My Fitness Philosophy: Why I’m Leaving Fitspo Behind

The fitness philosophy I no longer believe in

For a long time, fitspo ruled my life.

(If you’re not familiar with the term “fitspo,” this article explains it pretty well)

I worked out because I wanted to look like the women in the pictures.

I did it so that maybe (?) one day I could be proud of myself.

And I did it to feel superior to the women around me.

I’ve found that that is exactly the kind of thinking that fitspo culture breeds.

And I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of being told that the point of all of the pictures of women with perfectly straightened hair (that isn’t even tied back??), full makeup, and touched up abs is to inspire, when really all it’s there for is to make us jealous of other women until we feel externally compelled to go for a run.

I’m tired of seeking inspiration for a workout and finding quotes telling me, “Don’t stop until ___,” as if I am a machine.

I’m tired of seeing pictures that are obviously meant to make me compare myself to someone else, rather than to where I was a year ago.

I’m tired of constantly feeling subtly put down.

And you know what’s crazy?

I used to eat. that. stuff. up.

It was extremely motivating to me. I felt as though I was right on the verge of becoming one of those (usually headless…?) mirror-selfie abs women in the pictures. Fitspo convinced me that I was right on the cusp of entering their world and becoming somehow physically superior to the average woman.

What they never tell you is, you never get past the “right on the cusp” stage.

Not unless you do something drastic, which (barring amazing genetics) even the fitspo models had to do for their shoot.

For awhile I was obsessed with the idea of looking like them, so I started doing drastic things. Someday I might do a post on what those drastic things were and how I mentally got to the place where I am now, but for now I’ll just tell you that even then, all I got was discontentment with my body and obsession over abs and calories.

You don’t get results like the ones in the fitspo pictures working out and eating healthy for the sake of leading your best life.

You get those results by working out and eating healthy for the sake of working out and eating healthy.

I know this because that’s what I used to do.

And then one day I stopped and asked myself…

Who am I doing this for?

It wasn’t making me happy.

It wasn’t making my life better.

Did I enjoy the experience each day of working out? Absolutely.

Did I enjoy the feelings of obsession and guilt? Not at all.

So, after a long in-between period, I changed my mindset.

My Fitness Philosophy Today

I work out for the feeling of vitality.

You might have heard the mantra, “eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

Well, my new mantra is “get fit to live, don’t live to get fit.”

Getting fit is an important stepping stone on the path to feeling alive and healthy and well. I know what it feels like to have that stepping stone taken away from me, and now I’m taking it back.

I work out because fitness opens the door to adventure.

Being in great shape means you can register for a 5k with a friend without thinking twice.

It means you can fly to Colorado and hike a fourteener and only die a little bit.

It means you can bounce back after an injury or illness that otherwise would have made life immensely difficult.

In other words, being fit opens the door to adventure, to a life full of good stories and fun memories and physical feats that you never imagined you could do.

Even if you’re not really into hiking fourteeners and month-long backpacking trips, getting healthy can take you on amazing adventures that other things simply can’t. And whatever your chosen method of getting healthy is, whether it’s lifting, yoga, hiking, lifting, Zumba, whatever, it can be an adventure in its own right.

I work out because I want to feel strong.

When you’re a woman, it’s a LOT of fun to surprise guys people with how much you can lift.

It’s also just very useful. I live in a house full of girls, and I have always been the designated jar-opener. And I love it.

My weight has never really been a thing I’ve struggled with, but at certain points in my life (including right now) I have struggled with physical weakness. I mentioned in my “How to Keep your Resolutions” post that I fractured a vertebrae over the summer. Because of that, I am weaker now than I have ever been in my life.

It feels a bit like starting from square one, and it’s an unfortunate feeling.

Pretty much as soon as it happened I decided to get back in the game, rather than be defeated.

I’m ready to feel strong again.

I work out because fitness changes my lifestyle and my priorities.

Inevitably, once you start to work out and get healthy, it starts to seep into other parts of your life.

In high school I ran cross country for a year, but I would say I was a legit runner for four or five years.

And let me tell you, I wasn’t just a runner while I was running. I was a runner while I was choosing what to eat, while living in the community of my cross country team, and while I was deciding how to spend my leisure time.

I was a runner every second of the day.

It’s not that I intentionally tried to be–it’s just that something I loved took precedence over things that I didn’t care about as much, like eating a heavy meal if I was about to go for a run.

Fitness in general is the same way. It changes your priorities, which causes you to make changes to your life for the better. Rather than being a matter of legalism or strict dieting, strength becomes a matter of choosing your ultimate best interests over your lazy side’s current interests (i.e. getting up and doing leg day instead of watching an extra hour of New Girl).

I work out because fitness stretches my limits.

You never know how strong you can be or how far you can go until you try.

It brings me a strange sense of joy to realize that I can finally up my weights after using the same amount for three weeks in a row. If I can run ten more minutes than I could a month ago, I suddenly feel unstoppable.

Like I have no limits.

And if I do, I want to find out what they are.

I work out because I want to feel good.

There is so, so much that can come from exercising:

  • Endorphins
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Better mood
  • Improved sleep
  • Energy boost
  • Boosts memory
  • Increased confidence
  • Feelings of accomplishment
  • Achieving goals

And more.

After my back injury I promised myself that I would get back into it as soon as I could, and it’s time.

I work out because, frankly, I like to eat.

Back in the day I got into the habit of justifying a LOT of things by thinking, “It’s fine, I’m a runner.” Honestly, I still catch myself thinking that.

“I can eat four snacks today. It’s fine, I’m a runner.” That kind of thing.

The problem is, I’M NOT A RUNNER ANYMORE.

But I’m STILL using this excuse.

Do you see my dilemma?

I want this to be a valid excuse again.

I don’t know if that resonates with anyone else out there, but it is CRITICAL in my life.

Leaving behind the old philosophy

I no longer work out to feel some weird feeling of superiority.

I no longer do it because I hate the way my body is now.

I no longer do it because I want to look like a fitness model who most likely has a different body type than me.

And I certainly no longer do it because some picture on Pinterest told me to.

2018 is the year of getting strong.

It’s the year of seeing the world through a lens of positivity and wellness, and that includes fitness. No more toxic comparison, no more shame.

But, for the reasons I listed, I’m still going to go as hard as I can…or, you know, as hard as my physical therapist will let me. 🙂

If you’re reading this, that means that I’ve started my fitness journey and I would really love for you to come alongside me! If any of this resonated with you, comment below and tell me what your journey has been like.

Or, if you’re like me and just starting out, I would love to know that too!

Be on the lookout for future fitness posts. Soon I’ll be writing about my workout routine, favorite pre- and post-workout fuel, and fitness journey.

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