Fit for… what purpose?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Permalink

I was looking for something yesterday so had to trawl through old posts. In all honesty it made me a bit sad… Not because my posts used to receive more comments (which they did) but rather, the loss of my exercise mojo. Many of the posts from this time last year talked about my 4-5 sessions at the gym each week. At the time I wondered if I was pushing myself hard enough – oh, and I was annoyed that trainers continued to make me do mountain-climbers or burpees despite my dodgy hip flexors.

Ahhh…. those were the days. When I exercised.

Bizarrely I realised I miss the fact that I used to exercise, but not the exercise itself. Sure, I wish I was still doing my fave faux Zumba classes, but as for the rest of it… meh!

Yesterday I read a newspaper column (delivered by my mother with a heap of clippings) by some guy who’d lost a lot of weight. It was all about the food, he said (which I already know!). But… he also talked about completely dropping his exercise regime along the way. It gave me 10hrs a week to do other things, he said, and his weight loss and even maintenance (which is often when exercise counts the most!) wasn’t impacted.

Now, I might have left my exercise mojo back in the city when making my seachange, but even I believe we need to do SOMETHING.

ocastpierIn fact (for me) yesterday’s thong-walk was probably the best part of my day. Now that I’m not forcing myself to do something every day and am walking (leisurely and when I feel like it) I find myself out on the nearby pier, soaking up the majesty of the world around me and just happy to be alive. (In fact I would have perched on the edge of the pier for a while yesterday – at the mercy of gusting wind – if my iPod’s battery had not been dying… or if I’d not needed to go to the loo!)

A week or so ago, another Aussie blogger, Kerryn from fitbody fifty was sharing pics from a body building competition – FitX, being held in Melbourne – she attended (as a spectator).

And… I apologise for what I’m about to say but… I don’t ‘get’ or like body building. I know it’s just a personal preference thing, but I struggle with the ‘why’.

After some more pondering though, I realised that body builders train to look good on stage for a particular event, as do models who might exercise to look good on the catwalk. Sometimes exercise can be less about performance and more about aesthetics.

(Over)analysing my own thoughts and judgements then had me wondering: do I see some forms of training or exercise as more legitimate than others?

I’ve long admired athletes. My own father and brother were both talented athletes. I grew up surrounded by sports and athletes.

In those days, training daily and / or complementing specific training (basketball, in my case) with fitness and strength training was a no-brainer.

It wasn’t until I became anorexic that training and exercise took on a different guise. Although I probably tried to convince others it was for the betterment of my basketball career, it was mostly about losing weight and looking skinnier.

It’s interesting then that I found it hard to understand why some people exercised or trained…. for nothing in particular.

My first taste of this was at university (mid-late 80s) when I came across someone who jogged – but who was not training for a particular event or sport. Although I’d exercised for hours each day training for sport or obsessively trying to whittle away weight it never occurred to me others might exercise for enjoyment or even to manage their weight in a non-obsessive way.

Once I was no longer anorexic and stopped playing sport, I quit exercising. Completely.

And it wasn’t until I really started to gain weight that I realised the art of exercise wasn’t just for athletes or anorexics.

 expert

Over the past 20 years I’ve dabbled in a range of exercise options. I’ve belonged to gyms (hell, despite being a poor volunteer, I even forked out money to go to a gym in a plush hotel when I lived in Mozambique) many MANY times. I’ve had obsessions over the years with Step, Body Jam and Hip Hop classes. I once would do almost anything to avoid missing a boxing class at a local gym. And most recently I’d go into work on my day off to avoid missing my fave faux Zumba class. In between those times I’ve walked, tried to run and done pilates. Or… I’ve sofa-surfed (aka done SFA).

This long and blithery (and now somewhat pointless post) is really just my way of saying that I finally get it. No longer do I see others’ Twitter feeds or Facebook updates about their marathon or fun-run training and feel like I’m failing in comparison.

Exercise sometimes isn’t about training FOR something. It isn’t always about losing weight, getting fit or looking good. Sometimes it’s just about enjoying the moment.

What does exercise mean to you?

 

24 Comments
  • Kek
    March 20, 2013

    You make some really good points, Deb – which deserve much longer comment than I can manage from my phone. I’ll try to remember to pop by tonight and give you my incredible thoughts on the subject. :p

    • Debbish
      March 20, 2013

      Thanks Kerryn!

      • Kek
        March 21, 2013

        OK, so I didn’t get back last night…it was a stupidly busy night, gah! Anyway…

        Bodybuilding. Hmm. Training specifically for a great physique is seemingly superficial – and being judged like a slab of meat does not sit well with my feminist principles (yes, even though men compete too) – but it should be about building a better body, a healthy and balanced one. That’s not always the case, with many competitors following stupid diets and doing crazy amounts of cardio to get lean enough…but one of the things I was aiming for during my brief fling with bodybuilding was to improve some of my muscle imbalances and postural problems.

        All that aside, these are some of the things I love about exercise:
        – the endorphin rush. For at least a couple of hours afterwards, I feel calm, energised and alive.
        – seeing progress. Lifting a bigger weight, hitting a faster speed or higher resistance level or doing longer stints of an activity all make me want to high-five somebody. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have an “event” planned, just knowing that my muscles are getting stronger and my cardio-vascular system more efficient is satisfying. I am a bit competitive, even with myself…so I love to do better than last session, last month, or last year.
        – when I’m exercising consistently and pushing myself a bit, I have a much better attitude to life in general. My anxiety levels drop dramatically and I’m just – I don’t know…happier.

        The main thing for me though is to find activities that I enjoy. I’ve always loved heaving weights around, and having been seriously restricted in that department due to injuries for the past couple of years confounded me for a while. I probably should do yoga, but it simply doesn’t appeal. Running? Meh. Luckily my husband came to my rescue with the gift of a mountain bike a few months ago. My weekend rides are just plain fun – they don’t even seem like exercising because I’m having a ball speeding down hills, negotiating turns and spotting wildlife along the way.

        I also love to get out and walk – which doesn’t feel like exercise either. I get a bit stir-crazy if I’m stuck indoors for too long, so a bit of fresh air and sunlight is always welcome. And being a bit of a stickybeak, I do like to see what’s going on around my neighbourhood.

        One other thing I’ve learned: If I let my fitness slide, exercise becomes a daunting prospect and seems like a real chore. The fitter I become, the more appealing exercise is. So if I happen to be at a bit of a low point, fitness-wise, I have to ease myself back into things, not try to jump back in where I was at my peak. Starting with some walking and some light weights work and building on that has far more chance of success than attempting to get right back into high-intensity sessions. It works for me anyway. 🙂

        • Debbish
          March 22, 2013

          Thanks Kerryn, love your approach to exercise and particularly appreciate the approach to ramping up your fitness. (Easing back into it!)

          I think one of the reasons I have a lot of baggage when it comes to exercise is my old ‘all or nothing’ approach, rather than being more moderate!

          Deb

  • Char
    March 20, 2013

    Exercise was always a way of losing weight when I started. Or so I thought. It actually didn’t make much difference on the scales and I was always disappointed that it didn’t. Even when I trained for a marathon it made almost no difference at all. But somewhere along the line exercise became something else – a place where I can relieve stress, gain some peace and sanity, make friends and make me feel good. And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to be a run. It can be walking the dogs or doing some yoga.

    • Debbish
      March 20, 2013

      I love that you get so much out of running Char. I read your posts and shake my head in wonderment. Although I guess I had a similar enjoyment when it came to my old faux Zumba classes. I did feel nourished from them and the experience!

  • Priska
    March 20, 2013

    Exercise to me is not exercise, if that makes sense.
    I walk the dog, mow the lawn, explore nature, clean the house and play with the grandchildren.

    • Debbish
      March 20, 2013

      Love the notion of incidental exercise. There’s the joke about people fighting over carparks closest to the gym – rather than having to walk a bit further.

      I believe building exercise into our day – walking to / from work etc – is best as it’s sustainable.

      As I said in the post, I’m now enjoying my walks now that I’m not forcing myself to don my sneakers and ‘exercise’.

  • Gwen
    March 20, 2013

    I exercise because it’s good for my heart. Period. If it helps me lose weight, that’s great. I dance. To the playlist I created that has all of my favorite dance songs from the 60’s to present. Fun fun fun! If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t keep it up.

    • Debbish
      March 20, 2013

      I agree that exercise has to be fun (which is why I miss my fave dance classes).

      Sadly my motivation for exercise (or losing weight in general) is more about the way I look than about my own health – which I realise is NOT a good thing!

      Deb

  • Lauren
    March 20, 2013

    I am not the kind of person who seeks a gym – I build incidental exercise into my day by not owning a car, which means I HAVE to walk everywhere.
    I exercise because I know that it provides benefits that have nothing to do with my weight, and everything to do with my immunity and general wellbeing.
    I used to fork out $$$/fortnight to a heath club near my work so that I could attend their (amazing) yoga classes on my lunch hour – I wanted to build strength and flexibility, as well as find inner peace in the middle of my work day. The classes were addictive, but I ended up quitting them because they took up my entire lunch hour 3 times per week, meaning that I was always stressing about being a) late to the class, and b) late back to work after the class, negating any sense of inner peace and relaxation I may have achieved!

    • Debbish
      March 20, 2013

      Oh no…. I can imagine Lauren – how frustrating to have to waste that zen-ness!

      I’ve learnt a bit of a lesson I think, having been so dependent on the gym in my most recent life. My inability to find a gym (and classes) in my new hometown which I enjoy has meant that my exercise routine disappeared completely.

      I have to admit that I do hope (even expect) that I will find my way back into some structured activities – I am conscious that I could do with some pilates or yoga!

  • Jess
    March 20, 2013

    For me these days it is all about enjoying the moment, time to myself and working off the days anxieties. I don’t have time to really train for anything or follow a consistent program because whenever I try to schedule it one of the kids ends up puking in me and I’ve gotta just take the opportunity when they present.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2013

      Oh yes… there’s nothing like getting your mind off stuff by exercising. When I did my fave dance classes the music would just fill me with joy and I’d forget everything. Now it’s harder to stay ‘clenched’ when I walk, I cannot help but absorb the beauty around me and my mind and body relaxes.

  • @Kanga_Rue
    March 20, 2013

    Cycling gives me headspace. I find it mentally relaxing and can completely switch off. This is my main motivation for going car-free. If it was just the aspects of getting fit, losing weight, or saving money, I don’t think I would have lasted beyond the first couple of days.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2013

      Yes, I can imagine it’s cathartic – cycling to get places – rather than being out there in lycra racing with a group (which I suspect would be less relaxing!).

  • Miz
    March 20, 2013

    for me it really is just about being able to make it through my day with the energy I need.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2013

      Hmmm….. I have to admit there’s nothing more exhilarating than that feeling when you’ve finished exercising (even just a walk) and the endorphins do last quite a while for me!

  • Jo Tracey
    March 21, 2013

    Just lately I’m finding that I’m more attracted to the whole fit for life type of activity- the stuff you do for fun or to keep your joints moving or so you can walk up a hill without coughing up a lung. The sort of fitness that keeps you mobile & alive & creatively agile. Yes, for me, that still involves the gym. Just lately I’ve slipped a little & my creative output has suffered- that’s no coincidence.

    • Debbish
      March 21, 2013

      Have to admit I’m not doing a lot at the moment which would force me to notice my lack of fitness. I remember when working having to go up 50+steps to the train station etc and struggling before I got fitter and lost weight. I suspect I’d struggle now. Wonder if my complacency is a bit misplaced in that respect…

  • Liz
    March 21, 2013

    For me, it’s primarily because of how it makes me feel. Improving on the bike gives me a sense of satisfaction and mastery, even if it means nothing to anyone else. I love the feeling of sweat trickling down my body. I love the emotional release and I love being a complete slug after a hard session 🙂

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2013

      There’s nothing like that feeling AFTER exercise – particularly if it was gruelling. Not sure I get that from my walks as much, but do feel a sense of relief – from having done it!

  • Satu
    March 22, 2013

    I don’t exercise to lose weight. As a rule of thumb, if a 100kg male starts exercising rigorously 4 hours a week, he could expect to lose max 4kg in 12 months. If you exercise like an athlete you would lose more but exercising 15 hours per week is not realistic to most people.

    I exercise to improve my mood and to get more energy and to be pain-free. I would feel like s*hit if I didn’t exercise.

    It’s sad you got off exercise because of your anorexia! Have you ever thought about going back to team sports? It might make more sense to you because of the social aspect. I’ve always leaned to solo sports myself..but it might be fund to try some team sport for a change.

    • Debbish
      March 22, 2013

      Satu, I’ve never been great with solo sports cos of my fear of losing, but think now in team sports I’d struggle cos of my fitness, but also because I worry too much about letting others down. Even when I last played netball as a young adult I constantly apologised each time I missed a shot at goal etc.

I'd love to hear your thoughts