Things Are…And Aren’t…What They Appear To Be

I posted these photos on Instagram because, as an athlete, I’m often around other people exercising, aiming for fitness or sport goals, or in a sports class. Our goals, our aesthetics, our abilities, and our priorities are all different and I make a HUGE point to remind people that comparison is never a helpful tactic. But when I say that, I don’t just mean comparison to other people – what they have or don’t have, how they look or don’t look. . .  – I also mean that we need to be gentle with ourselves

Our own mirrors, cameras, eyeballs (!). . .can tell very different stories simply based on angle and lighting. Hell, time of DAY can make a difference too – did you just have a huge glass of water? Have you eaten three meals already? Are you a woman dealing with cyclical change?

Sometimes people say very kind things, but they say them in a way as if to put themselves down… That makes me crazy. We all have room for improvement, but we also all have a lot to be proud of. When we see images of people in “perfect” shape it’s easy to be hard on ourselves – because I’ve grown up in sports (which I consider a great thing!) I also have the side effect of always wanting to achieve. To – absolutely – my own detriment sometimes!

What we ourselves (a highly visual species) post on social media generally portrays the happy, the fun, the good, the ideal “stuff”…but not as much the rough patches, the blemishes, the mistakes. As with everything, we all have our own reasons for that…and tons OF them. For some of us, we look to one another for inspiration and motivation. We also like to share funny and personal tidbits along the way – we are connected to friends, after all. But it’s important not to forget the human element, and that there is more to what we see.

Lately, I’ve gone easier – I was down and out with a cold, I’ve been struggling with a back problem…it’s just been harder to push myself to the limit. BUT…I’m doing okay. I’m healthy and have a LOT to be thankful for (I’m serious, I could write a monster gratitude list off the cuff.)

Being off my game doesn’t mean I’m suddenly a horrible person or I’m not still doing a good job! I make little jabs at myself (NOT nice and NOT a good habit, ps – I work on that every day) but I’m never going back to depriving myself. Fortunately when I was doing that, I didn’t think I looked well at all, and it was not the result of wanting to change my figure. Still, that unhealthy propensity is there and it takes daily reminders sometimes that my own EYES can deceive me…just like yours and everyone else’s can. 

Social media definitely doesn’t help that case so I think showing that appearances are easy to alter is a positive thing. It’s okay to post the good and happy and pulled-together…but just don’t forget that everyone has imperfections. Lighting and angles also play a big part – both for good and for not-so-good. We aren’t getting professionally airbrushed like celebrities in Vogue (well, maybe some are!) but there’s still room for focal shifts!

 

 

Progress and Form Photos

So I understand that “selfie”-taking has actually been officially declared a disorder (all I can say is, I am SUPER thankful Facebook wasn’t around when I was in my more-than-currently-dorky stage.  Geezuz!)

Because I am an athlete and a lifter, however, many of my friends take progress photos.  Much like a video at a Ballroom or skating competition, progress photos can be used to gauge, to learn, to tweak, to… p r o g r e s s.  They are absolutely, no question, a tool for anyone looking to improve – and for each person, that “improvement” or goal is different.  The individual may be…

  • A figure competitor who needs to lean out while building some mass.
  • A  bodybuilder looking to increase size or definition in a specific muscle group for better symmetry.
  • An athlete who needs to recoup after surgical atrophy or injury.
  • Or perhaps it is just someone wanting to lose weight overall and lean out.  

Photos can, in any of these cases, offer incredible inspiration…especially for the days we just don’t feel like it!  They can help us push ourselves out of our comfort zone to reach our goals.  It feels AMAZING when we do.

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I was searching like MAD for a photo of my abdominals after completing months of training for, and the actual nearly-300 mile bike ride I did for ALS in 2013.  Everyone was so quick to say “you will burn all the calories,” “nothing will stick,” “you will be fine!”  

NOT SO!

I don’t normally eat processed carbohydrates, nor do I take in a substantial amount of sugar.  Well…I had to have BOTH to sustain the level of activity I was doing.  The first 109 miles ended up being in 110 degrees – as a non-endurance athlete, I wasn’t taking any chances!  BUT…I suffered because of what I needed to eat.  My body didn’t feel well internally at ALL…and I looked puffier externally as well.  It added weight, and NOT in a good way.

After more than a month of nutritional tweaks and a new workout routine, I was on my way to being leaner…but you better believe I took a photo of my abs as a benchmark…of what I DIDN’T want!  And…it helped.  

As I progressed, I took more photos – photos DON’T LIE!  It’s harsh, but it proved to me that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, and that I needed a change.  I reminded myself that everyone starts somewhere and while it was for a great cause, I was off the track I wanted.  But if I could accomplish a distance event…I sure as heck could get back in shape!

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This image isn’t from that time, but it is under a year ago…

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I wasn’t out of shape here, but there was more around the area than I wanted. Mind you…I realize that with age, and natural changes, we won’t always be in peak condition.  As a woman, we also have fluctuations…and I can accept that (I’m still annoyed about it though! 😉 )

The below is just about four weeks ago – I feel less “puffiness” and more definition, and I’m thankful because I’ve put a lot of effort into tweaking what wasn’t working (that part is different for all of us.) 

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Photos are also a GREAT tool for form.  My Grandmaster is going to be 76 in August and his form is still impeccable.

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For me, it’s about making sure I am generally in the right place for what I am aiming to do.  A photo will tell me what I need to adjust to target the muscle I intend to better, to get my foot positioned better…whatever it may be…

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So whether selfie-taking is indeed a disorder…and in a way, I actually think it IS...I personally think progress photos are great.  They can help you see what you may not be able to otherwise, and they can help you stick to your plan (I’ve heard many success stories of posting pictures on fridges, bathroom mirrors, in the car…)  WHATEVER WORKS, right!?!  

You can achieve whatever you set your heart on…and you deserve the tools to make that happen.  Fortunately, this one is something you can easily do. 🙂  (Many photo apps have self timers, ps!  I use Camera + if a friend isn’t around!)

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