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On Finding My Own Fitness Rhythm


fitness rhythm - workout equipment

I knew I would never be a member of Destiny’s Child. That fact became fully apparent when their song “Lose My Breath” entered the zeitgeist. I am trying to keep my breath. Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle stomped around in stiletto boots, cargo pants, and crop top parkas in dark alleys, asking, “Can you keep up?” 

No, but thank you for asking. 

Keeping Up with Online Fitness

I use Pinterest to form my workouts. In almost every video I watch on there, a majority of women are smiling, looking at themselves in the mirror to show their results so far, and then smiling again. Weeks and months and years of building their routine are shown to viewers in a matter of seconds. They then proceed to go into an intense workout with an excessive number of repetitions. I, of course, modify the workouts to not lose my breath. Through each workout, I challenge myself and hone my limits. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I took my first and last exercise class over Zoom. I set up just minutes before class. I was thoroughly confused as to whether anyone would be on as I stared at the black screen. I entered the classroom and the workout was full throttle. The instructor switched quickly from one workout to the next. I can still hear her chipper voice saying “and now,” moving on to the next set of reps, as I still tried to recover from what we’d just done. I soon lay on my back and hit “end meeting.” 

Peloton, for better or for worse, has revolutionized working out in the new millennium. Enthusiastic instructors like Tunde Oyeneyin and Robin Arzon have become famous for their rides. I truly understand why the gym teacher from Mean Girls would not be a Peleton instructor. The stamina and energy required are beyond. The company continues to be challenged by teetering sales, business faults, and PR recoveries. Nonetheless, riders who can afford a bike have found solace in their rides and have developed new routines while chasing that adrenaline high. There is a bond that seems sold through the glittering commercials saying “you CAN do it.” 

The giddiness and smiling and overwhelming positivity showcased in fitness culture feel like falsehoods to me. Is working out supposed to look like Candy Land?

Working out is about endurance, discovery, sweat, and discipline. The women I see in exercise videos look like they are selling you a fantasy. “Click on this video and you are on your way to athletic euphoria!” The people in the workout videos may very well enjoy being doused in sweat. Smiling may be part of their enthusiasm. 

Finding My Own Fitness Groove

Last September marked 10 years since I became a runner. This activity became a part of my life at a time when I was deeply depressed. Running got me out of bed. I ran farther than I ever imagined. I was in a place where I needed to see results. I needed to see what I could achieve in my life. 

I learned that my stride was important for distance. Tracee Ellis Ross once talked about making room in your body when you work out. When a member of the Royal Court of Joy simplifies working out, you know you can. The power to do something new and make it your own is within you. 

Sometimes I do smile when I run or work out. It’s genuine.

I also exhale, grunt, and feel dismayed. Those emotions are all part of building my best self.  

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

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