Fitness, Mind & Body

Laura Henshaw’s perfectly imperfect approach to fitness is our 2020 mantra

Growing up, sport and fitness were a wonderful part of her life, but Keep it Cleaner co-founder Laura Henshaw admits her relationship with it changed with the influence of social media. Here, she explains how she rediscovered her  ‘why’ and found joy, and fun, in fitness again.

To whoever needs to read this:

Before I tell you about my personal journey with fitness, I want to start by acknowledging that everyone’s journey is completely different. Just like we are. No one’s path is the same, some of us find it quickly and some of us take a few different paths before we find the one that feels right. It is also worth noting that sometimes we will move on and off the right path for us as we experience different things on our journey of life. That is ok, too.

Growing up

My journey with fitness started on a smooth and positive road. As a young kid and teenager, I found so much joy in team sports and giving everything a go. I was ok with the fact my best wasn’t ‘the best’, but that was good enough for me.

Up until I was about 18 I can say, with my hand on my heart, I never really thought about exercise as a way to lose weight or maintain a certain body shape.

I had found so many other reasons to love it and so the physical side effects seemed so insignificant. I never really thought about them. I didn’t realise how lucky I was to have such a wonderful relationship with exercise until I lost it.

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The impact of social media

When I was about 18, I downloaded Instagram. Instagram opened up a new world to me, a world where you exercise to achieve a certain body type, booty circumference and number on the scales.

I had always moved my body for fun, but so quickly all the fun was sucked out and I found myself dreading movement. I would force myself to do gruelling sessions that often lasted hours. All of my old goals to get fitter, stronger and feel good inside were all consumed by my new superficial goals that left me feeling empty and weak.

The thing that I learnt about exercising for the sole purpose of that number on the scales, is, that no matter what the number says, you can always do ‘better’. For me, that meant I always felt empty.

Finding my ‘why’ again

My relationship with exercise in my early twenties was a rocky one, a path I didn’t enjoy very much but one I look back on now as a detour that taught me so much about myself.

Through founding Keep it Cleaner with my best friend, Steph, who had been on a similar rocky path as myself, we were able to channel our energy in wanting to reconnect with exercise and find our ‘why’ again.

In finding my ‘why,’ I rediscovered how much fulfillment a workout could bring me. I realised the huge impact it could have on my mental health. Movement has helped me through so many hard times, through stressful days, and days when I didn’t feel like me.

It is there for me when my anxiety is flaring up as a coping mechanism, and energises me when I feel flat. I find the feeling of completing a challenging session so incredibly rewarding for my confidence and have been able to channel that energy into many aspects of my life.

There is something very special about proving to yourself that you can finish a rep that you didn’t think you could, run a little further or lift a heavier weight than ever before. It is a beautiful moment where you are able to shut out that voice in your head that tells you, you can’t, and instead decide that you can. And when you do, you know that the next time negative self talk shows up in your head that you don’t have to listen. You know you can beat it.

Our journey will be perfectly imperfect

My reconnection with movement has been supported by our extraordinary Keep it Cleaner community. I use the word extraordinary, with every intention because that is what they are to me.

Together, through all of the variation of movement in the KIC program including Boxing, Strength, HIIT, Pilates, Yoga and Running, led by our team of KIC experts we have been able to connect with movement that we enjoy.

We have fun with it together, we joke through our KIC workouts, not because we don’t take them seriously but because we want to get stronger and fitter and actually have enjoyed the journey.

We know that we do not have to do our ‘best’ in every single workout and that some days will be harder than others, but that is ok. All that we focus on is that we show up for ourselves and we do what we can on the day. We don’t measure our progress by a number of abs on our stomach or how we look but instead we focus on how we feel.

We strive to feel strong and powerful. We don’t workout because we want to look like someone else, but because we want to do something for ourselves. We don’t expect a ‘perfect’ fitness journey, instead we find peace in the fact that our journey will be perfectly, imperfect.

If you’re reading this…

I hope if you are reading this and thinking that there is no path ahead of you where you can find joy and connection with movement, that you don’t lose hope. You will find it. Look for your ‘why’, and don’t let it be surface level, to fit into a dress, or get abs, I ask you to look deeper than that.

Think of your mental health, your own inner happiness and fulfilment and how movement can help and support you. And don’t worry, it doesn’t mean to find this connection you need to LOVE exercise and look forward to every single session.

I definitely don’t wake up every day jumping out of bed to do my workout. Motivation doesn’t always show up, but it becomes routine. Trust yourself and your ‘why’ enough to know it will come once you get started. I hope you find it soon.

The fitness myths to forget

1. Getting abs will make you happy. For a lot of us, maintaining a ‘six -pack’, means no balance, excessive exercise and no social life (because you can’t eat out). You don’t need abs to be happy.

2. You don’t need to LOVE every part of your body. Try focusing instead on how lucky you are to have such an incredible body that looks after you every single day and enables you to do awesome things.

3. You need to exercise for hours everyday. Most days I will do a 20 minute KIC workout and that is enough for me to feel strong, be energised and clear my mind. These are the most important things to me when exercising.

4. Your weight is any indication of your success on your health journey. Our weight does not define us and there are so many more important and accurate ways to measure our personal health journeys.

5. Exercise is meant to be gruelling and something you dread. Shock horror – EXERCISE CAN BE FUN. Mix up your training and find things you enjoy

Laura Henshaw is a co-founder of Keep it Cleaner, model, and fitness entrepreneur.