The Corset

I used to think of a workout like a corset: designed to create a certain bodily aesthetic through torture. Going to the gym meant forcing my body to fit the workout, not the workout to fit my body. Even when I was training “functionally” I was still following someone else’s prescription for flattening my abs or building my butt. Cinching my waist, and letting my expectations and prejudices pull the strings.

After my ankle injury (and the ensuing two years of fighting the pain and the dysfunctional movement), I finally gave up. I took off the corset and gave into the fact that I just couldn’t move the way I wanted to anymore–and therefore I would have to just give up feeling beautiful in my body.

Although I still struggle with the idea that fitness and beauty are independent, it’s gotten easier to accept the fact that looking like an Oxygen model is actually an exception and not a rule.

A six pack is my corset, and I no longer want to tighten the strings.


Maybe that’s a good thing. Being physically unable to reach my own corset has forced me to learn how to breathe again. My thoughts are rearranging, like organs once constricted but now allowed to go free. I can’t look and perform like the tight-waisted waif I once was, and I’m glad.

I’ve been experimenting with this freedom of movement, learning how to trust my body to move in the ways it once moved with little effort. I find that simple actions, like kneeling and crawling, are more challenging than I could have imagined. More challenging–and more fun.

I think that’s the missing piece. Movement shouldn’t be a punishment. It shouldn’t be a prescription. It should be natural, unexpected, and fun.

This weekend, I took off my fitness corset and went to a MovNat workshop in Palo Alto. Although I still had to deal with the limitations imposed upon me by my ankle (and the repercussions of attempting to move through a limited range of motion–i.e. swelling and pain), I had a truly enjoyable time.

While I will always have a place in my heart for deadlifts (seriously), I know better now what my body can handle. I’m hoping to continue discovering new ways of making this primal movement a part of my life–especially because primal movement has nothing to do with how I look in the mirror and everything to do with my quality of life.

Bear crawl tag, anyone?


Are you still wearing the “fitness corset?” How do you find ways to move that don’t involve prescriptions, punishment, or aesthetic goals? 

Stay hungry,


2 thoughts on “The Corset

  1. This came at just the right time for me! My husband and I are getting ready to start a crossfit “bootcamp” session. I do feel the need to get out and move around, but I really hate exercise (although I do love deadlifts, & squats too). I have had a hard time thinking of this as anything but something to endure–like a corset. Your post reminded me that even signing on for a directed fitness program doesn’t mean I have to “follow the prescription” like a good little patient–I can get carried away on the parts I like and hang back on the stuff I don’t. I’m doing this for me, so why shouldn’t I get the final say? Thanks for the fresh perspective!

    • I’m glad that my words were helpful! I’m not totally against doing a prescribed workout program, if it’s going to help you reach a healthy goal in a progressive, scalable, and sustainable way. But it’s definitely easy to fall into the “they said I have to in order to succeed” sort of mindset, where a missed workout or something performed less than Rx feels like a failure.

      I hope that you and your husband have fun–the most important part in my opinion! Let me know how it goes! (I’m jealous–I can’t do Crossfit because of my ankle, but I’ve been dying to give it a try…)

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