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.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cycling is a very good start Kim. It's minimal impact, which means it won't knacker your joints. I think two hours is excesive to start off with - you can stay in reasonable shape and get used to exercising doing 40 minutes at a time, three or four times a week.

Leave a day in between to let the legs recover. Dr. M's advice on the previous post was sound, but I'd cut down the times he advises by at least half when you're starting.

The main thing to remember is: anything is better than nothing at all. And it should hurt. It should not be agony, but you'll feel it, especially at first.

There comes a point (for me it's usually about two-three weeks, if I haven't been exercising for a while) when it suddenly feels a little bit easier, as your body starts to adapt and comes to expect the exercise, rather than go into shock every time you work out. Trust me, if you can get through the first month, that is by far the toughest time. After that, it more or less becomes routine instead of a chore.

If motivation's your problem, something like spinning class (though not yet, for God's sake; you'll combust) at a gym is good - the instructors tend to wring a bit more out of you just when you think you have nothing left to give. Gyms, however, are full of wankers, so maybe it's not worth the payoff.

kats said...

Get a dog. You have to walk it rain or shine. It's good for you and the dog. AND it's fun.

Conan Drumm said...

Hi again Kim, I never said you had to start with two hours! Start with a 20 min walk if you like, or five mins, just take it slow and steady and see if you can do more in the same time after a week or two.
Swimming is very good, if you can swim.
The very best of luck... it is possible.

Kim Ayres said...

Kav - there, you see? Straight into 40 minutes at a time, three or four times a week.

*Shudder*

Kats - sounds far too dangerous to me, judging by the post on your blog.

Conan Drumm - I know - the 2 hours minimum came from Dr Maroon.

I know that you were both (and Kav above)offering very good advice, and I do appreciate it.

What I'm aware of, however, is my own severe resistance to the idea of engaging in exercise. Maybe it's just laziness, but I think when you've never been fit, the intimidation factor is huge, and this doesn't tend to be understood by those who are,or have been, fit.

SheBah said...

It's very difficult to keep your motivation if you are doing it alone. Get your wife or a buddy to go with you. Then it's fun. And try just 20 minutes three times a week to start, or less if that's too knackering. It's easier to build up slowly. If you try to do too much too soon you'll just damage muscles, and lose motivation. Above all, don't feel guilty if you only manage 10 minutes - it' not meant to be penance and it's a start. Good luck.

BStrong said...

Shebah has a good point. Exercising alone can be boring for many people. Having someone to work out with makes it a lot easier and time goes by quicker. It almost turns into a social activity which to me is more fun than being alone while working out wondering when my endorphins will kick in.

Kav’s right as well. Cycling is a good low impact workout that won't kill your joint over time like marathon running. Plus, unlike running, cycling won’t make your nipples bleed:0

Conan Drumm said...

There's an Irish saying, 'Giorraíonn beirt bóthar' which translates as 'Two people shorten the road'

Kim Ayres said...

I can see how an exercise buddy would help.

Any of you lot live locally?

fatmammycat said...

"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."
Oh Honey, it doesn't get any more succinct that that.
Truth is Kim, none of really like to do what is required, at least not all the time, but as I've told you before, the days when you REALLY don't feel like going out and YET you do are the days you reap the most benefit.
Take it slowly, build it up and gradually it won't be as much as a struggle, give yourself six months and lets review this post.
I bet you a cheesecake you'll be feeling much fitter and much more capable.Fitness is like losing weight, it won't happen over night and it take consistency and effort. But like all the weight you've lost, it's worth it in the end.

Stella said...

Oh Kim I CAN relate! Trying to get myself fitter too but exercise is sooooooo boring! Absolutely no way would I go to a gym - boring boring boring. Walking is boring too but now we have a new dog I really should, aw hell, let himself do it after all it's his dog! Cycling is good, not taking it up myself, amount of boy racers around here you'd take your life in your hands on a bicycle. But I am not a complete lost cause, I have taken up swimming - allegedly the best excercise you can do - no weight bearing so no stress on joints and a great cardiovascular work-out. Best part is I LOVE it and no I am not a brilliant swimmer - could swim a bit, front crawl ok, back stroke hit and miss, breast stroke crap, can't tread water and am a scaredy-cat when out of my depth, so I decided to take lessons and have been doing so since September, have improved and am now taking a second hour long lesson a week and the kids and I go once a week as well. When I become confident enough I intend going swimming at least 3/4 times a week and keep on one of the lesson sessions - lessons are great cos they tell you what to do and make you do the work! Ahem, I NEED the encouragement! Anyway how about swimming? May not be your cup of tea but it is mine and you need to find something you enjoy.

Jupiter's Girl said...

Mabye what you are looking for is herbal, mineral, or vitamin.

Dr Maroon said...

You don’t have a choice. Purchasing such a luxury with all those expensive accessories, means that you must go out on it even if you just ride it down to the nearest public bench, sit there for a half hour and come back. To let it lie there unused in full view of your family would be a disgraceful self indulgence.

Conan Drumm said...

I see Dr Maroon was taught in the kill-or-cure school of medicine. He is wrong, Kim, do not attend to to him... or attend him...

Dr Maroon said...

Kim, start with 5BX.

It's very light to begin with.
You follow the charts and levels, there's no need to warm up as they actually contain the warm up bit and it's habit forming.
Go here and follow the insructuions and charts.


http://www.oakengates.com/5bx/


more 5bx,

http://www.idmclient.com/gettingfit/5bx.php

more 5bx,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5BX

Tree said...

Kim,

I had never really been fit in my life, even as a skinny teenager I was never really fit, I never got into sports and loathed PE class. I put on a few extra pounds ... ok about 25 extra pounds in my mid 20's. I lost some of it due to eating well but then I was stuck. And I knew I needed to excercise, but I too hated the idea of exercising.

Lazy? Maybe, but I think I was mostly intimidated by super fit/ active people. Despite all their talk and their "support" the goals I heard were ridiculus for me. I stopped going to every gym I joined feeling out of place and uncomfortable. And frankly it was boring too.

I decided to join one more gym, a small one that was a little more expensive and I got a personal trainer. I was so intimidated that first appt. One of the first things he said was that I needed to feel comfortable so I would actually come back, and he was right he listened to me and relaized my goal was not to to have 10% body fat but to lose a few pounds, get to a healthy realistic weight and increase my strength and endurance. Mind you the excercise did hurt the next day .. a lot, I won't lie. But it didn't last long. Then I lost 20 pounds and feel a million times better about my body and knowing I am healthier.

Sorry for the length of the post. While many people had very good recommendations I find working out with people does not work for me at all and I think its hard to give people you haven't met in real life a realistic work out regiment. I thought I would let you know what did work for me. I would recommend anyone invest in a good personal trainer.

Kim Ayres said...

Lots of thoughtful advice and insights - I really apppreciate it - thank you Kav, Kats, Conan,Shebah, BStrong, FMC, Stella, JG, Dr M and Tree.

Now I have to act on it.

Truth is, part of me is terrified.

Despite recently having another B12 injection, I still get tired very easily and am becoming aware of how my coffee intake is slowly creeping up to combat it.

Lack of B12 can make you anaemic (despite iron levels being fine), which of course means you tire out more quickly.

What I don't know is whether trying to push myself with exercise is going to make things better, or far worse.

And if I'm completely honest, I also don't know whether I'm just using that as another procrastination excuse.

It feels like a real and valid reason, but I know the human mind (especially mine) has a great capacity for conning itself to get out of things it doesn't want to do.

Stella said...

You know what Kim, think you're right - exercise is bad for you! Just back from swimming, second session this week - had us doing the butterfly stroke - I have never even attempted the butterfly, always thought it looked way too difficult and guess what? IT IS! Have pulled my shoulder! TOLD him I couldn't do it! And waaaaaaah it hurts.....

Anonymous said...

Once you start it is really worth it. Go hard (running, cycling or skipping), get your heartrate up to a point that you can't talk while exercising, and bring on the endorphine high. Then you'll feel like doing it more.

mary.whitsell@virgin.net said...

I hated PE with a passion when I was a kid. Our PE teachers were sadistic; like yours, they had no time for kids who were not coordinated and athletic. I was skinny and horrifically uncoordinated, and I particularly hated P.E. as I was exhausted by the heat (I grew up in the desert), and I resented all the tiresome and painful things we were required to do -- especially competitive sports like softball and volleyball, as I have poor hand-eye coordination to say the least. We were asked to run a mile every week and discouraged from drinking water, even on the hottest days. Unbelievable, but true.

I'm not sure when it all changed, but at some point when I was in my early twenties, I began to see that exercise -- or moving, as I preferred to think of it -- was actually fun. I'm still uncoordinated -- that will never change -- and I'm still not big on sports. But I love walking, swimming, hiking, moving.

As you have no doubt seen from all the comments you've gotten, exercise or sports or being active -- whatever you want to call it -- is different for every single person. But I really do think that it is vital for everyone to find their own way to get their body moving. What a shame that physical education teachers can't make P.E. a more joyful experience.

Kim Ayres said...

Personally I think that PE teachers, far more than Playstations and Xboxes are to blame for the lack of activity in the population and the rise of obesity - too many of us have grown up to hate exercise with a passion because of them