Archive for the ‘General Fitness’ Category

I love swimming, and I’m realizing one of many reasons that I really enjoy this form of exercise is due to migraines. Since exercise is both a trigger for migraines and makes them a lot worse, they clearly make exercise difficult.

Cold on the other hand is such a godsend for migraines. So swimming in cold water kind of balances it out. Because of having my head immersed in cold water, I don’t get the pain I would with other types of exercise.

As I’ve been doing strength training several days a week before swimming, a lot of the time I am dragging, having trouble doing the strength training because of a migraine. But getting in the pool to swim, I feel better and it doesn’t hold impact my ability to work like it otherwise would.

Of course when I googled I discovered a few people who said that chlorine triggers their  migraines, so it wouldn’t quite work for those folks. Also wouldn’t have the same impact if the water isn’t cold.

But for me, this is another reason to enjoy swimming 🙂

So I was reading something online that mentioned a book Beat the Gym by Tom Holland. I bought this book but was very unimpressed with it myself, though I can see how some of it might be useful to people who are brand new to fitness and gyms.

 

He begins early in the book talking about how gyms make their money primarily on people who sign up and pay but do not use, or rarely use, the gym. He gives some tips to be the kind of person who uses the gym all the time instead. I disagree with some of his points though and in writing a review of the book I thought I would write my own, very non-professional, list of ways to get the most out of your gym membership.

 

  1. Know Yourself, know what you want, know what you will do

One piece of advice he gives that doesn’t hold true to me is that you don’t need to love your gym just like it well enough and the most important factor is distance. Well, this really is not true for me. I joined the gym I did because it has a pool with very flexible hours (only closed 2hrs/day for cleaning). He actually writes off pools as rather unimportant features of gyms that get too much attention. Well… that depends on if you will use it or not. If you know you aren’t going to swim or go in the pool much, who cares if your gym has a pool? But if that’s important to you, then obviously it is an important feature! Swimming is what keeps me coming back to the gym. I joined for swimming and from going in for swimming almost every day I’ve started utilizing other things the gym offers, like weights and stationary bikes. I would not have joined just for those though.

 

  1. Do something and go somewhere you ENJOY

If I took his advice to go based on location only, I would have joined the planet fitness right by my house. And I probably wouldn’t ever go to it. Instead I drive past the planet fitness and 20 minutes out of my way, and 20 minutes back, to go to the gym I do. But it doesn’t feel like too much of a hassle because I enjoy my time there so much. Despite being further away I go almost daily, because going to the gym is something I look forward to. The same could be said of the place I go for Krav Maga.

 

I’m not telling you to join my gym, to take up swimming, or take up Krav Maga. But doing something you ENJOY, I think, is going to make a bigger difference in your consistency than convenience. If it’s close and convenient to get to, but the workout itself still feels like a chore, it’s going to be harder to be consistent than if it’s something you enjoy and want to fit into your schedule. Though certainly knowing your schedule (see #1 for knowing yourself) and if it works is also important. Despite loving Krav Maga even before I was on my medical restriction from it I was not doing it very often simply because very often my work and school schedule prevented me from making the class times. It doesn’t matter how much I enjoy it, work and school are requirements that I can’t forgo in favor of taking a krav maga class.

 

  1. Don’t Worry About Other People

I think the best advice he gives in the book is that most people are focused on themselves at the gym and not to worry about people paying attention to or judging you. Though he bugged me when he then goes on to give fashion advice including saying spandex is a “privilege not a right” and then cautioning against outlandish 80’s workout clothes. I say fuck his fashion advice. If spandex is comfortable or makes you feel good working out, rock your spandex. If you feel good in your 80’s fitness fashions, rock those. If you want to wear garishly bright Lisa Frank leggings (and really, who wouldn’t want to?) then do it! And don’t worry about what other people might think of what you are wearing. You’re there for you, let them worry about their own fashions.

 

  1. Pamper Yourself/Do Things That Make You Feel Good

This is similar to #2 except whereas 2 was about doing exercise you enjoy, this is about other factors. This is something I’ve been thinking about mentioning, which is how much I’m enjoying amenities I didn’t care about when I signed up. Not only do I enjoy swimming, but after swimming I relax in the hot tub, and I also have been making use of the steam room at the gym I go to. Does sitting in a hot tub or steam room do much for my fitness? Not really (though I do stretch in the hot tub). But I find it relaxing and I look forward to it. And it’s certainly good for my health because it helps me destress.

 

I’ve actually started a bit of a pampering ritual for myself after workouts. So far I end every workout with swimming (either I just swim, or I do some strength training and then swim). After swimming I stretch and then relax in the hot tub. After a bit of that I go back to the locker room and grab my little baggie with my shampoo and so on in it, which also has a charcoal face mask/scrub in it. I take a quick shower to cool down and use the face mask/scrub. Then I go relax or meditate in the steam room. After that I take a full shower, get dressed, and head home.

 

In addition the gym I go to has a spa in it, which I didn’t care about when I joined but I am definitely making use of it now, planning to get massages as regularly as I can afford to. The spa services cost money, not included in the gym membership, but still it’s something in the gym that isn’t a workout but still has benefits for me and I enjoy. Make going to the gym something you enjoy- both the exercise and anything else about it. You deserve it!

 

  1. Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin and Don’t Shame Others For Being Comfortable in Theirs

I’ve been thinking in my head how I know I’m getting old now because it doesn’t bother me to strip down naked in the locker room. When I was younger I never understood how adults could be comfortable changing in such a public place. Even when I joined the gym last month I wasn’t very comfortable with it. Part of my comfort comes not just from age but also because working out makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.

And so here is another point where I disagree with Tom Holland. He complains about too much nudity in the locker rooms.

Me- I think feeling comfortable enough in your own skin to be naked is a wonderful thing! The more you feel that the better. And when other people are comfortable with their bodies be happy for them being comfortable in them. If you don’t want to see someone naked, then just don’t look. Even if you do want to see someone naked, you still should keep your eyes to yourself and not be creepy.

But most importantly, don’t shame other folks for daring to be naked in a place designed for nakedness. Focus on yourself.

 

This isn’t all necessary of course, just my own little anecdotes turned advice about enjoying going to the gym.

I’d been meaning for a while to write about my experiences with motivational interviewing, and specifically the aspect of non-judgment in it, at my job but I guess I haven’t done that yet.

I was reminded of this recently though when I had some personal training sessions at my new gym. Which left me thinking that boy, personal training certifications should also come with motivational interviewing training!

Of course, I always think everyone in the world would benefit from a little social work training, so I’m a bit bias of course.

Let me back up first though and talk a bit about my experiences with this at work. Motivational interviewing is a method of brief intervention that is meant to help motivate people to change, but it does so in ways that are not pushy and never judgmental. Many of the underlying principles of motivational interviewing come out of person centered therapy as developed by Carl Rogers. I, myself, am a huge Rogers fan. His theory for psychotherapy is that change for people comes through unconditional acceptance and positive relationships, and so that is the primary purpose of a psychotherapist- to provide that unconditional positive regard and warm relationship.

Motivational interviewing comes primarily from the substance abuse field. It is a method of working with someone who maybe is starting to see the problems with their substance use but often are not ready to make changes yet. We call this the contemplation stage. And the idea is first off, that you go with what they say and accept it without judgment. There is not judgment about their use, their reasons for use, or their reasons for not wanting to become sober. Of course the motivational interviewing part comes in with emphasizes the change statements they themselves make in order to help them move toward wanting to make changes. But it is NEVER directive. A therapist using motivational interviewing will never direct a client that they need to abstain from substances, or tell them that they are wrong for their reasons for using or the things they like about it or why they don’t see it as a problem. (ie “I don’t want to stop using because I will lose my friends”, “well those people aren’t really your friends then”- this is not motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing would explore what this means for the client and accept without judgment that they fear losing meaningful relationships to them if they quit using).

Right now I am working in integrated healthcare. So I work with folks with physical health, mental health, and/or substance abuse disorders. A lot of what I do with this is actually applying the concepts of motivational interviewing to physical health disorders. A big one I work with is diabetes. And boy, have I noticed what a huge difference it makes in folks that they are not being judged! If I talk to someone with diabetes that is not well controlled about their diet, often they first thing they say is “I know, I know, I need to stop eating/drinking X” or something like that. They know. They have gotten the lecture many times from doctors and nurses. And those lectures don’t work. The tone completely changes though when I don’t respond by telling them what they have to do, or warning them of all the dangers of not doing what I tell them (the most common approach taken by doctors). From there, they often start talking about their own ideas for how they can make changes that make sense for them.

“I know, I shouldn’t put sugar in my coffee because of my blood sugar. I just can’t stand black coffee and I can’t get going in the morning without my coffee.”

“That makes sense, you need that boost of energy from coffee in the morning but you don’t like the taste of black coffee. And that would be a huge change to go from that much sugar to just black coffee.”

“Yeah, exactly. Though I think I could maybe cut down on the sugar a little bit”

“Yeah, cutting down a little bit would help and it would probably be less harsh of a difference than just trying to drink coffee black when you aren’t used to that.”

And then we explore more about how they feel about this and what their thoughts and plans are. They are used to being told though that they just shouldn’t put sugar in their coffee and that’s not a change that they are ready or willing to make. So they sit through the lectures and don’t do anything differently after.

 

I was reminded of this when I went through personal training at the gym because the trainer I worked with was very directive. And that did not work with me either. I like working out, but personal training made me feel like I was taking a class, with directions I had to follow whether they were what I wanted or not, and with homework and scolding if I didn’t follow directions or didn’t do the homework. (ok, so “scolding” might be a drastic way of phrasing it, but still, it was that feeling of having to do what you are told and if not you are “in trouble” in some sense.)

There were of course a few specific issues I had too. I told her early one what my goal in joining the gym was- about my current limitations, but how I want to regain the former activity and strength I had.

She accepted my comment that I was not trying to focus on weight loss, only to turn around and tell me how I needed to focus on fat loss. As though rephrasing it that way made it different.

Even though my focus was activity she also made nutrition the focus, telling me how I had to stop intermittent fasting. She also claimed this was both the reason I am fatigued all the time (not my illnesses!) and also why I’m fat. I do not react well to people who do not have the same health issues trying to explain to me the right way to deal with fatigue or the magic cure for it. Even someone who also struggles with chronic illness and fatigue, doesn’t mean their experiences are the same as mine.

The thing is, these topics probably could have been covered a lot better using a more motivational interviewing method. First off, motivational interviewing, if I say I am focused on activity more than nutrition we would focus there, not try to keep redirecting me back to nutrition. Advice would never be directive or one size fits all. She could have asked me how to I feel about intermittent fasting, how it works for me, if I want to change it (the answers would be that I feel better eating this way and no I do not want to change that). She could have asked if there were things I wanted to change, what they were, what my barriers to change are, how things might be different without those barriers, how to address those barriers, whatever. I’m not saying my diet is perfect all the time or that I couldn’t eat in a way that is healthier for me sometimes, including eating in ways that help me manage my illness better. I’ve written here before about the struggles of my illness making eating well more difficult, and yet when I don’t it can make my illness worse. It’s a bit of a catch 22 at times, because if I don’t have the spoons to cook, I don’t have the soons to cook. That’s how spoons work.

 

And I don’t mean to sound that mean toward her or anything because I could go through a lot of things I think she also did well working with me! And the reason I didn’t continue with the personal training was mostly financial (and in a related sense spiritual). My point was more so that being on the receiving end of that really had me thinking how much better (in my opinion) things like personal training could be if they utilized more motivational interviewing skills.

My first introduction to Jillian Michaels, before I really knew about the biggest loser or anything related to that, was looking at workout videos that were available for streaming on Netflix years back and I tried one of hers, and I didn’t finish it because her mentality pissed me off so much. Specifically what pissed me off was she stated at one point something along the lines of “I know you feel like you’re dying, but you aren’t, so don’t stop”.

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Image of Jillian Michaels with a quote “I want you to feel like you’re going to die.”

Excuse me?

Are you in my living room with me? Do you know my health background? What makes you talking to people you don’t know and can’t see qualified to actually say that none of those people are actually in danger if they push through feeling like they are dying?

That attitude and disregard for the well being of people so disgusted me that I couldn’t stand to finish the video with her. I later learned more about her and discovered that her entire fame as a trainer is based around a total disregard for the well being of others

This is also an attitude that I see often put forth  in“fitspo”- encouragement to just push through no matter how awful you feel, and the insistence that feeling “bad” is always normal.

The truth is though, not all kinds of bad feelings during workouts are normal, ok, or safe! Pushing through some of that “I feel like I’m dying” can be dangerous! “I feel like I’m dying” sometimes is the precursor to death!

The thing is, not only can someone who doesn’t know us, what we are feeling, and what our health is, say for certain if we are really ok when we feel bad during a workout, sometimes we don’t know enough to make that judgment either!

I’m thinking about this now following my brand new diagnosis of asthma!

See, after a krav maga workout last week I started coughing, which is not very unusual for me. Though the coughing kept getting worse, was far worse than ever before. and lasted longer than usual. Maybe or maybe not related to me working out around others and feeling embarrassed to stop and take a breather when I felt like I couldn’t breath.

After this I started looking up info on coughing after workouts and talked with a few people about it, since like I said- it’s far from the first time I coughed following a workout. I’ve always before though just thought that was normal. One woman replied to me online telling me she was the same, until it was so bad she ended up in the ER and found out the coughing was not normal but rather asthma. Thankfully I got in to my pcp for the diagnosis and prescribed an inhaler before ending up in the ER.

It reminds me that sometimes feeling like you can’t breathe isn’t normal out of breath from a workout, sometimes it is a serious (if not treated) medical condition!

It is really dangerous that we have this mentality that workouts should make you feel like you are dying and the correct response is always just to “suck it up” and push through anything and everything no matter what. People absolutely can get hurt by this.

This is an old post I started and didn’t finish awhile back. At the time I had recentrly read a cracked article: The 5 Most Terrifying Side Effects of Exercise. I was looking forward to a humorous take on some of the scary or just unpleasant things that cane come with exercise. I was disappointed though that almost everything on the list was specific to endurance activities, not lifting and so I decided I would make my own list of the “terrifying side effects” of lifting.

This isn’t really based on any significant research, just some things I’ve either personally experienced or read about.

Also a disclaimer: a lot of comments on the cracked article complained about how it made exercise sound worse than it is, and these things don’t happen to all people, and suggesting this would make people not want to exercise. I think that’s just kind of stupid. There ARE unpleasant things that can happen with exercise. And honestly, I feel like the folks most inclined to appreciate that they exist are the people who engage in those activities. Thus why I was disappointed that most of the cracked article’s side effects weren’t related to lifting, as someone who lifts.

I love lifting, there are so many reasons to do it, and so many positive effects that come with it, and I have posted about them and I will continue to, but this post is related to the negative stuff.

Last disclaimer- I’m not a comedian or comedy writer so don’t expect this to be super funny.

1. Acne

I went with “terrible” instead of “terrifying” for my list because some of the first ones that comes to mind for me are more annoying and frustrating than terrifying.

And the very first thing that comes to mind for me is acne. I’ve had acne since puberty, but it’s gotten a lot better since then. It’s never totally gone away and been a non-issue but as an adult watching what I eat (because I know sugar can cause breakouts for me), I would get occasional break outs, but never too bad and not all the time. Until I started lifting that is. I was not expecting that! Here I am, doing something really healthy, that has all these awesome benefits for my body… and then it sends me back to having constant, more severe, breakouts? Not fair!

Took me awhile to put it together. I ended up looking up info about this and it is indeed a thing. There seem to be a few factors. First off directly lifting weights increases testosterone, which can cause acne. While an issue for both genders from my google research, it seems like it tends to be more often an issue for women. Or we just talk about it more? But it certainly makes sense that the effects of testosterone would vary a bit by sex. I’ve also noticed anecdotally that men seem to mention body acne as a side effect whereas women seem to mention breakouts on our faces. Which is consistent to my experience, my breakouts are typically restricted to my face.

There also seems to be some indirect ways that it can increase breakouts. One of those being diet. According to websites I found googling this, dairy products including whey protein can increase breakouts- and when taking up lifting I also increased these in my diet.

Of course I’ve also found that even eating the same when I didn’t lift for awhile my face cleared up a lot more, so definitely lifting seems to be having an effect in and of itself.

Of course there are also other factors as well, like wearing makeup while working out can increase clogged pores. I’m a lot more cautious now to remove any foundation and concealer before working out and washing my face immediately after a workout, not that this has completely solved the problem, but it certainly helps.

2. More Facial Hair

This one is specific to women. Remember how I mentioned above that weight lifting increases testosterone levels? Well, there are a lot of side effects that can cause, including more facial hair for women. My source this is mostly anecdotal- I’ve seen a number of women report more unwanted hair after taking up lifting due to hormonal changes. And noticed it myself. I’m told this can also be an effect of aging, though it seems  quite a coincidence that this aspect of getting older for me has coincided so specifically with when I started lifting heavy.

3. Stress Incontinence

This is another specific to women as far as I know. And to be fair, this is not at all caused by lifting so much as possible to experience during lifting- even for women who have never experienced other forms of stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is “leaking” urine during certain activities that can include sneezing, coughing, or exercise. While typically the assumed cause is weak pelvic floor muscles this isn’t necessarily the case, and a woman who never “leaks” when coughing, sneezing, running, or jumping, may still find that she does during a heavy lift. And the solution isn’t always as simple as doing kegel exercises. 

From the linked article Ann Wendel explains some of the causes for urinary incontinence when lifting heavy:

  • The muscles of the pelvic floor may be weak from being stretched during vaginal delivery or even from the weight of the baby during pregnancy. They may also be weak due to postural habits (standing with a posterior pelvic tilt) and lack of exercise.
  • The muscles may be hypertonic (overactive) and unable to relax, which decreases the strength of the contraction when they do fire. So they are overactive, but weak.
  • The pelvic floor muscles may be overactive but strong; yet, the client has stronger abdominal, back, diaphragm and glottis (voicebox) muscles. Women who leak while lifting a heavy load may be in this category — holding their breath leads to a rigid thorax, yet they can’t contain all of the pressure, so they either grunt/yell, leak urine, or sustain an abdominal hernia or herniated spinal disc. The pressure escapes the system through the weakest link. (For more on this topic, check out this post from Physio Detective on pelvic floor dysfunction.)
  • The pelvic floor may have been damaged (think episiotomy, forceps, vacuum extraction of baby, cancer/radiation) and the scar tissue affects the ability for the muscles to contract properly.

So even with strong pelvic floor muscles, a woman can still experience this during heavy lifting. Though certainly it’s better than an abdominal hernia or herniated spinal disc!

4.  Serious Injury

Ok, so the previous item references risks of abdominal hernia or a herniated spinal disc which are clearly much more serious than anything else I mentioned!

Using basic safety measures lifting heavy is actually relatively safe, but there is always a risk of accidents and injury and adding large amount of weight to the mix can increase the danger. In 2014 a crossfit athlete was paralyzed when he failed a snatch and the dropped barbell bounced back up and hit him in the back. Depending who one asks this was either a freak accident or something that could have been prevented with a safer platform. I’m unqualified to make any judgement on that.

However, risks can be reduced through proper form, not trying to lift heavier than what you can safely manage, having a spotter or a power cage or squat rack set up to catch a barbell, and knowing how to safely drop the weight. Since I workout alone at home without a spotter my power rack is incredibly important to me for lifting heavy. I do my bench press in the power rack with bars on the side that will catch the barbell if I were to drop it so it doesn’t fall on me. I’ve failed reps on bench before with no injury because I have those bars there to catch the barbell. Lifting alone at home makes it harder to get feedback on proper form vs form that puts you at risk for an injury, but with the internet it is possible to record lifts and get feedback on them from people online which is great.

I’ve probably talked at least a little bit about this before, but I’m going to again. I was thinking the other day about how awesome it is noticing physical changes to my body from working out.

My goals are not aesthetic, my reason for lifting isn’t to change how I look, my reasons are mainly that I enjoy it, to be stronger, and to be healthier.

That said, I still will get excited and happy about the physical changes that come with those things.

Though for me I can feel changes better than I can see them reflected in the mirror. I’ve always had muscular legs but after I started lifting again I definitely could tell I had more muscle there- especially my hamstrings. Interestingly I’ve noticed more curve to my waist with lifting. I notice a bit more muscle on my arms, even if my upper body is still incredibly weak. Visibly the biggest change was with my lower back, which is a completely different shape thanks to adding muscle back there.

Most recently I can feel more muscle than ever before in the back of my arms which is really cool. Doesn’t look much different to me, but certainly feels different.

This all probably sounds pretty standard and seems silly for me to bother writing about, but the reason I am is because it frustrates me how often talking about such things is reacted to negatively.

On one hand, there is a group of people who feel that I shouldn’t be talking happily or proudly of changes to my body from fitness unless it’s weight loss- and even then there are those who will say you shouldn’t post about it until after you are not longer fat.

And yet, I’ve been shocked to find how often “body positive” people who do not believe in measuring the success of fitness endeavors in terms of weight loss react poorly to any kind of talk like this. I have been told that talking about changes to my own body from fitness in a positive way suggests that  certain bodies (presumably mine) are better or more worthy than others, or that it implies that everyone who engages in some sort of fitness endeavor should see the same changes. Which is just absurd.

I know I have said this before but it bears repeating- talking about what I like about my body is not the same as putting down people with different bodies! One type of body does not have to be raised above another. I can like things about me without thinking it’s bad if you are different.

Along the same lines, talking about my experiences, of any kind, with fitness, is not a judgement on others with different experiences. Acknowledging and even celebrating my own experiences does not invalidate other experiences or make them any less worthy of being celebrated in their own right.

Also- different fitness endeavors are… well- different. My goal is not aesthetic, but my goal is to be stronger. And being stronger means building muscle, you will not get stronger without doing that. So yeah, I love when I can see or feel more muscle because it’s another sign of my increased strength. Lifting heavy will have all sorts of different outcomes than running which will be different than cycling which is different than swimming, et cetera, et cetera. Even withing the same activity we don’t all have the same goals, the same programs, and will have individual factors that dictate our progress toward those goals. Still, all that progress is still worth celebrating and being excited about. I can be happy for someone else making progress toward their goal even if that goal is different than mine or their progress is different than mine.

I have a whole lot of drafts on this blog- partial posts I started writing and never finished. Trying to go back and actually finish and post some of them, starting with this one.

Awhile back I read: Lifting Weights Doesn’t Make You Badass. This is the second time I’d seen someone post this article but the first time I read the whole thing. The first time I saw it I read just a little ways in and rolled my eyes thinking why should it matter to anyone else if someone feels badass about lifting weights? Whatever motivates you and makes it enjoyable.

But after I got past the beginning of the article, turns out I actually really like the message of it.

Lifting weights doesn’t make you anything if that’s the only thing you care about. It’s what you do for you outside the gym that makes you something.

Ok, so I love this message- lifting is a part of what you do, but it isn’t everything in life. There needs to be balance in our lives. And lifting can be a positive thing and a positive influence on other areas of one’s life.

the really unfortunate thing about this is that it overshadows all the positive aspects that accompany lifting.

While I might have the most fun with specialized movement athletes, by and large, I’ve worked with regular people and I’m proud of the fact. Most human beings want confidence. They want capability. They want to feel strong and empowered.

I consider a truly healthy “training mentality” to be one in which strength is a devotion to the process. I’m not trying to impress upon anyone that lifting weights makes them a badass because it doesn’t. But it can give them the physical and mental fortitude to be stronger and more confident in their life outside the gym, and for 99 percent of people, that’s what keeps them coming back.

My initial reaction to the article was based on the idea that it shouldn’t matter to anyone else if lifting makes you feel badass, and lifting does make me feel a bit badass sometimes- I still think that, and I still think there is nothing wrong with feeling badass about it. I do agree with the author though that is shouldn’t be the only thing in your life that makes you feel strong or feel good about. When I think about my own strengths, and things that make me badass, lifting weights does not come out at the top of the list. I’m a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor and that took strength, to get through, to heal from, to let go of and forgive, and using that experience as motivation to help other people. And fighting depression has taken far more strength that lifting a barbell ever has. I do feel badass when I’m lifting, but I also feel badass when I’m able to help other people and make a real difference in their lives.

What makes you feel strong or badass might be different for you, but in the end I think the biggest take away is this:

In the words of Harry Selkow, “Strong people make other people stronger. They don’t put them down.” But that isn’t what I see on a daily basis. I see the opposite. I see people using lifting weights as a tool to insult people and make up for all the other things they lack in life.

Feel badass about anything you do in life, there is nothing wrong with that (assuming there is nothing harmful about what you are doing), but feeling strong or badass should be about lifting yourself up, and idealing helping lift others up as well- NOT about tearing others down. Not about making yourself out to be better than anyone else.

I feel badass when I hit a PR with the barbell, even though the weight I’m lifting is much less than many other people lift. It’s not about being better than anyone else- it’s about pushing myself.

If feeling badass for you means being better than other people, or needing to prove that you are better than other people, that’s when there is a problem.

This article showed up on my facebook newsfeed recently and it is so awesome I can’t not share it here:

There’s No Morality in Exercise: I’m a Fat Person and Made a Successful Fitness App

The whole thing is really, really worth reading. That said I also love this paragraph near the end:

What I’ve learned is: the story I got told about what it meant to have a fat body, that it must mean that I sat around all day eating deep-fried stuffed-crust pizza and watching TV—that story just wasn’t true. The story about how people who look like me hate to exercise just isn’t true. It’s so easy to let the media you see or the discourse you hear define who you are before you’ve even learned about yourself. And I bought into it for too long.

And the Successful Fitness App mentioned? Zombies, Run! I already loved this app and now there is so much more to love about it!

When we came to make Zombies, Run!, I deliberately put a line in the very first mission, when you, Runner Five, are just arriving at Abel Township, the tiny, shivering remnant of humanity left after the zombie apocalypse. I had one of the characters say: “If you can move above a slow shamble, we can use you.” Why? Because I am so sick and tired of the best and nicest exercise-based treats being reserved for people who are already in peak physical shape, and I’m sick of the notion that having fun while exercising is something you have to earn; that, until you look a certain way, moving ought to be boring and unpleasant if not outright painful. Your body is there right now. You did not have to earn a thing. It is a gift. You are a hero every time you step out of your front door to do some exercise.

I’ve heard that line before, but I never gave a whole lot of thought to it. But so much more love for the fact that this was purposeful to say running is running, even if you are slow! Especially since I run super slow and I’ve been playing zombies, run! before and thought “thank god there aren’t really zombies chasing me, because I’m not sure I’d really be successful in outrunning them for real”.

I do love this app though, not only is it just really fun to play while running, I’ve actually been meaning for awhile now to write about Zombies, Run! in terms of their representation of queer characters. I won’t say too much more on that now, because I still plan to write that post some day. So this is just one more in a long list of reasons to love the app.

And to sum it all up:

And, to be clear, there’s no moral component to exercise, no matter what the magazines might try to tell you. You’re not a better person for doing it or a worse person for not.

So a little something about me, I tend to mentally freak out and worry about things, expecting the worst possible scenario.

Despite all my experience with it, ever time I have to give a presentation for school I have to fight the urge to literally just get up and run away. And that’s with something I do often! This is often far worse then with things where I’m out of my element and not sure what to expect.

I’ve always wanted to try some strongman training but don’t have access to a place/the equipment to do it. So when I saw a facebook friend post that he got some strongman equipment and inviting local folks over to check it out, I was excited for the opportunity. And also terrified of all the scenarios in my head about how awful this was going to go.

I might be too weak for any of the equipment even without added weights! And I have never done this before and don’t know what I’m doing. And my form is probably terrible even at stuff I do have experience with. Long story short- my mind was racing with all the ways this would go terribly wrong.

The whole drive over I was fighting that “just turn around and go home” urge.

But I didn’t. And I got to try out some strongman stuff with two very nice guys. It was fun and exciting and absolutely nothing terrible happened! It left me just all the more excited to do more strongman stuff, and excited about lifting in general. And as much as I love my home gym and working out alone, it was actually fun to lift with some other folks for once. And I was so sore after in all the best ways.

I know for lots of folks fitness activities that are new can be intimidating. Whether it be the first time in a gym, first time trying a new sort of activity or something else- people get nervous and intimidated (I sure do!)

But there are good things to come out of pushing past all that and trying something new anyways.

And I know I, for one, am definitely working on doing that more often. Getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things!

I’ve been getting more and more frustrated lately with certain messages I see on fitness based websites and from people I follow on various websites who are into fitness that are all about fitness and diet being all consuming of their lives.

And I understand some of it and can relate, on those days when friends are trying to get me to come out to a party and I just want to stay home and lift weights, it’s nice to connect with other people who do the same and joke about having no social life in favor of weights. I get that. Just the same as I like connecting with other doctoral students and academics and joking about having no life because of school, staying in to write papers or read, or thinking you can go out and read while you are there (I tried this when I started my program, lol. “I can go out to the bar and just bring my kindle with me and read while I’m there in order to do it all!”

But there is a point when it goes passed this joking about spending time with your barbell instead of at a bar, into this idea that the only thing in life is working out and eating.

It’s been more of a slow thing for me. The first few times I see people talk about their whole lives revolving around their fitness and diet it didn’t seem like a big thing. But being around it over and over I’m getting so annoyed with it. And again, I’m talking about the idea that one’s whole life revolves around fitness and diet- can’t EVER go out because you are either working out or sleeping. Can’t ever drink because it doesn’t fit your diet. Only friends are at the gym.

One example of this:

Well there is also a problematic message here about not trusting your girlfriend. If your girlfriend is out at the bar with her friends, that shouldn’t be a problem. She should be allowed to have a life outside of you, the gym, eating, and sleeping. Actually that kind of reeks of the way abusers seek to isolate their victims from all other areas of support in their lives :-\

But it’s also frustrating the idea that fitness means it’s your whole life.

So this “everything has to be about fitness” trend is bugging me. But when things annoy me I do try to stop and work out why it annoys me, why do I feel that way about it. So I was thinking about this. Because I’m questioning myself, why does it bother me if other people make fitness the center of their life? Why does it matter if everything revolves around that for them? It’s their choice and their life!

So trying to work through it, I realize what really bugs me about it is the way is seems to suggest that this is what fitness always looks like. A “fitness girl” never does anything but workout, sleep, and eat… and spend time with her significant other. Apparently she doesn’t even have a job! (unless she works at the gym?)  She has no friends outside of you or the gym. She has no other hobbies or interests. Just the gym and food. This isn’t speaking to one single person’s life choices, it’s suggesting this is what fitness always looks like. This is the only way to be involved in fitness it to take it to the extreme of having everything else in your life revolve around it.

That’s not the case! You can enjoy fitness and still have a wide variety of other hobbies and interests! You can enjoy a night at the barbell on day and a night at the bar drinking and singing karaoke with your friends another. You can track your macros and still enjoy some beer or wine here and there. You can workout and still have friends! Or even a family! You can enjoy fitness and whatever else happens to be part of your life!

And the reality is, people who enjoy fitness come from all walks of life. We all have a wide variety of other interests and hobbies besides working out and eating food.

That’s what bugs me about this. The redefining of “fitness” to exclude the vast majority of people who enjoy some form of fitness activity, and the message to anyone thinking of starting a fitness routine that the only right way to do it is to give up everything else that you enjoy. That’s bullshit. If you want to make fitness your whole life, good for you, it’s your life, but don’t pretend that’s what “fitness” inherently is.