In which I learn something about exercising I should have known before

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Just to be clear, I don’t smile like this when I’m actually working out.

I’m hesitating to write this post and I’ve started and stopped a few times, composing it in my mind and throwing it out again. Body image and weight and exercise are such loaded topics and I personally get annoyed and sometimes roll my eyes a great deal when people over-post about their new miracle weight-loss program that everyone must try (for only X number of dollars a month and you only have to cut out these amazing foods and sweat like crazy and take these pills) works so well. Sure it does. And the emperor’s new clothes are so beautiful too.

First of all I feel I need to explain a bit of my background for those who don’t know me personally. I’m 34 years old. Until I left high school I was a very active dancer and I kept up with my dancing on and off through my first degree at University and then would randomly take a class here and there and choreograph and dance from time to time. Not as much lately. As much as I wanted it not to matter I was very proud of my body. I was always slim and fit with very little effort and I ate whatever I wanted but I enjoy healthy food and was never big on junk food but I ate a lot. When I turned 30 I noticed my metabolism slowing down and when I was 33 I gained 15 pounds in one year. This meant weird unexpected things like none of my clothes fitting (expensive revamping of my wardrobe) and a general feeling of discomfort in my body. Suddenly kneeling down pinched fat around my legs and felt weird. I had a harder time getting around and my back started to ache a lot of the time.

But I am a woman in my 30’s and all this is to be expected. I tried to come to terms with this new body that is still me as best as I could. I cut back on the amount I was eating, started running, bought clothes that fit me a bit better and just tried to deal with it. Afterall, there’s nothing unnatural about a woman gaining a little weight, especially around the middle, as she gets older, right? And it’s not like I was even outside of my healthy body weight according to charts, but I still felt uncomfortable in this body just like I felt uncomfortable in my now too small clothes.

Running and cutting back on eating when I was full helped. I stopped gaining weight but I didn’t lose any. That’s normal. Cardiovascular exercise isn’t a good way to lose weight but I felt a bit better. I can go upstairs without getting out of breath for example. I can even sprint for a bit and then drop back to a run without dying! These are big things! Then friends of mine were doing this program where they were eating according to, thankfully, realistic standards and doing 30 minutes of exercise every day and they seemed to be having pretty good results so one day when it was too hot to go out for a jog I went looking for a good exercise video and found the website Fitness Blender. They had all these free videos for just about any kind of exercise and level so I tried it out and liked it. I did a one week of a free 5 day set of exercise videos where each video was only 30 minutes and I loved it. By the end of the week I felt stronger, I was more flexible than I’ve been in who knows how many years and I’d lost 3 pounds. Some of my clothes that I’d given up on fit again and I just generally felt more “right” in my body.

I don’t know why I’ve shied away from strength training for so long. I tried with the wii active and liked it but the pause between exercises was always such a pain, having to put down one thing, move the controler, push buttons, it was just too much extra stuff that meant an hour workout only gave you about half an hour to 45 minutes of actual workout time. These videos transition pretty quickly from one activity to the next in a way that makes sense and I like that they show different levels of difficulty.

So why am I writing about this in my blog about teaching? Exercise is so important. I feel like we need to be teaching our students and also adults about just how important it is. That doesn’t mean necessarily going to a gym or running endlessly on a treadmill and it certainly doesn’t mean popping diet pills to lose weight. It means listening to people who know what they’re talking about. Not doing just one kind of exercise and not pushing yourself past the point of pain constantly but doing a variety of exercises even for a short amount of time every day. I also don’t want to imply that being healthy looks or feels the same for everyone. It’s not easy and we have huge societal problems with the cost of healthy food and issues about how what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. I’m not saying “This worked for me so everyone should do these things!” because I don’t think that’s true. But I do think that being healthier makes you feel better, regardless of weight or strength or flexibility. Being healthy feels good.

I feel like I’m getting my body from my 20’s back. I touched my toes with straight legs yesterday for the first time since I was 18. The ache in my back is gone, even when I bend over to do something. I have more energy than I had before. I hope I’ll be able to bring some of what I’ve learned into my classroom, making time EVERYDAY for little bits of exercise, using sites like Go Noodle to get myself and my students moving.

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One thought on “In which I learn something about exercising I should have known before

  1. Mary Jo says:

    So proud of you Jeannie. You write so well. I don’t care about your size etc. just want you healthy and happy. Love Mom

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