Love Your Sweat

There are many times that I’m certain my words will get me fired from my job as a fitness coach. Taken out of context, some of the things I say to my clients would certainly raise some eyebrows. Recently, I said eight letters, three words to a client that would certainly fall under the “outside of my scope as a trainer” umbrella. I told a client, “I love you.” *Cue the dramatic music as the audience gasps* It’s true, I love my clients. I don’t have a favorite, all of my clients are completely different from one another. But, I love them all for the same reasons. In each of my clients, I see a human being that has made a conscious decision to take control of their fitness level. We don’t lose our health with old age, instead we give it away throughout our lives with the unhealthy choices that we make.

There are times when my clients will scream, cuss, cry, call out for Jesus, or tell me that they hate me. I embrace the four agreements, so I don’t take (most) things personally. I get it. I recognize the catharsis behind their words and actions and it makes me love my clients even more. We all have a choice. We have a choice to step up to challenges and gain strength or we can accept what’s in front of us and choose not to take charge of our fitness level. We can choose to be any BODY that we want. Trust me, before you start listing the excuses, I’ve heard most of them and used the rest of them myself.

Love who you are and grow stronger from there. In daily interactions, I’d love to see more body faming and less body shaming. Shouldn’t it be easier to see the beauty in ourselves and others than it is to find reasons for critique and judgment? I love my clients for making the choice to not judge themselves (too harshly) and committing to a new challenge in their lives. “Jet, you don’t know your clients very well. We judge ourselves all of the time!” That may be true. But, perhaps it’s the raised serotonin levels from the workout. When I see my clients sweating and smiling, I see self love manifest. I see someone that doesn’t want to fall victim to hereditary diseases. I see someone that recognizes the relationship between body composition and life expectancy. (Quick note on BMI, ignore it. BMI is an outdated metric used by insurance companies to make denying coverage easier. BMI doesn’t take a lot of other deciding factors-BF% for one-into consideration. So, at 5’11”, 195 pounds and 10% body fat, BMI will list a person as overweight.) In my clients, I see a human being that is in a better mood by the end of the session (even if the only reason for the better mood is that the session has ended). Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep putting in the work. Love your sweat.

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Find Yourself Attractive

This was originally posted on 02/11/2013. But, I’m still in the Dominican Republic without Internet access, so please give this a fresh read until I have some new material for you.

Have you ever had the “naked at school” dream? Have you ever felt insecure about how you looked when leaving the house? We all have insecurities. We’ve been programmed (read: socialized) that way. All of this talk about insecurity is making me question things. What do you love about your (physical) self? I mean, just for a minute, one vain minute, look in the mirror and celebrate what you love about your reflection. Often, in class, when you hear me attempting to deflect self-doubt, I’m refuting use of the word ‘can’t’. But, we all know that self-doubt comes in many forms. Body image insecurities have kept people from joining gyms due to their fear of being judged by others. Let’s just clear the air. Everyone judges. It’s a part of human survival instinct to see someone/something and judge if it is a threat. In this modern age of stereotypes and conditioning, our judgments have taken an ugly turn. We all judge as we all are judged. The sooner we accept that concept, the sooner we’ll be comfortable in our own skin and just say, “fuck it, I don’t care what people think!” My challenge to you, this week, is to celebrate your soul as well as your physical vessel. Encourage your friends to do the same. We all have different levels of insecurities, some may need more of a boost than others. Before you begin any fitness program, a positive foundation built on what you love about your body, will take you much further than any sort of “I hate [fill in the blank] about my body” workout program.

I was recently featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The conversation was about men posing for boudoir photographs. When asked my opinion on why so many men are apprehensive about being nude in front of a camera, I spoke about people’s (men’s) fear of exposure. Naked, on a wall, in a gallery ripe for the judgment of the public. That sounds like a 3-D version of the naked at school dream! No matter how you gender-identify, does the thought scare you? Don’t let it. We are all judged and we all judge. Be comfortable in your own beautiful skin and never let anyone convince you that a fit lifestyle is a bad thing. I can’t speak for others. But, I love my life and I want to feel good as long as I live it. Let’s not workout because of some false “fountain of youth” promise, let’s not workout because of something about our bodies that we “hate”, let’s not do this for reasons of vanity. Let’s do this because we want energy for the entire day without energy drinks. Let’s do this because our bodies were never meant to be sedentary. Let’s do this because society should never dictate our leisure activities. Let’s do this because insecurities should never be the driving force in our life. Let’s stop talking about this and… Giddyup! Make it a great day!

Inspiration: Fitness

I’m in the Dominican Republic. This is a repost from February 2013 (with a few edits).

My double life finds me working as a Burlesque performer by night and a Fitness Coach by day. With such a full schedule, why do I sit down and write 500+ words a week? I do it because I hope that one of you will connect with my message. When I was in high school, I was the #blerd that read the broadcast announcements on the PA. At the end of each day’s announcements, I’d say some positive reminder to generate a smile or a sigh of relief to… well, anyone. My art teacher once said, “you know those kids aren’t listening!” I replied, “If one of them hears me, that will be enough.” Growing up, I had always hoped to meet that coach from the movies that inspires the team to win the big game. I looked for that inspirational figure in real life churches, schools, and gyms, to no avail. I kept running into cynical pessimists. So, I decided to become the source of inspiration. Let me be clear, I don’t wake up every morning with a goal to inspire people. My morning goal is usually, coffee. I do wake up with a goal to remind people not to doubt themselves or their ability. Most of you have heard me nix the word “can’t” in an exercise setting. We can do the challenging exercises. Even if we need to regress or modify it a bit. Yes, we can do anything. Why am I a Fitness Coach? I want everyone to feel like being fit is not some exclusive club. Any person can create any body they want. Why am I studying to be an Occupational Therapist? Some people really want to walk again, the people that have that desire need someone that believes in the possibility just as much as they do. Why am I a Burlesque performer? We all need a creative outlet. So many aspects of my life are so, damned, serious. I have fun performing and entertaining people. Working in the world of fitness is a natural segue to a physically demanding activity.

Here’s something to process for this week. I was recently asked for a summation of my fitness philosophy. In response, I wrote this. “Repetition, discipline and humility are the building blocks for accomplishing any fitness goal. Sporadic effort, placing wants before needs and holding on to ego will destroy any chance of reaching those same goals.” Recently someone told me that he wasn’t going to do what I’d asked of him because he had been “working out for 30 years” and “knew what he was doing.” An ego that size will never reach a fitness goal. When I place myself in a group exercise setting, I become a student and I listen. That’s the time to humble myself and follow instructions. When I do that, I always learn something new and I use that knowledge to make my mind and body stronger. When you’re working on your fitness goals, embrace repetition (the mother of all skill), discipline (doing the little things you may not want to do in order to accomplish a major goal), and humility (remembering that you don’t know everything). Keep that in mind and you’ll be stronger before you know it. #giddyup

 

“Strong Is The New Sexy” = Objectification

In the modern lexicon, words tend to change meaning all of the time. Societal stigma also changes and because of that, we hear more “this is the new that” statements everyday. Forty is the new thirty! Forty years on earth is still forty years. Society has just decided that it will place less judgment on 40 year-old humans. “I thought by the time I reached 40 I would have [fill in the blank with whatever cultural influences lead one to believe about their 40th year].” Cheer up, Friend! Forty is the new thirty!

Strong is the new sexy! That statement, in and of itself, is a sexist form of motivation. I’ve heard women say it, I’ve read it on magazine covers, and I’ve seen it on T-shirts. I find “strong is the new sexy” to be sexist. The phrase is packed with thinly veiled objectification.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I write that women are often viewed as property. To be clear, I am not in agreement with this mentality. However, as a cisgender male, raised by cisgender males, the misguided thought has been passed down to me. I challenge myself daily to think against my indoctrination. When someone is dehumanized into an object to be attained, the selection process resembles that of a Farmer’s Market fruit selection. Do you want her firm or soft, long or short? Either way, look past all human emotions and just see her body as an object to be obtained. As men, that’s how we’re socialized to think of women. That mentality generates scrutiny that women face regarding their appearance and it’s a never ending shit storm of annoyance. No, I’ve never been a woman. I’ve never experienced such scrutiny first hand. But, 90% of my friends are women and I hear the stories that drop my jaw in disbelief. The scrutiny happens with the elevator eyes and the long distance decision by the pursuer as to whom they will “spit game.”

“Forget about game, I’mma spit the truth! Won’t stop ’til I get ’em in they birthday suit!” -Ludacris

When a woman’s strength (read: muscular definition; not to be confused with her mental fortitude) starts being labeled as a determination of her worth (again viewing her as property) then society starts saying, “Strong is the new sexy.” I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over a decade and in all of that time, women still make the same request to me when we begin working together. “I don’t want to get too muscle-y!”, they say. I find it difficult not to roll my eyes when I hear this, for two reasons. 1.) Women, generally, have less testosterone and will not gain muscle as fast as men. 2.) So, what if they did gain muscular definition? Why would that be a bad thing? Throughout history, weak men have been threatened by the (mental or physical) strength of women. When you think of the term “ladylike”, what image pops up for you? She’s not muscular, is she? When you think of the term “butch”, what image pops up for you? Women have been socialized to look/act like ladies. It’s because of that socialization that some women apologize about their bodies.

I went to look at a friend’s tattoo on her leg and she said, “sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs.” When I asked why she was apologizing to me, she replied, “some people are weird about bodies.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s YOUR body. It’s not my place to have an opinion on it.”

Back to my point on socialization. Women have been socialized to not appear (physically) strong. Instead, they’ve been conditioned to be sex objects. Now that more women are working out with weights*, there are more women that are accepting their muscular definition. I applaud that acceptance. I think it takes a dark turn when the acceptance of a strong physical form must be diminished into “sexy”. The definition of sexy belongs to the owner of the strut. Culture should not define it. “The eye of the beholder” should not define it. Women should be able to look however TF they want without apologizing for hairy legs or objectifying their muscular definition as “sexy.”

I spoke with my friend, V, on the matter and here’s what she had to say when I asked her, “What are your thoughts on the phrase, strong is the new sexy!?”:

“…this phrase is simply jam-packed with interesting undertones. It always raises so many questions in me when I hear it. For instance, was strong not sexy before? Who is making this proclamation? How does one define “strong”? Are we now excluding other characteristics that used to be considered sexy in the past and replacing them with this image of “strength” instead? If I don’t look strong because of the particular characteristics of my physique, then am I not sexy? On a personal note, I live with a chronic disease and pain, which limits my capacity for many kinds of physical activity, and my muscles are smaller and relatively weaker because of this…so, am I not sexy? Often, when I hear this, it rings a similar bell as “Real women…” and “Real men…” Because, for the same reason that all people are real and you can’t define “woman” or “man” in a single, restrictive, exclusionary statement, neither can you define “sexy” in just one way. There is no definitive The Sexy- new or otherwise. So if a statement like this must be made, then I much prefer, “Strong is sexy.” Because it doesn’t preclude or exclude other ways of being sexy. I tend to struggle with phrases that attempt to raise up one physical ideal by knocking another one down- overtly or implicitly. Because to do so feels like an attempt to invalidate other ways of being and put a box around an experience that ought not be bounded.” -V

The next time you read, “Strong Is The New Sexy”, just repeat after me.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.

See you next week, Friends!

*-If you’re beginning a fitness program, study the overload principle. Lifting tiny weights for fear of gaining too much muscle mass is not going to make you stronger.

(Emotionally) Putting Out

Recently, a client explained that she’d decided to *big gulp + deep breath* “put herself out there” in regards to her dating life. Immediately I began to wonder, “WTF does that mean for her?” Hell, what would that mean for someone like me?!? In the age of Uber drop-offs, Tinder hook-ups, and Facebook break-ups, what does it mean for a woman to “put herself out there?” Well, I’ve never been a woman and I’m not going to front as if I have the slightest clue what it feels like to be a single female diving into the deep end of the dating pool, especially within the Me Generation that has a reputation for breaking up via text message. *shakes fist* “These damned, kids!” No. I’ll leave that blog post to someone else to write. I do know what it’s like to be a* Black/Heterosexual/Polyamorous/Male that’s been in the shallow end of the dating pool, wading towards infinity.

*It’s worth mentioning… Categories may shape my experience, but they do not define me as a human being. We all have more dimensions than any several categories.

As a [see above for a refresher on some categories provided to me by society] human, the concept of putting myself out there is interesting. The societal assumption** is that the male is supposed to approach the female in the courting process. “Hey girl! Hit me off with those digits!” “Hey girl! Do you come here often? Let’s go to my place and see if you cum there often!” Well, let’s all be glad that I’ve never been keen on the whole “approach some strange woman in a bar and try to take her home” thing. I’d be getting slapped on a regular basis! Yeah, not my thing. But, wait! If I’m not the Mack of Frama-Lama-Ding-A-Ling, holl’in mo’ game than a referee, then how am I supposed to put myself out there!?

**It’s worth mentioning… That some may view my musings as heteronormative. I don’t think (nor have I ever thought) that heterosexuality is the “normal or preferred sexual orientation.” However, I am heterosexual and I write from my own worldview. My good intention is not to offend. But, we all know what they say about paving the road to hell.

My understanding of the phrase means to let the world know that I’m available and interested in dating and/or pursuing a relationship. Since I’m Polyamorous, I’m currently courting a few people. But, I’ve decided to put myself out there to find a Primary Partner. Two recent conversations helped me to come to this decision.

When my father took ill a few thousand miles away my brother was there to help my mom deal with his deteriorating health. My brother is a single father and he talked about how difficult it is to balance that with watching the slow decline of our Pop. He mentioned how he thought it would be easier to deal with such challenges if he were married. Before he began to explain what he meant, I was picking up what he was putting down. We spoke in agreement about the luxury of a partner that could help with the emotional weight of life. [Update: This happened a few months ago. Pop is doing well and still talkin’ shit. The family and I agreed that it didn’t really make sense for me to come home. So, I call him once a week just to send some love through the phone.]

In a separate incident, not so far away, I was humbled by a conversation with a regular in one of my [Group Exercise] classes. After the class ended, a man walked up to me and introduced himself by name [we’ll call him Jeff]. I found the introduction odd because I had seen Jeff in my class dozens of times. At the time of this odd introduction, it did occur to me that I hadn’t seen him over the past month or so. The introduction got stranger when he asked for my name. Because I know how horrible I am at remembering names, I conceded and we shook hands as if it were a first time meeting. Jeff went on to explain that he had been in a car accident and lost some of his memory. He said, “My wife tells me that I used to come to this class often.” My jaw dropped and I’m sure that I did a poor job of hiding the change in facial expression. The re-introduction made sense and it was an emotional reality check for me. We’ve all heard the gentle reminder to be kind to people because we don’t know what someone’s going through.

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It’s a completely different feeling when you’re faced with the experience of learning what someone else is enduring. At that point, it’s no longer some cliché from a screen, it’s very real. I found myself playing the macabre version of what if after that encounter. What if I lost my memory? Who would help me put the pieces back together? Would I have to give myself a series of tattoos as mementos? It would be nice if I had a wife or a partner to help me with the emotional weight of recovery.

I’ve been adamantly independent since I left home at 18. I’ve certainly had plenty of help along the way. [For all of the friends and lovers reading this that have washed a dish, fed a cat, or just listened to me vent without interruption, you know who you are and I perpetually thank you.] But, with such determined independence I’ve grown accustomed to doing everything by/for myself. The two aforementioned scenarios have acted as stark reminders that, despite preparation, I’m not meant to bear certain types of emotional weight alone. So, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I started using the P[artner]-word again. With this post and two new online dating profiles, I’m officially out there, World!

It’s worth mentioning… I still don’t know WTF “out there” means. I was never hiding or hidden. I’ve never rejected the notion of a Primary Partner. I have certainly had my “Fuck-That-Shit!” moments of angst after a former Partner told me that she’d wait for someone better to come along (that’s not an exaggeration, that’s what she confirmed when I called her out.) But, I’ve always accepted love in my life in the spirit of friendship, aroused physical connections, or both. Now, I’m just showing a profile picture and writing about myself and my ideal her as if I’m shopping on Amazon. [Yes, it feels that weird to me!] So, if you see me on OKC or PolyMatchMaker.com, now you know why. I’m seeking a Polyamorous friend that will be there for me in more ways than I can possibly list. I’ll know her when I meet her.

Special Note: The last time that I had a dating profile was 2010 and I swore that I’d rather stab my eye out with a rusty metal dildo than ever fill out another one of those goddamned “this is why you should pick me” biographies. In my 24 hours back in this online dating world, I’ve noticed that women still do three silly things with their profile pictures. [Before anyone tries to derail this special note, I’m aware that men do the same or worse shit with their profile pics. But, I’m not searching for them, so write your own post about the dumb ass Bro photos. You can also read this post to understand why you will continue to receive dick pics.] 1.) Group Photos. I don’t know what you look like well enough to know which one is you. Furthermore, why is that your default pic? 2.) Faux Diversity Photos. That picture with your one Black friend doesn’t say anything about the diversity in your circle. That picture with the orphans from your trip to Africa also feels shoehorned. 3.) Self-objectification Photos. I understand that your profile states that you’re just here for casual encounters. But, when all of your pics are of your ass or cleavage (with no face) I’m dumbfounded. WTF!?

Back in Parochial school we sang the hymn, “No Man Is An Island” and I’ve often tried to remind my clients that accepting support and love is a sign of intelligence and strength. Strength is a choice and I’ve made the choice to accept the support and love of a partner because I’m following my own advice.

10 Things I Love About You

This week, I’m asking you to do the work. You just have an assignment to complete.

Write a love letter to your body.

Step 1: Get naked. Don’t make a big deal out of it. You do this before every shower.
Step 2: Using a dry erase marker, write 10 things you love about your body on the bathroom (or other) mirror. This is not a time to restrain your sense of vanity. Focus on everything that you love about your body (and mind) on an aesthetic and kinesthetic level. Is there something that your body can do that you love or appreciate? Write that down as well.
Step 3: Challenge your friends to do the same.
Step 4: Repeat as often as needed.

Why? Because most people can spend 30 seconds talking non-stop about what displeases them about their bodies. When was the last time that you honored your gift and said thank you for the ability to think, move, fuck, etc.?

What if you don’t make it to 10 things you love about your vessel? (Spoiler: A lot of people don’t make it to 10.) Keep trying. Keep digging. Keep loving. Share your reflections on the experience (but not your actual list – that’s personal) in the comments below.