Who pushes you?

At the University of Ottawa I had a Human Kinetics professor named Sean Egan. I had him for a course on health and wellness and it required me to attend an activity lab early on Friday mornings. As much as I enjoyed working out, doing so after a Thursday night out wasn’t what I called fun.

SeanEgan*photo credit to 2005 Kanatek Everest Expedition

I have the saying “Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better” burned in my memory (because I’m sure he said that many times) but I can also remember swimming laps and he called out to me “Drowning yet?” I felt like I was and promptly labelled him an arsehole (in my mind, of course.) I also recall him commenting to the class one day how great it was to see budding relationships taking place in his lecture hall as the guy I suspected of crushing on me whispered to me all class. I felt like he kept his eye on me and pushed me too much. I did not really enjoy Sean Egan at all.

Until I saw his face on the news as I was in an airport in 2005. I saw that he had died on an Everest expedition and this caused me to reflect on him and how I felt about him. And in searching for a photo of him tonight, I stumbled across a series of videos of him, and to be honest, I’m in tears typing this.

Sean was 63 when he died on Everest. He died in pursuit of a goal many of us find impossible. I remember him telling us how he cycled at least an hour to work everyday, only to discover he had cycled from Vancouver to Ottawa before and walked something like 10 days without food once. He embodied an active lifestyle and dying on Everest was the perfect death for this man.

I started out writing this post because I have been able to look back at him pushing me as a positive experience instead of a borderline bullying one. Whenever I start a race I can hear him in his Irish accent, encouraging me to be better than last time. When I breathe through a difficult pose in yoga, I know he taught me the importance of that mind-body connection that gets me through my practice. I am truly learning what it means to have that mind-body connection and all of that started with him.

I’m now writing this post because I discovered that Sean left a legacy for everyone, not just me. A film maker, Elia Saikaly, has created a web series of videos  honouring Sean’s legacy. One such video includes clips of Sean in his tent giving us little messages and tidbits of wisdom. It shocked me to see him and hear his voice, but the words he spoke hit me harder than I ever expected: “live the present…it’s no good worrying..only the fit survive…you are the only person who can change you…” AIM HIGHER was his  mantra: he climbed Everest at the age of 63 and believed that age shouldn’t limit your goals.

Ad Astra

So it turns out Sean wasn’t done pushing me! Here he is, right now, pushing me from the great beyond! I’m in the midst of a journey of self-discovery through fitness and here he is saying exactly what I need to hear on a Tuesday night in my little house in Vancouver Island. His left his life on Everest 13 years ago but his legacy truly does continue on. This post is proof.

Who pushes you to aim higher?

Check out Elia’s story.

Why I’m posting more selfies

#selfie

If you follow me on Instagram (@merakieventplanning) you know that I’m a huge believer in body positivity, in encouraging others,and in learning to love yourself. Yes, I’m a fitness professional and an event planner, but I’m also working to turn the fitness industry on it’s head. I am NOT a size zero and I do NOT have ripped abs, and while I have always kind of rolled my eyes at the endless stream of selfies in my social media feed, I’ve started to rethink my role in the selfie market.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely convinced the majority of #fitspiration posts are  inspirational, but as I continue on this journey towards loving myself and setting a healthy example for my kids by not destroying my self-confidence while I work towards improved fitness, I’m starting to see the value of good ol’ fashioned selfie.

I was in a dressing room for about an hour this morning trying on at least a dozen dresses for an upcoming photo shoot, and I was sending pics to my friends for feedback. I thought to myself that it’s about time I start putting myself out there. I talk a good game about loving yourself where you are right now, but do I practice what I preach? I decided then and there to post the pic of the winning dress.

IMG_6434[1]

Yes, I received compliments but it’s not about that, (though they were very appreciated!) It’s about feeling comfortable enough with myself to let the world know that. My selfies will show that I have soft bits and squishy parts because I’m a real person. My son loves to tell me I have cracks by my eyes, and I respond that it’s from laughing and smiling so much. I was pregnant 3 times and birthed 2 children. I’ve battled anxiety and depression and moved across the country 3 times in the last 6 years. I’m stronger than I was a few years ago and I’m a hell of a lot faster, too.

I STRONGLY believe in being who you post to be, so it’s time for me to share my real self with the world.

Holy Sh-t, I’m 40!

Today is my 40th birthday and I’m celebrating the hell out of it! I grew up with the idea that being 40 meant you were old which meant you were grown up, had things figured out, and that life was all paying bills and adulting hard-core. I woke up this morning with a very different perspective on the big 4-0.

To all cool dads out there,

I will probably never feel grown up. I still shriek when I see a cute dog and my sisters and I act foolishly when we get together. I still need my mom’s advice. Being “grown up” doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! I had a blast dancing with my gal pal on St. Patrick’s Day and I actively seek out opportunities to get silly and laugh.

I believe that growing older is a privilege denied to many and while I don’t dwell on the loss of those who died young, I am thinking of a friend from my university days who died about 10 years ago. He will never know the joy of developing wrinkles from laughing so often or of finally feeling comfortable with himself as an adult. I will live for myself, but remember that there are many wish they had the chance to turn 40 and 50 and 60.

Just like the number on the scale doesn’t define me (I weigh one hundred and sexy, by the way, right Tara?) age is just another number and 40 will not define me. I’m dedicated to my fitness and healthier eating and I think I’m doing pretty awesome. I was rocking it out as the oldest person in my splits class last night and I’ll kick it in a new age category when I run a 5k tomorrow. My age doesn’t limit me and it never should. Anyone can choose to do anything at any stage of life. It’s all about choices and decision-making. I am choosing to the live the kind of life I want to live.

My husband was a bit nervous about this birthday as he’s mentioned witnessing some women experience a crisis heading into 40. Crisis my ass! I’m embracing it as an awakening to a chapter of my life where I become a better version of myself. The self I only dreamed of having the courage to become in my younger days! I am learning to love every inch of my changing body. I am setting goals and working my ass off to reach them. I am inspiring others to fear less and am motivated by others everyday. I’m putting positive energy out into the world and receiving love in return.

My kids will see their mom take time for herself and they’ll learn self-respect as a result. My friends will find a (loud) cheerleader in me, and my husband will find me confident and certain in myself. Forty is going to be an amazing year!

 

Is fitness x-rated?

Is fitness too sexy?

Is fitness too sexy_

I recently saw that Walmart decided to pull all copies of Cosmopolitan from their shelves, and was still shocked to discover I couldn’t find a copy at my local store. I was kinda angry that they decided to do this. Isn’t it MY decision to read what I want to read? Isn’t it MY choice to have a conversation with my kids about what they read in the headlines? Isn’t it MY choice to decide what’s too sexy?

I shared my distaste on social media then thought back to my personal trainer final exam. I wore a pair of black yoga pants and a tank top and my (female) examiner told me to “hide my cleavage because it’s intimidating to clients”. I am still gobsmacked and hurt by this comment 13 years later. I don’t think I have ever felt so ashamed of my body before or since. I was wearing what just about every other woman wears to a gym, but I was deemed too sexy.

So, is fitness too sexy? I scrolled through several Instagram accounts today and many are filled with shirtless men or women posing in ways to accentuate their glutes. I agree that being fit is sexy, but is the product of our industry too sex-oriented? Is what social media accounts post any different than Cosmo’s covers? #gymselfies may not put headlines about how many ways they can please their lover on their pics, but do the little peach emoticons convey a different message, really?

Last Saturday I attended my first exotic dance class and when my mother, who was visiting, asked what kind of dance it was, I felt awkward telling her. Nevermind that the strengthening and stretching involved in that class were an intense workout in and of themselves, I found myself nervous to express too much sexuality in my own fitness! I did end up telling her afterwards, and I’m working to own my sexuality as it relates to my fitness, but the struggle is real.

so, is fitness too sexy? What is sexy to begin with? I wanna hear your thoughts? shannon@merakieventplanning.com

 

 

 

 

Fit Shaming is a real thing

I know I made a post last night, but in gathering feedback for that topic I was led directly to this one and I write when I’m inspired, so read up. One of the guys who wrote me described feeling uncomfortable taking off his shirt at the beach and not because he’s out of shape, but because he’s in such good shape. Huh? That shocked me because I figured it was only us squishy ones who felt weird showing our bodies. WRONG! What he was describing to me is what’s referred to as “fit shaming”.

Think this guy has body image issues_

After reading his comments I posted on Instagram asking for stories of fit shaming and several people responded that judgments are often made based on a fit physique and oftentimes fitness enthusiasts are ridiculed or put down for pursuing physical goals. Interesting, eh? In a society where we push this idea that we need to be thin and toned and attractive to be worthy, we judge those who actually attain (or approach) those standards! What the hell?!? I did a Pinterest search for fit shaming quotes and it corrected me to fat shaming…even the Internet wants to ignore that there’s an issue.

Bodybuilding is not my thing, but I admire the hard work and dedication that goes into it. Running is my thing and I’m becoming ever more serious about it, but I don’t expect all of my friends to join in. I love yoga but you won’t catch me doing naked hot yoga any day soon, but cheers to you sweaty naked yogis! Why can’t we just live and let live? If you want to bench press a Mack truck: go for it!

What are your experiences with fit shaming? I was excluded from a group of friends and I cannot figure out why…the only conclusion I can come to is that I make fitness a central part of my life and this group of ladies doesn’t. Did I lose friends because I workout? I can also recall a guy I dated a long time ago who was less than thrilled I could hold a plank longer than he could.(Needless to say he’s not the man I’m married to.) Ever go to participate in an event like a marathon or Tough Mudder and have those around you say you’re crazy? See, it happens more often than we think.

I do believe that EVERYONE should pursue a healthy and active lifestyle but I respect that it will look different for each of you. I aim to inspire inactive folks to get up a move however that works for them. In this journey to explore the fitness and wellness industry on a deeper level has me angry with what is floating around out there but it’s also forcing me to check my own judgements and preconceptions. I hope to break down some of these obstacles and make it easier for people to feel comfortable being healthy in their own skin. I hope anyone reading this takes a moment to check their own judgements of others, and remember we’re all just trying to love ourselves.gymquote

Whose standards do you measure up to?

A few weeks ago I put out a call for men to share their experiences with body image with me for an upcoming blog post. I received some great responses and it’s really got me thinking about how it seems that no one is safe from feeling less than, regardless of your current physique. And by no one, I’m including men. That’s right, ladies: we are not alone in feeling like our bodies don’t measure up.

Whose standards do you measure up to_

One male fit pro mentioned how there is a standard set by the fitness industry that oftentimes even the fittest of guys struggle to reach. Women’s battles with these standards are probably just more openly discussed, but if WE ALL (and yes, that includes a totally ripped, muscular guy) feel like we don’t meet the standards, what is the fitness world doing wrong? When the bar is set so high almost no one can achieve it, why do we insist on leaving it there? How did we get here?

I’m 5’8″ and the average height for women in Canada is 5’3″. Another man who shared his experience said he feels like he’s judged because he’s not the average height for a male. A male friend mentioned that he, too, experiences a certain degree of judgement based on his height. He’s 5’8″ just like me, and we’re judged in very different ways. Some people assume he can be dominated in the business world, while many find a taller woman intimidating in the conference room.

I encounter this battle with conflicting expectations everyday. As a woman, as a mom, as a wife, as a fitpreneur. Growing up I was lovingly (?) referred to as a beanpole. A flat-chested beanpole. I always felt unpretty and inadequate because I was too tall, too thin, and not curvy enough. Until I was about 19 years old I wasn’t sure the world at large would see me as a woman. Flash forward to now with my child bearing hips, stretch marks, and ample bosom: there’s no confusing me for a man, but that mindset is still there. I feel pressure to prove I’m a woman and to achieve this, I feel compelled to meet the standards our strange society have chosen to accept. Now I am sometimes viewed as not being thin enough and having too many curves. I still don’t meet the damn standards! Who does?!? (Honestly, when you take away photo touch ups and airbrushing, professional hair and makeup and spectacular lighting, who truly does?)

So I say f-ck the standards! I believe in health and happiness and that looks different on everyone. Sure, my boobs get in the way of some yoga poses and I’ve got to order heavy-duty sports bras online, but I’m still fit and I refuse to stop pursuing my goals. A fit man is still a man regardless of height. A woman is a woman regardless of her shape and size. I would have preferred to have been leaner and more toned in my Fear Less presentation video and photos, but I am a work in progress just like everyone else out there.

I am choosing to set my own standards and recognize that I’m worthy at every step of that journey. I vow not to hold others to my standards, too, which is where we as fitness professionals need to show some improvement.

Be proud of who you are, and not ashamed of how someone else sees you.

Please share your experiences and feedback with me shannon@merakieventplanning.com