Why Labeling Fit People As “Lucky” Is A Cop-out.
I used to be one of those people. The ones who go to the gym, make everything seem easy, have sculpted muscles, and are never there as long as you are.
You know what I’m talking about, right? You’re slaving away on the treadmill, going to butt sculpting classes, kickboxing classes, etc., essentially spending hours and hours at the gym. And someone walks by you with a 25-pound dumbbell in their hand, ripped, making it look like a paperweight.
This is not me, but it's pretty much what my body looked like
I know I was one of these people because other gym members often came up to me and made comments like, “You make it look so easy.” In the case of my own fitness, it’s arguable that there was some luck involved…luck that the majority of people have, if you want to call it that. I was able to reach a fairly high level of fitness, because of three very important innate traits:
- Being alive.
- Having the use of all my limbs.
- Being free of chronic diseases.
But lucky, as in, I was lucky to be so fit…? No
If I counted up all of the hours I spent at the gym during my ‘super-fit’ years, the total time would be akin to a part-time job. The fact that I could do 12 pull-ups (without help), was strictly based on the fact that I failed, injured myself multiple times, recovered multiple times, and strived to fulfill my goals…ad nauseam.
My fitness wasn’t from luck, it was a result of dedication. Getting ONE pull up took me MONTHS of being coached by a beastly trainer at a beastly gym 5 days a week, 2 hours per day, for a YEAR. That’s 40 hours per month,480 hours all-told, to get ONE pull up. Granted, it wasn’t the only thing I was working on during all of my hours at the gym. It was both a goal in itself, and a side effect of all of the other things I was working on at the time. Imagine, after I got one pull up, how many more hours I put in, to get to 12 pull-ups. Or, to get to the point where I could do 15 handstand push-ups, squat more than my body weight, and do up to 25 bicep curls with a set of 25-pound dumbbells. These are ridiculous abilities, made possible by ridiculous effort. It’s nothing to be proud of because almost anyone can do it, if they put in the time.
The fact that some people have chalked it up to luck, both infuriates and saddens me. It’s not only invalidating for me, but it’s also disempowering for them: at my expense. Multiple times, a woman -friend or stranger- would ask me how I did it. What did I eat? When did I eat? How much time did I spend training? How could I be this fit and spend less time at the gym than them? Inevitably, after trying to explain that I spent years of busting my ass and eating a very specific diet to get to this point in my fitness career, their gaze would trail off, their smile would become cynical and they’d shake their head…
“You’re lucky. I couldn’t do what you do.”
’m not sure if it’s obvious here, but the ladies who said this to me were really saying it to themselves. They needed to hear that my fitness was out of their scope of possibility. They needed to let themselves off the hook. The truth is, they didn’t want to do what I did. They didn’t want to learn to suffer to the depths that I did, in order to get to the level of fitness I achieved. They didn’t want to make sacrifices to put their fitness at the forefront. In fact, I think that as soon as I started telling them exactly how they could accomplish what I did, they just stopped listening. They were already convinced they couldn’t be like me.
Once they labeled me as lucky, the fact that I even had methods to accomplish my goals no longer mattered to them.
Some people are “lucky” because they’re born into money. Some people are “lucky” because skinny runs in the family. Some people are “lucky” because they were born with what society deems as ‘good looks’. But anyone can gain weight. Anyone can lose all their money. Looks change as we age or go through life stresses. Luck is a concept we assign when we’re jealous of someone else’s situation. We label people ‘lucky’ when we’re not willing to admit that we don’t want to work as hard as they do. Even if there is an aspect of luck to their situation, it is in no way a reason why someone cannot have what they have, or something similar.
The things we want to have (in this case, a muscular bod) are not always good for us. Our life may not necessarily improve if we get the money, body, relationship, job, etc. that we’re pining for. Just because someone has chiseled biceps, doesn’t mean they’re mentally well, or even happy.
Here’s the secret: I was miserable.
During the 6.5 years that I spent putting my fitness in the top two most important things in my life, I felt so empty and so devoid of value, that the only thing I could do was sculpt my muscles and become good at impressive things like pull-ups. After my divorce, and the advent of split custody, I felt like an utter failure. I was, in a very public way, trying to prove something. I was lonely, dealing with depression and anxiety, and only felt better when I was getting attention because of my body, or when I was high on endorphins after a good workout. The kind of men I attracted at that time were the same: Empty. Muscular. Interested in their looks, and the looks of the women they were going to bed with.
Everyone is lucky in one way or another. Labeling someone as “lucky” keeps the topic shallow. The term itself has all kinds of assumptions buried inside it. If one person is lucky, it implies that other people aren’t. It implies that only the lucky person can have what they have, or look the way they do. To label others as lucky disempowers the labeler. In reality, we are all putting effort into what’s important to us, and feeling guilty when we don’t put effort into what society says is important….like money, looks, and status.
If you want to be fit, then get fit. It takes money, time, diligence, humility, dedication, sacrifice, and a high tolerance for suffering. But let’s be honest…is being fit what you really want? Or do you just think that fitness will make you equal to the people you admire? Do you think it will give you power? Value? Will it get you laid? What is it exactly that you want? Maybe it’s not even what you really want, but the fact that you keep telling yourself you should want it, makes you want it. The fact that the media constantly feeds us this image of a well-adjusted human who is ripped, has a good haircut, pretty face, and is wearing expensive workout clothes, makes us want those things…it makes us feel inadequate when we don’t have those things. People who do have those things are not lucky…they have acquired the riches or looks because they tell themselves they MUST have them in order to have value.
I’ve entered a phase in my life where I’m rehabbing from my fitness years. Literally, I sustained 6 injuries, two of which I have to constantly manage. I also have two over-use injuries that I’ll probably be dealing with for the rest of my life. All of my injuries are from fitness-related activities. After the last injury, to my left elbow, I took a step down from my high-octane relationship with working out. My elbow simply would not heal. I can no longer hang from a bar, nor hang a heavyweight from my left hand. After I stopped my intense workouts, I immediately gained weight…and not the muscular kind.
I am now round and jiggly and dimpled. Am I miserable? …No.
In fact, I’ve found a new level of love for myself. I can be me without suffering to be me.
I stay active by going on short runs, bike rides, or hikes, adding up to about 5 hours of low- to mid-level ‘fitness’ activity per week. Compared to the 10 or more hours of high-intensity workouts I used to do per week, I’d say my current activity level is pretty modest. Where I used to work out for gains that would impress others, now I work out for my health, and to be outdoors. It’s enough for me. I’m enough for me. I actually like my soft curves. I feel substantial, powerful, female, in a way that I never did when I was ‘fit’. I’ve had to work, in a different way, to accept my new body. I work on it daily…by catching myself when I judge the way I look. By catching myself feeling guilty about not being at the gym every day. And I have to switch those thoughts around. I have to remind myself to feel proud of the fact that I take care of myself, from the inside out now…not from the outside, in. Having self-confidence and faith in my value is a reward at the end of a very long and painful journey…
And it’s not because I’m lucky.