Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Advice to Friends on How to Get Physical, Part 2

Here are more things that I’ve done to try to become less of a fitness phobe. It’s a gradual change to my identity—not just my activity level. I think the 2 go hand in hand. Let me know if any of this “speaks” to you.

(See my new addition, now you can (gulp!) rate each post to let me know how I’m doing. I love the comments, but for those of you who are hesitant or in a rush, it still lets you have an anonymous vote , not to mention help me feel less in the ether all alone.)

1. Don't worry at the beginning about having to do 30 minutes. Just start and do what you can do. When you think you can't do more, go for a few more seconds. If you are walking, stay close to home (do circles or “pace”) or exercise in your house to combat the fear that you won't have the energy to get back.

2. Ignore, ignore, ignore that ubiquitously stated 15 minute mile! I walked faithfully for more than year and never achieved this. I sweated; I pushed, I lost weight, I improved. My best was like 16 point something minutes a mile. Just because you read it everywhere doesn’t make it the national average!

3. Do push yourself enough so that you sweat. Hard. (I know what you are thinking. You may be afraid. It’s OK. You’ll be OK.) It may take a while to get used to the feeling, and you probably don't believe me now, but it is in pushing yourself some where you finally will start to feel good after exercise. The ambling walk--like in the mall--is more tiresome and feels worse than a "pushing yourself" 10 minute walk. You've heard it before, but try it. Walk like you are hurrying to get to the train. Then slow down or even stop if you have to. But get used to pushing yourself a bit. It's OK if your heart beats fast. It's OK if you are out of breath/panting a bit. That's what happens to people who exercise. Doing it makes you one of them.

4. Get over your fear that if you sweat you are going to stink so you can’t sweat unless you shower. I can’t speak for men, but I’ve gone to the gym and sweated so hard that people thought I’d been swimming—and (gasp!) I didn’t stink. I’m pretty certain. I asked people I could trust to smell me! (I did!) Here’s the key thing—change shirts and your bra. Don’t wear the same sweaty bra even 2 days in a row. So you can walk at work and get sweaty and not have to take a shower. (I do blow dry my hair often—and I think that helps keep away that sour smell.)

5. Here’s a tough one. When you feel self-conscious—say something positive. Just own it and state it. (OK. I realize everyone isn’t as vocal as me. But you can say it to yourself.) Like when I go back to my desk with my make-up a little less than perfect after a workout or if the back of my hair is still damp or my cheeks are flushed, I say, “This is my afternoon look!” (I don’t say, ‘Oh, sorry I’m sweaty!). Don’t say, “I’m pathetic!” Say, “Wow! Look at me!” I am less embarrassed by people seeing how I look after exercise (they don’t have to know how MUCH activity it was to cause such reactions) than from gasping for breath from some “normal” activity—like, well, crawling under my desk to plug in something.

6. Accept it, there are those rare few people who seem to be fit and lean without exercising. They are the exception. Most fit and lean people work at it and exercise. You are not being persecuted. (Same is true with your kids. It’s not unfair that they need to exercise—all kids exercise! Some just do it more naturally than others! Kids want to move; yours may just be out of practice.)

7. Get the right shoes and socks. I love these socks: Thorlos. They are pricey, but they are worth it. They have extra cushioning in the heel and kind of “hug” your foot in the middle at the arch.

8. If you have painful areas, find ways to strengthen them or work around them. You may need professional help. I have osteoarthritis in my knees. I aggravated it after I’d lost 60 pounds and was a faithful walking by—get ready—wearing low heels in my big sprawling office complex. I saw an orthopedic doctor (I wanted more than 2 hours in his office to “see” him.) His advice was, “Go on the Internet and look for strength-training exercises you can do for your knees.” He didn’t bother to find out that I’d been a health care editor and writer for 20 years! So, I did that. And I went to gym. And it helped.

9. Recognize that you may have some aches and pains especially as you start out. This was my big revelation from breaking my wrist. My hand therapist said, “There is nothing wrong with your fingers. You are going to have to work through the pain.” Well, throw cold water in my face! What a new concept for me! But it helped me get through the aches in my knees (There IS a difference between discomfort and creaks and PAIN.). And I do allow myself to take ibuprofen.

10. Get the gear. (I love to shop!) I don’t mean go buy a super expensive machine before you’ve ever tried it. I mean, see what the other exercisers have and follow their lead. Get the water bottle. (My water bottle in the gym makes me feel like I belong. Getting one was a huge step toward my identity as a gym person.) Get the weight lifting gloves. Get the exercise bra. (Check Wal-
Mart--really--they carry lots of exercise bras for fat women--46 & up.) Get new exercise clothes that you feel comfortable and OK in instead of wearing your old stained, torn T-shirt. I don’t mean SPANDEX unless you like that . . . I just mean if you are dressing like you are a slob who doesn’t deserve to be with the others in the gym, STOP it. I bought a couple of long shirts (one pink; one gray) that don’t ride up when I left my arms over my head.


  1. Oh. I wasn't ready to stop reading. I want more! Again, I must agree with it all. I do feel like I dress like a slob at the gym. I have nice capri Nike pants that are actually sized XL, but my tops are old t-shirts that should be used in the garage and not worn to the gym. Great advice!

  2. Really good advice, all of it. Thanks for putting it all together like that.

    I have to learn to quit being a whiner about my knees, myself.

  3. Great advice. I'm with you on the socks--they're great!


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