What do you love about your body and why? Do you automatically think to yourself, “Uh, nothing?” I don’t know about you, but whenever I try to come up with a list of good things about myself it takes a lot of thought and time. Now, if you were to ask me what I would like to improve about my body, I could give you a list of ten things in no time flat.
Why is this? Why is it so easy for us to be self-deprecating (no matter if we are in the best or worst shape of our lives)? Yet when we are asked to name a positive or two, we really have to stop and think. And I mean really stop and think for a while, maybe even a day or two.
There are always things that can be changed or improved: I have a mental list of things that I need to work on daily, weekly and monthly. But I have also recently begun to write down things that I love about myself or my body as a reminder of my positive points. I include compliments that someone has given me in the past that really mean a lot to me. I use this list as positive re-enforcement. I know it sounds a little cheesy, but it really helps. I look at my list of positives like goal-setting: when you write it down you set it in stone.
Below I share two entries on my list of positives, along with some tips on how you can accentuate them as well. Let me preface this by saying that I am not doing this out of vanity; my goal is to help us all remember to acknowledge more often what we love about ourselves, instead of always focusing on the things that we want to change.
I believe playing tennis throughout high school and college contributed a lot to my shoulder development. I love how you can see a “cap” in a fit person’s shoulders. I call shoulder muscles “coat hanger muscles” — they help set the frame for your body.
To get the “caps” in your shoulders you have to make sure that you target all three muscles (or “heads”):
- Anterior deltoid or front portion (exercise example: front shoulder lift)
- Medial deltoid or side portion (exercise example: side shoulder lift or upright row)
- Posterior deltoid or back portion (exercise example: bent over/posterior fly)
The shoulder joint (aka rotator cuff) moves in multiple directions, allowing you to sculpt your shoulders in many different planes (or angles): overhead, front, side and back. Keep in mind though that you sacrifice stability in a joint when it moves in many different directions. So remember that it is very important to warm up your shoulders when doing any kind of exercise. Now you know why FIRM Instructors do a lot of body waves, full form squats, reach and pull, etc., to help warm up those joints and muscles. It takes a lot of work to sculpt your shoulders, but I am fortunate in that a portion of it is also genetic. My dad and brother also have good shoulders.
I can remember when I first started taking FIRM classes the Instructors would say, when doing bent over row, “Working out your back will help give the illusion of a smaller waist.” Whenever a FIRM Instructor would say this I would make sure I used the heaviest weight possible and that my form was just like hers. Now I say the same exact thing when I teach FIRM classes.
My “problem” area, just like many other women, is my lower half. I really can’t change “J-Lo” (that’s what I call my rear end) because that is my genetics, but I can help make my body more symmetrical by developing my upper body so that I have more of an hourglass instead of a pear shape. I always work hard when I exercise my back muscles:
- I use as heavy resistance as I can that also allows me to keep good form.
- I make sure that I change the angle or plane whenever I work my back muscles. For example, when you do a bent over row with dumbbells or bands, you primarily exercise the middle and lower portions of your lats (where your bra wraps around your upper back). It’s always a good idea to complement this move with a wide bent over row, where your palms face down and your elbows flare out wider, so that you focus more on the upper portion of your back and your posterior deltoids. And of course we can’t forget the lower back: It’s important to include an exercise like deadlifts (which also work your hamstrings and glutes) or superman.
These examples demonstrate that just one exercise per body part doesn’t do your body justice. Your body is an amazing machine and is able to move in many different ways; therefore you should do many different exercises to ensure that you get the best results for the time that you put into it.
My shoulders and back are two of the things I love about my body right now. Your homework is to write a list of things that you love about YOUR body; be sure to note why you love them, and also include compliments from others. Then go out and accentuate the positive!