Exorcising Exercise Demons
As many of you know, I’ve been exercising for awhile. I talk about it on Twitter and occasionally my blog. I’ve never fully gone into what I’m doing and why, though. Or my exercise history.
I have a bad history with it—as a kid, my stepfather ridiculed me because I wasn’t in the shape he thought I should be (he also told me no man would ever love me because I was fat, over and over again and kept me in terror as long as I lived in that house...he was abusive, in darker ways, too).
In grade school, my lack of athletic ability didn’t matter that much. I played, I wasn’t as good at PE as the other kids, but I had fun overall and except for gymnastics and running around the school grounds, was generally happy.
In junior high, it was horrendous—I was constantly berated by the bitch of a gym teacher and frankly, I wanted to see her run over by a bus. I skipped high school and went straight into college and didn’t have to take PE so that was fine with me. I did take movement classes in college, because they were part of my acting/drama programs, but they weren’t embarrassing and I did okay—not great, but okay.
Until I hurt myself in 1994, I was very active. I’ve always been a large (read: wide) woman, but I walked everywhere, danced half the night around the bonfire, wandered through the woods, had great blood pressure, etc.. Well, then I fell and hurt myself and couldn’t afford medical care. I was on crutches for a year, and during that time, permanently fucked up my back. After that, my physical shape went downhill.
As I said, I’ve always been a large woman but I gained a bunch of weight because I was laid up. Apparently I’d moved around more than I ever thought. I developed a mild high blood pressure. Heart, cholesterol, triglycerides were all still good—they’ve never been bad—but the chronic pain from the adhesions caused by the injuries in my back and hips have been horrible to deal with, especially since I can’t take pain killers.
For the past few years I’ve been going to a chiropractor and it’s helped. Last year I started getting weekly massages and they’re helping. But a year ago, shortly after I began the massage, I realized that I needed to start exercising, pain or not. That’s the missing piece into helping me regain some semblance of normality and lose the extra weight I put on while laid up.
I never expect to be thin—I’ve never been thin, it’s not a goal. But I would like to be back where I was before I met my ex, which was a size 16. That is an achievable goal for me and though when I was 18, I was horrified by my size thanks to my stepfather, now I’d be extremely happy at that size.
But it’s going to take work. Slow work on the diet—and yes, I know what works for my body and am doing it, so no diet suggestions, please. What works for you probably won’t work for me—I need higher protein, lower carb, lots of meat, fruit and some veggies.
And...exercise. The exercise itself won’t make me lose weight in the way a lot of people think, but it will get me moving more and the more I move the more my shape will change and the more active I can become again. And...I want to dance again like I used to. I want to get out and wander around the neighborhood without having a muscle spasm in my back. I want to be pain free again.
And so, with that background...I’m moving. I’ve been working out twice a week with a friend for a little over a year—weight workouts and some cardio. We started with once a week, and it was rough on me. Every muscle screamed. After awhile, it got easier and we decided to step it up to twice a week. And then, early this year I decided that I needed cardio in addition to the weights. So I bought a great exercise bike. I started with five minutes a day and those five minutes made me want to scream—my muscles were so tight. But I gritted my teeth and I did it. And after a bit, it got easier.
Which leads us to now...two weight workouts a week, and I’m now biking half an hour a day—with the next goal to being 45 minutes a day. And I’ve started adding my stretching to the mix—so after I finish my biking at night (for some reason, I enjoy biking at around 11:00 PM), I get down on the yoga mat and I stretch.
I’m looking back to last year, to the start when we were doing one weight workout a week and it was almost too much. And I look at where I am, and realize that even though it’s been a full year, I’ve come a long way. I still get muscle spasms in my back, but I am doing better, and in another year, maybe I’ll be out walking around again like I used to. And in two years—I hope to be dancing the night away.
But it’s one step at time to get there. It’s aching muscles, it’s taking a deep breath and forcing myself on the bike even though I may not want to, or feel like it. It’s occasionally having to miss a workout when the pain is too great or when life intrudes, but making up for it and not letting it stop me the next time.
It’s maintaining consistency, and realizing that nobody can do it for me. That if I really, truly, want to be in great shape again (relative to me—not to a fitness model), then it’s up to me. Nobody is going to do it for me. Nobody is going to hold my hand. Nobody is going to hand fitness over to me on a silver platter. It’s getting up on that bike, putting my feet on the pedals, and making them move.
So don’t tell me you don’t have time—because I don’t “have” time—I MAKE time. And don’t tell me you ache too much to do it—because I hurt to the point of crying at times, and I am doing it. (Bear in mind, if you are truly injured then back off till you can do it again without aggravating the injury).
And most of all, don’t tell me you want to be in great shape—because if you really want it, you’ll make realistic goals, then go out and follow through. For yourself. Because it’s your body, and if you really want it, you can make it happen. One step at a time.