Stories on the edge of familiarity

How to Get Fit Without Exercising

I hate exercising.

Seriously, I find treadmills and exercise bikes boring, weight lifting utterly pointless, and jogging? Ugh. About as exciting as drilling holes into my own skull*.

That can’t be comfortable.

There’s a huge worry in our society about the costs of inactivity, ranging from the fact that sitting on the couch all day watching TV is socially frowned upon to the fact that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to premature death. Studies keep coming out saying that being active is one of the best things you can possibly do for your body**.

Well, gee, I’d really like to not die of chair-sitting.

But I hate exercising. So I haven’t.

If you’re like me, you get this. You want to be healthy, but the ways that people have told you to be healthy make you want to rub a cheese grater on your forehead instead.

It just doesn’t make sense that we would loathe something that makes us healthy. I mean, if we’re treating our body right, shouldn’t that make us feel awesome?

Beyond that, I’ve never understood the logic behind exercising. Allow me to explain:

Me: Why are we supposed to exercise?

Them: Because it builds up muscles, strengthens the heart and increases flexibility.

Me: Why do I want all those things? I mean, they all sound great, but I don’t understand why I can’t just be happy with an unfit body.

Them: Because then you’re fit! You’re healthy. If you have an unfit body, you can get disease and your body will break down.

Me: So, I’ll walk around a bit every once in a while. It’s not like I never, ever move. Seriously. What’s the point in being so wonderfully healthy?

Them: Because you want to be healthy.

Me: Okay, now you’re just putting words in my mouth.

Them: Don’t you want to be healthy and wonderful and have everyone love you?

Me: I am wonderful and I don’t care if everyone loves me. Why do I want to be healthy? Why do I want my body to function at its best?

Them: Because it’s wonderful. It feels good.

Me: How exciting. But what is the purpose to being healthy?

Them: It means that your body is working at its best.

Me:

Because I’m pretty sure we already covered this.

So let’s just throw out this exercising just for the sake of being healthy thing. Let’s also throw out phrases like “getting active” or “increasing activity level” or “living an active lifestyle” because I could care less.

My life doesn’t revolve around my body.

Now, with that all said, I do want to be fit, because that’s different. The idea of “being fit”, perhaps unexpectedly, implies less of a state of being and more of an enabling myself.

People who are healthy are just… healthy. But people who are fit can do things. They can run to the bus stop without getting out of breath, they can play sports without dying of exhaustion a quarter of the way through.

They can do bowling without their wrist crapping out after the first game so that they go from beating their middle-aged aunt to being beaten by their four-year old cousin who’s using a ramp. Yeah. True story.

Because I want to do things with my body, I want to be fit. But it’s not just that.

I love gaining mastery over things. I love getting to the point where I know I could do something at the drop of a hat, and do it perfectly. I love being able to do things with my body rather than despite of it.

It’s not just about doing things. It’s about taking pride in the ability to do them well.

So, a few weeks ago, after realizing that sitting around all day makes me feel like crap, I thought about the fact that I want to use my muscles, and I was like: “Well, what do I want to use them for?

Next thing I knew, I’d not only decided to take fencing and archery lessons, but I’d also found out where I could take them. On top of that, both locations are about a fifteen minute drive from my house, have special summer classes, provide equipment, and are very reasonably priced***.

Oh, and I went to my first fencing lesson yesterday and I LOVED it.

But that’s not even the cool part. When I got home from learning about basically everything to do with fencing (no joke, that coach is intense), I was already thinking about how to make myself better in between lessons.

‘Those things are heavier than I thought,’ thought I while getting ready for bed. ‘And my shoulder was the part that was complaining the most. I think I’ll lift weights to make that stronger. Oh, and I need to work on my stamina if I’m going to be able to make it through the next lesson without being totally out of breath, so the exercise bike would probably be my best option. What about my technique? I have a stick that’s lighter than a foil, but it’s totally the right shape, so I can use that. The only thing is that I’m going to be lopsided, doing everything with one side of the body, and that’s just going to feel funky. Looks like I’ll be working on being ambidextrous…’

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Weights? Exercise bike? Practising lunges with my non-dominant hand? I thought I hated exercise!

As an end to itself, sure. But, man!

I LOVE FENCING!

“One day, you too will be able to float like me.”

Here’s my point: ignore the experts and why they want you to move around. Find something you would love to be able to do, do it, and give yourself a reason to do it well. For me, it’s just the sheer joy of being able to do something really cool. For others, it’s to win competitions. To others, it’s because the thing they’re doing makes them feel alive.

As you discover limitations in your body that keep you from doing the thing as well as you would want to, or that would keep you from feeling as awesome as you want to while you’re doing the thing, strengthen, stretch and move your body so that those limitations disappear.

As those limitations disappear, let yourself love how much better you’re getting at this thing you want to do well in. And, if you’ve get to a point where you’re happy with where you are and don’t care about getting better anymore, then congratulate yourself for reaching your goal and go find out what other crazy awesome thing you can do.

Because, really, the point isn’t exercise, activity, fitness or even that seemingly elusive “being healthy” thing.

The point is living.

*incidentally, this is also known as trephining and was used as a surgery to treat a variety of ailments, including chronic debilitating migraines. Sometimes, it even worked.

**at least, that’s what my mother says when she’s telling me to get off my butt.

***if everything lines up this perfectly for you about something you want to do the moment you decide and start acting on it, you can know without question or shadow of a doubt that you’re doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. It’s like everything was screaming YES and FINALLY at me when I saw the results of those Googles searches. I would have been an idiot to change my mind.

7 Responses to How to Get Fit Without Exercising

  1. I actually love this post, you have no idea. Exercise just for the sake of exercise has baffled me and annoyed me and all my “healthy” and “fit” friends (including my partner) are all “Oh, but being fit has so many benefits! You feel great about yourself and you look better!” I already feel great about myself (okay, not GREAT) and honestly? Appearance just isn’t that big of a deal to me.

    So yes, 100% agree :)

    Also, glad you loved fencing!

  2. I am totally with you on the exercising. Excuse me? Working up a sweat and a pounding heart for no other reason than to work up a sweat? Go fuck yourself. Pardon my french.

    Although, I will say, being fit and/or healthy *does* feel great. It really does. When I was working blue collar, I felt amazing and strong all the time. But the work I put in to get that way? I was getting PAID to do it, let’s put it that way.

    I do want to take aikido. It is, however, NOT cheap.

    • Being fit most definitely does feel great, and I really do want to feel great because of being fit. I guess what I’ve been looking for is a more transcendent reason for getting fit. I mean, if being fit and healthy is what our bodies need, then, really, that kind of feeling is what our normal’s supposed to be. So, if that’s supposed to be our normal, then that’s a really crappy way of rewarding ourselves for taking care of our body.

      Yes, I’m looking for a transcendent meaning around weight lifting. Can you tell I took philosophy classes last year? :P

      As for aikido, that looks SO COOL. I really hope you get a chance to try it out. :D

  3. I also can’t stand “exercising just to exercise” – I get bored. Throughout my life my main physical pursuits have been soccer, figure skating, and capoeira – because they are actual sports/games, the exercise is like a byproduct, you know?

  4. i love the fencing story and i am looking forward to hearing about how that develops, as a sport and as inspiration for your writing.

    Some thing called “peak fitness” is a 7 minute workout I actually enjoyed for about 8 months or so. It is very efficient, and not long enough for boring… I have seen results that helped my LIFE and ART, for example that it became easy to walk the hill up from my house and, doing that, I found amazing things to photograph that i would never have seen driving by, including 2 goats standing on a tree branch beam their owner had built in the middle of a field.

    I wandered away from Peak 8, my walks and those goat friends, when my cat disappeared… after almost 10 months of adjusting to her loss, i am returning to some things, including once a week boot camp, working up to a daily uphill walk again, participation in the putty tribe and getting a blog of my own.

    I definitely i agree, i’m not one to enjoy exercise “for it’s own sake”…the first time I joined a gym was when i was a typesetter and sat 8 + hours a day in front of a computer typing…after my first 2 weeks on the job, i wanted to run away, but I had made a commitment to 2 years. I found that by joining the gym, i developed the muscles to support me during those days of sitting and producing quantities of type–without going nuts or getting carpal tunnel syndrome… i actually found ways to make the gym time a playtime, by dancing in the racketball courts when nonone was using them. Also, i think the fitness helped me to have energy to do things after my work day, to feel like myself: acting and math classes at night, playing music and painting a couple of days a week, and reading my poetry at readings.. with those activities to round out my life, this puttypeep managed to be relatively balanced for those years. . a fringe benefit of the gym was the sauna there, which I discovered was a great place to memorize my lines for the plays in acting class!!

  5. Love this! This is exactly the reason why I rejected “going to the gym” for years… and recently jumped at the chance to take parkour and martial arts. Now, I’m totally out of shape. Like 20 years and 70 pounds too heavy out of shape.

    Why in the world would parkour — the activity of the 20-yr old lean-and-fit male — turn me on and get me off the couch?

    Because it’s movement. It makes sense. It’s using your body for something it was made for — running, jumping, climbing. Escaping bears and hoodlums and chasing down purse-snatchers. lol.

    Anyway, once I realized that it was movement and using my body to DO things, as you said, to LIVE — then “exercise” became fun.

    • Yeah, I really do think that if we have a reason to move that excites us, then we’ll get up and move, no matter what excuses we had before.

      Also: Parkour is freaking awesome. It’s not something I’d want to try, but I love watching people do it. I have a ton of respect for you for doing it.