naked strength

*There is one very obvious reason why everyone (globally) is working out in our living rooms currently, and not in the nice, equipment-laden gyms for which we pay monthly. This piece is not meant to minimize the severity and scariness of the current situation. Simply put, I hope this serves as a distraction for you and motivates you to fall in love again with your own body. Try it today and let me know what you think. Stay home and stay healthy!*

Over the course of the past few weeks, our entire lives have been turned upside down. We’ve experienced toilet paper shortages, a rise in telecommuting, and learned thousands of new 20-second songs, poems, and quotes to say while washing our hands. We are all finding a new appreciation for teachers, and discovering new areas in our homes where we can hide in solitude for a few minutes. Some of us have rediscovered nature, while others have found an opportunity to finish the book they’ve been working on for a few months. Finally, I’m sure that anyone who has looked at Instagram, facebook, or watched any news channel, has undoubtedly been inundated with people finding new and creative ways to work-out in their homes. (As a trainer, I think this is awesome!) However, as everything else in our life has changed, one thing that seemingly hasn’t is our workout attire. Every picture and video shows the subject decked out in their finest gym outfit. My question is this: for what purpose? Our whole lives have been reduced back to the basics, so why shouldn’t our exercise outfits? That’s right, it’s time to get naked! Or, as Christina Aguilera so eloquently sang, let’s start “sweat’n til [our] clothes come off.”

Here are FIVE reasons why you should try it today:

1) Um, the feeling of being totally free. Duh, that’s an easy one. While being caught in the buff might be a recurring nightmare for some people (35% according to one study), I think we can almost all agree that in private, there is no more liberating feeling than doffing our outer layer and feeling the fresh air on our skin.

2) It’s affecting our relationships. Social constructs have gone from Adam and Eve (and Garden of Eden ignorance) to being so uncomfortable in our own skin that many people (1 in 6 women!) won’t even let their significant other see them naked. Now compare that to the bliss of childhood and being allowed to run around naked. Parents are all too happy to photograph and video it and smile and laugh along with their elated children. But then, somewhere along the way, we’re suddenly told that it is shameful, embarrassing, and not acceptable. Going au natural has become so un-natural that it is causing stress in our most important relationships. And I’m not just talking about during “intimacy” – although that will also be helped by this. Spending time reading, cooking, watching TV and – back to the purpose of this blog – working out sans clothes will not only bring you closer to your spouse, it will also boost your self-esteem.

3) That’s right, your brain will thank you. When we spend so much of our lives covered up, subconsciously, we start to believe that we need clothes, make-up, and accessories to look good. Body shame and dissatisfaction are on the rise, and while a lot of it can be attributed to social media, advertising, or the Photoshop version of the ideal body, we can also trace roots back the fact that many of us are seeing other people in minimal clothing more often than we see ourselves in minimal clothing. Suddenly, we start to believe that the physique of the sponsored Instagram model is what we should be striving for, rather than a healthy, happy mentality and love for our own body. When we focus too much on the other people around us, we start to believe that that should be our personal goal, for some reason, or something that our spouse dreams about us looking like. But the beauty of humanity lies in the fact that we are all genetically different and NOT the same. Don’t believe me that being naked more often can make you happier? See for yourself.

It was found that more participation in naturist activities predicted greater life satisfaction—a relationship that was mediated by more positive body image, and higher self-esteem. Applying these findings, it was found that participation in actual naturist activities led to an increase in life satisfaction, an effect that was also mediated by improvements in body image and self-esteem.”

4) You can see the changes in your body from day-to-day. We all like to say that we work out for the health benefits, and I am a big advocate for strengthening from the inside out; but let’s face it, we also want to see those outside muscles. My clients love to tell me they are moving better and without pain. But you know what gets them really excited? When they pull their belt a little tighter. Many of us miss those changes, though, because we’re covering them up! Nobody skips from bean pole to Schwarzenegger without a lot of steps in between. Those small changes – a triceps muscle poking through, shoulders rolling back for better posture, or lower legs transforming to show a little more distinction between calf and ankle circumference – can often go unnoticed because we cover them up. There is a reason we take progress photos minimally clothed. Now that you’re in the comfort of your own home, why not stay that way?

Same flex, “more” muscles.

5) See your body move and learn how your muscles work! Sure, progress photos are fun, but anyone can take their shirt off and flex a little harder for more muscles. Being naked also helps you get in touch with your body and learn what an adjustment to form and posture “feels” like by seeing it with your own eyes. Remember that time your trainer told you to “engage your lats” during the deadlift? What does that even look, or, more importantly, feel like? Or how about being able to really see your shoulder blades move “down and in” to help stop your back from rounding during a single leg RDL. One of my favorites is instructing my clients to practice squeezing their abs WITHOUT squeezing their chest and neck (so that they don’t pass out from lack of breathing during ab exercises). This is much easier to visualize without the fabric of a shirt in the way, as you can see below.

Here, you can vaguely see the shoulders move when the lats engage.

Remove the shirt, and the same small movement becomes much more noticeable.

In this video of a single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL), it’s tough to see how the position of the back changes when the shoulder blades are pulled back and in.

This is the same movement, but the change is much more noticeable. Plus, you can see how all the muscles of the back and core work together to make that adjustment.

This is what a lot of people do when told to engage their core. My abs are definitely engaged, but notice that so are my shoulders, arms, neck and chest. This wastes a lot of energy, and makes breathing fairly difficult, if not impossible (not a good thing when you are trying to hold a plank for a minute!).

This is what your trainer actually means when he or she tells you to engage your core. Notice I am still breathing, and the rest of my upper body remains relatively still. This is much more difficult to see with a shirt on.

Trainer tip: If you’re still having trouble with this, imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut. Your natural instinct will be to tighten your abs.

Well, there you have it, five awesome reasons why you should drop trou for your next workout and start to rediscover your body. Not only will you build confidence and self-esteem, reconnect with your spouse, highlight changes in your body, and be fascinated by watching the entire kinetic chain move and flex in unison while completing a single repetition (hands down, my favorite part; I mean, honestly, how neat is the body?), you will also feel liberated and free. Plus, think of all the laundry you’ll save!

So, to wrap things up, I will quote the lyrical genius of LMFAO:
Girl look at that body
Girl look at that body
Girl look at that body
I-I, I work out
I’m sexy and I know it