peppered with body shaming comments and "helpful" suggestions for weight loss. Because, obviously, that's what fat girls need. Shame, humiliation, and rejection help everyone become their best selves, right? Right.
Fortunately, things are a little different now than they were junior high gym class. For starters, even though it was terrifying, I set some pretty strong initial boundaries: No diet talk. No body hate. I think he was a little confused because most of the people he works with probably WANT to focus on weight loss. I told him I have struggled with this, and want to do things differently now. I have to give him credit, because he listened to me, and hasn't bugged me. If anything, he's been really open about it, which I imagine is because it is way more fun NOT to spend an hour with somebody wallowing in insecurity and self-hate. We had conversations about what we were going to focus on instead, which I really appreciated. I told him I want to be strong and healthy, and I want to learn how to box. I showed him this article about Sonya Lamonaikis, a heavyweight boxer and my new hero. That might have been a mistake, because then he really started to push me. Boy, was I sore that day.
Yesterday, I spent most of our session laughing because I looked pretty silly. Apparently I cannot squat properly. I had to have remedial squat lessons. I felt pretty stupid, honestly. But, I was enjoying my body, which is really quite a victory for me. I mean, really, I was feeling stupid and enjoying my body in the presence of a cute 20-something cagefighter guy! God love my trainer for not making me feel that some old rejection and shame. Instead, he uses words like "athletic," "coordinated," "competitive," and "strong" to describe ME. Um... really? Actually, yeah, really! I am athletic, coordinated, and strong! These are things that never really got acknowledged growing up, and often still don't . Even though I have been at this boxing thing for a while now, new people show up at the gym and try to "help out the fat girl" by trying to teach me what to do, and offering me patronizing encouragement. Then they feel bad when they gas out way before I do. It would be funny if it wasn't totally irritating.
Despite the stupid new people, I am really glad I was somehow brave enough to start boxing, and hire a scary trainer. I love my trainer, and I love that he is willing to help me to be healthy and strong at whatever my body's natural size is. I love that going to the gym doesn't trigger crazy, disordered eating and food restriction cycles anymore. I love that I am at a place in my life where I can be in my body, and enjoy my body, exactly the way it is today. I love that I can talk about my body with love and pride, rather than judgment, hate and shame.
If I had to give my junior high self some advice from the other side (or, ahem, old age), I would tell her this:
1. Don't wait to live your life until you are skinny.
2. Don't be afraid to enjoy your body - it will take care of you if you take care of it!
3. Try new things. Not all movement has to be boring and/or punitive.
4. It is not the end of the world if you look silly in the gym. It actually might be fun if you don't take yourself too seriously.
5. Trainers are not all jerks. If you find one that is a jerk to you, it is them, not you. Speak up and/or get a different trainer. Don't be intimidated.
6. Go for it! There is no reason to hold yourself back because you think others might judge you. And so what if they do? You can always get your trainer to beat them up...