Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Worked out

I'm a 34-year-old woman who has never belonged to a gym. I've never run regularly or taken a yoga, aerobics, or any other fitness class. I might be the only person of my age, class, and dress size for whom these things are true.

Part of the problem is that I appear fit: I'm slim and I've been within 10 pounds of the same weight since I was 18. I guess I'm moderately active; living alone for 15 years has meant that I'm used to moving my own furniture, lugging bags of groceries around, and installing and uninstalling my 75-pound air-conditioner by myself. I also don't eat much, and I stretch regularly and use free weights occasionally.

But although I've never deceived myself that I was actually in shape, with no connection between how fit I looked and how fit I was, there wasn't much motivation to work out. I thought about joining a gym for a while when I was in my early 20s--I was living in Manhattan and it seemed like A Thing One Did--but there was always something more appealing to spend my money on.

And yet today I'm on the verge of joining a gym. I've had a trial membership at one for the past couple of weeks, and to my surprise, I like it. Turns out that stuff about endorphins? Is totally true!

More importantly, I'm 34, and while I hope that I have another 34 years in me--if not indeed another 50 years--this is the body I'm stuck with. It's not going to get any better.

Maybe there's something to that whole mens sana in corpore sano bit after all.


Renaissance Girl said...

Bone health, honey. It's all about bone health.

(And also the total endorphin high.)

What Now? said...

Wow -- that's a big change! Happy exercising.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I'm always happier when I exercise, and sleep a lot better. Plus I just read some new research (on mice, college students, and retired people) that shows that aerobic exercise demonstrably improves cognitive abilities! So yes to the bone health, and it's good for your brain too.

Sisyphus said...

I've never gotten that endorphin high thingy. Mostly it's just been that exercising sucks and it feels good to finally stop.

(BTW, my word verification is "sperm." What's up with that??? Hah!)

RLB said...

I'm with Sisyphus -- I've never felt good from exercising, only from stopping. I don't understand the endorphin high thing, and I've always wondered if I'm doing something wrong because I don't experience it. I've never found a form of exercise that I get any enjoyment from, which is frustrating because I know I could use the exercise. What made you do the trial gym membership in the first place? And what gym stuff are you doing there?

Flavia said...

RG: yeah, I started the free weights pretty much entirely because my doctor suggested it, for bone density.

RLM: I've been doing some cardio--about 30 min at a time on the elliptical--weight machines once a week (I had a trainer introduce me to them), and I've done one yoga class. If I join the very expensive gym my trial membership is at, I'll definitely have to do several classes a month to justify it.

I'm not sure that I love being on the elliptical so much, although it's gotten much easier & more enjoyable over the six or seven times I've gone. But I feel awesome and exhilarated for at least an hour afterwards.

As for what made me do it. . . eh. Partly it's that I'm at the top of my usual weight range, and it's seemed I'm not keeping it off quite as easily; I've also noticed that after a long, vigorous walk--which I really enjoy--I'm winded and exhausted. But really, it's mainly for the reasons I suggested: an interest in my long-term health, and perhaps feeling more at home in and aware of my body.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

About endorphin highs and whatnot: during my professordom, I never ever wanted to exercise. I went through periods where I did it, and yeah, noticed that I felt vaguely better, but it really didn't excite me. And then when I started law school I got really bored with sitting all the time, and really antsy, and actually WANTED to exercise, and I realized that spending 2-3 hours a day on my feet in the classroom (I almost always taught standing up) really was just physically tiring. Sadly, not in any way that helped my cardiovascular health or muscle strength particularly (though my back was always better when I was teaching regularly than when not), but still, it used up any of my desire for physical activity.

Now I've reached the point in law school where I'm exhausted all the time, so I'm not so much interested in exercise right now, either. But this summer, when I had a very traditional 40-hour work week, I REALLY liked working out after getting off work. Like, looked forward to it, and really enjoyed it at the time, and if I went more than 2 days without doing something, started to feel stiff and creaky and antsy, like I had to get out there and do something. I can't remember when I last felt like that (early 90s, I think??).

So while I know that exercise is especially beneficial when one is stressed out, and that the more you exercise, the more energy you have, I've definitely found that I don't much enjoy it or look forward to it unless I have a decent balance in everything else in my life.

(I just bring this up because I think having that balance is pretty rare, and that it can be hard to enjoy exercise under the circumstances under which a lot of us live!)

dance said...

I'm not very excited about machines or weights, but I really enjoy step aerobics classes, which works for me, because it sets a schedule and all I have to do is generate the effort to get to the gym, knowing once I get there I'll be glad. But if it's not step, I probably won't do it. Although what I like best about exercise is not so much the general health, but the reduction in self-consciousness and the increased comfort level with my own body.

New Kid, I also found, my first year as a professor when I had not yet bothered to join a gym and was doing nothing, that I did not gain as much weight as I should have. I attributed it to the energy burned by teaching.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Now I'm looking forward to some endorphin-high blogging goodness.

Enjoy it, Flavia!

Bardiac said...

For me, getting outside and moving around helps my morale and attitude tons. I think the outside part is almost as important as the moving around part for me. The gym never felt nearly as good as my bike does.

Did I mention how much I hate winter?