My family is big, noisy and a little bit crazy. I love it, I love my brothers, my sister, my parents. But I am the youngest so I am watched. I am watched as I always have been and probably always will be. I am watched so that they can question my decisions, give me unsolicited advice, trying to butt in on my life in ways that no one would ever think to question my eldest sister or parents. This reflects into my general day-to-day life but mainly impacts how I consider fitness, my diet, and how I control things when I get home.
My parents aren’t paleo. I’m pretty sure that they don’t really know what “being Paleo” entails, or that it’s a lifestyle that their youngest child tries to follow as much as she can. Whenever I get home from university or travelling, one of my first stops is the fridge, then the cupboards and the garden. I check what ingredients my mum has in, planning in my head what I can use for breakfasts and lunches, making mental notes of all of the things I need to pick up the next time I’m near a supermarket. I get looked down on for having protein powder, for eating nuts and seeds and other “rabbit food”, for preferring bright and filling smoothie bowls to something like a pastry.
My parents aren’t runners. My dad used to be, until too many miles messed up his already-weak knees. But my mum definitely isn’t. She doesn’t understand training, and can’t seem to recognise that to get better you need a plan, and you need to follow that plan. Whenever I’m home and running, I constantly get told that I shouldn’t push myself, that I should take a rest day. They don’t realise that I plan my weeks in advance, working out when and how much I should run based on what I want to achieve, and listening to my body to make sure I don’t overdo it.
My parents don’t lift. My mum thinks that lifting will make me bulky. She doesn’t understand the need for strength training when I’m predominantly a runner, or why I want to get stronger. She doesn’t understand that when I train my core or my legs, I do it to become a better runner. Strength training has also improved my posture, helping me walk straighter and taller and with more confidence.
My parents have no idea that I don’t really care about the aesthetics, about how my muscles look in photographs or on Instagram. They don’t realise that I train because I like the feeling of pushing myself to the limits, to seeing how much my body can take, and pushing it just a bit further next time. I like the feeling of exhaustion I get after a good workout, when you know that one more rep, one more mile, would have had you on the floor in a quivering wreck.
My parents don’t realise that I eat healthily because I like the way it feels, that I don’t like the grease and heavy bloated feeling that I get whenever I eat large and creamy pasta- or rice- based meals like my mum often cooks at home. They don’t realise that I like colours in my food, not because it looks better for the “insta”, but because colours make me feel happier and taste nicer. They think I weigh my food because I restrict myself, whereas I do it for exactly the opposite reason: because I want to make sure I am eating a balance of all nutrients, making sure that I am fuelling myself properly.
My parents don’t realise that fitness is my crutch, that I need it as a break, as a mental stimulation which leads me to escape from the everyday monotony of work. They don’t appreciate my need for “me-time” alone on the roads of the trails, or in the gym with just a podcast and my own steady breathing. I don’t talk to my parents about personal issues, about mental health issues, but exercise and fitness is how I cope through terms at college, through days when I just don’t know what else I can do. Exercise and fitness keeps me going when I just want to curl up in a ball, when I’m not sure my friends or family would understand.
My parents love me. And I love my parents. But it’s hard to live with them sometimes when they don’t take into account the things that I like to do. For them, especially my mum, exercise seems to be an afterthought or a luxury. Exercise is what they do at the weekends, sometimes, when they aren’t busy. They think that anything other than that is an anomaly, and that I’m strange for planning my exercise into my every day schedule just like any other activity.
My parents think that my way of life is abnormal.
How do you manage living with your family and balancing fitness and how you like to train and eat? I’d love to hear suggestions on how to talk to family members about fitness, and how to stress its importance in my life! Comment below or drop me a DM on instagram (@primallyimperfect).