You may not be able to change your body type—you have your parents to thank for that– or maybe not! You can, however, change the shape that you’re in and how you think of yourself. The goals you set and how you present yourself related to your appearance (your body image) are yours to make. You are the only you there is, so make the most of you.
One of the best ways to begin is by celebrating what you can do when you are healthy and fit. Yes, you’ll look better but that comes from feeling better.
Focus on what you like to do and get good at doing it. There are many exercise choices and they can be confusing. It may also be difficult to understand why some exercises are recommended in the first place. Let me give you some examples of how you can begin transforming your body physically and how that in turn can have profound effects on the way you feel about yourself.
In the beginning, the picture of you might look like this: your shoulders are stooped, your head is forward. You have a tweak in your neck and an ache in your back. You have no energy and you don’t feel like doing anything, least of all exercising. One of the first steps in your transformation process isn’t a step at all. It involves standing or sitting up straight. It means adjusting your posture, starting from the top down, and it can also mean significant improvements to the ache in your neck or your back.
Begin by positioning your ears over your shoulders and getting your head and neck in line with your spine. Picture this. I heard it at a conference on exercise physiology and I will not forget it. I call it the “bubble gum” reminder. Think of someone taking a wad of bubble gum they have been chewing then reaching out to put it on your nose! What’s the first thing you do? Now that you have your head back and your ears over your shoulders with your chin tucked in, bring your shoulders down and back by moving your shoulder blades towards each other. Keep your entire spine in its neutral position supported by your abdominal and back muscles. These comprise your core muscles, your inner corset. Whether sitting or standing, this will place you in the proper posture from your hips to the top of your head.
A way to illustrate this while seated is to sit on the edge of your chair with one leg bent at 90-degrees, foot on the floor, and the other leg straight, heel on the floor with your toes up. Lean forward from your hip joint, bringing your chest towards your thighs. Your hip joint is your hinge. Your head, ears, neck, shoulders, spine and stomach should remain as we placed them above. This is an example of a hamstring stretch with good core stability. Keep this hip-to-head posture in mind whether you are seated or standing, walking or weight lifting. It will serve you well in whatever you do. It may feel a little strange or unnatural at first because you are not accustomed to it. Enter exercise! You have work to make the posture last! Pilates, weight training, ballet or medicine ball—are just a few of your choices. Find one that you like and get good at it.
I believe that the most important muscle in your body is your heart. It is the star of the show and that show is your life. The rest of your muscles make up the supporting cast. The stronger and more fit they are, the easier it is for you and your heart to go about the business of daily living. So stand tall and walk with your head held high, even if you didn’t inherit tall genes from your parents. Exercise and physical activity are great ways to improve your body image and boost your confidence in other areas as well. You are the best you out there and you look great. Do you know why? It’s because exercise becomes you!
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM