My Elliptical; My Nemesis
When I was a kid, I had terrible asthma. I mean, really terrible asthma—trips-to-the-ER-for-nebulizer-treatments-when-I-got-sick, rescue-inhalers-for-any-time-I-ran-too-fast kind of terrible. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard of Pavlov that I quickly came to associate exercise with feeling awful. Exercise-induced asthma will do that to you. (And hey, it looks like I told you about this once before!)
Fine, I’ve already talked about how exercise started out making me feel like I couldn’t breathe, and even now that my asthma isn’t quite so vicious, I still bear the lingering “but I can’t do this” sorts of doubts. Exercise does not come naturally to me. I don’t like being sweaty, and I just haven’t found any exercise that I really enjoy. “Oh, I just LOVE running/cross-fit/cycling/yoga!” my friends say. I never love any exercise. I like swimming, kind of, but mostly I like just floating around in the pool. Possibly I am missing the exercise-love gene. Mostly I am happy if I find some sort of exercise I don’t actively hate. When my crazy exercise-loving friends start yammering on about “endorphin highs” I strongly suspect this is an ongoing joke meant to trick people like me into exercising, and really it’s all a hoax.
And you know, that strategy of avoiding pointed exercise worked for many, many years. I was fairly active (on my feet a lot sort of active, not running marathons active), and I was thin, and I was young. Now I sit at a desk a lot and I’m not as thin as I used to be and my mother was right, diamonds are forever but good metabolism is definitely NOT.
Enter the elliptical machine. We bought it off of Craigslist a few years ago when I became determined to Do Something and Get Fit or die trying. I would love to tell you that it was all about boosting my health and self-esteem and such, but really what had happened was that my favorite jeans became unbearably tight. And that sucked.
So there I was, armed with the knowledge that shallow was deeper than me, with a brand new elliptical parked in my bedroom. For a dogged period of about six months, I got on that cursed thing at least three times a week. I would turn on the television—it didn’t matter what was on, only that something was there to distract me from the knowledge that I was pedaling to nowhere because I lacked the resolve to give up ice cream—and pedal, pedal, pedal.
I hated every minute of it.
What I did not hate was the ten pounds I lost, or the definition that appeared on my upper arms, or the bevy of compliments that came my way, or shopping for new, smaller clothing. I didn’t hate any of that at all.
Somehow, my time with the elliptical tapered off. Life got busy, there were other things I’d rather do, and my jeans still fit, so… meh. Why get on the stupid thing if I didn’t have to?
It took well over a year… probably closer to two years… but guess what! Those ten pounds I lost seem to have found me again. In fact, I think they brought friends. I cannot IMAGINE how this happened, what with the excellent year my family has had, and all of that coping via food (“all my feelings taste like Nutella!”) I did. It’s a puzzle, for sure. Ahem.
Every morning I get up and look at the elliptical. Every morning I decide I have “too much work” and I need to get to my desk. Every morning I reason with myself that I need to get on there for the RIGHT reasons, like that I want to be healthier and develop good habits for life, rather than just ZOMG YES MY BUTT LOOKS BIG IN EVERYTHING, ALWAYS. I use the fact that my motivations are shallow to keep me off the damn thing, because I shouldn’t be so worried about how I look, right? But I am, because I don’t feel like myself (myself apparently feels smaller than my current size), and yet I’m completely annoyed with myself both for not exercising AND for caring about a few extra pounds.
I am an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, twisted up in cerebral slug. You’re welcome for that visual.
The elliptical is the only method of exercise I’ve ever been able to stick to for any period of time, so it stands to reason I should just get over myself and get up on it as soon as possible. On the other hand, I am still sort of holding out hope that there’s some exercise out there that I just love and that fits into my hectic schedule and delivers that mysterious endorphin high people keep insisting is a real thing. And then on the third hand, if I had one, would be this troubling issue of how I only ever care about exercising when I feel fat (and rationally I know I’m not fat, I’m just… soft). And then I feel like Hey, I’m not going to exercise because of society’s ideals about my body! I’m a feminist! But the truth is that I’m a feminist who is unhappy with the status quo here in my jeans.
Basically, I’m having trouble finding the “Body Acceptance” and “Healthy Habits” buttons on the elliptical. Weird, right?
Any former reluctant exercisers out there who can help me find my mojo, either in terms of viewing this process in a healthier way or in just getting off my ass and getting to it?
(For More Mir)