I know that “running” on an elliptical isn’t really running, but I just did about 10k over an hour on the the thing and the last time I did any physical activity that made me pant and sweat like that for an hour, I think I was in labour. Or maybe it was whatever happened on tequila shooters night that precipitated needing new drapes in the bedroom. EITHER WAY, my point is that right around the 30 minute mark (which is the usual length of time I “run” on the elliptical – elliptical because my knees are kerfuckulated), I thought hey, this isn’t so bad. In fact, the reason I thought of doing this monumentally irrational thing is because YESTERDAY I did about 5K (which is about what I normally do, give or take) and at the end of my run, I kept running because I liked the song that was on. I thought, hell, if I can run for an extra three minutes and feel completely energized, I can do a whole hour!
Behold the awesome power of cenologic. It’s like any other logic except it’s often circular (ELLIPTICAL! HA!) in nature, or, more often, several steps are missed in the sussin’ between point A (“I am getting better at running for 30 minutes”) and point B (“therefore I can run for a whole hour with grace and it’ll be relatively easy!”). When you couple cenologic with stubbornability, you get someone who thinks they can run for an hour.
I mean, this is like people assuming they can write a book just because they have an idea (I mean, you CAN write a book if you have an idea, but, like, it’s not easy to write a book. And it’s even harder to sell that book) or people who think they can drive because they played Mario Kart(tm) that time at a party after several drinks. It’s like deciding that rack of lamb should be a breeze after you boiled those hotdogs all by yourself.
Here’s the thing. I started going to the gym a few years ago because I was fed up with being fat. I’m going to take a brief divergence here – please indulge me. I’m not a fan of “fat-acceptance”, and I’m not a fan of body shaming. I’m even less of a fan of catch phrases and lingo like “fat-acceptance” and “body shaming”. So just to be clear about what’s happening after this bit, “fat” is a word. It’s just a word. It functions usually as an adjective. It describes the nature of something or someone. It can be denotative (“the steak was well marbled with fat”) or it can be connotative (“I got a fat cheque last pay period”). There is nothing wrong with the word “fat”.
It’s not a bad word. It’s not a bad THING. We NEED fat in our diets; we NEED fat on our bodies. Some of us (myself included) have more fat on our bodes than we really need. For some of us, that becomes painful (emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially, you name it, it hurts). For others, it’s not that big of a deal. “Fat” is not a four-letter word. When I say “I’m fat”, I mean “I am fat”. I mean “I have more fat on my body than I need”; I mean “I am overweight”. And it’s true! It’s not a bad thing I’m saying about myself.
Which is to say, *I* am not making a value judgment about myself, my eating habits, my energy level, my cleanliness, my mental state, or anything else when I say “I am fat”. I am stating a fact.
I am also many, many other things. It takes too long to mention them all, so often when I’m thinking of one of them, I just say “I am -” I am strong. I am funny. I am clever. I am caring. I am. Being fat doesn’t take anything away from any of the myriad other adjectives I use to describe myself. Being fat doesn’t take anything away from *me*. From who I am. It is just one way of describing me.
There are bazillions of synonyms people use to try to soften the blow of the three-letter four-letter word: chubby, plump, larger, bigger, curvy, Rubenesque, plus size. I hate most of those far more than I hate “fat”. “Bigger”, “large”, “plus size” – all of those words are used to compare me to a tiny subset of a healthy person’s body size. And I don’t know how many people have actually seen Peter Paul Rubens’ work – he was a Flemish painter who worked in the Baroque period (so, he was working in the 17th century, around the same time as Handel, Bach, and Pachelbel – this was between the Renaissance and the Classical periods when people were really just rediscovering light). The word “Rubenesque” comes from Rubens’ paintings, many of which depicted cherubs and dancing ladies with – God forbid – normal bodies. His work has been described as idealizing “plump” women – the word “Rubenesque” is often defined as “plump and sensuous”. But that’s altogether too pat. Rubens painted over 1,400 pieces in his lifetime (that’s a fuckload of painting). His nudes – men, women, and children – were soft-bodied and sensuous. But the man should be known for far more than just “painting fat women” (which he didn’t do).
Anyway, I’m way off track here. I was tired of wallowing in self-loathing over the state my body was in, so I started going to the gym. I thought I would hate it, and I went once a week for about a year or so, gradually working up to going pretty much every day, first thing in the morning. I started out swimming, then moved on to the bikes and was basically horrified at how out of shape I had become in the 5 or 6 years since my youngest had been born. I thought I would hate it. I thought I would hate anything other than swimming.
I didn’t hate it.
It became a time I carved out for myself. It was just me and whatever machine I was working on. I knew very little about things like resting heart rate and working heart rate (even though we’d learned all that crap in phys ed in school). I knew how to use the weight machines and the cardio machines. And it’s not like I’d done NOTHING in all those years – I swam, I danced, I walked to the post office sometimes.
But there’s a complacency that sneaks in when you’re not looking. Things become habit, and when they’ve become habit, that means they’re not really a challenge anymore. So instead of doing 10 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes of weights, I went to 20 minutes on the elliptical and 10 minutes of weights (weights are easy because you can up your reps or your weights rather than the time you spend at them to ramp things up). I started doing things like “challenge yourself to do 100 squats a day for 100 days” (I did. I certainly learned what muscles are involved in doing squats!). I changed the way I ate. I began tracking what I ate.
And I began gaining more weight. Roughly a pound a week. My body shape wasn’t changing; I wasn’t trading in muscle for fat. I began going to a series of doctors. They sent me to endocrinologists. This story is very long and convoluted, but the end result is that I was told “you’re fat because you’re crazy” and “you’re fat because you don’t understand that in order to lose weight, the calories you consume must be fewer than the calories you burn.” As if I were a dunce. As if I hadn’t been tracking the calories I consume and burn for four goddamned years.
My naturopath swore for a while when I told her that, and recommended a weird-sounding high fat diet (after I ‘fessed up that I’d lost four pounds after I quit going to the gym and sat on the couch eating poutine and drinking milkshakes for a week). The trick is, I had to eliminate most sugars, including all grains. She also told me to stop doing cardio for a while.
So I stopped going to the gym. I did yin yoga at home, I went for walks, but no more 30 minute runs. No more weight lifting. And it worked. I started dropping weight.
I’m going to skip over a bunch of shit here, to bring us to today, where I’m not following the eating plan as strictly as I should, because I don’t want to. But I follow it pretty closely. I’m back at the gym. I’ve been running 30 minutes a day (and doing weights) for the past three months (I had to take time off when I had my surgery in November). Since this summer, when I hit one of my own all-time high weight points, I’ve started dropping weight again.
Very, very little. Because, you see, being less fat isn’t my goal. Losing weight isn’t my goal. I was so frustrated for those years where I was doing everything people told me I should do and it wasn’t working that I figured, via cenologic, that it wasn’t the method that wasn’t working; it was the goal itself that was poorly chosen.
I bought a “wearable” (if that isn’t the most vague descriptor, I don’t know what is) – it monitors my heart rate, my sleep, my activity level, my steps, and it syncs with the software I use to track my diet and exercise. You can fool it sometimes (I discovered I can track, like, 2,500 steps by giving a hand job), but for the most part, it’s pretty good.
My resting heart rate has dropped from 79-80 bpm (which was at the “top end of normal”) in July to 65 bpm. I have more energy. I sleep better (WAY better). The brain fog is gone (not all of this is due to exercise; when I gave up sugar and grains, I also gave up swollen ankles, sore hips and back, brain fog, and most headaches). I smell bad.
I mean. I smell bad at the gym. Holy rolling dumpling tray of Judas’ lunch, do I sweat – I’ve always been a sweater, but the last few weeks I’ve been wringing out my bandana. WRINGING IT OUT. Gross.
So today I ran for a whole hour. It’s the first time I’ve done that, ever. I’ve biked and been cross-country skiing for over an hour, although I took breaks; I swim for an hour at a time without breaks, but I’ve never run for an hour. It feels good.