Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Fat Fatwa: Reasons I Hate Exercise

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The modern consensus is that if you want to be happier and healthier one must exercise. But what I would like to lay out here is the fact that I hate it.  

The cultural push, especially in looks-conscious California, is that if you are going to be anybody you have to be fit and pretty. That's it. If you're not fit, you're not pretty. And fitness requires you to spend hours upon hours in a gym, drink crazy green wheatgrass concoctions, and obsess about your body. You have to get in a certain amount of cardio or one day you will just drop dead.

If you are losing weight, you are supposed to be crazy happy about exercising, and it's supposed to feel like a million kinds of awesome. Instead, I finish and I never feel great. I can sometimes during, but never as awesome as some of my more athletic and able-bodied friends report.

The problem is that as I lose weight, I am increasingly saggy. Before I start to look like a flying squirrel with skin flaps under my arms, I must set about doing something about it. But I also know that I hate exercise. Why?

  • I am and always have been injury prone. Back in Jr. High, I managed to sprain my ankle 8 times in two years. Every time it was due to P.E. class and their instance upon warming up by jogging in a field riddled with gopher holes. This apparently made me a special case, and eventually they assigned me to an Adaptive P.E. class for students with special physical needs because apparently the rest of the population was just fine running on horribly uneven grass.  It was at this time that I discovered that between the horribly flat feet I had suffered from since childhood, and my beefy Irish and German made-for-lugging-hay-bales bone structure being held up by dancer's ligaments, I was always going to have issues. I can injure myself thinking about exercise.
  • I have never been good at sports. Not only did I have these flat-footed issues to deal with, but I also rarely had anyone who would even attempt to teach me sports. My mother was never athletic, and my father was more so, but never available to really teach me anything. I had no older siblings, so school was where I got the majority of my sports training, which meant that if I didn't pick things up super fast I was out of luck. So I spent most of my time in softball's outfield not playing at all, last to be picked for every team, and chasing my soccer ball or basketball up and down the court.
  • It's boring. I have never understood the insistence that being an adult means we must have things as tedious as possible.When we're little, we have recess.  But as we get older, it is methodically replaced with more tedious items. We measure our activities in repetitions and minutes. If only exercise was giant, adult-scale size swing sets and jungle gyms I might be more enthused.  Instead we have repetitions on equipment, or running on a treadmill. Or walking the same route in the same neighborhood or on a track. I find that when I listen to something interesting like a podcast or audiobook while I walk, I lose pace. But without it, if I do just music I can often be bored out of my skull.
  • The things I do enjoy are inconvenient. The two most enjoyable things for me are dancing and water aerobics if we're talking about a really good cardio workout. With dancing, I have to again be super careful. The last time I was doing one of the most effective cardio dance workouts, a few days later I had a pinched sciatic nerve and one of the worst pain incidents of my life. Many years ago I had some success going to regular water aerobics classes at the gym. Now I'm not really in a place financially to afford a gym, and it's always pretty difficult to find one conveniently located with a water aerobics class that is well-timed. So I'm always plagued by issues with these choices as well.
This leaves me in a position of having to do things that maybe aren't as cardio heavy.  I like yoga a great deal for the stress-relieving benefits. I also enjoy the games on Wii Fit that get me a little bit of benefit.  And sometimes I enjoy just randomly light dancing around my room for an allotted period of time to just try to do something semi-amusing, somewhat active, that doesn't make me feel bored and, in the end, icky.

But I want to embrace all of this. I'm tired of the pressure to feel as pumped up and awesome about exercise as others are. I want to yell out, "WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME!!"  

So why do we have to feel the same about fitness?

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