Define Yourself

This week, I’m going to take a step back from my normal format to talk about mindset.  I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset this week and how it relates to health and wellness.  Naturally, I just had to share these reflections!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to take a look at how I define myself as a healthy person.  I’ve realized something: I’ve been living with a divided mind.  I’ve been defining my overall health based on how I feel and what my body can do, but I’ve been defining my level of satisfaction with my body based on my weight and what I see in the mirror.  I found this great blog post by Nia Shanks about what being “fit” means for each one of us.  It really spoke to me.  Yes, I do consider myself a “fit” person.  I can move in ways now that I considered impossible a few years ago, I’m building muscle and getting stronger, and I’ve begun to explore my diet — my preconceived notions about what is and is not “healthy” and what actually works for me.  There are still things I’m working on, like getting even stronger, having better balance (including getting up to full headstands and handstands), and getting more flexible.  I’m moving in the direction of getting more “fit”.

I’m also learning that I don’t need to spend all day exercising to achieve a higher level of fitness.  I used to consider a workout that lasted less than an hour useless. Workouts that lasted more than an hour were even better!  In addition, I had an all-or-nothing mentality when it came to exercise.  If I couldn’t spend a full hour at the gym, I simply wouldn’t go.  If I didn’t have time for an hour-long workout at home, I wouldn’t workout that day.  It’s taken almost a year to break that mindset, and I’m still working on it!  I started with yoga — the free classes I found on YouTube were mostly 30 – 40 minutes, so I started just doing one of those per day.  That’s it.  One 30 – 40 minute yoga video per day and no other structured workout (except for Capoeira classes twice a week, but that’s different).  This was much harder than it might sound!  I could still go for walks, or do something else fun and movement oriented, but I wouldn’t allow myself to do any other structured workout aside from that yoga class.  I fought the urge to add two or three classes together, and fought the urge to punish myself for missing days by doing the missed workouts all in one day.  It was hard, but now that I’m coming out on the other side, I’m so glad I did that!  My attitude toward exercise is much healthier now than it ever was before.  I still move a lot, but I don’t feel the need to punish myself for missing workouts, and I’m no longer concerned with the length of the workout more than the quality of the workout.  I do the best I can with a busy schedule and no longer need to commit hours to working out, since that really wasn’t working at all!

The other part of this mindset shift is isimply appreciating what my body can do rather than associating my level of fitness with a number on a scale.  For the most part, I can move in every way I want.  I’m flexible enough to enjoy my yoga practice, quick enough to feel a level of competency in Capoeira, and I have a level of cardiovascular fitness that allows me to walk for miles without feeling fatigued.

Last week, my Capoeira instructor had us doing partnered squats.  If you’ve never heard to them, they basically involve lifting your partner onto your back, then doing a set of squats before setting them back down.  This time, I was paired with a fellow student who has been practicing much longer than I have.  We’ve never been partnered for this drill before, and we discovered that I’m too heavy for him to lift.  At first, I was rather embarrassed by this.  What woman really wants to find out that she’s too heavy for a man to lift?  As I watched the rest of the class finish the drill and thought about what had just happened, I realized that it really didn’t bother me.  I know I’m heavy, and I know that, while I do have a little more fat than I need, I also have a lot of muscle.  I’m healthy, and fit, and actually like where I am right now, but am also looking forward to the progress I’ll make as time goes on.

After this experience, I read this blog post by Jill Coleman, and she was talking about a similar experience!  In her case, the situation revolved around a comment someone made, but it got me thinking even more about my reaction to the whole experience.  A year ago, this would have shaken me to the core.  But now, I can appreciate what my body can do, where I am on my health journey, and where I will be in the future.  I define myself as “fit” based on what I can do, not by how other people see me.

Do you define yourself as “fit”?  I’d love to hear your story!

Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.