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~*.
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.
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?