My Beefs with Traditional Exercise
- Boring – nothing to think about but how much pain I’m in, how much this stinks, how much I’d rather be doing ANYTHING else (such as getting a root canal)
- Isolating – none of my friends do any kind of exercise that I can get into, and none of them do what I’m interested in
- Painful – everything hurts/gets sore very easily, and I hate the breathless, about-to-die feeling I get
A Little History: I USED to be a Thin, Active Little Girl
To understand how and why I’ve ended up this way, you have to know some of my background. I’ve been a fat girl longer than I was a skinny girl, but I do remember the days of being bone-thin. I was tall and fairly lean through most of elementary school–I played basketball during the school year, swam a good bit during the summers, and played both outside and inside. I also didn’t sit down to dinner long enough to really eat much, though I never went hungry, either. (As an extremely selective eater from early childhood, I chose foods based on texture almost more than taste, and ended up eating from a very limited palate which has persisted to this day.)
What Changed: Emotional Associations with Exercise, Onset of Puberty, and Injuries
Starting in fourth grade (age 10), however, my level of activity began to change, albeit slowly. I was cut from my basketball team because I had lost much of my speed to a foot injury and hadn’t really improved my playing skills. But to be honest, I had started losing interest in playing sports–I knew I wasn’t very good at physical activity, and I was beginning to be picked on for it. I just never was fast enough or quick-reacting enough, though I could pull off a surprise basket on occasion. As a result, I started doing more indoor, sedentary activities with my newly freed time.
By fifth grade, I had the basics of my adult hourglass figure in place. But fifth grade was also the year I entered weighing about 90 pounds and left weighing 145 pounds, with little to no change in my diet and regular P.E. exercise just as I had had for the previous 5 years of elementary school. This same body change has happened to all the women in my extended family–rapid weight gain and a radical body shape change around puberty, much more significant than other girls’ body changes. (I have wondered, in the years since, whether some form of endocrine imbalance or some form of hypothyroidism might be to blame, but most doctors seem not to know what we’re talking about, despite having a body of anecdotal evidence covering several lives and at least four decades.)
With womanhood barely a year away from me at age 11, puberty had thus backhanded me with an entirely new body–one I quickly learned to hate, just about as quickly as the other kids learned to tease me about it. My “muffin top” and “rolls” earned me so many jeers and so much physical abuse that I eventually quit trying to do much in P.E. at all. (Wouldn’t you have, if every time you so much a dribbled a ball some idiot would run over to you, grab the ball out of your hands, and smack it against your stomach hollering “FATTY FATTY FATTY! HAHAHA!”) Exercise, as a result, became less associated with fun and freedom, and more associated with pain, humiliation, and anxiety.
I gained about 10 pounds a year after puberty’s horrible 50-pound prank, and by college I battled to stay around 230-240 pounds. Several incidents, however, led to even walking being painful; going to class in the ice and snow led to repeatedly injured ankles and knees, which I could not get treatment for without having to WALK to the campus infirmary. (Explain that one to me!) Having always had weak ankles and flat feet (thanks to heredity), the injuries did not heal properly, which has left me with constant pain while walking. I even have a handicapped sticker, one which I am grateful for but wish fervently that I did not have to use as often as I do.
Would I Like to Exercise? Yes! Does Any Exercise Interest Me? NO!
The thing that annoys me the most about traditional exercise is the heavy emphasis on pointless repetition of mind-numbing activities. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be “training muscles” and whatnot, but it is as maddening to me as doing 30 identical math problems for homework. It’s a huge attack of “same stuff different day”–there’s nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing challenging mentally.
And, if my brain is not kept busy, then its only remaining focus is the condition of my body–you know, the straining muscles, the joints in pain, the sweat in my eyes. If exercise is repetitive (and most of the traditional programs out there are), then I end up tense, anxious, and eventually angry that I’m wasting my time doing this stuff and I’m going to waste even more time trying to recover later. (Keep in mind, I have a lot of injuries, so my body normally takes a longer time to recover from exercise anyway.)
How to Solve This?
An ideal exercise routine for me would be:
- Fun – keeps my mind as well as my body busy
- Social – involves friends and family as part of a get-together
- Less painful – I know exercise is going to hurt, but it doesn’t have to hurt this much!
Let it be known that just walking on a track like a rodent in a wheel doesn’t cut it for me, nor for most like me, I’d imagine. I and other people in my same condition want more out of exercise than just doing 10 reps of this and 10 reps of that for an hour or so. Doesn’t that make sense?