On April 12th in the United Kingdom we bid farewell to Chloe Ting home workouts and our beloved resistance bands. As we all flock to the sweaty gym environments with shitty bro music and men that uninvitedly fixate on our backsides , it is imperative that we remember 5 things in our bid to get these “summer bodies”.
Society and “summer bodies”
Since its popularisation in 1961 through an ad campaign by a chain of weight-loss salons called Slenderella International, bikini body is a term that is ingrained into every society. It is used to describe the requisite features of a woman’s physique that deems it attractive enough to flaunt in summer. It is interchangeable with its not so distant cousin summer body in Black culture. Notwithstanding the fact that women from every culture are under pressure in our male-gaze centric society to only showcase the present socially acceptable body type, these body types differ in racial communities. Bikini body standards in non Black communities bolster the thin, “fit”, chiseled abs and thigh gaps look; picture Gymshark and Victoria’s not-so-Secret models in your mind’s eye. Differing from our counterparts, the Black community’s paradigm of a “summer body” emphasises the absence of fupa, “snatched waist”, slim arms and a fat ass that jiggles in your sundresses; imagine the likes of Beyonce and BBL successful surgery undertakers who now sell you work out plans on Instagram.
Our desirability as Black women is measured by an ever growing scale of requirements and the hourglass body type is only one- a very vital one if you intend on having a “hot girl summer”. Understanding that as social animals we all (well some of us at least) aim to be desired and accepted, this blog post isn’t here to judge your rationale for striving in the gym to achieve a certain look, neither is it here to shame your body type. Be it for health reasons, mental health boost or simply to look desirable, here are 5 things to remember when you head into the gym to work on your physique.
1. WE ARE STILL IN A PANDEMIC-HYGIENE IS KEY
You are clearly ecstatic to have an array of gym equipment at your disposal and discard lifting your couch when doing squats. Amid your eagerness to return to “real” workout, it is salient to recognise that Covid-19 is very much active and making its rounds in the UK, therefore high levels of hygiene in public spaces is to be maintained (you should already be doing this but just a friendly reminder because I am nice).
Gym equipments are a mechanism for the transfer of bodily fluids so before grabbing that barbell or hopping on the stair master, ensure that you use alcohol wipes to sanitise any area of the equipment that you will be touching- don’t rest your health solely on the cleaning capabilities of the gym staff. Wearing a mask while lifting and doing intense workout can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging- however if it is not a health risk for you, its a good idea to rock one.
One final thing you should not neglect about your hygiene is ensuring that your mobile phone (don’t worry android users you are included too) is sanitised alongside your personal belongings that you left marinating in that locker infested with germs.
2. GET A WORKOUT PLAN FROM A LICENSED AND EXPERIENCED PERSONAL TRAINER
So you’ve bought all the figure hugging and curve enhancing active wear, got that waist trainer and probably wrapped yourself up in cling film to “lose belly fat faster” (it doesn’t work that way btw but you will eventually figure that out). Working out at the gym can be a daunting experience if you have never been there or have been out of the game for a while. For this reason it will be beneficial for you to arm yourself with an impeccable workout plan designed by a trusted Personal trainer; knowing exactly the exercises you will be performing each session and the equipment to use makes you more confident. You will be more motivated for each session and kick its ass.
The generic squat 500 times a day workout plans sold by money-hungry “fitness influencers” with no certified knowledge on fitness and health will not cut it. Your aim to snatch your body back is simply not achievable by using workout plans which are not structured well enough to target the muscles effectively, so INVEST in an in-depth curated plan targeted to your goals. Ohmariafiit is a Black fitness trainer whose website exhibits an array of workout guides at an affordable price; check out the Guide to Booty Building 101, I know you’ll love these glute pumping exercises. Whatever your physique goals are, a well rounded workout plan targets all of the body albeit at different intensities; do not hip thrust 7 days a week while ignoring the muscles in your upper body.
3. YOUR DIET IS IMPORTANT BUT STARVING ISN’T IMPERATIVE
An integral aspect of reaching your body goals is EATING THE RIGHT STUFF for your specific goal. The epoch of fad diets has negatively impacted our fitness experience, with many rushing to laxative filled Slim Teas, weight loss shakes and the ever so popular keto diet in order to achieve their goals quicker. Fact is, your body needs time to change safely and healthily so these short cut methods will only have you running to the loo a whole lot and might actually be hindering your fitness achievements. For example, using weight loss teas to lose belly fat while simultaneously trying to grow that booty is going to render your gym work futile; as you cannot spot reduce fat, you will find yourself shitting out all the nutrients your body needs to grow those muscles.
Of course having unhealthy carbohydrate dense and fatty filled jollof rice and chicken or our plethora of ethnic meals in large quantities – 7 days a week, in conjunction to working out consistently would be paradoxical. You cannot out train a bad diet. Carbs are not your enemy though, neither is fat. Irrespective of your fitness goals, you should be having a balanced meal which includes all of your macro and micro nutrients (unless advised otherwise by a doctor). The key to enjoying your meals and your fitness journey is to research and modify your favourite foods to match your goals; you might need to reduce the quantity, substitute some ingredients or/and minimise the frequency at the which you consume these meals. Starving yourself will ruin your relationship with food and although you might lose some weight, it will be unsustainable long term and unhealthy for you. It’s not everyday chicken breast and broccoli, sometimes baked plantain instead of deep fried plantain with your beans. Food is to be enjoyed. No ingredient is bad for you, everything just needs to be consumed in moderation and you will learn what that looks like to you for optimum results.
4. FOCUS ON YOURSELF AT THE GYM- THIS FITNESS JOURNEY IS FOR YOU
Ever so often we can become overwhelmed by everyone else at the gym, especially if you are new to this. The weights section as a woman resembles a lion’s den with hungry wild cats preying on you as you squat and thrust your way to a better booty. Some might even interrupt your sessions to mansplain an exercise or drop their numbers. You might simply be intimidated by the woman next to you squatting 100kg upwards while you struggle to balance yourself with a measly 20kg barbell. Focusing on everything around you can make you self aware and insecure; honestly everyone at the gym is also on their own fitness journey so aside from the thirsty lurking men, others are not really judging you for lifting and exercising at your own pace.
Some try to combat this by competing to “prove” their knowledge on the equipment or weight lifting capacity; this will mess your routine up – and your back. Lifting more weight than you can handle and using equipment incorrectly could result in life threatening injury; so I advice that you ask for help if needed and go at your own pace, this is solely your journey after all. In addition to possible injury, using equipment incorrectly also affects your form/posture which will make your workout ineffective as you will not be targeting the muscles correctly. It is always form>weight load.
5. YOUR BODY IS ALREADY A “SUMMER BODY”
Slim thick, fat, thick, curvy, slim, thin, skinny, no booty, small booty, fat ass, no titties, big titties – whatever your body type, shape or size, your body is already a summer body. This sounds cliche, I know; have you taken time to process the seasons your body has seen you through? This meat suit you wear has sustained you through your blissful moments and most challenging moments in life, how dare you tell it that it isn’t desirable for a season? Through all seasons of life you spend the most time with one person, the person whose desire you need the most, the person whose validation you need the most – YOU.
It is okay to want to improve your body to have a better chance at a longer and healthier life. It is however not okay for you to despise your body through this process of improvement. You are remodelling it to be better not because you are embarrassed by it. Being desired by others is a beautiful feeling but darling, at the end of the day you come back home to you when the screens are off and you nurture you – desire your body first. Your fitness journey should not be damaging your mental health or your physical body, bring yourself to a space where you are not enveloped by other’s fitness results or the ideal body type. Enjoy your own body’s journey; yours tells a different story – your story.
So your summer body is already wrapped around you but if you want to improve it, do so safely and enjoy the process. Remember you should not be worrying about if your body is ready for summer; you should be wondering if summer is ready to deal with all of the gorgeousness that is your body.