Last year’s temp job ended just after Thanksgiving. The week after that, I started volunteering at the homeless shelter.
In the intervening six months, I’ve been walking a lot and driving hardly at all. Because of my proximity to downtown Asheville, nearly everywhere I go is close by, and nearly everything I need can be carried home in my trusty cloth bags.
Since January 1st, I’ve averaged 10,860 steps each day. This is cause for celebration, because my pedestrian lifestyle and reusable bags give me a trump card in almost any conversation about the environment. Never mind that my transportation choices are borne of poverty. Never mind that I’d burn fossil fuel in a heartbeat if it would get me to a paying job. The point here is that I have an easy claim to loving the planet more than the next person.
If you suspect that I walk about acting unbearably smug, you are correct.
Here’s the thing, though. Even with all this tromping around, even with all this carrying library books and groceries, I had not become any thinner. All that extra activity, and I looked exactly the same.
Fine, I thought. I’ll bump this up a notch. I’ll join a gym.
Despite misgivings about the culture and cult of fitness, and despite intimidation at the prospect of affiliating myself with something entirely outside my experience, I walked on over to the YMCA and signed up.
Except for Saturdays, which are my day of rest, and Memorial Day, when the Y closed early, I have been visiting faithfully for the past five weeks. I’m not bothering with gym equipment. I know my shortcomings. I do not have the discipline to work out unless someone is standing there telling me to move.
Fortunately, there are plenty of instructors and plenty of exercise classes. My weekly schedule has settled into a routine of 5 hours of cardio, 3.5 hours of strength training, and 1.5 hours of advanced yoga. On top of that, I’m still doing at least 6 hours weekly of plain old walking.
Five weeks into my exercise experiment, and I am pleased to report that not a damn thing has changed.
Five weeks of all this horrible exercise — lifting weights, sweating through aerobics classes, doing these awful moves called “crunches” and “squats” and “lunges” — and I haven’t lost a single pound?
Now before some well-meaning reader makes noise about muscle weighing more than fat, let me forestall you: I know that. I also know that it takes months for that little factoid to become significant — especially with women, who don’t gain muscle as quickly as men.
(This is because we have less testosterone. The compensation is that we are less likely to start wars and beat each other up.)
The damn measuring tape around my waist is exactly the same. My clothes fit exactly the same. I look exactly the same.
But oh! I should rejoice in all the other benefits of exercise! Ten weekly hours of vigorous exercise — and don’t forget all that healthy walking! — should have me feeling GREAT! My spirits should be lifted! My sleep should be refreshing and restorative! My energy should be stratospheric! I should be swimming in a rollicking stream of rousing endorphins!
Here is the difference I am feeling: my muscles are sore a lot these days. Oh and my feet. My feet are always tired.
And I would wager that my spirits are flagging because, COME ON, I am doing all this stupid rotten crappy exercise and I have nothing to show for it.
If some well-meaning reader so much as thinks about mentioning my diet, I will bite that reader’s head off, so help me I will.
My diet is fine. More than fine. I count calories. I have a food scale. I eat sensible foods in moderation.
My hope is that, by publicly discussing my frustrations, my metabolism will be shamed into obeying the laws of physics. Maybe my body has been sluggish these first few weeks and will start responding to the exercise now that I’ve tattled about its poor attitude.
It has through the end of July. That will be twelve weeks of this nonsense.
One other thing: it is the foolhardy reader who will dare suggest that I find an exercise I love. I love reading books, okay? And solving puzzles and napping and looking at pictures of cats on the internet.
Enough of that. Today is Saturday, my only gym-free day. I’m going to crack open a new horror novel, Nos4A2. Regrettably, my fear sensor appears to be permanently broken — I haven’t been scared by a horror novel since I was eleven — but I can still enjoy a good story. Author Joe Hill has been hit or miss for me, so I’m eager to see how this one pans out.