It usually starts right before January 1st of every year and continues, unabated, until around June. You know what I’m talking about: the onslaught of “bikini season.” Which means, as women (sorry, guys, but you’re left out of this one), we’re expected to find the idea of our out of shape bodies in bikinis so vile, so unspeakable that we must work out nonstop until summer. There’s Slut Shaming and Fat Shaming, but we have Summer Shaming to contend with, too.
I’m 46 now. I’ve been exercising pretty much on a regular basis since I was about 18 or so. And never, ever, in all that time, has the threat of “bikini season” motivated me to work out. Not even once.
You know why?
Well, if you’re young and in shape or even young and out of shape, you have lovely skin, clear eyes, and a certain youthful firmness. You’re always going to look fine in a bathing suit. If you’re a model or an actress and looking good is your job (and good luck with all that), then you’re not spending time exercising just for a few hours of hotness on a beach somewhere. Either you already look lovely or you just don’t give a crap, because you hate water and sand and the beach generally. Not in my case; I love Hawaii and all things tropical, but to each her own, you know?
Once you’re an in shape woman over 40, you really don’t give a shit about the bikini. As I said before, I love Hawaii and beaches; I still wear bikinis. Mostly, I wear them because I still think they’re more flattering than one-pieces, and they don’t ride up my ass when I’m boogie boarding, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. For me, a bikini is simply a more practical choice when I’m having fun and exercising in the water.
So, when I hear the words “bikini season,” it turns my stomach. When I work on an aerial trapeze routine, or take an intense spin class or try something new like a bar class at Pop Physique, I’m not doing it to look better. I work out almost every day because I like how it makes me feel. My head gets clear, my real world problems are suspended for a bit, and I get to inhabit this body that serves me so well each and every day. Threatening it with “bikini season” seems hostile and inappropriate.
Plus, it’s not realistic to expect that from an exercise routine. I’m a Pilates instructor, and I’ve noticed that many women have unrealistic expectations about their workouts. After attending a once-a-week Pilates mat class for a few weeks, one woman would usually start in about how “if I keep doing this, I’ll look great by summer.” Honestly? Probably not. The class is hard, and fun, and definitely a challenge, but once a week isn’t going to pop you into a bikini. Try once a day, maybe, but who—outside of the fitness industry or the aforementioned models and actresses—has the money and time for that?
Working out a lot and having an in shape body, one that’s more muscular, or thinner, or more toned than it would be otherwise, is just a happy side effect of loving exercise. Making exercise all about appearances cheapens it unnecessarily. Exercise (whether you do it every day or once a week) offers more—far less superficial benefits—like inner peace, calm, and even better sleep.
I will continue my daily exercise practice, regardless of whether it’s bikini season, sweater weather or the Season of the Witch. And I’ll continue to wear a bathing suit that fits my water-loving needs. And so should everyone else, whether they choose a Brazilian cut or a caftan. To hell with Bikini Season.
Jenny Heitz Schulte is a Los Angeles based writer, blogger, certified Pilates instructor, and avid exerciser. Besides her husband and daughter, her passion is aerial trapeze. She is the creator of the blogs Fem40Fitness and Find A Toad.