January 10, 2012

Things I Like About Exercise

Over the years I have gone in and out of exercise, and I assume that pattern will continue. There is no reason for me to think that one spurt of exercise motivation will be different from the others and will suddenly last forever and be easy and wonderful. No, it is always unpleasant and I always hate it, and there is never one single session that I look forward to. But I try not to discuss every single start-up and fade-off, because that gets boring, and also because most such accounts seem to lack introspection: everyone's new health kick is FINALLY THE ONE THAT WORKS. Step aerobics and low-fat 4eva!!! Tae Bo and Zone 4eva!!! Pilates and whole grains 4eva!!! Zumba and low-carb 4eva!!!

But I am on an ON cycle right now, and it has been long enough to be an Actual phase rather than one of my many, many Attempted phases, so that's nice also. The temptation is to only complain about everything I HATE about exercising, and so I am RISING ABOVE that and forcing myself to do the opposite. Here is what I LIKE about exercising, typed while CLENCHING MY TEETH.


1. My knees can get kind of achy if I don't exercise, which brings to mind ads for chairs that will help me to stand. If I exercise too much, they hurt even worse. But if I exercise the right amount, they feel better.

2. Working on my balance problem. My brother still occasionally mentions the time I was in high school and tripped WHILE STANDING STILL. (Hello, there was a PATTERN on that linoleum.) When I've been exercising, I notice I'm quicker to regain my balance if I lose some of it.

3. Feeling like I'm all Ms. Muscles McBallet. Instead of just bending over (lift with your back!) for the pan lid, I fling one leg out behind me and lever down like one of those drinking bird toys. If I'm waiting for something to boil, I crouch a little because it'll help improve my thigh muscles which in turn will help me the next time I exercise. This is why I think Jillian is so idiotic: for some of us, taking the stairs isn't some pathetic cop-out we should feel ashamed of trying to fool ourselves with; instead, it's what makes us feel like one million small movements are worth doing, so we do those one million small movements instead of NOT doing them.

4. Feeling all awesome. When I'm walking along, or when I'm folding laundry, I feel the muscles! engaging! and the cardiovascular system! kicking in! Again, see point about Jillian and how crappy her advice truly is. Her message is "Be perfectly 100% ultimately fit in every way, or else DON'T BOTHER, YOU PATHETIC FOOL." I reject it. I feel all awesome and motivated to do more when I do a bunch of small things. I don't feel awesome and motivated to do more when someone yells that doing small things is pathetic and useless.

5. When I have to do something active, like walking up a hill or taking some stairs, I notice my muscles feel all happy about it, rather than feeling resentful and tired.

6. Having more overall pep/perk. When I'm going from the kitchen to the computer room, or from the computer room to the kitchen, I often break into a run. This was startling to the children at first, but they have become accustomed to it.

7. Sleeping better. I fall asleep more easily. If I wake up at 3:00, I'm less likely to stay awake watching a mental slideshow of Every Time I Screwed Up.

8. Feeling like I am Improving. I am getting better at what I'm doing. This happens in other areas of life as well, so it's not that it HAS to happen in this arena---but it's nice, for a change of pace, to have it happening in a physical realm. At first I could barely do 10 minutes; now I can do 30! At first I couldn't figure out WHAT this exercise was supposed to do because I couldn't feel ANYTHING; now I think OH, I get it!

9. Being able to say at a doctor appointment that YES, I DO exercise.

10. Feeling like I'm doing things to delay death. My guess is that I'm not actually doing much to delay death: most of our ancestors had jobs that kept them physically active until they died at 52, but of course they were also eating a ton of local organic unprocessed whole foods, so maybe THAT'S what shortened their life expectancies. But our current culture believes that I AM going to live longer because I exercise a fraction of the amount my farmer ancestors did, and so I believe that I might be, and that is a pleasant belief. I am exercising, so I will live longer wheeeeeeee! Or shorter---we'll have to see how this all pans out, considering right now we know almost nothing about anything! But if I'm wrong I'm in good company wheeeeeeee!

11. Whether it prolongs life or not, "use it or lose it" is a saying that seems to hold true over the ages, and whatever years I DO have are more likely to involve better balance and an easier time getting a pan lid out of the oven drawer. Unless I get REALLY into exercising and destroy my joints.

12. Watching movies while I exercise is the only way I can make myself do it at all. So this means I am suddenly seeing movies! LOTS of movies! I saw Inception! I saw The Kids Are All Right! I'm watching Friday Night Lights! I kind of know what other people are talking about, sometimes!

44 comments:

Amanda said...

I'm really happy for you attempting through clenched teeth to write something positive.

I have nothing personally positive to add so we'll just end here with "Have a wonderful day!"

Suzanne said...

Aha ahaha AHAHAHAHA! Next time someone tells me how GOOD for me all those organic whole grain foods are I am directing them to this post. And then eating some Doritos.

Good for you for the teeth-clenching optimism.

Kristin said...

I like your optimism and I completely agree with you about Jillian Michaels. I am a pretty physically fit person in general, and last winter I started doing her 30 Day Shred because we had so much snow I couldn't run outside. Well, 20 days later I had injured both of my heels due to her insane reliance on repetitive jumping and I have not yet gone back to normal, despite 3 months of physical therapy. I can't run and pretty much hate her and think her videos are dangerous.

Jenny said...

Ugghh, Jillian. I've memorized some of the exercises from the 30 day shred and do them on my own now from time to time. I tried to just turn down the volume, but then I just remembered her voice on certain parts and it had the same effect. I felt like she was bullying me while I was exercising in which I am already bullying myself.

el-e-e said...

I wish I could watch movies or TV series while I exercise! My treadmill is at my office's gym, and there's only one TV whose channel we are NOT ALLOWED TO CHANGE (it says so on the sign posted there), and the channel it is usually on is Fox News.

I put in my headphones, obviously. I would try to stream videos somehow on my phone, but the gym's in the basement and I can't get a signal! Whaaa!

JEN said...

I am a person that absolutely loves exercise. But I like the "high" afterwards and that fact that sleep is so much better. I'm proud of you for trying what works for you and NOT listening to anyone else.

Tina G said...

" Having more overall pep/perk. When I'm going from the kitchen to the computer room, or from the computer room to the kitchen, I often break into a run. This was startling to the children at first, but they have become accustomed to it."

I am truly chuckling over that mental picture. After 10! yes, 10 years I have finally gotten back on the Nordic Track Skier and I will hate every moment of it for about 3 months and then I will LOVE it to the point that I will work out 45 minutes a day and get back to my fighting weight. I just hope that I don't then rest on my laurels for another decade.

Omaha Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Omaha Mama said...

have wii fit. I do not use it. I should. I keep thinking I will. Do you just use the game that came with it, or do you do something else with it? I get a little sad every time my mii gets all chubby and sad after it weighs me. But you are inspiring me (you've written posts about exercise that mirror my own opinions...the love/hate thing with exercise) to maybe dust off the old wii balance board a few times a week and get after it.

missris said...

The feeling of "doing something right" and getting a verbal pat on the back from the doctor is one of my reasons for exercising. I'm a rule follower and exercising feels like following a rule that we all know exists but generally want to avoid thinking about. Perhaps that's a stupid reason but hey, it gets me moving.

Lora said...

yes to all this, but especially the part about the pattern on the floor. How do people manage to not fall down when standing on a pattern? I have yet to master this skill.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I think I love this post EVEN MORE than the one about why you hate exercise! Even though I can identify more with the hating than I can with the liking.

I especially like the clenched teeth. And the part where you excoriate Jillian (I wholeheartedly agree). And the part about doing ballet moves to get pot lids (I do that too. Occasionally I also practice cheerleading kicks in the kitchen while the microwave is on.)

Now the real question is whether this list of positives helps make you hate exercise LESS.

Sarah said...

I laughed out loud at the part about the exercising, local organic food eating ancestors dying at age fifty. Heh. Could be the polio and tuberculosis, too, of course, but then if you DO get vaccines you'll get autism! Ahh!
No one knows anything, is my opinion.

Beylit said...

I always hate to admit that I get anything at all out of exercising since I, much like you, hate it with all of my being. Still I can't ignore that I do feel better, have more energy, fall asleep more easily, feel less fatigued doing simple things, and so on. I suppose there are benefits I can admit to. I still hate exercising though.

As for Jillian...well I am of the firm belief that someone should drag her into a dark alley and give her a nice taste of demotivation that she is so fond of shoving down peoples throats. How on earth does anyone find that negative berating behavior to be helpful? I swear if anyone ever spoke like that to me in order to get me to accomplish anything, all they would accomplish is me kicking them in the teeth before going to eat a pint of ice cream on the couch.

Swistle said...

Omaha Mama- I have Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus. I tend to use Wii Fit Plus more, but I think I'm mostly doing the same exercises I used to do on Wii Fit!

Swistle said...

lifeofadoctorswife- I'd say that I hate it JUST AS MUCH, but that I have a separate sheet of paper on which I can admit there are ALSO upsides. I wish the upsides list didn't look so much bigger than the hate, because the hate feels bigger.

DawnA said...

Yes, yes, yes! It's hard to think of those things when you are doing your workout or trying to get motivated enough to work out but those are all GREAT reasons. I actually download movies to my iP*d and watch them while doing cardio. Otherwise, I'd fall asleep and fly off the back of the treadmill.

Tess said...

I don't like Jillian because I don't like bullies. The end.

You RUN from room to room! Oh, that is by far my favorite part. Yesterday when I worked out with my trainer he JOGGED from one weight machine to the next, and I was all, "wait, we're RUNNING through the gym now?". That is just where I draw the line.

We've talked about this before, but Squaring Off the Curve is a HUGE motivator for me. I'd like to maintain a high level of function for as long as possible, followed by a quick decline, as opposed to a long, slow decline.

Saly said...

Ok, "most of our ancestors had jobs that kept them physically active until they died at 52, but of course they were also eating a ton of local organic unprocessed whole foods, so maybe THAT'S what shortened their life expectancies." is the best thing I've read in a long time.

I have discovered that I can walk briskly on the treadmill while reading my Kindle. This didn't work with regular books, and is a big plus for me. I am lost in a good book, so the 30 or so minutes goes quickly and is somewhat bearable.

Erin said...

Going to speak up in defense of (well, not really defense of, because I'm not THAT passionate about it and because she's rich and famous and certainly doesn't need it) Jillian, because I actually really like her. I do her 30 Day Shred, Ripped in 30 and whatevertheheck Yoga videos, and I've never felt like she's a bully... or at least not in a negative way. Her thing about "taking the stairs" -- I've always interpreted her to be saying that OTHER people may tell you to "just take the stairs" because they believe that you're not capable of more intense exercise, and you might be inclined to believe that "taking the stairs" is the most you can do, but you ARE capable of doing something more, and you SHOULD try it because you'll prove to yourself just how strong you are. She's certainly a bit of a screamer, but it's always positive screaming -- it's not "YOU'RE A BIG FAT LOSER AND YOU'LL NEVER ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING!", but "YOU CAN DO THIS! WHY ARE YOU GIVING UP ON YOURSELF?!"

Since my biggest problem is letting myself off the hook and saying, "I'm tired, I don't feel like it, I can't do any more reps because it hurts," Jillian is the best kind of trainer for me. But I accept that she's not for everyone. And I think it's great that you're trying to see the positives in exercise as well as the downsides, Swistle -- that's tough for me sometimes. Keep it up!

Barb said...

ooh, oh, oooh! Someone else who is watching Friday Night Lights! I'm obsessed.

-R- said...

Numbers 10 and 12 are my favorites.

"wheeeeeeeeeeee!"

"I kind of know what other people are talking about, sometimes!"

I haven't watched all of FNL, though I've liked what I've watched. I'll really have to watch the whole thing sometime.

Alicia said...

How do you watch movies while you exercise? This is brilliant.

I guess I haven't ever thought of this because I tend to do DVDs for exercise. I kinda LOVED Tae-Bo after my first baby, and then I did (but did not love) 30 Day Shred about a year ago. And then I started jogging (which WHAT?), but none of those would have allowed me to watch movies while exercising. I think I could actually DO it if I watched movies. Holy crappers.

Maureen said...

I am actually rewatching Friday Night Lights when I am on my treadmill. Coach Taylor and Tim Riggins totally motivate me to keep moving till the episode is done!

Misty said...

Number 10 is the best. Ha! Yes, there are most certainly good parts. I am still trying to do it, even if it is not fun. So you are in good company, if I do say so myself. :)

Slauditory said...

It's awesome that you're finding some good in exercise, despite the time spent and the sweat...sweated? I like to imagine the cholesterol getting swept out of my arteries as I "run" along on the elliptical. I'm actually a lot healthier and a lot less cranky now that I exercise regularly. Also, I am feeling you on the stairs thing.

M&Co. said...

At PT for my knee, they have me work on balance. They say as we age, balance gets worse and it causes people to fall and break hips and such. Maybe you should get to work on that now.

Swistle said...

Alicia- Wii Fit has a "free step" and a "free run" where it gets you started (and the Wii remote keeps the beat for free step, or mentions if you're going too slow), but you can switch the TV to a TV show or to the DVD. Then the Wii remote lets you know when the half hour is up. So I do warm up stuff, then I have half an hour of Friday Night Lights, and then I come back to Wii Fit for hula-hooping and stretching.

Swistle said...

Oh, and my mom watches TV/movies, too: they set up the treadmill in front of a television.

Maggie said...

Since I'm ancient (ok 42 but some days it feels ancient) I've been at this exercise thing a long time starting with HS sports. So I've tried a lot of work-out classes and videos and I can safely say that 30-Day was one of the worst for me. The exercises hurt my knees like nothing has in a long time including running, they hurt my shoulders because they were too jarring, there was no decent music (deal killer for me) and I found Jillian to be just sort of odd and off-putting. It works great for some, but it was a perfect storm of bad for me.

jive turkey said...

Jillian is a pushy douche, for real. My preferred form of cardio is pretending I'm shoving her head into the microwave.

Glad you've found a way to make exercise less loathsome (treadmills + TV = love) and that it's making you feel as kick-ass as you are.

Jessica said...

Here it is! I was a little bit confused yesterday, since I remembered this post title popping up in my reader several months ago.

Nicole said...

The sleeping better thing is really true! Very nice optimistic post :)

Shalini said...

Yes x one million. Also, I am buying a treadmill just to do 12. (I haaaaate Jillian.)

CARRIE said...

The only reasons I exercise twice a week are because 1. the trainer is cute and 2. I can vent to my friends. I have a treadmill in the basement and rarely use it because #1 and #2 don't apply.

Ms. Molly said...

Swistle, you totally make me want to exercise more!

Cayt said...

I enjoy having done exercise, because I feel virtuous, but I hate that we're expected to tie our self-worth to how well we eat and how much we exercise. I also find it easier to make healthy choices when I have done exercise, because if I've just swum 40 laps, I don't want to ruin it with a chocolate bar.

Alice said...

haha, i'm with erin on this. i am SO SUPER LAZY when i exercise, and quit LONG before i can/need to because i don't waaaannnnaaaa keep going, so it does help me to have someone yell at me to SUCK IT UP AND KEEP GOING ALREADY JEEZ YOU PANSY because more often than not i AM just wimping out. i can see how that would be Not Pleasant to folks who are not, in fact, wimping out, and still getting yelled at.

Superjules said...

I hate hate HATE that all-or-nothing attitude. I went to a meditation class once and after the stretching, the tea, and the (hour long!) guided mediation the guy told us that if we weren't meditating every single day then we just shouldn't bother. Annnd that was the last time I ever meditated.

bluedaisy said...

I love seeing the flip side too...great perspective :)

M.Amanda said...

Swistle, I love your attitude.

I guess I'm in the minority in that I don't mind Jillian at all. At least, not the way other fitness experts do. I can take about a week of Denise Austin before her happy demeanor makes me want to punch her, two or three if I'm not exercising. Of course, my only exposure to Jillian comes from 30 Day Shred. That said, I do disagree with her stairs comment. While taking the stairs does not count as a full workout program, it isn't to be discounted. Stairs can be killer.

artemisia said...

Swistle. I love you so much. Really.

Karen L said...

I occurs to me that I could probably dash off a similar post titled: "Things I Like About Housework." That seems like a good twitter conversation-started. Or what do I know? I'm not on twitter.

Karen L said...

conversation-starteR. of course.