Addicted to [at the moment] exercise

My colleague, J, says that I always have to have something to worry about. He’s right. He says that when I don’t have anything to worry about, I’ll make sure I find something to worry about. Again, he’s right. That’s how I roll (man), and I’m not going to change. At the moment, I don’t have a great deal on my mind (apart from the usual insurmountable issues of money, career, state of the world, etc.) so I’ve made something up. And that something is exercise.

Now, I’m 5’4″ in height (or 1.62ms), 118lbs in weight (or 8 1/2 st, 53KGs), and 8 to 10 in UK dress size so I really don’t need to lose weight (well, I have a little bit of a belly but, to be honest, I sort of like it) but I’m still gonna. I’m obsessed with my weight now, you see. My weight can fluctuate, certainly, and I had too much weight on, say, this time two years ago but it never gets particularly excessive and it’s never a threat to my overall health. I eat very healthily (because that’s another obsession), I know the approximate calorie and fat count of most foods, and I seldom drink, so I don’t need to worry so much in that respect either. But I’m still gonna.

Some things happened a year or so ago that gave me a touch of body dysmorphic disorder.1 Since then, I’ve been very conscious of how I look and how others perceive me. I really don’t like it, and I hate how I spend too much time thinking about that and not enough time thinking about what I should be thinking about, but I can’t turn it off. I use a site called myfitnesspal.com to keep track of my food and exercise per day and if it tells me that I’m saving any fewer than 400 calories a day, I’m not happy with myself. Sometimes it tells me that I’m not eating enough calories a day to maintain a healthy diet, and I sort of like that. I probably spend more time on that site than I do on any other right now. I walk a lot and very quickly. This is all embedded, of course, in a patriarchal culture that is cruelly prescriptive about how women should look (and, importantly, not look) and I get very angry at myself for subscribing to, and ultimately perpetuating, those norms. But I still do it.

Um.

What has long been a source of frustration to me is that I can’t run. I could cycle or walk from here to Ireland, but I can’t run. I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t have the lung capacity for it at all and I don’t quite know why (as I said, I walk a lot and I do so very quickly). As such, I today started the Couch to 5K running regime and completed my first 20 minutes (well, 18) this morning. It was hard in places, but I did it anyway. (The major problem I have is finding places to run – Yorkshire is very hilly!) Apparently it doesn’t take long to build up capacity and to start running for longer. I hope so. I half-heartedly tried to do something like this before but I’m determined this time. (Any tips would, of course, be most welcome.)

I want to get to a place where I’m completely happy with my weight and I just need to stop all of this before I don’t have a stitch of clothing to fit me any longer. I’m not sure which will happen first.

——
1 And that’s as personal as I’m ever going to get on this blog.

7 responses to “Addicted to [at the moment] exercise

  1. Try Walk Jog Run as a starter for finding running routes. As the name implies you can start by walking a route before you move to jogging it (or walk a bit and job a bit) and then eventually running it. If your limiter is lung capacity then the only way to get round this is to increase your lung capacity. To do this you have to exercise your lungs but doing activities that leave you breathless. By this I clearly mean jogging so perseverance is the key. A little run to start with and then make it longer each day.

    Try counting lampposts if you run along a road. Walk for three, run for three, then walk for three, run for four. Having a place to stop and catch your breath helps and you can tailor it to suit your own fitness. Just increase the amount you can handle regularly and you’ll increase your capacity and general fitness.

    Also as you build exercise you’ll need to take on more energy foods to replace the energy that you use. Your calorie intake should increase to match your needs. You’ll also need to take on more water and salts to replace those that you lose. It seems an obvious point to make but plenty of people make themselves really ill by not providing enough fuel for their bodies.

    While the prescriptive culture that you talk about certainly exists I don’t necessarily think that it is buying into a male cultural model to stay fit. To starve yourself to fit into a size 0 (whatever that is, I haven’t a clue) is just stupid but to reach and maintain a personal fitness is sensible and, dare I say, attractive. You may find your 8.5 stone increasing but your fat reducing as you get fitter. This is normal and actually quite cool. Of course for men it is more obvious as we’re predisposed genetically develop larger muscles and to have less fat, just as we’re taller and have hair on our faces (that’s why I have a foot on your height and weigh almost twice as much). For women being heavier isn’t a bad thing and there is no reason to accept the judgment of others who say that it is as long as your fitness isn’t the issue.

    • Thanks for this, Hover. I’m doing the “Couch to 5k” method (though I resent the implication that I am somehow a couch potato even if it is geared towards those who are). It’s a detailed guide for helping you build up your strength along the lines you have suggested. It’s been OK so far. It’s bizarre because I am not at all unfit but I know that running is a different skill and a different type of fitness.

      The issue about food and salts is not obvious at all. I wouldn’t have known that! I did know about muscle increasing your weight, potentially, but I’m hope it won’t do so too much. I don’t want to be muscular – I just want to be very fit and very trim.

      In terms of what you said about male-led beauty standards: I try to tell myself that I want to be fit and healthy and all the rest of it (and I do) but underneath it all, I know that I want to fit those patriarchal beauty standards by being trim etc. I don’t want to want that but it’s foisted on us from every direction – we see around us 1000 times a day what we should look like and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to ignore those messages. And, I hate to admit it, but when I look good (as I think I do now), I feel good too. Ugh!

      • Eat food with salt in. You don’t need much more than normal but if you’re on a low salt diet for some reason you should just be aware of it. Personally speaking celery covered in salt does a fine job and it is tasty and slimming too.

  2. Hmmmm … you know your post here reads like an ED sufferer? I’ve seen enough of them in the ballet world to find your described behaviour not healthy.

    So what about doing some sort of exercise for the skill and ability it’s going to develop on you, with burning of calories as a very very distant side-effect? Dance, ballet, Tai-Chi, yoga – anything that focuses you into movement as a skill and as an art.

    Then there is a point, you learn something new, for its own sake, and you might start sloughing off the patriarchal mind set. I must say, ballet class 3 times a week keeps me sane, and you can do it till you die.

    • Yeah, I know. The thought has absolutely crossed my mind. I am going to take up yoga but it’s a matter of getting around to it, as usual. (Though running, believe or or not, is a skill I want to develop for I’ve always envied those who can do it. And it’s free!) The patriarchal mindset is what concerns me about me recent kick more than anything else. 😦

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