Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Advice From Fit People
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With wee bits of advice and name calling (Jessie, Dr Maroon?) going on in the comments of my last post (When do the Endorphins Kick In?) I felt the need to try and clarify the psychological barrier I’m up against.
Feeling the pangs of mortality – midlife crisis and all that - I’m aware that it’s not just about how long I might have left to live, but the quality of that life. I’d rather spend my 60s and 70s in relatively good health than struggling to get up the stairs and worrying about every heart palpitation.
I’ve been on a healthy eating drive now for 90 weeks, 22 hours and 17 minutes (see Losing a Hundredweight), which has resulted in the loss of over 6½ stone. And while losing 93 pounds of excess fat will certainly have helped, weight is not everything – it’s also about how efficiently the organs are working which will contribute to the length and quality of the remaining years. Exercise too, it would seem, is something of a necessity.
But this is something I’ve always struggled with: while I enjoy a bit of Tai Chi here and there, I’ve never been into exercise. It always seemed like way too much effort for so little reward to me.
I want to be fitter; I’d love to be fitter; I just don’t want to have to go through the process of getting fitter. Quite frankly it terrifies me.
The reality is that I have NEVER been fit. I have no idea what it feels like to be fit. I cannot imagine it. I cannot visualise it. All I have to go on is fit people telling me that I’ll love it, despite all my personal experience to the contrary. If I go for a brisk walk I feel knackered afterwards. My 20-minute bike ride on Sunday took most of the day to recover from.
The arena of fitness has always been a mystery to me. From my perspective, looking into the world of exercise is like standing at the side of a frozen lake, wrapped up in several layers of thick clothing and wishing you were sitting next to a nice log fire with a glass of whiskey instead, while in front of you there are people making holes in the ice and diving in naked saying “Stop being a wimp – it’s good for you!” I’ve remained unconvinced while the participants couldn’t comprehend why.
My formative experiences of the fit were sadistic PE teachers at school who had no time for uncoordinated children who found no joy in running up and down a muddy field on cold, wet and miserable days, dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt.
Just like those who can eat 2 Maltesers out of the packet and put the rest away for later will never understand the severe and monstrous cravings of the food addict, and dog owners will never understand that when this beast the size of a shire horse with fangs like a sabre-tooth tiger comes bounding up to my terrified daughter that their words of “it’s ok, he’s just being friendly” act as no comfort to her whatsoever, so fit people never seem to understand the massive resistance there is from the never-fit to engaging in physical activity.
So when fit people offer well meaning advice, telling me I should start with 20 minutes of warm-up, 2 hours of actual exercise, followed by another 15 minutes of cooling off activity (I have no idea what that even means), and build up my regime from there, it hardly fills me with motivation and enthusiasm. The 20 minutes of warm-up alone seem beyond my ability.
My only hope is to do something that I can reasonably enjoy, start off at a low level and gradually work my way up. If I have to engage in activities I loathe (jogging, for example), in a miserable environment (out in the wind and rain), for periods of time that are going to leave me feeling physically sick (currently more than 10 minutes), then I just won’t get round to doing it.
I want to be fit and healthy. But never having been so means I have to rely on the advice of people whose expectations of what I’m capable of are far removed from my own perceptions on the matter.