Feel the burn

How is it that I can feel ten times heavier if I am lax with exercise one week, even when I know it is completely illogical that I would have gained more than a pound? Whether anyone else can see it or not, I still feel so much worse during weeks when I don’t get much activity in. I know that I feel better when I exercise, but I still never have much motivation to do it. It helps when I schedule it in to my life so much that it becomes a definite part of my day, but some days I just can’t help but put it at last priority. I can always think of something else I could be doing that’s more important.

That’s the thing about exercise, or at least it is for me; I get into something, and then I get bored, and then I take a break and then I go back, or try something else, and then the cycle continues. I know there are some people who don’t have this problem, who are able to commit, and I am jealous of them, it’s never been me. I like to pretend that it’s because I’m so creative that I can always come up with something that I should be doing instead, when really that’s just an excuse.

I used to play soccer when I was younger, but then the girls on my team were awful to me and despite pleading from my coach not to, I quit. That sent me into laziness for most of high school (mono and asthma didn’t help either). I went to art school, so the first time most of us saw the gym was the day we lined up in it for graduation. I’ve tried gyms, I’ve never liked them very much, too many people strutting around in work-out clothes checking each other out. Then when I moved in with my sister, she introduced me to yoga, and it was great. I had finally found an exercise I liked doing. Unfortunately teachers leave, schedules get changed, and it’s impossible to get from Hudson Street to 14th street in 15 minutes during rush hour, no matter how much you try. Finally, getting laid-off and not having money has kept me from doing yoga recently. I always find it hard to adjust to a new studio, and it’s expensive too. So now I pop in a DVD and Denise Austin and I jump around my bedroom and she tells me to use my “rainbow arms” and we do our “fun cha-chas” and it was good for a while, but I think things have taken a turn in our relationship, sorry Denise, I’m bored. So how do we keep things interesting? How do we motivate? Usually for me at least, motivation comes from wanting to see a change, feeling bad about myself can be a great motivator.

I spoke before about the pressure you’re put under as an engaged woman, and how I’m trying not to let it get to me. Well, problem is, sometimes it does, and after going for my first fitting in my wedding dress I decided I would feel much better about myself on the big day if I had arms like Michelle Obama (why are her arms so amazing?). So for the last four months I have been lifting weights and trying to get some tone, arm curls, push ups, lateral raises, etc. When that first little hint of definition showed up it was so exciting, “it paid off!” I thought to myself, and then continued with my weekly routine, adding in some more difficult moves and some heavier weights. Sadly, after that initial little dip in my arm defining real muscle, there has been no new evidence of arm strength or definition, and I’ve nearly lost my motivation. ‘Cause you know, it’s really hot and sometimes I just think there are much more important things to be done than worry about a little indentation on my arm that nobody but me  (or my fiancé who I point it out to all the time) will notice.

My old yoga teacher always said that the hardest part of yoga was getting to the class, I think that’s true for any exercise. Once I get my work out clothes on, and I fill my water bottle and check my e-mail, and put the dishes away, and put my hair up—and let me just check that e-mail again, pet the cats, and then well, I just don’t have any excuses left. Then, I put on my DVD, or step on to my yoga mat, or feel the wind when I pedal on to the boardwalk, and I’m totally into it and committed, but the hard part is getting there. What I hate is that we’re made to feel like just “getting there” isn’t enough, you need to see changes too, or else you’re a failure.

I guess that’s my problem with aspirational images, so often they’re lies. How can we all share the same aspirations, when we’re all different people? For some, having Michelle Obama arms isn’t that crazy of an idea, but for most of us, it is. Maybe if I had started out with the goal just to be strong, instead of focusing on what that would look like, I’d be a lot more motivated. So instead of setting big goals for myself, I’m going to do something crazy and set little goals, then I’ll feel better about them when I succeed and maybe I won’t be so deflated when things don’t come easy. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’d love to hear from you guys, am I the only one who feels this way about exercise, is it easy for you? Is it always a struggle? How have you managed to make it a part of your lives? How does it make you feel?

Also, just for kicks, my fiancé (James) and I met Pharrell Williams over the weekend, and he was incredibly nice. James freelances for a website he created—kidult.com, it’s for teens, so if you know some teens pass it on, cause Pharrell is a cool guy. I really just posted this to make myself look cool, did it work?

Oh, and also, if you will notice I’ve added a blogroll over there to the right, so check it out. I hope you’ll take a look at some of the blogs on there because they’re all really great and worth reading, I hope to add more soon!


Filed under acceptance, health

19 responses to “Feel the burn

  1. haren

    I hate exercise. If swimming wasn’t so hard to get to, it’s great because you don’t sweat!

  2. I am so right there with you. It takes me about two hours to get in a 30-minute workout because I spend at least half the time figuring out what to wear, realizing my shoelace is broken, deciding I need a whole new playlist on my iPod, etc, etc. And the bottom line is I’m a body at rest that wants to stay at rest… so even with exercise I love (yoga, hiking, gardening, dancing) I have to push super hard to get over the inertia to get moving in the first place… Which is why I had to give up running because the combination of fighting the natural inertia and then never feeling good enough (not getting faster, not getting more stamina, wanting to walk instead of run up hills…) was just too demoralizing.

    My current (insane work/beauty school) schedule is allowing for maybe one workout a week TOPS and it absolutely messes with my head in terms of how I feel about my body. I’m trying to really embrace the philosophy that unless you’re someone for whom exercise is IT, it is perfectly natural to have times in your life when it’s really working and clicking and you’re doing it a lot and times in your life when you just have to make other things a priority. Right now, other things are the priority. Hopefully that means I’ll be excited to get back to it for a bit come fall. But in the meantime, it’s a total uphill battle to keep that attitude front and center when in fact, I am sure I’ve gained 112 lbs every week. Oy.

    • Virginia, you make a good point about how choosing the wrong exercise routine can be demoralizing, it’s so true! It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that there are certain things that just don’t work as well for me as others, like running—I have such admiration for people who can do it, but for me, it seriously feels like I am dying, so forcing myself to do it would just be complete insanity, I’ll stick to yoga and dancing!

  3. Sarah

    This post is super good timing! I hate exercise…but from the few times I’ve done it, I know it puts me in a better mood and makes me feel better about myself. Anyway, I’ve been researching like crazy lately, trying to find a dance class in my area that I’d like. A couple of problems here:
    1. Previous experience with snooty ballerinas makes me want to hide under a blanket. Yes, they are as bad as the monsters under my bed.
    2. I found a cool, laid-back place, but it was $20/class. Boooo!
    3. Traveling far = I’ll never go
    …so then I thought I’d join a gym, but like you, I don’t dig the vibe in there. However, I decided to trick myself. I went on a shopping spree at Sports Authority this morning. I figured that if I had a pile of athletic shorts staring at me, I would be forced to go join a gym today. I’ll keep you updated, but don’t be too surprised if I chicken out.

    • Ugh, people always try to tell me that $20 a class is not that much especially when you consider how much people spend on gym memberships, but that stuff adds up! I think the government should subsidize exercise, some insurance companies do that with gyms, but I’ve never heard of it for a dance or yoga class, not fair.

      I hope your athletic shorts do the trick! I recently did that with sports bras so that I would actually be excited and comfortable when working out, it did the trick for a little while, but now the novelty has worn off. People think I’m crazy, but I actually find putting on makeup to exercise motivates me, I don’t know why, but maybe it makes me feel better about myself!

  4. Megan

    I think the smalls goal idea is a good one. You can’t get Michelle Obama’s arms in a week, but you can set a goal to exercise everyday and actually achieve it. And the little things add up, little by little. And can sometimes lead to surprises. I resolved to do these wrist exercises everyday so that maybe my carpal tunnel wouldn’t bother me as much. I stuck to it and they definitely helped. But then there was a different surprise – I can do hand stand now! Who knew my wrists were holding me back? So yes, small steps to big, sometimes surprising, things.

  5. sara

    exercise is an off-again on-again thing for me. i’m so lazy, so the hardest part is definitely “getting there”, like you said.
    i started this year off great, doing the ea sports active challenge on the wii. but that only lasted a month and a half and then i lost all momentum after moving up a difficulty level. i should probably retry it back at the easiest setting.

    • I’m intrigued by the whole wii fit thing, I don’t know much about it, but it sounds cool.

      I’ve definitely done that to myself too, where I take something to the next level and then it’s too hard so I quit, I guess it’s better to just maintain what you’re doing instead of always trying to up the ante!

  6. lizzy

    i have nothing constructive to add to this exercise discussion, but i just had to say i LOVE your yoga illustration!

  7. Kathy

    Justine, I agree with you, getting started can be tricky and then staying motivated is even harder! I’ve joined the Y and found it to be much less hard-core than other places. There’s a great mix of all ages, sizes and shapes! I’ve been trying to find a workout buddy because I’ve heard that that can help you stay on track too.

  8. kristen

    I hate gyms, working out, sweating and getting red in the face. I got a bike this summer so I’m riding it about 20 minutes a day. That’s about all I can handle for now.
    By the way, Pharrell! You def have street cred with me!

    • Thanks Kristen—I was hoping it would increase (or create) my street cred! I look like a tomato when I exercise, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like going to gyms, people will keep saying “are you ok?”, ugh I’m pale, I get red, I’m not having an attack of any sort!

  9. Jessica

    OMG the picture is amazing!!!!!!!

  10. Nuala

    About 13 or so years ago, as I was looking in the mirror after a shower, seeing what effects the years and a couple of kids (one of whom was pretty recent) had had on my body, I noticed an odd bulge. It was on the back of my upper arm.
    Natually, my first thought was “OMG! Arm Cancer!” Then I noticed the same thing on the other arm..
    Finally, it dawned on this worn-out mother: I had accidently developed triceps, carrying a 20+ pound baby in my arm all day long, everywhere I went.
    Needless to say, that faded away as soon as he began walking.
    Speaking of walking. When the kids were both in elementary school, and before I was working full time, I used to walk with a few of my friends every morning. After we dropped the kids off at the school gates, we’d do a brisk two-mile walk in about 40 minutes, while we’d all talk about everything. It was fun b/c it was social. Since then, I’ve gained about 15 pounds. I need to walk again.

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