‘fitspo‘ – an abbreviation of the portmanteau ‘fitspiration‘ meaning something that inspires or motivates the desire to be fit and healthy. For many people, this is usually a celebrity on Instagram, or a personal trainer or even a friend or loved one who is healthy and exercises a fair bit.
This issue is a tough one for me. The idea of ‘fit’ or ‘healthy’ is a bit of a double-edged sword. Well, most swords are double-edged, right? I mean there’s no blunt side? I digress. Growing up in Sri Lanka, the idea that being slim was good and healthy was something difficult to grasp. My sister, like my parents in their youth, has a high metabolism and struggled to put on weight for much of her teens and 20s. She also has beautiful long hair and clear skin. All of which combined to be ‘good’. I used to look at her wish to be just like her. My mother commented once how she noticed I was withdrawn as a teen – I stepped back a bit because I compared myself to her and didn’t like what I found. Doesn’t help that mother always noted how lovely she was in her youth (she really was. She still is. #goodgenes). Our culture also prizes ‘fairness’ of skin, so exercising outside in sun wasn’t seen as good or healthy as the tendency to tan was too high and could ruin a complexion. Luckily for my sister, she is already darker skinned.
Here’s where the issue is. I have recessive genes -so while I am fairer skinned, I have curves, thick unruly hair (which thankfully I can wrestle into place now), and easily blemished skin. I was always too big. To those who know me, this is a hard idea to wrap their heads around. But this was and always will be my base programming. I was always too big – too much belly, too much butt, too much everything.
I was an energetic kid, always bouncing around causing trouble. But once puberty hit, that just wasn’t enough. I started dancing lessons at age 7 (very late in dance years). And something clicked. A light flicked on in my brain and even now, this is when my body is most comfortable, and I am most comfortable with it. As I grew older, dancing became more intensive, and it wasn’t til I moved to Sydney for uni that I realised exactly how helpful it was in keeping my ‘too big’ self in check. My mother still says that if not for my dancing, I would be massive. Because apparently, there’s something wrong with that.
I remember doing athletics in school – by doing athletics I mean I ran in some 100m and 200m races and relays for athletics meets, and the distance runs for the school road race. I didn’t do too badly either. I guess I just like to keep moving. And I’ve got a helluva stubborn determination when needed. How else do you think I get anything done? Sheer willpower. No joke.
I started circus when I came to uni. I was too shy to join a dance group but the idea of a group of ‘social outcasts’ appealed to me. Sadly, it wasn’t as welcoming as I’d hoped but I stuck with it. 6 years and two relationships later, I finally found my groove. I needed to understand ‘me’ before understanding how this ‘me’ interacted with others.
Being fit and healthy isn’t about being the skinniest person in the room, and I sad to say that it took my 25 years to fully understand that. It also took me almost as long to accept that I wasn’t actually that big in the grand scheme of sizes. I’m 160cm (5’3) and weigh anywhere from 52-56kg. That’s tiny. Practically minuscule to some. Jesus. Hell, I probably weigh more than that, but it is very likely that some of it is muscle. See, when I ‘found my groove’, I trained. I started to get myself out of a rut and start learning things my way. So even if I took longer than others, and didn’t quite follow a set path, I worked at it. I started to build up more muscle, I started to train with people, I got myself some more gear, and people started to help me and take me seriously. But I had to help myself first.
It didn’t quite hit me until someone called me ‘tank’. Someone thought I was strong. And not some random either, someone who was training with me. Me. Strong. And that felt so much better than someone saying I was skinny. The idea of ‘skinny’ makes you feel small and like you fit in with society. ‘Strong’ makes you feel capable, dependable, reliable, and I like the idea of those so much better. I carry things. I open jars. I move heavy stuff. I am useful, and that, if nothing else, is really what every human wants to be.
Creating ‘activewear’ or exercise clothing can be daunting. I wasn’t very experience with sewing lycra or much stretchy stuff before this. And this stuff had to work. It had to work hard and be able to take the punishment. I work my lower body hard sometimes and have popped seams on leggings and ripped open tights before. Yes, I can repair them, but it is nice to be able to make a good quality product the first time around. And yes, I sew my SEAMS with a zigzag stitch. Unlike all you straight-stitch-using heathens. I do this for most, if not all, fabrics. Deal.
I am a dancer. I always will be. But grace and movement are allowed to be associated with strength and power – being strong isn’t about being muscular and beefed up. Different workouts give you different muscle types, and the types I had founded in my youth lean themselves very well to my newfound exercise methods.
This was the second time I was working with supplex. The shorts below were the first. Supplex is awesome. Ridiculous stretch capacity, hardworking fabric, and surprisingly easy to sew. Pressed well, cut well, sewed and turned out neatly. Very pleased with this. I need to fix up the waistband elastic though, as it isn’t as secure as I would like it to be. But these turned out great. Cheaper than the $60 NIKE ones I saw H.Bean wearing sometime back.
I have to come accept that it is OK to say that I am a circus person. A circus performer even. I hoop. I do acro-balance. I also do fire. I can paint faces, make balloon hearts, and appreciate the art of juggling (even though learning it holds no appeal). I am allowed to belong to this community. I train in my own way and I am not as fit or strong as many others around me, but that is OK. I am still fit, and healthy, and yes, strong.
Oh my god, galaxy. Can this trend die already? I am fed up. Really fun to paint though. This was my first foray into supplex, but not into galaxy painting. Supplex is a high density, stretch lycra-type fabric. It is synthetic and feels cool to the touch, but is much thicker and has a denser weave than standard lycra. Sews like a dream. These have a fold-over waistband, and I am way more pleased with how this turned out than the elastic waistband. And the paint is super easy. 5 colours, bit of glitter, and hey presto, galaxy. There’s a matching cotton top. 3/4 sleeves. Nuff said – it was for a small performance. Don’t judge me!
I still look at other people and feel down – my ridiculously skilled and disciplined friends, my training buddies, random people I meet, hell even dudes on Tinder – but the important thing is that I can pick myself up now, and find my own way to keep fit. Even if it’s slow or disjointed, at least I’m moving. And to me, that is most important.
#stretching #lunge #fitspo Orange/black stripe lycra with black lycra lining and wide elastic waistband.
Gah. Does my butt look big in this? Yes. Yes, it does. But that’s cool. This print is the bomb. Got a huge remnant roll on sale and still have so much left. This is standard weight 2-way stretch lycra, and I lined with simple 2-way black stretch lycra – that’s what the cuff bits are – I don’t like those. This also has an elastic waistband, though it seems to be holding out more. The lycra, unlike the supplex, does not squeeze me in as much so my belly flops around; but it is super skintight and feels like a compression suit which is awesome for exercise.
So after all that, who do I tag for #fitspo or #fitspiration – my friends and fellow circus people inspire me constantly; they motivate me to try things and be creative. But really, I’d tag #fitspo on myself. Me. Small, confused, barely keeping it together sometimes, and brimming with potential energy. Because when I achieve something, however small a fitness goal it may be for someone else, I amaze myself. I continue to be awed and inspired by what I can achieve, and if I can keep achieving and feeling that awesome positivity, then hell, son, I’m going to keep trying.
Yeah, it’s a bit pretentious, but hey, haven’t you heard? You’re allowed to like yourself now. Modern times and shit. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t expect someone else to.
Photos: Karen De Lara – @k.dela
Location: Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Fabric: The Remnant Warehouse
Note: I’m trying a new thing with how I describe the clothes I’ve made. I like to include some stories with my posts but this one may have gotten out of hand :/ I am not sure if this style is going to stay – it depends on how I am feeling at the time.