This morning, a friend of mine sent me what's now become the infamous photo of fitness trainer and uber lean and toned mother of three, Maria Kang. I don't think it's Maria's picture that has gotten her so much attention, but the message that accompanied it. The picture shows Maria in all of her buff bodied glory, posing with her kids while the heading asks, "What's your excuse?"
The question comes from Ms. Kang's pride in how she's been able to achieve such a fit looking physique while still managing to take care of her children and her belief that if she can be this successful than why the heck aren't we all?
A lot of people find this image offensive, shaming and judgemental, while others find it inspiring and think that those of us who are disturbed by it are the ones who are being judgemental. The reason I felt compelled to write about this isn't because I'm judging her, it's because I WAS her. I was a hard bodied, fit looking mother of two and it's because I've been there that I am so frustrated by the myth it represents.
Just a few years ago, I started working with a trainer who told me he could help me look like the fitness models that grace the covers of fitness magazines and I jumped at the chance. In just a few months, I was as lean and muscular as I could possibly get and I achieved this level of fitness while also raising my children without the help of a nanny or any outside help. Am I proud of this? Not. One. Bit.
I will openly admit that I do not look like that anymore. I am definitely softer and rounder than I used to be and while I don't feel that any excuses are required, I'll answer Michelle's question anyway:
What's my excuse? Here are just a few:
1) I no longer want to go days without enough sleep so I can get to the 24 hour gym before my kids wake up and start their day.
2) I no longer want to over-train and under-eat in an effort to lose the "baby tummy" that housed my children for nine months.
3) I no longer want to spend more time thinking about how my body looks than what my children need. (which was a healthy mom, not a super skinny one)
4) I no longer want to fool myself into believing that I'm setting a good example for my children when I'm actually just giving them a lesson in weight and exercise obsession.
5) I want to stop perpetuating the myth that the skinniest bodies are always the healthiest and the most muscular ones are always the strongest.
6) I want to show my children that living a healthy lifestyle is something we do because it makes our bodies work well, not look "hot."
Our society has a warped concept of fitness. We honestly think that we can always tell how healthy someone is by how they look and we are absolutely wrong. When I looked the fittest, I was by far the sickest. I'm not saying that Ms. Kang is unhealthy, but I'm also not going to assume that her lifestyle is one that should be emulated by everybody else and quite frankly, neither should she. I'm not bothered by the fact that she posted that picture of herself; I'm bothered by the way she did it. If she wants to be proud of her body, she has every right to do so, what she doesn't have the right to do, is assume that the rest of us want to be just like her and are just too lazy to make it happen.
Finally, to all of her supporters who think that anybody who has a problem with the image is probably fat and jealous, I say this:
Truly fit bodies can come in many shapes and sizes and there are those of us who are perfectly happy to sacrifice flat stomachs and tiny waists for lives with balance and moderation where we can eat, drink and play without worrying about each and every calorie or gram of fat. Life is just too damn short to spend it worrying about how our bodies live up to your expectations.
Thanks, but no thanks.
While we don't live in the same town, we do make an effort to go to spin class or take a run together whenever we meet up... but since she's a triathlete who competes in world championship events, I typically end up gasping for air as she does all the talking. :) It works for us.
My mother and I have always had a strong bond and connection through dance and fitness. I was three years old when she signed me up for my first ballet class. Many recitals later I found myself dancing professionally. She has attended every opening and even traveled to Japan to see me perform. <br><br> When Jennifer Maanavi and I opened Physique 57, she was one of our first clients. Since then she has dropped four dress sizes by attending our classes and doing our DVDs. I'm so proud of her and lucky to have her as my biggest fan and mother! <br><br> <em>Tanya Becker is the co-founder of Physique 57, a boutique exercise studio in New York and Los Angeles</em>
In the mid 80s, my family moved to a new city. I was a young teenager and one of the things that helped me through the transition was starting to run with my Mom every day. It started out running a few blocks and progressed to several miles. Even when I ran in middle school and high school, I would run after practice with Mom. In 1985 we ran the Old Kent River Bank Run 25K together. (We even ended up having our picture taken.) In college she ran my first marathon with me. <br><br> Continued ...
After college, I moved away to a new city and a new job. My parents retired to Missouri. In 2001 my husband and I had the opportunity through my job to moved to the same city. Since our move, Mom and I walk every day. It felt no time had elapsed since our runs of yesteryear. I have recently started running again but I always make sure I still take time to walk with Mom. We have had thousands of conversations -- laughing and sharing stories of our days: present and remembering those of years past. Many problems have been solved and many ideas created as we walk those familiar steps. Now I am a Mom too. I plan to pass onto my son this tradition of being a fit parent and cherishing time with loved ones. After all, I had the best teacher.
My mother is my workout inspiration (she is a certified personal trainer). At close to 60 years old she has a better body than most women her age and, let's face it, than most women at any age! Every Sunday without fail we spend two hours working out at the gym. We lift weights (360 pounds on the Angle Leg Press), do plyometrics, and finish with a two mile run. We spend it as a day to not only work ourselves out but to catch up and reconnect over things that happened during the previous week. <br><br> My mother is my inspiration, she's instilled in me a life of fitness. Most importantly, she shown me that age really is a number. <br><br> Here's my mom doing her thing, putting me to shame.
My mother and I are runners. We run when it is hot, we run when it's cold, we even run when it's windy and rainy. But most importantly, we run together. We share our day: the highlights, the low points and all the in-betweens. <br><br> We have always shared our workouts together. Before running it was weight lifting in the gym. We started running a year and a half ago after seeing a sign for a half marathon training program. I've always had asthma and never thought I would be able to run. My mother was a former smoker. We started running in November 2010 and ran our first half marathon in March of 2011 and our second in December. We plan on running two more this year. I lost my father to lung cancer 10 years ago. Every day and every run with my mother I cherish more, simply because I know what it is like to lose a parent young. It's a time everyday I know I get to spend with her and I know it contributes to both our health! <br><br> My mother just turned 63. I am amazed daily at what she can do, how she looks and most importantly how much I love her!
I am mom to a 16-year-old girl, to whom I look like a big sister, and not because of over-exercising or resorting to cosmetic surgery, or wanting to compete with her; just because I lead a healthy life in many senses. I want to leave her a legacy of health and fitness, among a lot of other stuff. Hitting the gym with her is a bit difficult, because of the "embarrassment factor," but we've done it a few times and hope to do it in the future as she grows up.
My mom lives too far away for me to work out with her. I maybe get to see her once a year. So instead I have my mother-in-law who I get along wonderfully with. We go hiking and shopping together and we garden together as well. It is great to be able to do something with her that we both enjoy and we get along so well to the surprise of many people who have the stereotypical relationship with their mother-in-laws.
My mom was a nurse (she worked as Head Nurse at Rusk at NYU), so she definitely has inspired me to be as active as possible for as long as I can remember. Besides taking Soul Cycle in NYC together (and FlyWheel in Boca), we take annual trips to Canyon Ranch. Can't wait for my daughter Liv to join us soon! <br><br> <em>Blake Brody is the founder of Blake Brody In-Studio Footwear</em>
I am blessed to live in the same city as my sons and daughter-in-law. We love exercising together on a very regular basis! Not only is it fun, all four of us are in great shape!
I love that my mom and I share figure skating. We get together several times a year in Sun Valley and skate outside under the stars. When we are on the ice together I feel seven again ... we laugh, share ideas and connect.
Most people who have met my mom will tell you that she does not look her age. While she definitely has good genes (hopefully bestowed to me!), it can also be attributed to many years of being active. Whether playing tennis, taking step classes (circa 1990), and, over the past 10 years or so, becoming a spin fanatic (this part, I take credit for!), she is always on her feet and on the go. With two young children, I now find myself balancing motherhood with staying active just as she does. Although I am a runner, I am also a class junkie. <br><br> I still remember taking my first group fitness class was with my mom when I was in high school -- none other than a Lucille Roberts all-female step class. Thinking about our outfits and those workouts together brings a smile to my face. Fast forward 20 years, and now our jazzy workout gear is replaced by something a bit more refined (thank you, Lululemon) and the class is an intense spin class. Today our routine is simple: We take each other to our favorite instructor's classes, grab a coffee and get back to the family. Call it bonding, call it staying fit -- either way, it's one of my favorite things to do with my mom.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Htsssy"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1230887241/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Htsssy">Htsssy</a>:<br />My mother and I for a long time had differences that split us apart. As I matured our relationship grew closer. I very much look up to her and her healthy habits. My whole life I have watched her strive towards something better. She still strives to be a better person, employee, and mother. We enjoy extreme sports together as often as possible. She is my hero and I enjoy spending each day with her.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Alyssa9986"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Alyssa9986">Alyssa9986</a>:<br />My mother is one of the most resilient, loving, and charming people anyone could ever meet. She has taught me from a very young age that being active and eating healthy are the best gifts you can ever give yourself.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JenniferHughes"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/840769473/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JenniferHughes">JenniferHughes</a>:<br />For several years, mom and daughter have participated in this triathlon on mother's day.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/fundine"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/fundine">fundine</a>:<br />A family that plays together, stays together! Enjoying the great outdoors together in the Northwest was just part of growing up. She was on ski patrol during my ski racing days. We camped, backpacked, biked, and swam at the lake. Now a well traveled 29 year old, I've come to realize my favorite trips have been with my Mom: backpacking the 211 mile John Muir Trail and Glacier National Park, Cycling the Bahamas and Florida Keys. We talk make plans and work through problems together while we huff and puff. I want my future family to be like ours, happy and healthy. I call her my 'IRONMOM' even though she hasn't done a triathlon... yet. ;-)
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