Gym Haters: Read Me
It’s March of 2012, I am balls deep in my senior year of college complete with a practicum project and an unpaid internship. I’m also very much a senior in college so every spare moment of time I have is spent partying. College has been a 5-year binge of booze, bar food, and very little exercise.
St. Patty’s has just passed, and as I scroll through Facebook to see if any photos from the weekend were posted, I come across what appears to be me, but can’t possibly, because I’m pretty damn sure I don’t have a big gut and a double chin….oh wait. Yes, that is me. I guess I just wasn’t sucking in. Or maybe I really am 35 lbs over my normal weight. I had heard of the Freshman 15…. But no one warned me about the Senior 35. “Shit. I’m graduating in TWO months, and I really don’t want to look like a whale.” I think to myself. “Time to get your fat ass in gear, Kel…but where do I start?”
So I put my sneakers on, and decided to go for a 3 mile run. Easy. No problem. I used to run three miles in my sleep in less than 24 minutes.
I get going, definitely remembering being faster and lighter on my feet 5 years prior. I turn the corner, and I’m out of breath. That was a half mile right? Not bad. I look down at my running watch, and it had been about 1000 ft. As much as I wanted to just turn around, I’m not a quitter… but I’m also not suicidal so I walked the rest of the 2.9 miles.
The next day, after deciding I wasn’t quite ready to start running again, I stopped into 24 hour Fitness, signed up with my student membership for $30 a month, and went for it. At home, I mostly ate fish and veggies. That’s what my parents eat so it must be healthy. I did this for two whole months. I was feeling good, looking better, and I had lost enough weight to finally fit into the white linen dress I had bought months prior for graduation.
Only for it all to come back. Once my goal was gone, so were the fucks that I gave. I started drinking, partying, and eating whatever the hell I wanted to again, but the weight came back faster and harder this time. The realization hit me: OH, I’m getting older, and now I have to like, do this for good. Fuck.
Now, in the years to follow, I’d stick with clean-ish eating for a few days a week, often times running or spinning in between, but it wasn’t until I moved to NH that I had given up on being a gym rat. I had an inkling while I lived in New York City, because I’d dread the gym, or Soulcycle, or Barry’s Bootcamp or whatever $40 work out I was doing that day. Mostly because I hate classes and working out with other people.
Things shifted when I moved to New Hampshire and joined a gym. Still super sick of that shit, I started thinking about what I liked to do as a kid. I loved soccer, basketball, volleyball, and I spent hours and hours in the woods with a bunch of boys, building forts, riding bikes, camping, taking dumps in buckets or tree stumps. I reached back to the funnest parts of my childhood to figure out what I could do that was both FUN and active. I started hiking again, going to the gym in the winter to shoot hoops with my boyfriend, things that seemed less like a chore and more like a fun choice. My hiking and running increased, and I effortlessly lost that 35 lbs I'd been carrying around since college.
Today, this is one of the first question I ask my clients when it comes to exercise: How did you play as a kid? Our sedentary adult lifestyles take us away from that active part of our life. Finding the way we liked to play, can be the way we like to move our bodies. I found my way back to hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and swimming this way. I was an athlete my whole life, and now that I’m an adult, I try to make all my hobbies my ‘playtime,’ and as a result, I haven’t had to consciously go get exercise in over a year and a half.
Maybe you took Karate as a kid. Go find a dojo! Maybe you took ballet or tap dance as a kid. Go find some dance classes! Maybe you liked playing in the woods like me. Go for a hike! Loved sports? Find some intramural leagues to play in!
If you can work PLAY into your daily life, it takes away the stress of feeling like you need to ‘exercise.’ Honestly, how boring and adult is that shit? Make it a part of your lifestyle. If your lifestyle has no room for play in it right now, it might be time to reassess some of your priorities. We get very caught up in what everyone else is doing. What workouts they are doing, and what diets they are trying. Social media tells us that in order to be fit we need to be #teamnodaysoff, but don’t buy into it. Do what feels fun to you. Try new things. Life is too short to be locked in a gym on a summer Saturday because its fucking “leg day.”
So if you’re still struggling with what exercise is right for you, if you feel like exercise is a chore, ask yourself how you loved to play as a child, and how that can translate into your life today. Our childlike selves are deep down in there (or right on the surface if you’re like me), and boy, do they want to play!