Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why I am Especially Proud of The Women at Live to Play

It's always great to see people get fit, lift weights, and generally get healthier. In the States, it's more of a trend thing, so it's cool to have muscle definition. Some would even say it's a status symbol or a trait of sexiness. I think it's just great to see people (in general) actually taking action to get healthier and stay healthy. 

When I moved to Taiwan, I realized that there was a big cultural difference in this area. People are mostly discouraged of playing, moving, exercising, or doing anything that would increase muscle mass or just plain sweating. From the time they are toddlers (I'm talking around 2-3 y/o), they are put into extra schooling, locked into the seated position for the majority of the day, and "let out" to play in their schools for a few minutes each day. Sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, right? (To be fair, kids in the States start around 5-6  y/o, which is still too young to be forced to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.)

They're discouraged from getting dirty. Don't even think about touching a tree, let alone climbing one. Water should only be for drinking and bathing, not for swimming or water fights (unless you go to a public pool, where they chlorinate the hell out of the water). Sports are for middle and high school children, and only as an extra curricular after your school homework and after school school homeworks are all done. Many children get home from after school schools anywhere between 6-10pm. So that means they're sitting for prolonged periods of up to 14 hours per day, 5 days a week. To me, that's a terrible childhood. But that's just my opinion. 

When they graduate from grade school, they go into university (where it's basically the same as high school, but more freedom) or into the work force, where they work a lot, and don't prioritize physical exercise. 

Now, the fashionable thing to look like is to take up as little space as possible with your body. Skinny. We're talking super skinny, here. I can't buy clothes here because I have muscles (everything's made for people with no muscles). Many clothes are "free size," which means if you're not a 22" waist, you need to find special clothes or department store clothes. If you have actual shapely glutes, you can't find jeans that fit to save your life. Yoga pants it is, for everything. Or ill-fitting XL skirts. Even if you wear a S in the states. Seriously. This is what the standard of beauty is now in Taiwan.

So the typical thing to do here, as women in Taiwan, is to try to fit in and be as pretty as you can by the country's standard of beauty, right? It's very easily to be intimidated by all the skinny girls walking around with their big-eye contact lenses, fake eye lashes, and size 000 waists. Skinny = pretty. They definitely don't advocate lifting of anything anywhere near heavyish, as their equally skinny boyfriends will carry their purses for them, or they'll have their miniature dogs in pet strollers. I honestly don't even comprehend how they have the strength to blowdry their hair. 

Going against what is defined as "beauty" in any country is a very difficult thing. To do what you know is healthy for you, rather than what other people say about you is always something that takes a lot of bravery. So for all the women who come to Live to Play, knowing they're going to be lifting heavy weights on a regular basis, knowing that they're going to get muscle definition, and knowing that they're going to go against 99% of their current country's beauty standards, they are some pretty supurb women. I am so proud of each and every one of them for doing something great for themselves, despite what their families and friends might say. 

A couple weeks ago officially marked the day that 5 girls from Live to Play can do pullups. Anyone who knows anything about strength training knows that pullups are particularly difficult for women because of the ratio of upper vs lower body muscle and body composition. So having 5 women successfully do pullups within the less than 2 years we've been open, and in a country where strength = scary, I'm extremely proud of all of these women, and this includes the ones who haven't done their first pullups, but are well on their way to do so (which is ALL of the rest of them)! Lifting heavy weights, not being afraid of public criticism, and going against cultural norms to do something they enjoy and know is good for them....I am so damn proud of all of them!!! 

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