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Learning to Love Fitness (for Real)

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I have always hated exercise. Since I was a round little schoolgirl I groaned when it was time for PE. It meant having to run around and kick or throw or catch a ball -- none of which I was good at. I always preferred sitting over running. I liked my heart rate at a resting rate. There was nothing better than lying on my lavender pleather beanbag talking on the phone for hours. Wrapping the cord around my fingers was all the physical activity it required. Perfect sport for me.

It was never even a thought to try out for sports teams in high school. I knew they existed but they were so irrelevant to me. There were the athletic girls who really loved to sweat and then there was me -- who hated the feeling of breathlessness and perspiration. But more than the physical dislike, I emotionally never connected with fitness. I just wasn't that into it. It wasn't fitness, it was me. It turns out that if you avoid fitness all your life and have a binge eating disorder then you have two choices. Either be OK with a very large self or learn to develop a relationship with fitness and healthy eating. Also it turns out that despite being a fairly confident woman, I am more comfortable (physically, emotionally, and existentially) when I'm not super large. Not that there's anything wrong with any and all body shapes. You have to know the one you're most comfortable in. Mine happens to be a very robust, curvy and healthy shape. I will never be small. I don't want to be small. But I would like to feel good in clothing and have a wee less back rolls. Not a crazy desire. So, I deduced that it would be wise to stop despising exercise.

I was reading an article about arranged marriages in India and the couple was explaining how they had to learn to love each other. How they had to work to cultivate a romance. It occurred to me that maybe I could do that with fitness. Yes -- it will be awkward at first. It will definitely be forced and not cute at all. Some days will be more natural than others. But maybe it will turn into a long passionate love affair?

So I started to run/walk -- or Runk, as I call it. Sometimes it's actually a Wance (walk/dance). Sometimes it's a pathetic trot that includes sucking on my inhaler and hating my shins. But I keep doing it. And in a bizarre turn of events, I don't loathe it. At all. I think it's because I can do it. It's not a crazy high adrenaline class where some over caffeinated woman in a headset is screaming at you to PUSH YOURSELF HARDER. It's not a punishing class where Rihanna is screaming at you that you're made of TITANIUM. That may work from some but for me -- it makes me throw up in my mouth (literally) and I find myself begging for an electrical fire to start so we can all have an excuse to run out into the street. Any time I've injured myself doing one of those boot camp style classes I've nearly dropped to my aching knees in gratitude for the excuse to just STOP. But it took me almost 20 years to realize that fitness and healthy food can come from a nurturing and loving place too.

When I move outdoors now and something starts to hurt -- I pause. I try not to push through severe pain because thankfully it's not a death march. It's for the purpose of feeling good in my body. Not weak and fail-y. And it works. I hurt my hip on one of my runks last week and was actually legitimately bummed that I needed a few days of rest. That was a body-snatcher moment. In the past, I would've been so relieved. Because I was punishing myself. Now I was annoyed I couldn't do something I... liked. There's no guilt and shame when I can't do it. Well, maybe a little guilt because this mindset is almost four decades old. It takes time to chip away at the granite. Which is important to realize if you're being kind to yourself too. There's no timeline or deadline to this. It's organic and natural. And yes, you can skip a day and eat cupcakes instead. It's OKAY sometimes. Just eat the damn cake and enjoy it. Then go outside and enjoy that too.

So I won't be a CrossFit junkie, a Soul Cycle fanatic, a marathoner. Ever. The thought of 26.2 miles makes me queasy. That's what cars are for. To get you 26.2 miles farther. But I will continue to be kind to myself and do what I like and what feels good. And no, I'm not made of titanium, Rihanna. I'm made of soft , curvy, doughy flesh. I'm a real woman who may just want a wee less back rolls.

Next up -- I'll explore the world of cycle/spin class... Gently and kindly.


If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.