Making Peace with Exercise

November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a long standing history of failure with exercise.   As a child, I was a bookworm and never athletic.  I was the last kid picked for a team.  I was the one in the corner throwing up when they made me run.  I despised relay races because I was the reason the team lost.  I failed the physical fitness test every year.  My gym teacher had to hold me above the bar for pull ups and the minute she let go I immediately dropped.  Once they tried to get me to climb the rope in gym class and no matter how I struggled I never made it more than an inch.

In high school, I was determined to overcome this issue I had with being a failure at all sports.  Due to my interest in a guy who rowed on the crew team, I decided to join.  Crew was a big deal at my high school and as long as you didn’t quit you were allowed on the “team”.  You might be in the last boat that almost never competed but you were still allowed to say you were on the team.   Every single person in my boat was like me.  People who were desperately hopeless it seemed when it came to sports.  I was constantly throwing up.  I was always dead last coming in from our runs and THAT was in the group of people who were hopelessly dead last all the time.  So in the group of the worst—I was the worst of the worst.  I learned something from that experience.  I learned that  I could survive physical torture (I mean EXERCISE) if hard pressed.  I learned I could survive it and not quit.  But I still walked away with the firm conviction that I was not athletic and never would be.  If anything that had now moved from a mere thought about myself to a solid belief.  I SUCKED at anything involving exercise, sports or athletics.  No question now!!

With this deeply embedded thought pattern in mind and 4 decades of life experience to support it, I had an uphill battle to climb when I was faced with the exhausting proposition of having to once again set out to make exercise a part of my life.  By this time, I was no longer a young girl anymore either.  I was no longer within range of a decent weight.  I was now over 400 pounds with real physical health problems.  Arthritis in my knee and other things to only make my lack of athleticism even worse.  How would I EVER accomplish anything now?

When I gave myself permission to start exercising at my OWN pace—that changed.   I no longer cared how far I went or how fast I went.  30 Seconds was enough.  The fact that I did it was all that mattered.  By starting THERE, I was able to not feel tortured.  The more I kept walking the better I began to feel.  As I could, I added to my time.  As I felt internally motivated to, I increased the pace.  Not because I had to but because I wanted to.  Something inside of me began to enjoy it. I liked the way it felt to move my body.  I liked the way I was beginning to feel more mobile and limber.  My body was actually starting to hurt less on a regular basis.  That came from exercise.  It did improve my mood.  It helped me immensely.  I even began to look forward to it.   After about 5 months, I started jogging.  ME! JOGGING!! ON PURPOSE!!

No one told me I had to.  It wasn’t forced.  I just began to feel this energy welling up inside me begging to get out! So I just sprang into this little jog.  It was slow.  So slow that people could walk faster.  But I was doing it.  And I was enjoying it.  All the things I associated with the torture of exercise—-cramps, pain, vomiting, shortness of breath—none of that was there.  But I did feel this excitement.  This happy place that it put me in.  And the pace I was going was comfortable enough that I felt I could keep going for a long time.  Just at that pace.   Do you know what it felt like?

DANCING

I’m not talking about line dancing or Two Stepping.  Not dancing with RULES.  I’m talking about dancing freely.  However you want.

Look at people sometime on the dance floor when they are dancing to the music freely.  You will see all different types of dancers.  Some seem to know what they are doing.  Some don’t!  Some people dance at a faster pace.  Some dance slowly.  They aren’t counting how many calories they burned or checking their pace.  They aren’t there by force.  It’s not a job to them. They’re doing it because it’s fun.

When I started out 3 years ago to include exercise into my life–I viewed it as a necessary evil.  Something I would have to submit to in order to get out of the hellish prison my body had become.  I decided that enduring the physical suffering of exercise was no worse than enduring the physical suffering of living inside a 400 pound body.  If it could help me break free then I would do it.  To my shock and surprise, there came a time when I began to enjoy it.  That was as much a shock to me as anything in my life.  I never thought a day would come that I would look forward to exercise.  I was beginning to feel a true pleasure from it in fact.  But then I succumbed to the standards of others.  I read on message boards that my pace of jogging wast even “real” jogging.  It wasn’t enough.  It didn’t count.  I began to look around at what others were doing in the same timeframe.  I should be doing those things I thought.  It’s not enough.  I need to do more.

 

Comparison is the thief of joy–Theodore Roosevelt

 

As I pressured myself to engage in forms of exercise that I didn’t find all that enjoyable, I began to hate it a little bit more every day.  As I forced myself to keep upping my pace and distance in jogging before I was ready, I once again returned to the feeling of hatred for the entire activity.  After about 2 years of exercise, I quit.  And I quit because I no longer allowed myself to enjoy it at my own pace.  I compared myself to those around me.  I insisted on striving to reach other people’s goals and live up to other people’s standards.   And as a result, I totally burned out on being miserable every day with my workouts.  It’s hard to do something on a long term basis that you hate.  So I quit.

If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter.  

If you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.

 

What if I had never succumbed to the idea that I had to live up to someone else’s standards?? What if I had allowed myself to keep going at my OWN pace? In the very beginning, I had started jogging.  TORTOISE SLOW.  And I (shockingly) was getting a good feeling from it! Had I just allowed myself to continue at MY pace— who knows where I would be!  Instead I forced the issue.  I forced myself to go further and faster before I was ready.  I took out the joy and replaced it once again with pain and suffering.  Instead of having patience, I insisted that my progress wasn’t happening quickly enough.  And so I forced myself to go further.  Faster.  And as a result of that, the cramps returned.  The inability to breathe.  The dry heaving.  The hellish physical torture of exercise became once again my daily existence.  And whatever short lived pleasure I had felt from it was quickly erased and all but forgotten.

For one blip of time, I had experienced the beginning of the “high” that people probably get from working out.  For one small millisecond, I had begun to LIKE it.  But as quickly as it happened, it was gone.  Thrown into the fire and burned up by the expectations and standards of others.  Lost in the ashes of what other people say is “not good enough”.  Rather than embracing my own pace, I embraced the pace of others.  I believed the words that it wasn’t real jogging.  That it didn’t count.  Instead of enjoying the “dance”, I turned it into a chore.

The entire time I lived in Texas I never learned to two step.  I tried but as easy as that dance is supposed to be—I never was very good at it.  I can do it but not well.  And I don’t enjoy it.  I’m odd in that way.  I just don’t like dancing with rules.   I don’t like having to THINK while I’m dancing.  I just want to dance.  I just want to hear the music and go to my own beat.  Even if it looks ridiculous.  For me, that is more fun.  I think in many ways exercise is this way.  All of us have different callings.  Like a freshman in college must be given time before declaring their major, all of us need time before declaring our pace or our chosen form of exercise.  We are all different.  Not everyone wants to Zumba.  Not everyone wants to run.   Even for those who like to walk–not everyone wants to walk at the same pace.  But none of that makes us WRONG.  It only makes us different.

Since I started exercising again, I threw everything out the window.  No more pace requirements.  No more standards set by the world.  I’m just going to do what feels good.  It’s been 4 weeks since I started out on my new journey into exercise and in that short amount of time I have come so far.  A half mile the first week.  A half mile the second week as well.  By week three, I was feeling so good during my walks that I wanted to go further.  So I went one mile.  By week four, I am really starting to almost crave it.  I feel this surge of energy that makes me want to break out and go!  I have allowed myself to break out into a jog and it’s still super slow.  But I don’t care.  I’m having fun.  And this week I am doing 2 miles in the morning and 1 in the evening.  Not by force.  But by choice.  Because I feel it inside me.  I feel the need to get out there and GO.  I haven’t felt that in a LONG time.  And it’s because I am letting myself make peace with exercise.  I’m not fighting it and I’m not letting it bully me.  I walk. I jog.  I dance.  I do whatever feels good.  I just MOVE.  And I let that be enough.  I’m finding that I don’t hate it.   It’s not painful.  It doesn’t feel like torture.  And in fact, it’s making my days so much better.

What if we just stopped telling everyone what they should be doing? How fast they should be going?  What if we just opened up the floor, played the music, and let everyone dance to their own beat?

I think in order for me to make peace with exercise, I need to stop listening to the world.  And just listen to my heart.  For the first time in over a year, I’m exercising again.  And I’m jogging.  I’ve even been inspired to do 3 Miles a day lately by choice.  Soon I will be losing weight again too.  I feel it.  Progress is in the air.

Progress I was never going to make following other people’s rules.  Progress I was never going to make trying to become someone I’m not.

If only someone had just told me in the 3rd grade that it was ok to slow down.  That I didn’t have to sprint from the start.  But that’s ok.  I’m learning it now.

And finally there is hope once again!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly November 6, 2014 at 9:46 pm

So gl

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Margaret November 6, 2014 at 11:30 pm

This is really inspiring. And, to tell you the truth, I despise Zumba, always have…
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Calleigh November 6, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Great job Holly. I used to hate exercise too, but once I started focussing on improving myself rather than doing it because I ‘had to’ I really learned to enjoy it. I love competing with myself and watching my body doing things this week that it couldn’t do last week. It changed the way I viewed ‘working out’ and in turn, it changed me.
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Janis November 7, 2014 at 1:08 am

I hate ANYTHING having to do with teams, rules, points, or goals as well. The minute other people are introduced, I’m gone. I often think that it would be a significant boost for general fitness of the population if we could get people to have that realization you just had: you don’t need rules, balls, goals, teams, or other people to simply enjoy moving. Just get up and move, that’s all you have to do. No rules, no goals or balls or ins or outs. Just move.

I walk about a mile every day and love it, and I am also a klutz who HATED gym class the entire time I was forced to take it and HATE team sports of any kind. Yet every day, I’m out there enjoying the open sun and blue sky. We all have bodies, and we all have the right to enjoy moving them, rules be damned. 🙂

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Tori November 7, 2014 at 4:59 am

I believe that’s what happened to me…although in the beginning I called it burn out. As a kid I was forced to run/exercise and I hated it. I’ve never been any good at anything and always been self consious. a couple of years ago I had gotten into the routine of walking, joggin running and even felt that “high” folks talk about. but then life happened and I fell out of the routine. I was getting angry because I wasn’t fast like everyone else, angry because I wasn’t losing weight fast enough. I think I need to consider taking your mindset and just do something that’s fun…I’ll have to figure out how to shut my brain off (it never shut off). I did try a yoga class a few months ago and loved it…loved how I felt afterwards…just wish there was a class at a better time of day!
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Lori November 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I was the kid not only picked last but the team that got me was spotted extra points!!!!

In my mid 20’s I lost some weight and discovered aerobics. (Much like zumba, moving to the beat of music.) I could count and walk at the same time because I was a flag girl in band in high school. The group I was with was very low key and no one judged. We were all just there to burn calories not stay in step. Eventually, the leader picked me to be her sub when she had to be out and I wound up being a certified fitness instructor!

Still, inside I was the worst athlete ever born. I was shocked when someone in another context entirely said something physical would come easy to me because I was athletic! I immediately shot back that they did not know me at all. After that comment, I began to think that maybe I was OK with physical activity but not competitive activity.
Lori
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Alison C. November 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm

“What if we just stopped telling everyone what they should be doing?”
YES! In exercise, and in all facets of life! How much happier we would all be if we weren’t worrying about what other people should be doing, and what other people think we should be doing! What a great reminder that I don’t have to care what others think, and I don’t need to concern myself with what everyone else is doing either. Thanks!

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Colleen November 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm

OMGosh, Holly! This is just the best post! I can’t tell you how much I relate to all of it. Today you made this 64 y/o gal, who just lost 103 lbs and has a life again, realize that it is okay that I just enjoy doing my Leslie Sansone walk and some days it’s only a mile but I am doing it. I will just continue to dance to the beat of my own drummer! You are awesome for taking the time to share your thoughts and your heart. You probably will never know this side of Heaven how many people you have helped. <3

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Hazel December 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

This a really inspiring post. It is ok if you want to perform exercise in your way and don’t want listen to the world. Still, a lot of people listen to the world and exercise according to that because there are a systematic way to achieve what you want. By doing it in your way, you may find it a bit hard to achieve the goal. 🙂

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