There's this TV ad for a gym in heavy rotation lately that makes a big deal of saying it's a "judgement free zone"—which is very close to another gym's catchphrase, "no judgments." I don't know if fear of judgment is something gyms have identified as a barrier to participation through focus groups or what. But it makes me wonder. Is that really such a big deal? Or do people avoid exercise because it's boring, uncomfortable, time-consuming? All of the above?
I think about this as I do my accessory work. This is exercise you do to support your workouts, which sounds like the very definition of insanity. But that's where I am now. And to tell you the truth, I almost think the accessory work is more important than my Crossfit workouts when it comes to its real-life benefits.
I have a set of exercises my coach developed to help me correct my imbalances—one leg being stronger than the other, one arm being stronger than the other. These imbalances have led to lower back pain (oy, my sacroilliac joint) and other issues. The exercises also help me strengthen lazy muscles that are letting other muscles to all the work and take on too much stress. Ignore this and I'll likely injure myself in my crazy-ass intense Crossfit workouts. But these imbalances and weaknesses can also wreck me when I'm doing every-day type stuff like carrying groceries.
I keep thinking ... what if instead of talking endlessly of LOSING FUCKING WEIGHT* as the be-all and end-all of exercise, we talked more about exercise as something that prevents physical pain and helps you move better? As part of your self care?
I wish we felt like physical exercise belonged to all of us. That you didn't have to consider yourself an athlete to do it. That maybe it's just a few minutes or so of a few simple movements you do so you can live your life well. Keep working at the restaurant, keep baby wearing, keep spending the day at the museum, keep doing all the things that cause wear and tear on the body over time. This is my dream. Fitness as something anyone can claim. Just by being human, you are fit enough for it.
And I keep thinking of this passage from Helene Cixous's Laugh of the Medusa, especially the line, "you are for you; your body is yours, take it." Now that I'm out of graduate school, in a judgement-free zone of my own (haha), I can interpret that however I want. And this passage reminds me of so many things we aspire to. It's everything we long to do, everything that's already ours, a part of ourselves, that we mistakenly believe is too grand for us.
And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven't written. (And why I didn't write until the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it's reserved for the great--that is for "great men"; and it's "silly."
Besides, you've written a little, but in secret. And it wasn't good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn't go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension further, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty--so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.
Your body is yours, women. Take it. Find the movements that help you live the full life you want to live.
*I respect that weight loss is a serious goal for many, many people. What I'm saying is, exercise is about so much more than that.