Tuesday 31 January 2017

Building Confidence in Ability

Back when I was in high-school, I took a class that involved a weekend practicum in the role of an outdoor camp counselor. There were a few typical rules asked of us in this position: Don't flash your cellphone or other technology around, don't swear in front of the kids, etc. One rule resonated as being particularly important to me, though.

"Girls, please no Lulu's or yoga pants. Boys, don't wear beaters. We want the kids attending camp to be motivated to do the things you're teaching them, not to aspire to look like you."

"You kids go canoeing while I stand here looking fabuloussssss!"

This was one of my earliest impressions that paved my philosophy as I became a professional with health and fitness. I heavily emphasize ability and performance over aesthetic regardless if I'm teaching a fitness class or rehabing a client. I find a much greater sense of achievement when my clients tell me they were able to run without pain that week than I do when they tell me they dropped a waist size.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking the importance of developing healthy body image and allowing people to feel beautiful. I'm just not the best person for that job. As the "tiny" kid while I grew up, I quickly came to the terms with the fact that I'd never be the large, flashy muscle-dude in the magazines, but would always find solace in my ability to outrun my peers. For this reason, I find a particular speciality when it comes to training and coaching young people in their confidence in physical capability. Even more fulfillment comes when I'm able to guide someone to a physical achievement that they always assumed was out of their reach, such as introducing a previous non-athlete to success as a runner.

Pictured: A lot of runners who had never done a sport one year ago.

Training ability and function, I find, will leave an individual with a much more sustainable confidence and sense of identity than simply training towards a certain aesthetic. Especially when considering the toxic ideals instilled by modern media, training for an appearance involves a very different type of anxiety and mental coaching that I can't call myself experienced with. In fact, when asked on whether I still do personal training on the side with my rehab business, my answer is usually "no". With the exception of youth and sports-specific training (mostly speed and sprinting), I don't have a particular love for that kind of work these days. There are plenty enough workers who can focus on the aesthetic or coach someone in believing in their body image, but I'll use my time the way that I use it best.

Focus on what you can do rather than how you look while doing it.

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