06 December 2011

Working It Out

Even at a very young and tender age I was vain and extremely conceited. I remember the day I first noticed the first signs of definition in my abs. I was sharing a bath with my little sister. I must have been maybe 5. Young but with an abdominal section well beyond my meagre years. I remember noting that my big brother didn't have the same muscular  mid-section. This made me feel superior and proud.
  I liked to think I was strong for my age. I used to think I was strong for my size. Around the school yard I felt powerful and imposing for some reason, maybe I was just a more aggressive child or maybe I was just a little more angry then most, definitely part of it was that I was overcompensating for being labeled, 'short". Whatever the factors, a part of my sense of self was, in part, firmly vested in my physical stature from the get go.
  I was proud of being the fasted in my class. I was proud to beat on the tallest kid in class. I entered 5 and 10k races and loved the validation I felt when I was presented with a certificate of completion for my efforts. I went for long hikes in the bush and pretended I was a soldier. I used to get off the school bus a few miles before my stop and ran the rest of the way with my child hood best friend just to prove I was tough. A teacher labeled us "the two toughies". I watched action films with wide, impressionable eyes, thrilled and excited by cavalier violence and Arnold Schwarznegger's biceps. Sports stars, action heros and feats displaying physical prowess gave me a tangible rush. I was getting pumped on body image.
  In the above photo, I had just had a haircut. I chose this ensemble myself. I though I looked pretty tough.
  And then...puberty. Didn't grow quite as much as everyone. Didn't quite feel as physically imposing as I had. I still exercised and played rugby where my tenacity proved valuable, cricket where my lack of co-ordination and confidence proved disastrous, and gave everything a nudge, but I didn't dominate proceedings. The field was stronger and hairier now. I still had muscular definition and the belief I had and was some body, but my ego was tempered.
  Above is a trophy for "Most Ideal" player from the Bay Lynn Rugby Club. I was very, very proud when they handed me this, my heart was pounding out of my chest. But I have a confession to make, if you notice the date and age range of the below inscription, and know that I was born in 1978 you will realize that in fact, I was a year older then this division. The coaches let me play in this division due to my diminutive stature. I was not forthcoming with this piece of information during the time this trophy sat on my shelf.
  Post-puberty, and though I was not so confident of my physical prowess, I did still carry with me a sense of adventure for all pursuits physical. I mountain biked, said yes to everything and got my butt kicked at basketball week after week by my mate Zak. I swear I probably won once every 10 times we played. I lost most of the time but I was still driven to compete. Its a curse having a competitive nature at times, especially when you have a lack of talent. I'll tell you though, it was very much worth all the humiliation when I did manage to eke out a sloppy victory. The look on Zak's face, incomprehension at how such a miraculous event had occurred, tickled me something fierce. Years later, I was talking to Zak and he said of those battles, "I let a lot slide in those games. A LOT".
  I continued to explore. I took an introduction course for wannabe aerobics instructors, signed up for half-marathons and a marathon while experimenting with smoking various substances and hit the gym with friends who were bona fide gym rats in the making and made my narcissistic streak appear puny in comparison. More and more I began to really appreciate how much fun working out and exercise can be. Exercise was an adventure, and I loved adventures. And exercise also made my abs pop, and I loved my abs.
  The more I worked out, the healthier I felt and the less it became about physical aesthetics. When I pushed myself, my self-esteem, along with my muscles, became stronger and more defined. It is with a sense of inevitability I find myself workings as a personal trainer. I am now able to share my love of exercise and working out, and when I can impart that love to someone else, well, that is a very rewarding feeling. When I can  glimpse some healthy vanity shine through a client, when a client breaks new boundaries and sets new personal records and when that sense of play and adventure that can come with working out and exercise is alive  it gives me such a kick. I just love that. It reminds me of when I was a child first noticing the first hint of what were to become my abs.
  I love what working out does for my body, my mind and my relationships. It is not so much about self-absorbed egotism these days. It is not just about superficial feelings of self-appreciation, I feel a deep sense of achievement by doing positive and healthy activities with those around me.
 So go on, show yourself some love, hit the gym, play some sports, go on an adventure why don't you. What have you got to lose apart from a few percent body fat? Work it out and enjoy another way which you can love you, like I love me.