Excusing the well-meaning motivation.
Super Fit mom, Maria Kang, seemed to stir up quite a hornet’s nest when she posted a pic of herself in a sports bra and micro shorts, posing with her three young sons, ages (3, 2, and 8 months) and the line “What’s Your Excuse?” The picture was meant to be motivational, yet for some it came off as antagonistic.
When I first saw the picture I thought, “How motivating!” However, I had friends who didn’t see it that way. One of those is a friend who’s no stranger to the gym, who had her first baby eight months ago. Because her baby was the same age as the youngest in the photo, she felt as though Super Fit Mom was speaking directly to her… aaaaand she wanted to punch her in the face for trying to make her feel like a fitness failure.
My friend is a full time working mom who has an hour commute to work each day, and with the four hours she’s able to devote to her daughter, tries to fit in outside walks, bathtime, and storytime, and doesn’t feel like putting her daughter, whom she called her “priority” as opposed to her “excuse,” in some gym daycare after she has already been in daycare for ten hours.
She raised a really good point. I began to see why such an “in your face (with my awesome abs)” message wouldn’t resonate so well with people. Where I saw a picture of fitness and an inspirational message, others saw taunting and an accusatory berating.
I think Ms. Kang’s message would have been better received had she focused the wording more upon herself – i.e., “I make no excuses,” “No excuses for me,” or “I make time, not excuses.” Also, I think had she not flaunted her amazing body in conjunction with the message, her message would have been better received.
Although I think Ms. Kang has one SLAMMIN’ physique, I think it’s kind of unfair to send a message saying “you too could achieve this look if you’d stop making excuses.” Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, someone may never look like Ms. Kang, no matter how much time they devote to working out. I, prior to my surgery, was one of those people.
When I was single, I was a gym rat, and it wasn’t unusual for my workouts to last four hours. I know that seems excessive, but that’s what I loved doing. I’d enjoy the outdoors via my 30 min bike ride to the gym. Once there I’d knock out my two hour swimming workout. Then I’d do 30 minutes worth of gym cardio – treadmill, elliptical, or Stairmaster. And depending upon how I felt, I would work on strength training with some time in the weight room. Then I’d bike back home and call it a day.
After having my first child, my gym time decreased SIGNIFICANTLY, but I was still able to bounce back into shape. Nineteen months later I had my second child and, due to the diastasis recti (abdominal separation) that occurred during my pregnancy and the ventral hernia that resulted from my C-section, I was left looking two to three months pregnant, years after having delivered. Any thought of getting as in shape as Maria Kang was a pipe dream.
In addition to the pronounced swelling and the accompanying nausea I’d experience on a monthly basis, I’d continually have to break the news, to excited people coming up to me after my fitness classes, that I wasn’t pregnant. After my kids were older and I was able to hit the gym with consistency, I tried to not “make excuses.” I tried a variety of exercises and nutritional tactics to combat the abdominal swelling, but to no avail. Upon the suggestion of my OB-GYN, I visited a plastic surgeon (and two additional ones for a second and third opinion), and all confirmed the same thing – that basically no amount of exercising in the world would eliminate my very pronounced bulge.
After six years of mentally debating, I finally made the decision to let the plastic surgeon do his magic. My surgeon was both a general surgeon and a plastic surgeon, so he was able to take care of both the ventral hernia repair surgery, as well as the tummy tuck – to prevent the hernia from recurring.
BEST. DECISION. EVER. Gone were the monthly sessions of excessive abdominal swelling and nausea. No longer were people congratulating me on expecting. And FINALLY, I found myself able to knock out a lot of activities requiring a strong core that I didn’t seem to be able to do pre-surgery.
Now that my kids are older and I’ve had the surgery, achieving a look like Maria Kang’s isn’t a pipe dream. However for others who are unable to repair structural damage their body may have suffered, or have other physical conditions preventing them from achieving a physique similar to Kang’s, I think her message is a bit unfair.
Although initially I didn’t see anything wrong with her message, after reading my friend’s explanation for why she was offended, I now think there are more positive ways to motivate people.
When I motivate people, I try to do so via some achievable physical accomplishment – such as running a first 5K, running a first obstacle course race, being able to workout on a daily basis WITH one’s kids – as noted in my article on playground workouts, etc. When class members compliment my “abs,” I am the first to tell them that they can thank my plastic surgeon, as I don’t want to set unreal expectations for what many of them can achieve through exercising alone. When they express amazement at the fitness activities in which I’m involved, I tell them that they can be just as active, and even invite them to set one as a training goal, and give it a try.
Those are just my thoughts on Super Fit Mom’s approach. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Inspirationally motivating, or offending turn-off?
SANDY SANDERS is an avid fitness enthusiast, a mother of two, and a woman fueled by her desire to live life without regrets. “There are two types of regrets in life — regretting having done something and regretting having not done something…” more »