Maria Kang is Not Judging You.

When I first saw Maria Kang’s “What’s your excuse” image, I thought, “You Go Girl!” And then I saw the shit storm that broke out over the interwebs. People are like “It’s fat shaming!” “I have a disease, I can’t look like her!” “I have bad genes, I’ll never look like that!” and “How dare she judge me!?” So I thought about it some more. And I thought “Maria Kang, you go girl!” And also, “Haters, please get yourself a real problem.”

If I sound harsh, let me explain why. I have very limited patience for people who say they have no time to work out. We arrange our schedules to make time for the things we prioritize. Do you have time to read blogs and obsessively check your email and Facebook in the evenings? Do you have time to watch TV? Do you have time to add recipes you’ll never make to your Pinterest boards? Do you have time to stop for a cup of coffee before work? Do you have time for a girls night every so often?

I know, some people work like twelve hours a day and they have thirty minutes to see their kids after their crazy commute and then all they have time for is sleeping. But to those people, I have to ask- Really? Do you really have to work those long days? Could you get a more flexible job? What profession did you choose? How long is your commute? Why is your commute so long? Is there a  way you could walk, run, or bike all or part of the way to work? Could you use your lunch break to go for a walk? Could you wake up at 5am to do some pushups and jumping jacks or a workout video in your basement before your kids get up? Could you take your kid out in the jogging stroller? We have choices.

And yes, I am aware there are some of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have these choices or any free time at all. But I don’t think it’s single moms who work three minimum wage jobs just to stay off welfare who are offended by Maria Kang. I think those women are too busy to notice or care about something like this.

I’m talking about the women who are acting like Maria Kang is picking on them, personally. Let me tell you something. Maria Kang is way too busy raising three kids, working full time, and caring for her brain injured husband to be concerned about your specific situation. All she’s saying is, “If you want it, you can have it.”

If you don’t want it- If you prioritize sleep, spending time with your family, your job, your stamp collecting hobby, or whatever- over working out and planning and preparing healthy meals- FINE. No one is saying you want or need to look like Maria Kang. But if you want to, get after it, do the work, and don’t make excuses.

I work out nearly every single day. It’s not because I am bursting with energy or I’m dying to work out.  That is the case about maybe 1% of the time. The other 99% of the time, I work out because it’s a habit. I work out so I can be strong, fit, and have seconds or dessert and still like the way my jeans fit. I work out so I don’t go insane or drive my husband insane. Sometimes my workout is anything that gets my heart rate up for a half hour. Sometimes my workout is a 90 minute lung-busting, leg- burning suffer- fest with the specific goal of training my body to run fast at my next race.

Growing up, I was picked last for every team. Dead fucking last. In middle school, I struggled to run a mile in ten minutes. I’m talking about to puke, practically having an asthma attack, dying to lie on the ground type struggling. When I decided to run to get in shape for lacrosse season (don’t ask me what possessed me to voluntarily play a sport involving a ball), I ran around the block, bent over with my head between my knees and wondered if a fourteen year old had ever died of a heart attack.

So I’m not a natural athlete. I didn’t take up running because I loved to run. I ran to get in shape, and after a while, I got in shape, and then running wasn’t so hard. Running became easier, and I could run farther and faster if I felt like it, and then I got curious about how far I could go, and eventually I signed up for a marathon, and then I wondered how fast I could go, so over the next ten years I signed up for five more marathons and I eventually shaved 35 minutes off my time. Hard work, patience, and discipline turned me into an above average runner.

I’m not saying everyone needs to run marathons, or even to run at all. I’m just saying running is a priority for me, so I find ways to work it into my day. Even after having my daughter, I have found ways. Sometimes that means starting a two hour run at 7pm and banging the whole thing out on the treadmill while she is asleep and my husband is out. Sometimes it means waking up way too early in order to get it done before my husband leaves for work. Sometimes it means taking her with me in the jogging stroller the minute I get home from work. It means being creative and time efficient. It means planning, shuffling, and negotiating with my husband. It means not making excuses and getting the work done.

Yes, I have actually gotten faster since having my daughter. No, my body doesn’t look like Maria Kang’s. And no, I am not imagining her staring at me with her bright, creepy smile and asking me, personally, “What’s your excuse for not having awesome abs like mine?” Because I don’t think that’s what she’s saying. To me, she’s saying, “If you want it, you can have it!” She’s saying, whatever your “it” is- go for it and don’t let excuses hold you back. Just know that wanting it is not enough. You’re going to have to work for it.

And all that work? It just makes having it– whatever your it is- that much sweeter.



24 thoughts on “Maria Kang is Not Judging You.

    • Pam says:

      Thanks! I can’t take all the credit. I must also thank Sweet Pea for napping long enough to let me write, revise, write some more, repeat:)

  1. Micki says:

    Oh ouch. You know, halfway through this, I found myself getting a bit defensive, but you know what? You’re right. Personally, I’ve made a lot of choices to do a lot of things other than work out.

    • Pam says:

      Micki- I have so much respect for what you are saying. And I think you hit the nail on the head- you’ve made other choices. And if you’re satisfied with your choices, there’s NOTHING wrong with that!

  2. Sarah says:

    I agree that working out is about the commitment you make to it. However, this is not a picture of her working out. It’s a picture of her posing in a bikini. We think of this image as “fitness” but she could just “look great.” It would be more meaningful (and real) if she was covered in sweat and bench pressing some free weights or hiking.

    • Pam says:

      Sarah, I never thought of that. For what it’s worth, from what I understand, she does work out daily very early in the morning to avoid interfering with her family’s schedule.

  3. Carin Kilby Clark @Mrscpkc says:

    I totally agree with you! That is exactly what I wrote about in the response I posted yesterday ( We all MAKE time for the things that we WANT to make time for! Bottom line. She wasn’t addressing people that have real health issues or limitations that prevent them from being able to work out – she was talking to the lazies like me. I took no offense to it and actually her mission is accomplished; I am going to do something about it!

  4. Linda Roy says:

    So well said Pam. I agree – it’s about choice and priorities and Kang’s intention was to motivate, not demean. I admire your dedication to fitness. It’s inspiring. And that’s all Maria Kang was trying to do.

  5. Jenny says:

    Pam, I’m giving you a standing ovation. I had to rearrange my schedule and find ways to fit in working out. Now it is a habit. I commute 45 minutes each way. I use my lunch hour to workout. I found a wonderful group of friends to keep me going and motivate me.

  6. Meredith says:

    I agree. We all have our priorities. I’ve just started working out regularly after…well a LONG time. I have 3 kids about the same ages as hers. And, honestly, I don’t want to dedicate my life to look like that. I really don’t. I don’t feel threatened by her either. I saw that she was a body builder previously, so that’s obviously where her priorities (and her job?) are. But, my only problem with it is the way she said it. I feel like if she just posted the picture and put, “I’m awesome, look at my rock hard abs and I have three kids too” then that’s one thing, but when she is putting the word YOU into the picture, it takes it to a level where other people are obviously going to feel like she is throwing it into their face, and blaming them. I feel like we all have the right to choose how we want to live and feel proud of ourselves for those choices if they make us happy. But, I feel that the caption of the photo is making it into a competitive thing where it doesn’t have to be. Why can’t we all just be happy for our own choices and the choices of others without comparing. Women do enough of that on their own. It just seemed way too catty to me. Sorry.

    • Pam says:

      Meredith, I hear what you’re saying but I think if people get defensive about Kang’s message, it’s their problem, not hers. All she’s saying is that if you are making excuses (and I think there is a big difference between making an excuse about why you don’t work out- eg don’t have time versus having a legit reason why working out is not even on your radar eg- end state multiple sclerosis), it’s time to stop and get your act together. If you are happy with your life and your choices there’s no reason to take her message as a personal affront.

      That said, my understanding is that she never imagined this thing would go viral. I would imagine if this was meant to be a message that the world would see, she would have hired a publicist/marketing person to assist her in crafting the perfect slogan.

      Also- congrats to you on getting back into a fitness routine!!!

  7. Lisa says:

    I think Maria Kang looks like a badass. I mean, if you look like that you HAVE to post a pic of the abs, right!? The question is: what’s the tag line to go along with such MILF? Although I don’t have a problem with it, I also don’t think she was looking to make friends with the words she chose. It might be compared to Bill Gates posing in a photo with money falling out of his pockets with the same tag line. He made choices and worked hard, but money and body image are very difficult issues for many people. Her fitness success is admirable but the question she asks is easily interpreted as provocative IMHO. I bet you probably look pretty awesome in a bikini, too; but you are putting yourself out there in a much more approachable and thoughtful way. I LOVE your writing and would probably think you were awesome if you posted body shots , but Maria Kang’d tone leaves me feeling like she’s just tooting her own horn.

    • Pam says:

      Hi Lisa, Thanks for the compliment on my writing! I would have to agree, she wasn’t trying to make friends with that statement. But your comment made me wonder- Would a man be getting so much flack for a similar statement- I’m imagining one of my friends in particular- he grew up poor- like couldn’t afford to go to the doctor poor- with no dad in the picture and no expectation that he would go to college. He did not go to college and yet he has done incredibly well for himself professionally, through hard work and educating himself informally- he was an top level exec at a big company and then went on to start his own company which is doing well. If he was on a placard stating “What’s your excuse?” with a little caption like “worth ___K, no college degree, no father in his life” – would people be inspired or offended? I’m not saying it would necessarily be a huge hit. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t. But I am wondering- would it strike a chord with men like this Kang thing is with women?

  8. Becky says:

    To be fair to her, and since I’m one of the people you meet to get it done before our husbands have to leave for work, I agree that making time to work out is beyond important. It’s your “me” time, and it teaches your kids how to incorporate it into your lifestyle. So that’s where I think she’s “right on” with that tagline. On the other hand, her kids (though there are 3 of them) aren’t yet at the age where things REALLY start moving: schlepping them to their various activities, making sure their homework gets done, while still finding time to make dinner, keep the house from looking like a complete shithole, and taking care of your marriage and yourself. It was way easier for me to squeeze things in when mine were under the age of 5. Now that they’re all basically in school, and we have to be organized and out the door by a certain time each day, I definitely have to make the time to get my workouts in…in the pre-dawn hours, naturally. So, I would just love to see how she handles that next phase. It’s easy to be preachy and much harder to try someone else’s reality out for a day.

    • Pam says:

      Becky… Yikes, you’re saying it gets harder!? Thanks for chiming in. We should discuss further. On a run in the dark, optimally:)

  9. L. R. says:

    This was a great read! Thanks!! I know Maria and her husband David, and they are the nicest people you could ever meet! They have both not only dedicated their lives to each other, their children, and run their business, but they also are very dedicated in helping out their community. Maria runs a non-profit that promotes fitness, and David volunteers for disaster relief (he actually goes to disaster sites, and helps rebuild devistated communities). They are both just regular good people, and it’s been hard to see all the backlash she’s received for only trying to motivate me, and countless others to take our personal fitness to the next level. For those that say wait till they’re older, My husband and I are Vets (USMC), and we always made time to exercise when the kids were little. In fact they all grew up seeing how important exercising and eating healthy, and they all have carried that into their adult lives (all of them are over the age of 21 now and very fitness conscious). In the time it took for me to write this, I could have been running on my treadmill! Yikes! Got to go!!

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