Fitness fits

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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.

village_peopleExcept 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.

Wait. What?

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.


11 responses »

  1. Jess,
    Hoo Ra and all that for the ‘exercise’ of plain old fashioned discipline, but thine love of eye contact with print on pages and the walking through the countryside(or pleasant townscape) are alas habits this reader shares. Did my 6 outdoor hours most days during the past 10 when foul weather wasn’t prohibitively horrendous and also napped blissfully in the old slatted lawn chair in betwixt. Son from Colorado just returned from several weeks in rented digs on the Amalfi Coast and the images of that excursion were decadently Dolce Vita. You came to mind more than once as one who would have fit perfectly in the picture there..Thanking you as always for an update on your own upbeat view of a tough situation, I remain your dedicated blogosphere follower…

    • Having just found the Amalfi Coast on Google Maps, I can report that I would probably love to vacation there. And I can think of lots worse place to live, though my Italian vocabulary consists chiefly of words relating to pasta and cheese and coffee. But for year-round living, Colorado sounds better. You know me and my fondness for snow.

  2. You are wonderful, Jessica. Every word here is like a tuning fork to my soul. You deserve so much more than life is granting you, and my intuition tells me you’ll be rewarded when you least expect it. Keep on keeping on. You are terrific. —Pam

    >________________________________ > From: BookOuroboros >To: >Sent: Saturday, June 15, 2013 7:14 PM >Subject: [New post] Fitness fits > > > > >Jessica posted: “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, ne” >

    • Aww, thanks, Pam. You make me feel glow-y and reassured.

      This is out of left field, but if you enjoy reading women kvetch about life in a humorous way, try Nora Ephron’s collection of short essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck.

  3. So, diet. (ducks)

    No seriously. If you’re doing that much working out and not seeing any changes, then you are at the weight and shape and size your body was meant to be. To do any more to it would require starvation, oddball diets, 12-hour marathon workouts, etc. and so forth. If you are healthy, strong, and have endurance, then you are where you need to be.

    Don’t worry about the pounds or inches. You’re as pretty and sexy as you wish to be; those aspects are all attitude.

    If, on the other hand, you have a doctor telling you that you should weigh 120 or your liver will explode, then by all means look into alternatives. In terms of fitness, Crossfit is supposed to be insane in a good way. Jogging is always good unless you can’t in which case it isn’t (and I fit into that category). Biking might be an idea.

    Also – especially in women, stress and cortisol (-sone? something) levels can play hell with your metabolism. I know you’ve got the stress. Maybe check out the medical side effects of that stress.

    • I’m going to try tinkering with my diet, since I refuse to tinker more with exercise. Though now that you mention it, I’m dubious about whether I’ve got the healthy/strong/endurance trifecta.

      “Don’t worry about the pounds or inches.” Mmmhmm.

      If I ever get health insurance again, I’ll march up to a doctor and demand to know what the hell’s going on.

  4. If one more idiot ever tells me about “endorphins” and happy feelings coming from exercise ever again, I have pledged to hit them (which, hey, will be exercise. Good for me!). I used to exercise and diet, blah blah blah, and I never ever hit the happy wall people talk about. Exercise (just for the sake of it, I don’t mind walking to destinations, physical work, etc.) makes me tired and cranky. And that is it. Also: hungry. It’s a miserable way to live. I now adopt as my personal credo “I will only run if I am the victim or perpetrator of a crime.”

    That said, best of luck to you. I tend to agree with the person who said you just are the size you are, and having seen you, I can attest to the fact that the size you are is just fine. Anyone who thinks otherwise should also be hit (hey, exercise. Good for you!)

    Hmm. Lots of talk of hitting today. I must be feeling violent. Sorry about that.

    • If I am the victim of a crime, I will walk briskly. If I am the perpetrator of a crime, I will walk casually so that no one will suspect me.

      Exercise for the sake of exercise is really no fun, I agree, though I am eager to try your suggestion of hitting people who say otherwise.

  5. Oh, by the way, I’ve never been able to lose much more than five pounds, even with a lot of dieting and exercise (and even after losing five pounds I wasn’t really thin). And if copious blood draws over the past five years (for other reasons) are any indication, nothing’s really wrong with me except low-ish iron. By all means, when you get insurance, go get a check-up. But I don’t think your body’s desire to stay its certain size and weight is necessarily the sign of something wrong.

    • The BMI calculator informs me that I am slightly overweight, which is annoying, and anyway I would like to vanquish the tummy pudge that materialized when I moved back to North Carolina. But, lacking any medical evidence to tell me otherwise, I would guess that I am soundly physically healthy.

      Or mostly. I’ve had a chronic daily cough for months (it started right when I began volunteering at the shelter — coincidence?) and it would be great to have a primary care physician check it out, but that’s not realistically going to happen until I get health insurance. Obamacare should come through for me in 2014, if a job doesn’t.

      • How’s the air at the shelter? I always had dry throat/cough when I worked at the library, something about the institutional building and the HVAC system. I’ll hope it’s just a bit of dry throat, or something, and that you feel better soon. Have you tried those special mints for dry mouth? Meant for people that side effect from medications, but maybe they would help.
        Oh yeah, the BMI calculator. Boo. I’m pretty sure you’re more fit than me and my doctor actually called me slim the other day, leading me to tell my husband, wow, she must see some big ladies every day. Who cares if she’s grading on the curve, though, I’ll take it.

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