Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On fitness splainin, or why I won't give fitness advice

What, you may ask, is "fitness splainin?"

That's when someone, presumably knowledgeable about health, fitness, working out, etc, tells YOU what you should do with YOUR body.  Comments like:

"You need a low-carb diet to lose weight."
"All that running is going to destroy your knees."
"Steady-state cardio is terrible for weight loss. You need to do HIIT."
"You need to stretch before you run."
"Spin classes make you fat."

Oy and vey.  So much advice. So many advice givers. So many assumptions that what will work for one person will work for another.  Social media makes it easy for everyone to be an instant personal trainer, health guru, or fitness expert.

I read a lot of fitness/running magazines. Part of the reason for that is that I'm a writer, and I'm always interested in writing on topics that obssess me.  When I was into beads, I subscribed to beading magazines (and there are plenty of those). So I read Runner's World, Running Times, Health, Women's Health, Women's Running, Self and read articles online from Competitor.com. Armed with the information I glean from these sources, am I any kind of expert? Hells to the no.

I make it a practice to not give fitness advice.  I love to share/compare experiences with other runners, which I do regularly on dailymile.com and in several running-related Facebook groups.  But I hesitate to offer advice on what someone should do with their fitness time.  And I have no idea how to resolve anyone's fitness injuries!

I personally like to run, to ride bikes (indoors and outdoors), to walk, to dance (on my own, not in a class), and to use ellipticals (the zone out factor is high on that machine).  I have mad respect for those who do a lot of lifting/weight training, but I admit I've not found a way to embrace it (maybe I'm just too antsy). But  I don't tell people who base their fitness routines on lifting that they need to run.

If someone asks me what my personal fitness preferences are, I'm happy to tell them.  But I have to resist the evangelical urge that comes with running. I mean, it helped me lose 50 pounds and get off blood pressure meds--it must be great for everyone!  I got to tamp that down.

If someone asks me how to become a runner, I can only tell them how I became one, which may or may not work for him or her.  Usually I point people toward Couch-to-5K programs, though I never did one myself.

When it comes to fitness, there is a huge morass of contradictory advice out there. My plan, as a person who wants to outlive her parents (who both died too young), is to take in everything I read, see, and hear with an open mind and a questioning brain. So far it's working well.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fitness Goals and Hopes for 2015

2014 was supposed to rock.  It was going to be the year I made 10 mile runs my bitch, the year when I got my half-marathon PR, and maybe even thought full marathon. I was going to rule!

It didn't work out that way. 2014 was the year of mourning. So many losses, punctuated most sharply by the loss of my vivid and beautiful father-in-law, Daddy T. Running became a way to deal with grief, to distract myself from all the unhappiness and sorrow. Working out made me breathe when tears wanted to short-circuit my breath.  I still ran, but it was with a heavy heart. I didn't do any races. Or long runs. I wanted running to help me, and it did, but my endurance was no longer as profound as it had been.  Still, I ran.

So with the new year coming up, I've altered my fitness goals/wishes:

1) To maintain my weight in the 135 to 138 range, but not to flip out if it's not. This weight range makes it easier to run--I don't care about clothing size. Clothing sizes are a bunch of lies anyway. 

2) To run with a joyful spirit, not taking for granted the fact that I can run. My beloved Daddy T. had Parkinson's, so to see him go from someone who walked at a quick and steady clip to someone who could barely move was heartbreaking. I'm not going to take the gift of movement for granted.

3) To stretch and weight train, even though they aren't my favorite ways to exercise. I have neglected these areas, but if I want to run when I'm 70 (and I do), I need stretching and weight training. Thank goodness for planks (because I hate crunches) and dynamic stretches (because I am so antsy).

4) To get "everyday exercise"--running/walking stairs, going for walks after meals, dancing with my headphones on, etc. Formal workouts are great, but sometimes a gal just needs to move!

5) To admire the fitness achievments of others, to be a fitness cheerleader, but not to pressure myself to match or surpass such achievements. People think there's only one way to be a runner, since mostly, in popular culture, runners are marathoners. It's great to run marathons, don't get me wrong. But I like middle distances (five miles through half-marathons). I reject the notion that I'm not a runner if I don't run marathons. But I do love cheering on all sorts of runners. 

6) To cross train: bike, elliptical, row--whatever strikes my fancy!

7) To love my body and thank it often for what it permits me to do. I spent a lot of time this year in the land of body blame. That's a neighborhood not worth visiting. 

So I declare 2015 the year of body acceptance. No more body blaming, scale worship, food lustings, make up exercise, or clothes worries. Essays and poems about the above: yes.