Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some More Thoughts on Fitness

Back in January, I made some fitness goals. These goals were complicated by my (probably way over-analyzed) thoughts about feminism and weight loss. Though not the whole problem, one issue of this complication was that I had a hard time staying motivated without focusing on physical goals (like pounds or inches lost). But whenever I focused on physical goals, I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn't appreciating my body for what it is, and I felt like I was participating in a larger system of oppression based on body size.

(For the record, just because I felt this way about my own goals does not mean that I think someone else who is trying to lose weight or inches is doing these things. Like I said, it's complicated. Under scrutiny, it probably doesn't even make sense, but that doesn't mean it wasn't negatively impacting my ability to work out. I was pretty thoroughly in my own head.)

Since then, I've been running. It started with a lot of walking and a little running, and now it's a lot of running and a little walking. I'm also lifting weights. The running is going well, and I've promised to run a 5k in June and a 10k in October.

So what happened? How did I go from not being able to stay motivated without psychoanalyzing myself into paralysis to signing up for a 10k? I found some other reasons to work out that have nothing to do with weight loss and body size.

1. My Daughter Sees Me Enjoying Exercise- Growing up, I had no positive images of people working out. I didn't really interact with people who worked out for health's sake on a regular basis. In my mind, working out was something you forced yourself to do, usually so you could look better, often temporarily.

I'm measuring my goals with the use of a pedometer (I don't usually do plugs for products, but I'm using FitBug and I really, really like this program). I run over my lunch break and consciously try to take some extra steps during the day so that I get to 10,000. Sometimes, when I get home, I'm short. In these cases, I walk around the house or jog in place to get the steps I need.

My daughter thinks this is hilarious, and she's started stepping with me. She swings her arms and stomps her feet and laughs and laughs. I also just bought a jogging stroller. She loves getting to ride while I jog, and she's excited to go to the park where we run around and fall in the grass.

My husband is also a regular exerciser. He takes boxing classes and runs on the treadmill. She sees this, and loves to carry around his boxing gloves.

"I work out."
I hope that seeing physical activity as a regular habit and not something to struggle through will give her a better relationship with fitness than the one I had.

2. Running Forces Me to Slow Down- Not physically. That would be silly. In case you couldn't tell by the rant about how I was inside my own head at the top of this post, I tend to overanalyze things. I don't do it on purpose; it's just part of who I am.

But not when I'm running.

This doesn't mean I don't think when I'm running. I do. I think about all kinds of things. But the focus it takes to run means that I can't ever quite get into that over analytical groove. I have to think about the surface or just under the surface of things. It's nice, and it often means that I think pretty positive thoughts (or even pretty, positive thoughts) because I can't get into that hypercritical space.

3. I Am Upping My Chances of Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse- I've been watching The Walking Dead (only Season 1! Don't ruin it!). Those people run! A lot! When the zombies come, my over analysis of pop culture might be helpful, but only if I survive long enough to get to some kind of camp or lab or something.

Seriously, though. I'm stronger. I feel more capable. I can carry heavier things and walk longer distances. I feel better.

I'm excited about finding a mental place that makes working out a habitual part of my life. At the end of the day, though, I still feel a little like Miriam from Femamom, who said this about rejoining Weight Watchers:
At WW last week, I stood at the scales, surrounded by other women. While we waited to be weighed in, we shed sweaters, socks, coats, jewelry, wedding rings and hats. I looked down at the flickering number and winced. I was there for my health (and a bit for my vanity). In the past, vanity led the way and health was a footnote. But I’ve matured
Yep. I've definitely tilted the scales (see what I did there) toward health, but there's still a bit of vanity hanging on.

What about you? What motivates you to work out? What doesn't motivate you to work out?


  1. I quit smoking for a good amount of time so I could climb an insane amount of stairs, then I started smoking again....wah....wah....wah...I have always considered myself a pretty a fairly healthy person except for this one annoying habit. I have also committed to a 10k run in October. I need as much support as possible to kick the habit again.

  2. I think you're doing really well, but given that you enjoying analysing things more deeply... I would suggest reading this article http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/play-not-exercise-for-fit-kids-20120307-1uk01.html

    I think it's important to role model physical activity as a part of ourselves and our lives rather than as "exercise" as a separate component (whether you're doing it the "right way" or no). Jogging can be a "fun hobby" for some but not for most who do it. Boxing classes are a grey area, but I'm thinking more of going swimming, hiking, playing tennis or basketball with friends, playing social cricket/baseball etc...

    For the record, I think about these things a lot, but do none of them :)

    1. Thanks for the link! And I agree with that. My daughter's "exercise" is much more running around shrieking in the park and chasing after a ball as big as she is. I'm a little envious, actually.

      As for things that we think deeply about but don't do, you should see how organized my house is . . . in my head.

  3. One thing that has helped me is the idea of measurable physical goals -- but for me, they're about distances and times rather than weights and waist measurements. I'm at a place where I'm sure a 10k is going to happen in the near future and where 10 miles and half marathons seem like quite achievable goals. (Long term goals, yes, but I can already break them out into a step-by-step process.) Similarly, I get pretty jazzed by the idea of shaving seconds off my personal bests for various distances. (Granted, I make sure I can do it within reason and without pain.)

    With my yoga practice, a *lot* of my motivation lies in play. It's way fun for me to experiment with different asanas to see what they feel like. Even if I fall out of one (and I do, frequently), *getting into the pose* is such a novel bodily sensation that it's completely worth it for me.

    1. I love what you say about play and feeling the sensations of yoga. I've never been able to get into group exercise (too self conscious) but I really like the idea of yoga . . . maybe someday.

  4. I'm a believer in physical activity. It helps your body but also helps your mind. good post thanks!