#WorkThatBody2015

24 Aug

tracee

There’s this thing that happens on your weight-loss journey where you really start to feel yourself. You start taking notice of the physical changes in your body and gain a new admiration for your skills. You know how to control your portions. You’ve mastered the art of balancing your fitness regimen with your calorie counting. You’ve perfectly tamed your crave monster.

And the results are showing in your stride, the cinch of your waist, the draping of your clothes. In essence, you look hot.

You admire your good works, as you should. You can receive the compliments that are lauded upon you for your new approach to life. You walk with your head held a little higher because you are owning this.

This is one of the perks of sticking with your health-minded plan and gaining new comfort and confidence in yourself. Admiration for the renewed you comes with the territory. The only downside is that it can be coupled with exploitation.

The new you that you’ve come to appreciate is also being ogled and objectified by people who know nothing about you. This may have been the case for your old body. But maybe now you notice it more. The leers, the suggestive gestures or even a random camera snapping pics (trust me, this happens).

How do you balance your new found confidence with not letting others taint your experience?

That’s the question that came to me when reading Tracee Ellis Ross’s blog post accompanying the tribute video she made for her mother, Diana Ross. Tracee has long been an advocate of women being comfortable within themselves without needing outside validation. From her Love Your Hair campaign to this #WorkThatBody2015 post, Tracee has been pushing women, especially women of color, to “feel the joy” of being inside their own bodies.

Tracee, who even says herself that she’s often encouraged women to shift our gaze from how we are seen to how we are seeing and, more important, feeling,” felt joy and pride in watching her mother prance, dance and shake it out to “Work That Body” a generation ago. And it’s that joy and confidence that filtered through her into the tribute video.

Just because her mother was in a leotard and pushing her tush to the camera didn’t mean she was begging to be ogled.

I saw a woman feeling joyful in herself as a whole being; she didn’t seem to be presenting her ass or saying look at all the ways I can make myself look appealing to YOU. She seems to be saying, “this is ME feeling good and I am strong and sexy and joyful in ME”!~Tracee Ellis Ross

Understand: finding joy in yourself doesn’t mean to have to shake it, whip it, nae nae it or even drop it like it’s hot. It’s about having the confidence inside shine through. Dance around the house naked. Put on your favorite shade of lipstick or gloss. Dress up super cute and take yourself out on a date.

Feel good and strong and strong and sexy in you!

A Period in Time

17 Aug

kiran-ghandi-1-435There’s this thing that happens when you run. It’s called sweating. Those of us with overactive glands tend to look like we’ve just gotten out of the pool or some demented wet T-shirt contest.

For people like myself, we sweat everywhere. Think of every nook, cranny and crevice on your body. Think of the skin behind your knees. Think of the roll on your back. Think of that area on your neck that your earlobe tends to graze. Now think of your body temperature the last time you had the flu. That’s where I sweat. And many of my fellow pavement pounders do the same.

Now, think of women. Think of those of us who say, “Screw you, Mother Nature! You sent your monthly visitor to mess up my routine and to that I say, kick rocks.” But your period can’t kick rocks. It’s a thing that has to happen. So you can choose to wallow in the pain with a tub of Talenti, or you can run though it. I usually choose to run through it. (No judgement if you choose not to, though. Those cramps can be debilitating.)

Here’s the thing when fighting Mother Nature: she can be an ornery bitch. She will find ways to continue to make you uncomfortable. Sanitary items will move and jostle. Your breasts will ache more than usual just because today’s the day your sports bra decided to act a donkey. You’re so bloated you feel like running 10 more feet will make you explode. But you do it anyway because most times the aches and pains are just mental. Or they subside after your body has a chance to focus on new challenges.

We are all warriors in this battle of the bulge. And that’s why I can’t be too mad at our fellow road warrior Kiran Ghandi who decided to run a marathon without any sanitary aid. I’m a little mad, but not too mad.

If you haven’t read Ghandi’s story, she completed the London Marathon sans tampon, pad, cup, sponge, hell even a balled up piece of toilet tissue (trust me, it works in a pinch). She completed 26.2 miles with blood running down her thighs. This coupled with the body sweat couldn’t have made for a comfortable run.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, wouldn’t a tampon or pad have been more uncomfortable for such a long run?” The answer is a resounding no. NO, no, no, no, no! Runners who’ve been doing this for a while know just what kind of sanitary aids to use so they don’t impede their time or comfort levels on a long run.

No, Ghandi chose to have the lining of her fallopian tubes shed down her running pants to show solidarity for women and girls around the world who don’t have simple access to feminine hygiene products. She chose to be unhygienic to raise awareness about hygiene.

“You see, culture is happy to speak about and objectify the parts of the body that can be sexually consumed by others,” she told People. “But the moment we talk about something that is not for the enjoyment of others, like a period, everyone becomes deeply uncomfortable.”

And she’s right. There’s an organization called Days for Girls that is dedicated to educating and getting girls access to free feminine hygiene products. Girls can miss sometimes up to two months of school because they need to stay home. This creates a long list of problems in the long run. So kudos to Ghandi for helping to shed light on this issue.

Could I have done it myself? Probably not. I don’t like the feeling of being without a tampon. I’d be concentrating moreso on my discomfort levels than on my breathing and pace. But now that this issue is in the spotlight, hopefully more people will pay attention to the simple needs of others.

Black Girl Magic

11 Aug

11231849_10155925756280268_3757726510498463682_nI don’t know what’s changed recently, but I’ve noticed a trend. I didn’t so much see it coming as much as I was so caught up in the whirlwind of it that I couldn’t see what was happening around me. But others did. They saw. They noticed and made sure others did. And it’s amazing.

Not one, not two, but three amazing fitness goddesses are gracing the covers of magazines this week. Not just any goddesses–black goddesses. These women are the epitome of black girl magic. And they are working it!

These three women exemplify what Black Girl Magic is–black women working hard and accomplishing the goals they’ve set out for themselves. It’s not often that the world gets to see such power, atheleticism and elegance exemplified by black women on the covers of national magazines. It’s uplifting and remarkable to see. I know I’ll be picking up my copies and learning more about these phenomenal women.

Serena Williams

11817170_10153516713484826_5534474984263977955_nMy love of Serena is well-documented on this blog. I don’t have to remind you of how her dedication to her sport is awe-inspiring. I don’t need to reiterate how watching her repeatedly defeat her opponents in such swift manner gives me the giggles. I shouldn’t have to tell you again that her body is my life’s goal.

What I will tell you is that she will head into her fourth and final Grand Slam of the season at the end of the month. I’ll fill you in on the fact that if she wins the U.S. Open, it will be the first time in decades a woman has completed a calendar-year Grand Slam. I’ll spill some tea about how Serena has learned to stop being so hard on herself and just enjoy the game. That glee at just being a part of the sport she loves so much has allowed her excel far more than anyone would have expected this far into her career.

And when she takes the court at the end of the month, I’ll be watching as many matches as possible. Because my hero deserves it.

Misty Copeland

misty_essenceJust as I have used a great amount of server space fawning over Serena, I’ve begun to notch out some room for Misty. I love dancers. I loved dancing as a kid. I still have impromptu dance parties by myself in my living room. The freedom of expression through movement is such an incredible craft to master. And Misty has done that in spades.

Like Serena, Misty was met with odd comments about her body. She is muscular, where many of her contemporaries are not. But she is athletic. She can take difficult choreogrophy, attack a move and still make you think she’s moving through the air like a feather. Because she’s awesome.

Essence magazine thought so, too, when they gave her the cover of September’s issue. In one of her spreads, she’s surrounded by several young black ballerinas who are looking up to their role model: the first black principle ballerina for the American Ballet Theater.

Misty is an inspiration to millions of young dancers who may not be the perceived ideal of what a prima ballerina looks like. She is the new ideal.

Ciara

ciara_shapeCiara’s had it rough in the press this summer. Not because of her album. Not because of any diva tirade she’s gone on. And not because of any scandal she’s created. She is an adult involved in a romantic relationship with another adult that doesn’t involve sex. This news would have blown over swiftly if it hadn’t been for her ex-boyfriend questioning her as a mother and her relationship decisions.

Instead of clapping back (as I would have), she took the high road. She ventured a couple of little subtweets and moved on having fun with Russell Wilson.

Then she went on to release the video that makes “Ride” and “Body Party” look like Kidz Bop videos.

Now, to top it all off, the mother of one is on the cover of Shape magazine looking like she’s ready to fight. Ciara has always had a great body. Like Misty, her body is her instrument. She’s an amazing dancer and keeps her body healthy to maintain those physical demands. Like Serena, she has studied the greats and uses that knowledge to make herself better.

In Shape to Work Out

29 Jul
womens_running_cover

Courtesy of Women’s Running

I have large thighs. Occasionally they look like tree trunks. As I’ve gotten older, my arms have gotten wobbly. I have the opposite of a six-pack. And there’s flab in places I’d prefer it not to be.

I’m also a runner.

When perusing health magazines–or magazines in general–you won’t come across people who look much like me. But get out on the trail, and you’ll find us there. Those of us with short legs and jiggly butts. Those of us who’ve never had flat stomachs but possess awkward gaits. We’re out there with the supermodels and the model parents. We’re making full use of what nature has provided in order to make ourselves healthy.

We’re out there with people like Erica Schenk. It was such a treat to see Erica on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. The August issue features Erica mid-stride in her super-cute running wear, looking like many of the runners I pass (but also pass me).

Erica, who was being shot for a spread on the different available sizes in athletic wear, ended up being the editor’s choice for the cover.

“There’s a stereotype that all runners are skinny, and that’s just not the case,” editor-in-chief Jessica Sebor said in an interview with Today.com. “Runners come in all shapes and sizes. You can go any race finish line, from a 5K to a marathon, and see that. It was important for us to celebrate that.”

It’s important to celebrate athletes of all sizes. Just as Amanda Bingson is a powerhouse at the hammer throw,  Prince Fielder is an amazing hitter and Misty Copeland is a technical wizard at ballet, you can excel at your field.

Or you can just participate in it. Being of able body doesn’t mean having the perfect body. We can’t all be shaped like Brittney Griner or Michael Phelps in order to succeed at a sport. It helps if you want to excel. But the only requirements for participation is a wilingness to try.

That’s it. You just have to want to do it. Getting better at it will come with time. As I said, definition is not the definition of success. Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Did you accomplish the task by finishing your run? Did you do the extra laps at the pool you’d intended on doing? Were you able to increase your resistance and not pass out?

Success! And you did it all without looking like a fitness model.

Do the work and worry about the image later. If you want further defined legs and arms, then make that a goal. Worrying about what you like like on the road to success will only slow you down. As for me, I’ll take my tree-trunk thighs to the pool, spin class and even the park because it’s what I enjoy doing. And my in-shape brethren will be there with me (likely eating my dust).

Have you ever let your size deter you from trying a new fitness activity? If you were able to overcome it, how did you do it?

Get Your Roll On

20 Jul
Not yet...but soon. Courtesy of Tumblr

Not yet…but soon.
Courtesy of Tumblr

I have a really good friend who is also a chiropractor. This comes in handy when I feel like being a baby and throwing all my workout-pain questions at her.

“Is this supposed to hurt?”

“Why does my knee do this weird thing?”

“Do I have to stretch?”

The last question is the one I know she’s tired of hearing from me. But she’s my friend, and she will deal. I have a big issue with stretching before and after working out–the issue being that I don’t want to. My muscles don’t feel too tight. I walk around for a while before and after the workout, which I think serves as a good enough warm up. My good friend the chiropractor says, sometimes not so sweetly, that I need to get over myself. It’s a loving relationship, if you couldn’t tell.

So when my knee started acting up on me, again, I texted my good friend the chiropractor. I told her the exercises the physical therapist had me do. She seemed OK with them, but also suggested I get a foam roller.

I am cheap. Like, ridiculously cheap. Buying more workout equipment seemed like a pain in the butt. Plus, it adds more time onto my pre- and post-workout routines, eating into my day. My good friend the chiropractor didn’t seem to care. “You want to be able to run, don’t you?” Her and her stupid logic.

Just so you know, we had this conversation well over a year ago. I visited her recently (and her ridiculously cute baby girl). Conversations steered toward working out and I casually mentioned I still hadn’t bought the foam roller. If looks could kill, this site would be a memorial page by now.

When faced with impending doom from one of your besties, you do what anyone else would do: You open Amazon on your phone and let her pick out the best foam roller for you. It got here a few days ago.

The foam roller is a lot more than it seams. It’s ridiculously lightweight (hence the foam) and extremely durable. What no one, including my good friend the chiropractor, tells you is that using this thing is painful. In an effort to knead out the knots in my IT band (which I discovered is NOT below my knee), I’m causing myself even more agony. Just to make sure I wasn’t doing this wrong, I consulted a few handy-dandy YouTube videos. Yep, it’s supposed to hurt.

The good news is it won’t always be this way. Because I’m a newbie to this foam rolling business, I need to work through the pain. Just like any new routine, I’ve got to get used to it before my body becomes acclimated to the “intensity,” as one YouTuber called it.

But, I appreciate what it does. If I ever plan on running a half marathon, I’ve got to be able to use my legs, knees and thighs. I’ll get over the pain, but until then, my good friend the chiropractor is getting side-eyed for the next couple of months.

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