Super Fit Mom

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.

Sandy Sanders - Hernia Repair

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?

16 Comments
Carly

October 26, 2013 at 11:39 am

Ms. Kang is an absolute inspiration and a great reminder that kids and busy lives are no excuse to stop taking care of yourself. Sure, not everyone will achieve her enviable physique but she’s right about excuses-there are none. Nor should Ms. Kang need to cater to the all-to-often habit of us girls of softening her opinion with something like “No excuses for me”. Power to the She.

Jill Will Run

October 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I didn’t find it inspiring, it was very in-your-face and accusatory to other people, as opposed to simply saying “I have this success!” And like your friend, my child is not my “excuse” but she’s definitely a reason I don’t work out as much because I’m not putting her into a childcare setting just so I can workout after I’ve had her in daycare all day long. I do enough to feel good about how I’m taking care of myself (most of the time) but not to the point where I’m going to sit there and flaunt my figure to ask others why they don’t look like me. That’s not very kind.

Dawn

October 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

It is nice that she feels so great about herself. However, women and young girls already have to deal with the never ending pictures and commentary from male based media that if you aren’t skinny, or killing yourself to be, there is something wrong with you. Ms. Kang is joining right on that bandwagon shaming other women. It does not matter if someone has kids, a job, a boyfriend, has two knee replacements, or only likes to do water aerobics 3 times a week. Or none of those. Fitness and health have nothing to do with looking like her. But she is very clear in her “I am so much better than you” statement. So I suppose arrogance looks a lot like her.

Kerri

October 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

To me, Power To The She means empowering women to be the best versions of themselves – mind, body, and spirit. One’s exterior appearance says nothing about fitness, nor about strength and mental toughness. Maybe Ms. Kiang should focus less on the exterior and concentrate a bit more on the spirit of inclusiveness (and humbleness).

Teachpeace

October 27, 2013 at 9:08 am

I agree with Kerri! When are women going to just Get the Message??? Let’s define “inspirational” first. Inspiration allows you to internalize a message or idea and then live it out in your own personal way. That picture and taunting tag “what’s your excuse?” was not inspirational!! It was a scolding, self-righteous, smug way of saying- You can’t look like me, can you?? How dare people use their kids as leverage in the war on women’s bodies and looks. What about the money, time, and support women must have to go to a gym or workout for hours on end?? What about the shallow, superficial goal of trying to look young and amazing?? Society will never stop pounding the message the we women must be perfect in every way!! Ms. Kiang just joined the relentless assault on women while pretending to be on “our” side. I don’t think someone who flaunts and craves attention for her looks is healthy. Nor do I feel any woman who works out for 4 hours a day is healthy. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and let women be happy with themselves! Health is not about having a “slammin’ body” or did I miss something?? Strippers have “slammin’ bodies” because they make their money from it. The rest of us should work out for health and spend some of those extra hours at a homeless shelter or working with battered women. Maybe then, you could be truly proud!

Sara

October 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

I can see why she pissed a lot of women off, it was very in your face. I read it and said “you go girl!!”, others were very offended. I hear plenty of people make excuses on why they can’t “find time” to work out. I also hear tons of people complain about “bathing suit season” and how much they dread it! Time is always an issue and I would love to see people give examples of how to find time. I have two kids (3 & 6), have never gone to the gym until this year and consider myself pretty damn fit! I spend the last 3 years doing a 20 min Jillian Michaels workout 5-6 days/week. That kicked my butt and got me into really good shape! I then joined CrossFit this year and bring my kids with me! So, when I hear people talk about “not having time”, I under stand they might not have an hour to go to the gym, but everyone has 20-30 minutes at home! At our CrossFit gym, we have a huge group of mom’s that bring their kids and they play together while we workout, no daycare needed! There are options out there to get fit. I would love to see more suggestions for moms that are trying to figure out how to work it into their day because it really can be easy! I guess not everyone wants to be as fit as the most hated fit mom of the month, but until people stop complaining about putting a swimsuit on, we have a gap to close!!

Trailmomma

October 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Ms. Kang’s business is fitness. She is trying to get clients and motivate. I have absolutely no problems with her ad or photo. If she has it to flaunt so be it. It was more tasteful than a lot of the ad’s out there. I agree with your point however about her wording and perhaps changing that but we also live in a fee country where she can speak her mind.

She is not amaciated. She is fit with muscles. I don’t think that is a bad message to young girls either. I would rather my two girls (age 2 and 5) see her than the super models on the run-way any day.

I work full time, commute an hour, have two kids under 5 and also manage to workout. I am well aware of my body’s limitations and was not in any way offended by her post.

Melissa

October 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I thought it was inspirational and am so sick of women making the excuse of lack of time – we all have 24 hours in a day folks, its up to you how you use your 24 hours. By all means sleep in until a reasonable time, relax with a partner when the kids are finally in bed, but don’t then slam women who make different choices and who have a body that they are proud of as a result. I have 3 year old twins and I work 5 days a week (1 day a week from home). My boys are in day care 3 days a week. I work my exercise time around them. I hit the gym at 5am 6 days a week (weights and circuits). I am home by 6.15am so that I am there when my boys wake up and to free my husband for his morning run. I head out for an hour’s run after work and after my kids are in bed (usually around 8pm/8.30pm). Not ideal, for 8 months of the year I am running in the dark, but I wear reflective clothes and stick to main roads. My point is you make it work – and making it work does not mean that you need to sacrifice time with your children. get over the excuses. Make your choices and then be strong enough to accept and live with the consequences of your choices.

cheri

October 28, 2013 at 6:54 am

I wasn’t offended myself but I thought she could have worded it more positively 🙂 I can totally see why other people would be offended, especially those who work their butts off in the gym and have not achieved her fitness appearance. It isn’t fair really, some people work really hard on their bodies but their bodies are made up differently so while their inner health is excellent you might not be able to tell outwardly. Some people are naturally muscular so they tone easily. In high school a friend of mine worked out everyday, wanting to tone her arms. She hated that naturally I had what she wanted and I didn’t even try. And it is sucky. To be honest I took a selfy in my work out clothes, trying to pose like she did to see how I compare. My daughter just turned 8 months and she is baby #4. I do not work out, I did for one month in June to lose 10 lbs but that is it. I am a bit embarrassed to say I look just as good as her. That is not fair! NOT FAIR! I do not deserve to have a naturally toned body but it is what it is. Do I eat right? Yes (but I love my sweets too). Do I chase after my kiddos? Yes I do, that is my “exercise”. But it is still not fair, I didn’t work my butt off to look how I look and I don’t under mind people because they don’t look like me. And I don’t expect anyone to look like me. I should exercise for health reasons, as everyone should, not to look a certain way. I understand what she was trying to say but it isn’t realistic for everyone. I applaud your blog post! I think you hit it on the nail 🙂 You rock Sandy!

Joy

October 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I love the article Sandy. Without analyzing what she did or did not intend to say in her post, why don’t we as women acknowledge that Ms. Kang is taking care of her body, her home. If she does not take care of it, she will not have anywhere to live and in the end her children will suffer. It is imperative that all parents (women and men) take care of themselves so that they can give their children 100% of who they are!!!! I think looking at this a little differently will motivate parents to get moving so they can keep up with the little miracles they created!! Sandy, this is what you did by making the healthy decision to have the surgery. You wanted to give those two beautiful children you created more then you thought you could prior to the surgery. Bravo to you. You are courageous and many woman can learn a lot from you. Love you girl!

dee

October 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

After looking at the photo and reading her apology, one thought comes to mind. She is “branding” herself for some sort of business. She certainly got a lot of attention! This is very similar to the old Nike ad “JUST DO IT” or the Pantene commercial “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”. Not very original. And not something that would motivate me.

Rachel Toor

October 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for this piece, Sandy, which looks at the issue in its complexity instead of simplifying it to just shaming–one way or the other.

imdb

October 31, 2013 at 8:39 am

Haters will hate. Ms. Kang is in great shape and has worked hard to get there. I don’t find her post negative in any way, shape or form. She was merely stating the obvious. Get out there and be better than you are today! For everyone else, an excuse is still just an excuse.

N

November 01, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I’ve learned that people usually get angry about things that hit home and they don’t want to face. I have a friend who years ago had 3 boys under the age of 10. She was and still is an avid hiker and outdoors woman. We hiked with the babies in a papoose (many times) starting when they were 3 months old, she fed them on the trail and once we did a backpacking trip when she was 7 months pregnant. She scheduled her “me” time at night or in the early morning around everyone else’s schedule and today still manages to cook and work 5 days a week. She has no excuses and she is my idol. It’s sad that someone cannot stand up and be proud of what they have accomplished, or that others would suggest they word their accomplishment differently. An excuse is just an excuse and I’m full of them just like the next person. Kudos to those who are strong enough to not listen to the naysayers.

Sarah

November 08, 2013 at 7:09 am

As a running/hiking/lifting/homeschooling wife and mother of 3, this is my thought:

30 years from now, none of us will have rock-hard abs. But we will have fully-grown children and husbands who should have the advantage of looking back fondly at the early years of our little families. I exercise regularly TO THE BENEFIT of my family, but not to the detriment.

Some days my kids want to go for a hike, some days they just want to play legos while I make homemade cookies in the kitchen. Either way, it’s all good.

robyn

November 28, 2013 at 12:06 am

I like that you tried to see (and did see) others’ points of view even though you yourself didn’t experience her post the same way. You’re neither judging people who saw it as inspiration nor those who felt affronted, and you’re openly but nonjudgmentally questioning Maria’s method, just asking mildly and earnestly what would have been best and most helpful. To me that’s more inspirational than anything.

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