First, hat tip to Ragen at “Dances with Fat” for reminding me to separate shame and judgement from my body’s current shape and size. She advocates the Health at Every Size philosophy. I tripped over her blog a couple months ago, and have been reading and enjoying it since. Something I read this morning in my pre-caffeinated state started me cogitating on not being at my desired level of fitness at the moment.
I don’t know if it’s weight that does me in specifically, although that can’t help. Particularly given the arthritic spinal injuries I have to manage, losing weight would empirically reduce the force gravity can apply to my damaged joints, and I expect that would help.
However, I KNOW exercising is critically important to feeling well, at least inside this skin I’m inhabiting. I’ve felt awful at my thinnest adult weight and fantastic while carrying around more than I have going on right now. Fitness level seems to be a better predictor of wellness for me than weight, and every time I’ve had a substantial weight loss it’s been preceded by an increase in my fitness level.
Dieting, if I’m not already aerobically fit, is a recipe for feeling awful. When I’m in good enough shape that I can tackle a 5-10 mile hike over moderate terrain and expect to feel energized at the end rather than terrible, it only takes a little nudge to my diet to get me losing weight.
I know I need to exercise. I’m not getting the exercise I need. I’ve lost the fitness level I had built up when I moved here from Philly. I don’t like huffing when I have to carry a 20 lb bag up a hill. I don’t like the aches in my feet and legs that I know will go away if I use them more regularly. I’ve been feeling bad about my inability to exercise, and getting angry at myself, but it hasn’t been helping. I’ve just gotten into a downward shame spiral with no bottom.
So, thanks to Ragen, I was doing some soul searching this morning. Somehow I let go of the usual “I’m not exercising because I’m a lazy lard bucket and I need to fix that NAO” language, and took a moment to think about why I haven’t been exercising. I realized the issue is competing priorities, and the priorities exercise is competing with are legitimate. They include keeping my job and sleeping.
The times of day I do best exercising, historically speaking, are times when I need to be at work. I’ve always been a morning person and exercise has best fit in my schedule first thing after getting up. The other time that works well is lunch time. Neither of those are viable since I work east coast hours from the west coast. Exercising before work would mean getting up and going by 4:30 am, and that’s never going to happen. Exercising at lunch time would mean missing the 3-4pm hour out east, which is the cherry meeting time. That schedule block has been filled on my calendar every day for 7 years. I need my job. Generally, I like my job. Having this job means I have to find a different time to exercise than I’ve ever been successful with in the past.
The time I’ve been trying to make work is after work, in the early afternoon. This has always been an energy low point in my day, and since I started working early mornings I’ve taken to frequently napping in that time slot. In the long run exercising instead will increase my energy level, but on any given day I may be experiencing a legitimate sleep deprivation, and I will always be feeling tired. Particularly if there’s something I would like to do in the evening I may have a legitimate need to nap, since I don’t want to konk out on friends at 8pm just when we’re meeting up to do something after dinner.
I have more understanding of my difficulties exercising after looking at my decision making process objectively. I need exercise, but I need sleep and a job too. Making priority calls between them is tough. It’s not surprising I’m having a hard time getting regular exercise to happen, given this priority conflict.
So I don’t know how to solve it. But at least now I have more insight into the problem I’m trying to solve, which helps tremendously. Somehow approaching myself gently with understanding feels so novel.
Today I was in no mood to hop on the treadmill after work. But I did feel like garden puttering, so that’s what I did. Instead of getting frustrated with myself for not wanting to get on the treadmill, I went out and watered and weeded. Light aerobic work, but more than I would have gotten had I napped. After the gardening I felt like continuing to move, so did some yoga and pilates. Nothing rigorous enough to break a heavy sweat, but enough to get my heart rate and respiration up.
It’s a step. I am content with that. Tomorrow I’ll take another one.