I consider myself to be a fairly fit, health-minded person. My days are a pretty steady routine of sleep, work, CrossFit and/or some other kind of training, eating, and knitting (but that’s a different blog post all together). The combination of these things helps me to feel balanced, happy and extremely grateful. But, it hasn't always been this way; not even close.
I spent at least 15 years of my 32 year life in a constant battle with my body. This battle included many fad diets, disordered eating, and anything I thought would help me turn my naturally muscular frame into that of a skinny mini. Exercise was a chore that I hated and eating was a constant stress on me. And, despite focusing most of my brain power on this topic, I was never happy with where I was at.
It’s pretty easy for me to block this part of my past out of my head and just enjoy the place I’m in now. However, I know that I’m not alone in what I've gone through and the things that I've felt and so turning a blind eye feels a bit selfish.
Going from a place of absolutely hating my body to a place of feeling strong, healthy and empowered didn't happen overnight, nor was it as simple as flipping a switch. It happened as a result of many factors coming together. Factors that I think are worth sharing in the hopes that I can influence or inspire others to think of health and fitness in a different and more positive way.
5 rules that changed my outlook on fitness
If I reflect back on my journey of transformation thus far, I can boil it down to five rules that I live by which I will share with you now.
Rule #1: Find something you actually like doing and do it for you
This sounds really obvious… and it totally is. But all it takes is one quick scan around any standard gym to realize that a LOT of people who are just going through the motions and loathing it every step of the way. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that any exercise is better than no exercise but simple logic would suggest that we’re going to be more likely to stick to something we like, right?
I’ll never forget the day I (temporarily) quit running. I was out on a 20 km run with my boyfriend who pretty much runs twice as fast as me. We were about 2 km into the run and all I could think about was how slow I was compared to him and how much I hated every second we were out there. At that moment, I literally stopped dead in my tracks and told him I was done (with running, not him). I turned around, headed back to the car and didn't run again for months.
Two days later I did my first CrossFit WOD and the rest is history.
To me, exercise isn't just about burning calories – it’s about improving both my physical and mental health. Sure, I could have finished that run and burned another 1,000 calories – but is that worth putting up with negative internal dialogue for 2 hours? Not to me.
Find something that not only gets you moving physically, but that also ignites your passion. When you do, I promise you that it will be magical and it won’t feel like work anymore.
Rule #2: Surround yourself with supportive, like-minded individuals
Staying on track can be tough sometimes. Staying on track when you have things and people in your life pulling you in different directions can be near impossible. Having people in your life who support your goals and the behaviors and actions required to reach them will have an infinitely positive impact on your ability to achieve said goals. But, for every supporter you will likely have a hater. I've experienced all kinds of ‘haters’ including:
- The ‘you should really stop lifting so much, you’re starting to look like a man’ hater
- The ‘must be nice to have so much time to dedicate to working out’ hater
- The ‘I think you can just skip the gym and come do <blank> with me’ hater
Luckily, I haven’t experienced much of this in the last couple years but there have been times where these kinds of words have diverted me from my goals. When you commit to anything, there are always going to be people who don’t understand it and silly words will come out of their mouths.
The best way that I’ve found to avoid these traps is to grow a network of supporters. This doesn't mean that every single person in your life needs to subscribe to the same way of thinking as you, or do the same things you do. Support could come in the way of a few workout buddies who will make the process more fun, a health and wellness mentor who will help keep you on track, or a partner who will support you and love you unconditionally no matter how big your lats get.
Find these people and treat them like gold. They’ll be an integral part of your success.
Rule #3: Don’t be too hard on yourself
I put this one right after #2 because, for me, being hard on myself can sometimes be a direct result of being around so many athletically talented people. While 99% of the time this is a motivator for me, it can also cause me to get down on myself when I don’t perform the way they do. To give you some context, the people I spend the most amount of time with in my personal life are elite runners, iron-distance triathletes, former competitive swimmers, super-athletes in their early 20's, and Boston marathoners.
While their abilities inspire me and urge me to push harder, I also find that I constantly need to remind myself that my background is limited to running track in grade 7, some mediocre soccer playing, a brief stint at boxing, and many years of totally screwing up my body by over eating, under eating and just generally treating it like crap.
I’m not saying to make excuses as to why you’re not at the same level as someone else – what I AM saying is that everyone comes from a different place and brings a different skill set to the table. Rather than envying someone else’s time or strength, admire their focus and discipline and try to incorporate some of that into your own routine.
Getting good takes time – a lot of it. Cut yourself some slack, enjoy the ride, and celebrate the little milestones along the way. I've learned that even the best athletes I know get down on themselves about certain areas of their training. We’re only human.
Rule #4: Have patience
I like instant gratification and, in the context of fitness or weight loss, I like to see results right away. I had a history of going on crash diets because seeing the weight, albeit water weight, drop on the scale was pretty exciting… until it all came back. I also had a history of quitting any kind of a training program after a month or two because I wasn't seeing what I wanted to see. I’m telling you all of this because I doubt I’m alone. Investing in your health can often mean committing to a lot of change and seeing some ROI after a couple weeks was always more appealing to me than waiting a year or two. And what if, after a year or two, you’re no further ahead. Well, that just seems pretty risky.
In my old(er) age, I thought I’d try something different. I decided to pick something I actually liked to do and then work to get better at it, letting my body do what it needed to do to get there. The past year has put me in some uncomfortable situations – I've watched the scale go up, I've felt my pants get tighter in my quads, and I've had to get used to the fact that my biceps are quickly catching up to my boyfriend’s.
Each of these things on their own would have been reason enough to cause me to quit CrossFit in the past. Now, I choose to see these as indicators that I am getting better, getting stronger, and succeeding in sport that I love.
Having patience can be incredibly hard, especially when you’re fixated on results. The best advice I can offer is to relax a bit. They say that good things come to those who wait. I think this is only half-true – I think good things come to those work hard, consistently over a long period.
Try putting the scale away for a while and seriously committing to your goals. I know that seems like a lot of time to commit but, in the grand scheme of how long you’ll be on the planet, it’s just a drop in the bucket. If you don’t see changes to your strength, your fitness, or your body composition, I’ll eat my words #nomnomnom.
Rule #5: Set attainable goals
Nothing frustrates me more and hinders results like ineffective goal setting. Various activities produce various outputs and so it’s incredibly important to be realistic with what you want to achieve and picking activities that support this goal. Any time I hear people complaining at the gym, it can usually be attributed to unrealistic goal setting. “I've been doing CrossFit for a while now and I haven’t lost any weight” or “I've been running every other day… where is my six-pack?”. Poor goal setting leads to disappointment and totally takes away from the good work that’s actually being done. I consider things like lbs on the scale, or abs to be a by-product of hard work and not a guaranteed outcome.
To give you some context – since I started CrossFit a year ago I've maybe lost 4 lbs. If my primary goal had been weight loss, I’d feel pretty so-so about that achievement.
However, I've increased my deadlift by 80 lbs, my snatch by 30 lbs and went from being able to doing one strict pull-up to being able to do 10 strict-pull-ups in a row and strict muscle-ups. That’s worth celebrating, but it’s a celebration that would have totally been missed if I had focused on the wrong things.
If running is your thing – track your pace. If you want to get stronger – measure your progress by the loads on your lifts. If you drop a few pounds or get a raging six pack in the progress – give yourself a high five. If you see the scale go up – trust that this is what your body needs to do in order for you to continue to get better and accept it.
About the author (Elizabeth Boychuk)
MBA, Crossfit Level 1 Trainer
I'm an avid Crossfitter and mediocre runner. I have traps for days and will never be a hand model. No matter how hard I push myself in a WOD, there is always energy left for dancing. I embrace my strong self and am on a mission to crush the stereotype that women can't be strong and muscular while still being sexy and feminine.
I train at Chatham CrossFit and hold a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certification but believe that being a good coach takes more just a piece of paper – it takes loads of experience which I am still acquiring.
If you like what you read you can come along on my journey by following my blog (www.crushthestereotype.com) or by following me on Twitter or Instagram.