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On Fitness

On Fitness: A blog post about how much I'm over the blogosphere's fitness craze

No no, don’t leave! I swear, I’m not going to tell you to boost your protein intake, or bake a 100 calorie “chocolate cake” to satisfy your sweet tooth (because god knows that shit is NOT chocolate cake), or to follow the latest Instagram fitness queen. We’ve had enough of that, right? We’re sick of being told to “drop it like a squat” or “train insane or remain the same”. We don’t need the 10 minute butt workout, and if I see another blogger post a recipe of protein pancakes I swear I will scream! THEY DON’T TASTE LIKE PANCAKES!

Phew, now that I got that out of my system…

Go hard or go home..?

When some of you commented on how much you loved my super simple fitness journal in Filofax Love it got me thinking about fitness and about how complicated it can often seem. On one hand most of us sit by a desk for 8 hours a day and are dying to crash on the couch when we get home in the evening. On the other hand there are a million shredded workout gurus who make it seem like your workouts are pointless unless you end up with a six-pack and a butt that shouts “I do 1000 squats before breakfast”. I have nothing against fitness gurus. They do their thing and have their audience. But something happened a few years ago and suddenly it seemed like everyone were eating protein bars, drinking protein shakes, and trying to look like fitness models. It seeped into the mainstream and became just another source of pressure to look a certain kind of way. Sure, “strong is the new skinny” sounds a lot better than Kate Moss’s undying “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, but no matter how you slice it the ideal is still pretty damn thin. Same shit, different wrapping. But hey, before I get to the point, let me tell you about my *~fitness journey~*.

The beginning

Up until the age of 21-22 I didn’t work out at all. Never had. I walked to uni and back, and the rest of the day was spent playing World of Warcraft. It was awesome then and there, but not very good for my body – I was tired all the time, took afternoon naps every day, and my eating habits were atrocious. I was sick a good handful of times every year. However, when a friend moved into an apartment close to where I lived she practically forced me to join a gym and work out with her, and after the few first months of struggling I finally saw the light. Working out is great. I stopped feeling tired and got a proper energy boost, I didn’t get sick as often, and I was having fun. Then we booked a beach holiday for the summer, and I stopped having fun because I got obsessed with the idea of getting the “bikini body”. Ugh, I know. Walking cliché. I cardioed my butt off (literally) and looked great, only to eat everything I had deprived myself of within the course of just a few weeks once I got back from my vacation. I didn’t bother to get back to the gym either – autumn was so cold and wet and uninviting after all – and I spent my evenings inside with my favorite junk food. It all culminated with the mandatory Christmas binge, only to start working out “for summer” again once the new year rolled around. The cycle continued for years.

The revelation

Then, two years ago on the dot, something clicked. I had been working out like a champ all spring and summer and for once I was actually enjoying it. In fact, I was in the best shape I had ever been in. Nowhere near fitness model shape, not by a long shot, but I felt strong and I was really enjoying the fact that I could run and lift and do things with my body that I had never been able to do before. Then depression hit me for the third time, and this time around with a brand new symptom: extreme fatigue. Over the course of just a few weeks I felt so tired that I could barely walk my dog around the block anymore. I felt out of breath after walking up the three little flights of stairs to our apartment, and had to lay on the couch for several hours in the afternoon. Something as simple as walking to work in the morning was suddenly completely out of the question, an activity that I had taken completely for granted all my life up until then. I felt sick and sad and wanted nothing more than to run and go for walk and hike the hills around my city, and for once it had nothing to do with my appearance. I missed doing those activities with all my heart. Sadly it took several months before I figured out that the fatigue was a symptom of depression, and it took another few months until my treatment had worked well enough for me to feel better, by which time allergy season had started and made sure I had to stay inside for a little while longer.

Slowly getting back in shape

All in all it took nearly a year until I was healthy enough to start moving properly again, but I haven’t stopped moving since. It’s not a daily thing by any means, but I have tried to find a routine that I can stick with week in and week out without getting bored or exhausted. My fitness level isn’t dictated by season anymore, and neither are my eating habits, as I finally realized that you have to be in it for the long haul. I try to look the same way I look at brushing my teeth or removing my makeup before bed: sure, it can be boring at times and sometimes I’m tired and would rather just skip it, but I still suck it up and do it because it’s just one of those things. I try to not set too many goals anymore, because things happen – this year I have had tendonitis for 6 months and I hurt my leg twice, which meant that I had to take long breaks and start again pretty much from scratch when my injuries were healed, and a few weeks ago I started taking allergy vaccine shots once a week who leave me completely worn out for days afterwards. That’s just life, but it sure gets a hell of a lot easier when you’re not in hysterics because your twisted ankle ruined your chances of looking like Miranda Kerr for summer. Also, when you’re not dead set on being able to lift X amount of weight by X amount of time it gets easier to replace your usual activities when something comes up. Sure, you can’t lift much with a painful wrist, but I could still run or go for a hike. The important thing is to do something, not the end result, at least for most of us. And yes, I am trying very hard not to quote Nike right now. Do the thing, and who cares about your butt, or what you’re wearing, or your non-existing six pack. The important thing is to stay healthy and feel good. And to eat your carrots, but to also have a pain au chocolate once in a while. Because YOLO.

I’d make the worst lifestyle guru.

My fitness: the happy middle ground

I guess it all boils down to the fact that I’m sick of the extremes. Our choices aren’t couch potato VS shredded fitness guru, but it sure can seem like it a lot of the time. And you don’t want to be the couch potato (so passé), which makes disgusting whey protein pancakes the only real option, right? I call bullshit. I want three cheers for the casual gym bunny, the middle ground, the good enough. The healthy, feel-good, happy kind of fit. Squat-grown butts are great, but flat butts are great too. Or big wobbly butts. It’s all cool. Your body is going to last you well into old age (hopefully), and at some point we need to start treating it nicely and think about what it needs rather than what it looks like. It needs nutrients and movement and to have its muscles challenged every once in a while in order to function properly. I can do as many sit-ups as I want, but it won’t change the fact that I need to work on my back and shoulders to keep the damage from my desk job at bay. I could do hours on the treadmill, but taking a hike is so much more pleasant. I could run my usual lap around the local lake two times in an hour, or I could walk it once with my dog and give her some much-needed time and attention while I’m at it. It’s something. Good enough. Any activity is better than no activity. Which is what I was trying to express in my super-simplified fitness journal. I’m sure I could have explained this in less than 6 paragraphs, but I felt like having a ramble.

What are your thoughts on the current fitness craze? Are you into it? Over it? Not fussed in the slightest?

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16 Comments

  1. Du skriver så utrolig bra! Jeg er en av dem som er ganske opptatt av dette. Siden jeg la om livsstilen i januar har jeg trent og trent, og telt tusenvis av kalorier. Det har vært og er en læringsprosess, spesielt når man er såpass overvektig som jeg har vært og er. Men man skifter mening hele tiden, og lærer noe nytt. Og jeg er enig; sjokolade er best med sukker og melk. Proteinbar er ikke så godt! Man trenger ikke trene fem ganger i uken for å gjøre det bra. Jeg lurer på hvor jeg er om et år.

    • Åh, jeg håper virkelig ikke du følte deg truffet av dette Caroline, for du har gjort en KJEMPEJOBB! Seriøst, jeg bøyer meg i alle slags støv for den livsstilsendringen som du har gjennomført, og man kommer ikke utenom å opprettholde et høyt fokus om man skal få de resultatene som du har oppnådd. Dette var mer myntet på gjengen som mener at man ikke har trent om man ikke ligger halvdød i grøfta etter den halvannen time lange intervalltreningen sin :)

  2. Three cheers for the casual gym bunny and big wobbly butts! I am so with you on this, I can’t even tell you. As someone who used to dance 6 hours a day, but then just… stopped… I can tell you I have had a very complicated relationship with fitness and exercise over the past year and a half. I found myself going through extremes, those same extremes you are ranting against, but they came naturally to me, rebelling and sitting on my butt or weeks and then feeling so physically and emotionally horrible from it I would start up with some crazy video system like P90X or Insanity and push myself to the ground with it. But slowly, with time, I’ve come to a more balance and mature place with it. I know my body needs something, and fairly often. But I also know that it can be a short jog or half an hour of yoga, or even just some decent stretching time, and that my body will thank me for that. I love the feeling of working my body to its limit and feeling so sore you can barely move the next day, but let’s face it, right now, at this point in my life, I just don’t need that. I need to feel energized and happy, and good about myself, and not have too many aches and pains. And I’ve come to realize too that though health is a great priority, all of that other stuff that drives us to go fitness crazy, that all ranks pretty low down the list of priorities, in my life at least.

    Hmm… something about the subject does seem to make us ramble…

    • I’m all for a good ramble!

      And yes, energized and happy. That’s exactly what I need. Stretching is good too. I actually dug up a yoga video on YouTube yesterday that looks similar to the routine I did when I went to classes, so I’m going to try to incorporate some stretchy goodness into my evenings. There really isn’t enough evening to go around though, at least not in winter. I have no idea how people with kids manage it all, because I can barely handle my own stuff ;)

  3. Åh Maja, jeg har det største girlcrush på dig. Gid du stadig spillede WoW, så ville jeg stalke dig rundt i Azeroth og omegn (spillede tilbage i 2005-9 og er lige begyndt igen; happy times)!

    Tak for indlægget. Jeg er enig i dine synspunkter omkring fitnessguruerne. Jeg synes, det navnligt er slemt på Instagram, der svømmes over af squat challenges og thigh gaps og whatnot – men det er faktisk endnu værre ude i virkeligheden, i mit center. Jeg er en generisk halvslatten hygge-skandinav, der helst spiser chokolade og læser bøger i sofaen (især når efterårsmørket rammer), men i løbet af det sidste halve års tid har jeg indmeldt i et fitnesscenter og forsøger at tage mig sammen til at komme afsted. Det går dog ikke særligt godt, hvilket først og fremmest skyldes, at jeg er magelig, men det er også en vigtig faktor, jeg simpelthen føler mig fejlcastet, når jeg er i det center. Dels er jeg en af de ældste (jeg er i midt-30’erne), dels er jeg en af de største (mit BMI ligger lige i kanten af normalvægtig), og dels er det ikke et sted, der taler til min smag og livsstil i øvrigt. Væggene er plastret til med billeder af 20-årige piger i mavebluser og reklamer for protein-shakes, indretningen er spartansk og musikken er uden undtagelse hypermoderne og larmende pop og trance a la natteliv. Det er som om, mit segment slet ikke er tænkt ind, hvis det giver mening – og når man i forvejen ikke synes, man helt lever op til idealerne, føler man sig lynhurtigt helt malplaceret. Det er ikke “come as you are”; det er “come and build some abs by training ferociously every morning and eating a ton of protein bars”.

    Jeg er i øvrigt enig i, at det er noget nemmere at etablere en træningsrutine, hvis målet ikke er ÅRETS BIKINIKROP 2015(TM), men når det i stedet handler om generel velvære. Med alderen tilgiver kroppen mindre og mindre, at man spiser dårligt eller arbejder i akavede stillinger.

    • OMG Stine! Jeg spilte fra closed beta til ca mars 2011! Da ga jeg meg, siden jeg innså at alt det andre kule som jeg hadde lyst til å gjøre til stadighet ble nedprioritert til fordel for spillingen. Men jeg savner det, for fy så gøy det var! Marius og jeg sitter fortsatt klistret til streamen fra Blizzcon hver år, for nostalgien sin skyld ;)

      Så synd å høre om senteret ditt – mitt høres ganske casual ut i forhold til ditt. Der jeg går er det mennesker fra 18-70 i alle størrelser og fasonger, og jeg håper og tror at alle føler seg velkomne (men det kan man jo selvsagt ikke vite sikkert). Det finnes helt sikkert et treningssenter der ute som passer for deg! :)

      • Der er også megen nostalgi forbundet med WoW for mig, så det er virkelig som at besøge sin egen fortid at komme tilbage. Heldigvis har spillet dog også udviklet sig rigtig meget – på en god måde. Men jeg forstår dig; det kan sagtens blive tidskrævende. :)

        • Marius kjøpte Warlords of Draenor forrige uke, så han spiller og jeg ser på. På den måten får jeg min WoW-fix uten å irritere senebtennelsen ;)

  4. So much love for this post. I am also in the middle ground, in that I tend to train to extremes, and chill out and chocolate to extremes, so those kinda equal each other out, right?;)

    I absolutely love working out, and due to the nature of my workouts I am often sore to the point of having problems getting out of bed in the morning, but I also have no problem skipping a day (or three) when my body needs it, or if I’d rather hang out with friends or my hubby. I also try to eat healthy (I don’t buy chips, candy, or other junk, only chocolate), but I have been known to eat a family size box of mac and cheese in one sitting, and I have never understood the point of protein powder when you can just eat meat instead. If that means I’ll never have a six-pack then I am so okay with that!

    • Hahaha! Work hard play hard, right? You seem to truly love what you do though, and I am super jealous for that. And you’ve become so good at it! I wish I could get as passionate about my workouts as you are :)

  5. I was smiling throughout the entire post. I’m with you on remaining fit to live well–whatever that definition is for you and your circumstances. I too am a cubicle dweller, monitor-worshipping blob for most of the workweek. I don’t like how my hips and back hurt sitting so much.

    I can relate to the dawning realization that fitness is a habit, not a seasonal activity. Fall/winter makes it a challenge to stay active because of the shorter hours. I’m lucky to live in a mild climate, but it’s hard to wake up and run in the dark when all I want is an extra 45 minutes to sleep. And yet if I go, I hardly ever regret running. I only regret the times I could have gone and didn’t. It’s weird to finally feel like that, but now even when I’m not in the mood I tell myself to do something light and I end up doing my full workout or run and I feel loads better physically and mentally for getting over the hump.

    I suppose if I had to add anything to your article, which pretty much encompasses most of what I’ve learned about fitness, I would say that every bit counts, and every day we make that choice toward a healthier us we improve by that much more. And I like the idea of meeting the Me 2.0.x every day I wake up, because she’s constantly being updated :)

    • Fitness is so difficult in the dark months. Getting my butt to the gym isn’t that difficult in itself, it is more the feeling of the day being over when you finally do get home, even though in reality it is only 6pm. You have the same amount of hours in the spring and summer, but daylight is so important in terms of energy and productivity. I also can’t help but feel a bit unsafe running in the dark, even though I know it’s silly.

  6. I didn’t see your post on the filofax until now and as a fan of pen and paper until I die its probably the best post I’ve seen all year. I have been hunting down a minimal simple to the point gets results regime for sooo long. So definitely going to borrow some of your concepts. I’m a bit of an extremist in bursts – doing nothing in all the wrong ways or falling for every hyped up dvd and group class from here to London. It’s insanity. And in fact insanity is the last cardio dvd I tried. Guess how that turned out :)

    • Haha! I have heard people mention Insanity, P90X and the like but I never actually looked into them myself. I live in a very old building and have people living underneath our apartment, so working out at home never appealed much to me. I’m way too nice and conscientious to jump around in my livingroom for an hour ;)

  7. I have come to this realisation about a month ago: that simply taking care of myself by working out to stay fit, doesn’t turn me into one of those horrible fitness freaks that are obsessed with protein, zero body fat and a fake tan :p (well, to each their own of course). I’m hoping I can keep up this attitude and make a good habit out of it. Great post!

    • Oh indeed, I think that’s a common misconception as well, that people are somehow afraid to work out in fear of waking up one day and realizing they look like Arnold Schwarzenegger ;)