Rethink your fitness goals with thoughts + advice from four exercise + nutrition experts who are redefining what it means to be truly healthy. In the first of four parts of The New Wellness series, we chat with Julie Schecter, founder of fitBallet.
What do you think about when you hear the words ‘women’ and ‘fitness’?
Well, what I see now is something that I would like to change. What I hear and see now are people—women, trying to fit their bodies into…trying to approach fitness in a way that’s all about how their bodies look to an outside observer like, “Do I look good in this swimsuit?” “Do I look good in this skirt?” And I’d like to change the conversation of women and fitness to the way [most] men think about fitness. Which is, “What can I do?” “How far can I run?” “How many pull-ups can I do?” “How powerful do I feel?” [It’s about] focusing control back inside of us. So that it’s not about how other people view us, it’s about how we feel.
What are your thoughts on social media and fitness?
I know some people get the vibe where they’re like “Okay, fitness is going to be a big part of my life so I’m going to go follow all these fitness Instagram accounts.” And that’s great. Some of them are really cool for inspiration and different workouts. But there is also that self-perpetuating cycle of “Oh, that person is so fit and they look so great in just their little sports bra.” Then the thing you turn to for help and inspiration suddenly becomes debilitating to you. So I would say that if you’re on a mission to improve your body or be healthier, maybe frame it in terms of being on a mission to improve your mental health as a whole. Anything that makes you feel happy when you look at it instead of competitive, or anything that gives you that vaguely unsettling feeling—nobody’s got time for that! Working out and having a healthy body is literally just as much for mental health as it is for physical health. Getting outside yourself, shaking off the stresses of the day, and being able to have a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your life, all of those things are part of the physical and mental feedback loop.
Do you have any tips on finding a routine or a form for you?
My biggest recommendation is to find something that is already planned for you or to find a series of classes so that all you have to do is show up. Life is already complicated enough that you don’t need to be reinventing the wheel every time you work out. The hardest part about it is just getting yourself there in the first place. Sitting down on Sunday afternoon and writing down all the routines that you’re going to follow for that week on notecards that you can jam in your purse and pull out at the gym is also a great idea…planning is seriously 98% of getting anything done.
The other thing that I would say on this is that there are two things women tend not to pay attention to, the first of which is weightlifting. We’re not talking Olympic weightlifting or anything, but as part of your strength [routine], if you actually want to change your body and become stronger and healthier, lift weights and lift them quickly. Don’t worry about cardio. Try to work out under the supervision of someone who knows what they’re talking about and tends more towards [strength training.]
The other thing is stretching. Almost nobody stretches enough. Having a religious stretching practice is the difference between a person who works out on Monday and has the ability to go back on Tuesday versus the person who’s like “Oh my God, I went so hard,” and Tuesday morning doesn’t even think about going back. They’ve lost all their momentum.
Do you have any words for someone who is struggling with body image issues?
I mean it’s so hard. Our entire culture is set up in a way to make us feel like if we can’t immediately participate in something, like this [stereotypically healthy] Instagram culture, that we are supposed to hide. And that’s just something I want to get away from so much. The main thing I try to push is that it only takes that first time, leaping over that first hurdle, that allows you to make the huge investment of hope in your health. The first time you walk away from a work out, you’re just so high on endorphins, sweat, and just feeling good about yourself, and that energy is self-perpetuating. It makes the second time so much easier than the first, and then the third time so much easier than the second, and on and on. Remember: it’s just that first time. You don’t have to look at it as this insurmountable thing stretching out in front of you forever. It’s just that first time.
-Interview by Quanetria Carr
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