In some of the talks I give, I talk about movement/exercise. One of the things I talk about is that many people have had messy breakups with exercise.
Before we get too far into this, let me be clear – there is a mistaken notion that floats around sometimes that because I talk about being a dancer and fathlete and I talk about what the research says about fitness, that I am “promoting” exercise or I think that people “should” exercise.
Sometimes this notion happens because I haven’t written things as clearly as I could have, sometimes I think it’s because people have issues around exercise and just seeing discussion about it triggers them, which is totally understandable given how much it gets shoved down our throats and the horrible experiences many of us have had (President’s Physical Fitness Test – I’m looking at you.) Let me take this opportunity to clarify – I do not care if anyone else exercises. I am fully aware that there are people who don’t enjoy exercise, my partner is one of them, and I have no judgment about it at all.
The short version of why I don’t care is that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not exercise dependent, and other people’s prioritization of their health and the path they choose to get there are none of my, or anyone else’s business, also Underpants Rule. The long version can be found here.
Many of the people who I meet when I’m out speaking tell me that they’d like to engage in movement but they just hate it, or feel blocked around it, are people who experienced messy breakups with exercise because exercise was used as a way to mistreat them, to punish them for their body size, or because they were forced to do exercise that they didn’t like, or were shamed because they weren’t “good enough” at the exercise. (Junior high school gym class, I am looking at you now.) All of this is complete and utter bullshit
So if you hate to exercise, that’s completely cool and understandable, lots of people do. Even if exercise has health benefits, that doesn’t mean that anyone is required to do it, or that exercising creates some sort of health guarantee wherein you are immortal unless you get hit by a bus. Besides, there are lots of things that are shown to improve our odds for health and we can choose some of them if we want, but aren’t all obligated to do any of them. When we insist that people “owe” society healthy habits it very quickly becomes a slippery slope. If we “owe” society exercise do we also “owe” it 8 hours of sleep a night? A vegan diet? A paleo diet? To quit drinking? To not go skiing or play soccer or anything else that could get us hurt? Who gets to make these mandates? I recommend that people not try to tell others how to live unless they are super excited about someone else telling them how to live.
The reason I talk about the research around fitness is that I believe we are constantly lied to and I think we have the right to review the research ourselves. We are told that exercise will lead to weight loss when the research suggests no such thing. Lied to that exercise won’t make us healthier unless it makes us thinner. Lied to that we have to do hours of specific things in order to get benefit from it. Those things aren’t true – the research shows that about 30 minutes of moderate activity about 5 days a week can have many health benefits for many people, and that people experience health benefits with less movement than that as well. That doesn’t mean that we owe anybody exercise, and, again, it doesn’t give any guarantees when it comes to health.
So if you had a messy break up with exercise, you have lots of choices. One choice is just not to do it. Another option is that maybe you decide that you believe what the research says about the health benefits and you want those benefits so you find some forms of movement that you hate less than other forms of movement and do them. You may believe what the research says and choose not to exercise. You may decide that you think the research is crap.
Maybe you get a local pharmacy or clinic to take a baseline of your metabolic numbers, do the movement for a couple months and then see if there’s any change in how you feel or your numbers. Maybe you work toward a specific goal (picking up a grand kid, walking or rolling to the mailbox, doing a 5k whatever.)
I also wish people would stop encouraging us to set unrealistic goals or think that their goals should be everyone’s goals. I think that too many athletes think that everyone must feel like them – since they love to exercise everyone else can love it too! I think that’s bullshit. I, for example, hate long distance running. I’ve heard people talk about getting a “runner’s high” but the only runner’s high I ever got was when I get stopped running. I ran a ton when I played soccer as a kid so if I was going to learn to love it, it would have happened already. Recently I walked a marathon. I signed up as a walker in a marathon that had no time limit and I took forever to finish. My realistic goal was to cross the finish line and get a medal. I did that. People said that it shouldn’t count because I walked or I took too long, or I should have set a different goal or whatever – fuck them, I crossed the finish line, I got my medal. Achievement unlocked. You get to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it.
If you hate exercise and you decide to do it anyway, you can try to make it suck less by picking activities you don’t hate (gardening? dancing in your living room? video game that incorporates movement? window shopping?), doing it in an environment that’s comfortable for you (indoors and temperature controlled? at night and out of the sun?) changing activities frequently, playing music, watching television, reading a book, talking on the phone (when I do flexibility training I often do several of those things at once to try to stave off the boredom). Maybe you had a messy breakup with exercise, but whether you try to kiss and make up or file for divorce because of irreconcilable differences is entirely up to you and it’s your business and nobody else’s.
This post was inspired by Leah Bee who was at the NECHA/NYSHA conference (A semi-annual combined meeting of State College Health Advisors) where I was a Featured Speaker She took my mention of mess break-ups with exercise and, excuse the pun, ran with it. Her amazing and inspirational blog about her journey inspired my blog today. Check it out here!
If you want some support around movement with no diet talk or negative body talk (or you just want to hang out and read the forums, watch the videos and look at the pictures), you might check out the Fit Fatties Forum. If you’re looking for a fun way to engage in movements and get cool prizes, March first is the last day for Early Bird Discounts on the Fit Fatties Virtual Decathlon.
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