Someone said the most ridiculous thing to me the other day. While expounding the virtues of her infrared healing mat, she said that if she lays down on it while the setting is on high, she get an aerobic workout.
“Um, pardon me?” I said, snapping back into a semblance of attention after drifting.
“Really! Your heart rate goes up and is elevated the whole time, and you sweat. It’s an aerobic workout!”
Shaking my head because I can barely believe this conversation is happening, I say, “and what about load on your muscles? What about moving your body?”
“Oh yes,” she flicks away the idea like a pesky fly. “I guess you still have to do some weight bearing exercise.”
I was left dumbfounded, but later realized that this was just an example of an extreme type of rationalization. The “I don’t have to exercise because if I lay on a hot mat for an hour it’s the same as exercise” one is new to me, but is all part of the same category of “I lie to myself so I don’t have to ever be honest about what it takes to get/stay fit.”
I’m choosing to be honest. When I’m not exercising, I’m not exercising. There can’t be any deception or I’ll never get off my ass and move my body. The rationalizations just make it so I get so far from fit that the struggle home to fitness is so overwhelmingly huge that it almost feels not worth it. Stay real. It will shake you out of your mind games faster and get you moving.
Penny, an online friend, had a baby nine months ago and has quite an inspiring story of fitness. Here’s her story to encourage those of you who are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or recently had a baby. If you’re married to or friends with someone in those categories, read it too so you can encourage her.
Penny, what is your weight loss story?
I’m a forty year old mother of three children, age 15, 14 and 9 months old. After my now 14-year old son was born, in 1998, my weight became a problem for me. I couldn’t play with my boys the way that I wanted to and climbing stairs to do laundry took every last bit of energy I had. At his first birthday I weighed 180 pounds; 54 pounds more than I’d ever weighed in my adult life. I knew something had to change.
What changes did you make?
I set two goals for myself: I wanted to be able to run the length of a soccer field and I wanted to do that without my thighs rubbing together. I began small. I started walking for 45 minutes on my lunch break. Each day I would try to increase my speed, going further each time, and making a new goal to meet or beat that the next day. I also cut soda and coffee from my diet. In two months, I lost twenty pounds and, the rest, as they say, is history.
Six years ago, I joined SparkPeople to help me track my fitness and nutrition and, hopefully, lose a little more weight in the process. Shortly after I joined, I met Michelle in the Rookie Runners group. We’ve been online friends ever since.
Fast forward to your most recent pregnancy. What was your plan during this pregnancy with respect to your weight?
In December of 2010, my spouse and I decided to have a baby and within a month and a half, we were pregnant. My plan was to keep my pregnancy weight gain to a maximum of thirty pounds, which wasn’t easy as I had intense cravings for ketchup chips and Pepsi Retro. Thankfully, aside from eating “a little more” of whatever other healthy foods I was already eating, the cravings were pretty easy to deal with.
During my pregnancy, I tried to keep my exercise routine as “normal” as possible. I still trained for, and ran, half marathons, completing four in my first trimester. I also walked a lot, strength-trained and did yoga until month 7, including a workout with Tommy Europe. When running became too uncomfortable, I took up cycling with my running buddies. I continued walking and did my last 10 km “race” on Thanksgiving weekend, three weeks before Emily was born.
I had her on October 26, 2011, by Caesarean section. Not at all what I/we had planned but that’s the way she chose to make her entrance into the world. Typically, they make you wait six weeks before they even consider letting you do any post-partum exercise. I lasted two before I started walking with the stroller. At four weeks post, I was running (albeit very slowly), the shorter distances with my HM group. At six weeks, I joined the mommy/baby boot camp at my local rec centre. In March, I ran my first after-baby half marathon.
Were there any obstacles to eating healthy?
To be honest, the only obstacle was the mindset of having to eat more to support Emily’s needs too. While this is true, more does not equal eating her weight in sugar, fat and sodium. As she grows and the weaning process begins, my new issue is scaling back from the 500 extra calories I’d been eating for “us” to the regular 1800 I need.
How are you doing with your exercise post-pregnancy?
Since having Emily, I’ve actually ramped up my fitness regimen. I’m more diligent about going to the gym because I want my pre-pregnancy body back. I run three times a week, attend two to three gym classes, and walk with my stroller group once a week. Any activity above that is a bonus. I am five pounds away from my where I was in January 2011, and am back to wearing the jeans I wore then, too.
Do you have any advice for women who are either pregnant or have just had a baby?
Well, yes, actually, I do. If you are physically active before you get pregnant, stay physically active while you are pregnant unless it becomes absolutely impossible for you to do so. Then, after you have your baby, get back at it as soon as you can. Not only are you doing what’s best for you, your mental health and your body, you’re teaching your child that physical activity is an important part of life. If more parents lead by example, there’d be fewer cases of obesity in this world.
I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. Mainly because it’s hard to admit to everyone (including me) that, holy crap, I so do not feel like exercising right now.
Because I’m bored. Bored and depressed. And that’s NOT a good combo.
I’m bored with weights. I’m bored with going to the gym. I’m having trouble thinking up a new goal, and really, I just want to hang out on my couch and do nothing. I want to drink Riesling and watch bad TV.
There. I said it.
This will probably surprise a few people; last weekend I ran the Warrior Dash in Seattle (6K run + 10 obstacles) and am doing another WD next weekend on Mt Seymour; I’m making plans to do the Grouse Grind with various friends every week; I’m trying a new spin class Wednesdays at lunch; and I’m looking at starting either boxing or indoor rock climbing in the fall. I’ve even debated doing a Tough Mudder, a 15-ish km run with 20 obstacles. And anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows how much I fucking hate running.
When I was losing weight I had a goal. I reached that goal. I’ve had a few goals since then – roller-derby (derailed permanently by injury) then Warrior Dash last year, then injury again, then Warrior Dash again. But right now I’m goal-less. I honestly don’t really want to do Tough Mudder – if it was all obstacles sure, but it isn’t. I’m mildly interested in Boxing. I’m a bit more interested in Rock Climbing. But you know, they seem like a lot of work. And I’m not in the mood to do work right now. It has even crossed my mind more than a few times in my darker moments lately to say fuck it, cancel my gym membership, and let the chips fall where they may.
Am I going to do that?
No. No I’m not.
Intellectually I can recognize that I’m not in the best head space right now. That eating cheesecake and lazing about will make my clothes not fit, damage my physical and mental health, and destroy my hard-won self esteem. And I like looking good. Sue me.
But I’d be lying if I said it’s always easy-peasy and how awesome and super-motivated I am and how don’t you wish you were just like me? I’m as prone to lack of motivation and laziness and depression as anyone else is. But I’ve been successful because when I feel like saying fuck it, I don’t. Right now I’m focusing on setting my life up to make it as easy as I can to keep it on the rails; coming up with new goals,making working out more fun, leaning on my friends a bit (they harass me mercilessly to do sometimes insane physical shite, thanks you guys 😛 ), getting motivation from the successes of other people I know, eating well, sleeping well, and just… doing it. There is no magic pill, and there is no Secret. I just suck it up and fucking do it, and wait for the fog to clear again, like I know it will.
But Arg. It sucks right now.
Sometimes wellness is letting go.
Giving in to Healing and its slow tempo;
its pace the definitive patience tester.
Making me scream in frustration,
yet still the relentless pace despite how I feel.
Letting go of the expectation
that I can do anything to defy it.
Realizing that it is me,
and coming to terms with that.
Giving over to getting well on my body’s terms.
Eagerly anticipating the Warrior Dash in August, my husband and I did some hill repeats and pull ups last week. Actually, he did pull ups and I kind of just hung there with a grunty look on my face, but I digress. I looked forward to a good bike ride on Friday afternoon (to the beach!) and home again in the evening, then getting into a good workout groove with Chris. I even had some strength workouts up my sleeve for the two of us.
Unfortunately, the bike ride ended with a bike crash; that is, I got up close and personal with the pavement. I’ll eventually be able to do more than yelp when moving my right shoulder, and the nasty road rash on my arm and leg will heal too. Thankfully, no bones are broken and I’m still in love with my bike. That said, one of the first questions I asked the emergency doctor was, “Will I be able to do the Warrior Dash in a month?” So there I was, a middle aged woman who had just wiped out on her bike (going a tad fast) and was admitted into hospital to get checked out for bone breaks, and all I seemed to care about was a bloody (well, muddy) race in a month. Damn straight!
Now, let’s get that wing moving and the bike fixed. I won’t be fast in the Warrior Dash, but Gimpy Michelle will be there with a smile on her face!
A fitness club here in Vancouver has banned fit people. Body Exchange only allows Plus Sized women to join. The idea is that overweight people are made fun of or made anxious by fit people in ‘regular’ gyms, and so should only have fellow overweight people in the group with them.
I have read a lot of articles on this lately, some pro, some con. As a Former Fattie, I’ll weigh in (no pun intended) with my initial thoughts.
This doesn’t appear to be a standard gym, it looks like they do bootcamps, 4 weeks each (also personal training and “Adventures”, but I’ll discuss the bootcamp here). That’s actually exactly what I did to start when I began the big weight loss. At that time,Warren (my fellow blogger) ran a bootcamp at my gym, the YWCA here in Vancouver. It was called ‘Fat Burning Camp’, but I referred to it semi-affectionately as Fat Camp. It started out with a relatively easy workout (although not easy for me at that point) and class by class got progressively more challenging. It was a good re-entry point for me to get back into fitness.
In that bootcamp there were people of both genders, and different sizes and fitness levels. I liked that there were people there at my fitness level (lower) and also people who were fitter than me so that I had a benchmark to work toward. Over the eight or ten weeks of Fat Camp I lost 11 pounds and was significantly fitter, had gotten a trainer (hi Melanie!) and kept on going.
So, what do I think of the Body Exchange only allowing Plus Sized women to join?
I understand their point in the sense that in the ‘normal’ gym I initially felt self conscious and like I was so much less fit than everyone else, and that they all were looking at me and thinking ‘why is that fat girl here’. I was so intimidated at my first spin class. I looked at this uber-fit girl on one of the bikes and thought “She’s effing hardcore, I could never do that, why am I even trying”. But I did it anyway. I didn’t leave the class, I stuck with it. I did the best I could every class, and gradually came to the point where I lasted the whole class. Six months later when I was fit, a girl in the gym who wasn’t in the class commented to me as I was walking out “Wow, you’re hardcore, I could never do what you do.” The irony was not lost on me. I was now the girl I had been intimidated by.
The fact is, most if not all of the people in the gym aren’t looking at you. They aren’t laughing at you or thinking you’re fat or out of shape. They are either thinking about themselves and their workout, or are busy wondering who is looking at them and thinking they are fat or out of shape, or thinking that they themselves are fat or out of shape. When I’m in spin class, I have zero idea what anyone else is doing or how hard they are working. Seriously. I’m focused on survival and not throwing up and my form, the same as I was when I was fat. I spent far more time looking at people when I was overweight than I do now.
So, I get why this group wants only overweight people in it; a lot of overweight people really do think that fit people are looking at them negatively; I did. I also think that a bootcamp tailored to very overweight people would have limited value to a quite fit person; at my current fitness level I would find that camp easy enough that it wouldn’t be of much use to me. Anyone who consistently challenges themselves and progresses fitness-wise would probably have a limited time that they would get results from that camp and would move on anyway. Doing the same activity/class over and over can also get boring and lower motivation, and your body would gradually adapt and limit your results if you’re consistent. I think this type of bootcamp can be a valid approach to getting very overweight people engaged in fitness. If it gets them in the door, hopefully they’ll keep going; it’s better than them never going at all because they are intimidated.
My main issue with the bootcamp is that it may be validating the perception of the participants that they are correct in thinking that gyms are full of douchebags who make fun of fat people, that it’s “Us vs Them”. It isn’t. Fit and less-fit people are all just people, they are just at different places on the fitness continuum; unfit people can become more fit, and fit people can become less fit, it depends on what’s going on. Feeling like people are looking at you funny isn’t the same as it actually happening.
I also believe that in all facets of life there is value in surrounding yourself with people who are fitter/smarter/more talented/more successful than you are. That’s how you learn, and it can help you challenge yourself to be better at something than you are. Consistently surrounding yourself only with people at your level can lead to stagnation and complacency and boredom, none of which are good for people trying to grow.
So, I’m on the fence about this. My immediate reaction was that it’s a bad idea. But in the end, if the participants get value from it and it helps them progress fitness-wise and keeps them engaged in healthy activity, it’s a good thing. Hopefully they use it to move forward health-wise and not get complacent and stagnate.