‘This Is Effort’: Celebrating what ‘Doing’ Really Looks Like

‘You’re like me, I’m not a pretty runner either.”

I’ve got to admit that I actually did laugh-out-loud at this one. In fact I may have snorted too. I had just finished a race where I was stoked that I had conquered my first open-water swim, and this is one of the comments I received from a well-wishing spectator. Clearly amongst all of the other things I had been focused on that race, like coping with low-visibility water (let alone the jump off the jetty into the start area), aiming to be in the first ten out of the water, holding a goal average speed on the bike and surviving the run, I had forgotten one crucial thing: I forgot to look pretty doing it.

Now I’m used to the old ‘you’ve got such a pretty face’ line, but an obligation to look pretty whilst at peak physical exertion? Wow, no one ever told me about this one. To think I had just been going about my merry way doing pace runs, time trial rides, swims and brick sessions without a thought paid to what I looked like doing it. My bad.

It only takes a brief look through some fitness magazines, health images, activewear catalogues and gym selfies to see where this obligation comes from. Which is rather ironic because apparently as a group, us women are yearning for sporting labels to not only feature real athletes in their gear, but we’re also wanting them to show us what it looks like in function. Apparently we want to see people working hard, and while some images make some effort in portraying this, there is still a hint of ‘need to look attractive’ whilst doing it.

For the record, I don’t care how I look like when I am physically exerting myself. Asking me to be aware of how attractive I am looking whilst training is about as reasonable as asking me to give birth quietly. And when you liken these two things, they’re not too different: both are incredibly remarkable feats that our bodies are engineered for, and for this reason, have very primal properties which make it pretty hard to control how we look like doing them.

Recently when I was working on some pre-shoot shots to announce my Lola Getts Ambassadorship, my partner Craig was taking some images of me. Initially, at Craig’s suggestion, we tried a ‘pose’ style series of shots. They sucked. He couldn’t get a good shot and I was frustrated. “Here’s the deal, I’m going to go and train – you take pictures of it. Don’t make me stop, move, or anything.” Lo-and-behold, they worked. Why? Because I love what I look like when I am in the zone. I love the strength, the aggression, and the focus I have.

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I always say that its one thing to write negatively about an issue, but its another to offer a solution. As a Body Positive Athlete, one key motto is ‘Be the Change’, as in ‘be the change you want to see.’ The concept of #ThisIsEffort needed to be like a blank canvas: it is not my place to assert one attribute over another (as in ‘strong’ vs ‘beauty’) because all of these are subjective – so please enjoy the following showcase of some of our Body Positive Athlete Community celebrating what ‘effort’ really looks like for them and what they love about their image:

Lisa

This picture reminds me that I can be focused, strong, solid and sweaty is a good thing!  This was the day I fell in love with boxing and a little bit with myself 🙂

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Carin
This image captures how I feel on a run. Focused. Strong. Eye on the prize. Breathe. One step in front of the other. The other – hill repeats – no words needed!
Krista
This was at the 2008 Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships, where I took home a Bronze Medal.
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Liz
Smiling because I finally did a workout I was putting off. Face is red, hair is a mess and (you probably can’t tell but) I’m dripping with sweat..And post-run, cool-down.
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Anne Marie
After a Zumba class, in the rest room trying to soak up sweat with paper towels and my hoodie. YOWZER!!!
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Jennifer
Celebrating with my finisher medal after the St. Patrick’s Day 5km! I always have fun and smile and laugh when I train 🙂
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Emma
Effort to me can be many things and varies on the day- sometimes it is powering up that hill with renewed vigour and others it’s simply getting on the gear and doing the basics, or even just getting out of bed! This was after I ran 5km non-stop for the first time!
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3 thoughts on “‘This Is Effort’: Celebrating what ‘Doing’ Really Looks Like

  1. I do not do pretty when I exercise either:) I look in the mirror and I look around me, and the fact that I am there is an achievement in itself.
    Thank you, I enjoy your blog.

  2. After finishing a 5K race, I don’t look glamour at all. I’m super sweaty but, you probably wouldn’t notice because I have the biggest grin on my face for getting it DONE!!

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