Exercise: Pain Is Good
I’ve been trying to lose weight lately. I cut down on the sugary snacks, reduced my portion sizes, stopped drinking soda, etc. And I was losing – slowly. For a few weeks. Then I hit a stubborn plateau. The combination of that and the example of my newly fitness-focused husband made me face the inevitable: I had to exercise. But first, I needed to counter all my internal arguments, which basically boiled down to “I don’t wanna!”
There are many different ways to work out. The dedicated can go to a gym. The wealthy can hire a personal trainer. The uber-wealthy can hire a personal trainer to come to their house and oversee their workouts in their private gym. The self-motivated can do their own thing, coaching themselves to great results. I don’t fall into any of these categories. Also, the only “free time” I have is from 5:00am to 6:00am on weekdays. (Thankfully, a little later on weekends!) Consequently, I did what so many other busy women do.
I turned to DVDs.
Workout DVDs are actually quite fun. For one thing, you get to curse at the instructor and her 2% body fat – as loudly as your labored breathing will allow – and you don’t have to worry about running into her in the parking lot after the workout. I don’t know about you, but Jillian Michaels (of Biggest Loser fame and the instructor on my “Shredding It With Weights” kettlebell DVD) scares me. And I have bruises on my forearms from the kettlebell…
Jackie Warner (she had a reality show on Bravo called Work Out) claims to be a “trainer to the stars.” Well, if she means Himmler by that, I’ll back her up. Truly, her DVD is torturous. She seems to actively enjoy inflicting pain, which I guess is a good quality in a fitness instructor. Frankly, I prefer “I know it hurts – get over it!” acidity to “You’re doing great – stick with it!” perkiness any day.
Speaking of perkiness, I have a particular workout DVD that I no longer use. It’s not that I can’t do it (although some of the moves are hard-bordering-on-impossible – I use them as rest periods). It’s that the instructor is so incessantly cheerful. While doing the most insanely difficult sequences – honestly, there’s one exercise where she jumps up in the air, arms and legs akimbo, then lands in a squat and immediately kicks to the side – she’s not winded at all. Also, she never sweats. It’s very annoying to my drenched and cynical self.
Then there’s cardio. I use either the treadmill (which recently graduated from “coat closet” status to “actual piece of exercise equipment” status) or follow along with a walking DVD. But on the weekends, I do the whole “nature-girl” thing and either walk or ride my bike. When I walk outside, as on the treadmill, I can use my iPod and headphones – I just have to be careful not to listen to ragtime music or show tunes unless I’m safely incarcerated in our basement. My husband says I’m very “jaunty”…
With the bike, I can’t use the iPod. I have to be cognizant of not a) running over people/animals and b) not getting run over by cars myself. The “Guys and Dolls” soundtrack isn’t conducive to either. My family and I recently went to a lovely park, though. Despite the lack of music, I was captivated by the large, beautiful lake and many birds. We had a picnic afterwards, and I never felt that I deserved a turkey sandwich quite so much.
Of course, just when I feel like I can’t expend another morsel of energy on working out, just when I feel like all I want to do is sleep the heck IN (well, for an extra 45 minutes, anyway), it’s time for Pilates. Lovely, gentle, Pilates. Deceptively difficult Pilates… the instructor’s voice may be quiet, the music may be mellow, but make no mistake – the moves are tough.
Even though I’m not losing weight as fast as I’d like, I should be motivated by the knowledge that I’m getting healthier – my heart, my lungs (and as an ex-smoker, that’s particularly important). But no. What motivates me is <hangs head in shame> workout clothes.
Now there’s a whole other section of department stores – activewear – for me to shop in. And because of the novelty value, I’m like a kid in the proverbial candy store (hey, look, that fabric wicks away sweat! And check it out – yoga tops! And those biking shorts have built-in padding to cushion your butt!)
Oh, yes, I’ve bought some.
But in truth, at the end of the day, what really motivates me is as shallow as clothes, in its way. I just feel pleased with myself once I’ve worked out in the morning. Even for half an hour, and even if I couldn’t do every exercise or had to walk my bike up a particularly steep hill. Regardless, I start the day with a level of self-esteem I’ve never felt before. Sore muscles are a badge of honor. They’re muscles that I’ve used.
My job involves sitting at a desk or sitting in meetings. My passion is writing – another sedentary activity.
Recently, I’ve scheduled a few signings for my latest book.
And with luck, I’ll struggle to pick up a pen.