Can you still call it baby weight when your “baby” is double digits? Prior to the pandemic my biggest fitness transformations were in the opposite direction of how one wants to transform.
Since the birth of my son 12 years ago, I never regained my former physique. I’d gone up and down in weight, but never came close to my “pre-baby” size. About a year after my eldest I was mostly back to where I started, although I didn’t look or feel the same. But after a miscarriage and then pregnancy and birth of our second, I felt forever destined to hate how my body looked. Let me quantify that by saying that I don’t not love myself or my body. I think I’m a good and kind person who is very grateful for my comfortable life and my healthy family. And I don’t believe you need to be *beautiful* in order to be loved or deserving of love.
I Wanted to be “Hot”
However, I came of age in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which meant I aspired to a certain aesthetic: I wanted to be “hot.” Which is a ridiculous statement for an educated, professional, mother-of-two to make, I know. But hot to me is more than just looking sexy in revealing clothes (although I certainly did my fair share of that back in the day). Hot to me is feeling confident and secure in your body and your mind. Hot to me is feeling sexy whether you’re layered in triple-SPANX and a bodycon dress or in a t-shirt and sweatpants. And hot, to me, is not having to think about whether you’ll feel happy or comfortable doing everything that our bodies are designed to do: walking, running, jumping… just moving in general.
Frankly, I hadn’t felt “hot” in a long time. And I wasn’t sure how to change that.
I always wished I could be one of those people who enjoyed working out, whose relationship with exercise was rooted in positivity and not as a means to “not be fat.” One of my biggest fitness transformations came during the summer between Grade 7 and Grade 8. I was bored (hello, classic ’80s summer) so during my daily marathon of TV watching I started doing 20-Minute Workout instead of just watching it. Truly, there was nothing else on at noon to watch! And so I went from being a chubby kid to a decidedly more svelte teen. And, pretty much until I had kids, I maintained my weight by alternating between various unhealthy methods and vices.
Which brings us to now. Well, let’s start with two years ago. My son’s hockey team regularly worked out at New Frontier Fitness, which is a gym I would likely never have set foot in otherwise. I was too used to my relatively-cheap-yet-entirely-unused gym membership that I felt too guilty to cancel despite occasionally (never) going. Plus, New Frontier looked like a place you already needed to be fit to work out at, or at least feel comfortable working out at. That was not me.
But the more I went and watched my son and his team work out, the more I realized that this was the kind of workout I could do. And things evolved from me having to hold the pads for my son if the attendance was uneven, to me helping arrange a regular weekly workout for the hockey team moms. Because I have pretty active and even somewhat athletic kids now, I really want(ed) for them to have a different relationship with exercise than I do (did).
My husband started going to New Frontier as a client. Like me, he always had a gym membership that he struggled to use but also struggled to get rid of. What kickstarted his new relationship with fitness initially was the way in which you became a gym member. Because class size is limited, you have to book your spot for your workout. The psychology of having to do that really worked for us in making the effort to attend. (Since the pandemic, they have to charge a fee for no-shows, since class size is even more limited.) I always knew I could be committed to working out regularly if I could do it first thing in the morning. And honestly, it’s only since I don’t have to be there to help my kids get up and start getting themselves ready for the day that I was able to make this commitment for myself, to myself.
I realize that so far, this has been just a long-winded essay on my relationship with weight, and body image, and exercise. I promise I’m getting to the inner fitness transformations part, I swear!
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Getting Started with Fighter Training
There is something incredibly therapeutic about hitting something as hard as you can. I realized that until I was an adult I had never actually done so. You actually need boxing gloves or even to wrap your hands underneath because I have actually split my knuckles trying to do a class without. That sounds way more badass than it actually is. It honestly never occurred to me that I could hurt myself by hitting something as hard as I could.
A boxing match is made up of a number of rounds that are usually three minutes-long with a break in between rounds. The setup is perfect for the H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) style of workout. The notion is you go as hard as you can for the predetermined round length (let’s say three minutes) and then you rest/recover for a predetermined amount of time in between rounds. For us that’s usually a minute. It seems intimidating but it’s actually pretty doable even if you’re not at all fit to start out with. Say for your three-minute round you are supposed to alternate between squats and pushups. You just do as many squats and/or pushups that you can in that time. Maybe it’s ten. Maybe it’s two. Whatever the number, chances are it will increase slightly for your next workout. And increase a bit more for the next. As our trainer, Jason Battiste, frequently reminds us, “It never gets easier, you just get stronger.”
Jason has the best “Jasonisms,” and he is probably the biggest reason why this style of workout is the one that I finally took to. The enthusiastic and positive trainers aren’t a fit for me. I can’t relate. And the super-yelly bootcamp-style trainers are too much in the other direction. I find it demotivating. Jason’s like a cross between Mickey from the old Rocky movies and a new-age guru with motivating (and often funny) catchphrases with just enough grit to not allow you to stop.
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There’s something about the fighter mentality that resonated and finally sunk in. It’s about never giving up or giving in. If you do go down, you go down swinging. And once you’re down, you just get up. There’s no emotion behind it or shame attached to it. This is what I connected with and it’s even impacted my daily life. A workout is hard. It’s not hard because you’re weak or you’re lazy. It’s just hard and you do it anyway. If you’re tired, keep going. If you’ve got nothing, find something. Giving up or stopping is really not an option. And funnily enough, I no longer want to stop.
I actually struggle to watch boxing. And I have zero desire to actually hit another human being. But I legit think I could knock someone out with my left hook/right cross combo. Pounding a heavy bag is possibly the best stress reliever I have ever come across. And at the end of the fight you raise your arms in victory even if you just had your butt kicked, because you kept on fighting all the way to the end.
Jason Battiste is a former Canadian kickboxing champion. He opened New Frontier Fitness to create a gym where the sense of community is as important as the workouts. He runs New Frontier with his son Kiian, who was an amateur MMA champion. They’ve modified the H.I.I.T. workout to F.I.I.T. (Fight-Inspired Interval Training). The fact that their business is intact despite being closed for the better part of a year is a testament to their resilience and proof of the fighter mentality in action. As Ontario enters Step 3 the actual gym is opening again. No more Zoom or park workouts! Yay!
But What About Physical Fitness Transformations?
I wish I could end this piece with some kind of incredible before and after photo like most other articles about incredible fitness transformations. I’m actually five pounds heavier than I was at the start of the pandemic, which is kind of infuriating. I know, I know, muscle weighs more than fat, blah blah blah. But that in itself is more proof of my fitness transformations happening on the inside. Weight gain instead of loss would have thrown me right off the wagon. I don’t eat poorly, but I haven’t exactly been limiting myself during lockdown either.
But, there have been some physical changes for the better. I’ve dropped a size in leggings. You can see my collarbones again, I have a bit of a waist, and my shoulders are actually kind of sculpted. And, after having the app for four years, I finally completed the Couch to 5K. I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. Mama said knock you out!