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.