I Hate Exercise

To put it kindly, most writers tend to be of the pasty and pudgy variety, if not distinctly overweight, then at least soft to the touch. We spend a lot of time in front of a screen and are fueled by a combination of caffeine and a short list of specific “nutrients” that we probably buy in bulk and eat with 9-hour stretches of no-eating in between. To an outsider, it’s a quiet work. If you have the energy to lift a cup of coffee, then you can write a novel.

But we all know that even if your body is not hopping around doing jumping jacks, there’s a grueling, demanding labor going on inside you. Writers use their entire being to think. To quote Haruki Murakami: “The whole process—sitting at your desk, focusing your mind like a laser beam, imagining something out of a blank horizon, creating a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track—requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine.”

In short, my brain is an Olympic Warrior. On the inside, I’m a raging warrior goddess who bows to no one.

But on the outside . . .

Last spring I traveled to the UK and hiked my way from Scotland to London over two months. I loved it, and except for one strenuous adventure on Scafell Pike, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Walking, I loved—and also scenic English countryside. Then I got home, and suddenly my world was consumed by school and work.

Work means: writing (of many varieties), editing (also of many varieties), ghost-writing, reading so many manuscripts. School means: reading and writing. Free-time: reading and watching all five seasons of Parks and Rec so my brain can decompress. If reading burned calories, I’d look like Heidi Klum.

I’m not saying I spend every minute in front of a computer. I do stuff (I do!). But the ratio of computer-sitting to movement is significantly disproportionate. I started doing yoga because I was worried that after ten years of sitting hunched over a laptop, I was going to look like this:

hunchback

And I enjoy it immensely; it makes me feel better, even though I’m possibly the most inflexible person alive. But basically—how I do it—it’s an hour of glorified stretching. Me and my back need the stretching—and the inversions and deep breathing. But there’s no cardio. It’s good for you, but does not require a lot of physical exertion. My body was starting to take on what the Oatmeal calls “computer shape”:

ultramarathon_diagram

 

So.

What to do?

I decided recently on running, for a number of good reasons.

1) You can do it for free. We all know what would really happen if I forked out $50 a month for a gym membership. That would be two very expensive sauna trips per month.

2) It’s outside. So . . . sun (ew), and fresh air.

3) Alone. ‘Nuff said.

4) Remember my Olympic-sized brain? Being alone with my thoughts for an hour is not only not boring and not difficult, it’s also probably necessary so my head doesn’t explode. I do this anyway, when I walk, but now I will just . . . go faster.

5) I can eat more carbs.

Once I decided to do this, I spent more time reading memoirs about running than actually running. I thought about running a lot. And then finally, eventually, there was nothing to do but go. People run all the time around Provo, they’re basically part of the scenery, so I wasn’t self-conscious. I figured I’d go for roughly half an hour. That was a good beginner’s start right? Besides, I’m not a completely non-athletic person. I hiked the UK. I played basketball and tennis in high school. I ride my bike and walk most places I need to go. I’m not a total newbie to exercise.

After half a mile, half a mile, my face was flushed into my ears and as I slowed to an unsteady walk, I thought seriously that I might pass out on the side of the road. I’ll just walk for a minute, I thought. Five minutes later, I tried again, with same results, only it happened faster, less than a quarter mile this time. The running app on my iPod asked, “Do you want to post your time to Facebook?” Um, no. Actually, I thought I should probably turn around soon so that I wouldn’t need an EMT stretcher to take me home.

Me:

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On one of my multiple breath-catching moments, this shirtless guy passed me (going uphill!!), and he didn’t even look like he was breaking a sweat, mouth closed and serene. Maybe slight dampness at the temples. I thought: You are an alien or you are lying.

In fact, everyone who says they love running is a liar.

This is the only explanation.

Because it suuuuucks. When I finally got home, I was thinking, is this what running is going to feel like every time? Is each run going to mean confronting this pain, shame, and rage? Why do people do this?

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I mean, to be fair, I know this was the first time. I will probably give running a few more chances before kicking it to the curb. Actually, even if it sucks indefinitely, I will most likely still do it because computer shape is worse than the agonizing torment of jogging (maybe).

But do any of my readers run? Is there a way to make it less torturous? ANY TIPS? Or is this going to be a necessary evil in my life no matter what I do?

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13 thoughts on “I Hate Exercise

  1. Mckelle, YOU ARE ME. I hate hate hate hate hateD running. I can cheat when I walk cuz my legs are the size of an ostrich’s–why run?? When my boss begged me to do Ragnar, he was my personal coach (he’s one of those annoyingly good, professional runner types).

    What I did was start off running as slow as possible for 20 min (like BARELY qualifying as jogging. We’re talking glorified shuffling, here. You could walk on your hands and catch up to me when I started. Your body knows the difference between a running stride and a walking stride though). It gets your body used to running for an extended period of time. Plus, distance/speed measurements are just discouraging for me; time I can handle. I did that like 3 times a week. On my third run a week, sometimes I’d do a longer run (like 30-50 min) but I was trying to build up for a Big Scary Event, so that’s only if you want to see significant improvement over time.

    If you don’t enjoy running, you’re going to dread it. If you dread it, you’re just not going to do it. My neighbor down the street (who placed 3rd in Ragnar and owns a running shop, the punk) says that the biggest problem new runners make is trying to run too fast. I’d also recommend going at a time of day that’s not too warm, like dusk. The sun murders me.

    I still like running and have kept up my routine even post-Ragnar. It’s great time to be alone, think, and get outside of your bubble. I believe in YOOOOOOOU. Do what ends up working best for you!!

  2. I promise it gets better! You just need to give your body time to get used to it. And don’t overdo it at first. I used to DETEST running and still do sometimes, but I promise promise promise it gets better. Don’t give up yet.

  3. I hate running..I avoid it at all costs. I walk. I have a pedometer on my phone and it has a set goal of 10,000 steps which is equivalent to 5 miles. When I worked full time I was getting my steps nearly every day. Now that I stay at home I can barely get 2000. I started gaining weight rapidly. It takes a big effort to get my steps. Almost an hour and a half of walking every day. It was hard on my feet at first but my body is now used to it now. I meditate while walking, which sounds silly but I have always done it naturally. I did some research on it and it is common. I enjoy going on new routes and seeing all the houses. That’s my favorite all the pretty houses…

  4. Running is legitimately the worst thing ever. In my humble opinion. I walk everywhere–that’s how I get my exercise. Living in Boston is very conducive to this life choice, but I also sort of love it. I also have been working at a bookstore, which keeps you spry. I have a paralyzing fear that now that I have a desk job all those calories are going to catch up with me and one morning I’m going to wake up grossly obese. Because that’s how it works, right?

  5. I had a riding accident 11-years-ago where the sports medicine specialist said I would never run again for the rest of my life. After doing a lot of P90X, I’m actually able to (slowly, low jumps, and with cursing and fatigue) do plyometrics. However, my endurance is significantly higher, my breath control much better, etc. I find the videos are much nicer than just solid running because… well… not being able to run limits things, and the videos work the whole body.

    Keeping fit is tough for a writer, but not impossible. I’m 30 lbs less than my highest weight–at one point having lost 50 lbs (though unfortunately, gained 20 back–currently working on getting back where I was!) Also, I find that when I workout, it helps my overall demeanor and concentration, which in turn helps me write and edit!

    • Hmm… Interesting. Would you still recommend the video if I live in an apartment with three other people and there’s not as much space? Or does it not take up that much space?

      • I don’t use much space for it, so I’d think you’d be fine (later I can take a picture of where I work out). You basically need a water bottle, yoga mat, and some light dumbbells (I skip the whole pull up thing). The program has a different workout every single day–I’ve been off-schedule because of sickness and starting to teach classes at a new college.

        If you want to experiment with it, apparently P90X3 is recommended for a person to do first before P90X–30 minute workouts (they’re challenging) that help gear people into 60-90 minutes of debatably hell. Personally, I love it. Even the yoga–I hate yoga immensely but, in those 90 minutes, because I’m concentrating so hard on the poses, I literally think of nothing else, which is amazing in hindsight.

      • Awesome! Let me know what you think. I know my friend lost at least 10 lbs in 3 weeks on P90X3. For P90X, I’m not dieting at all, so no weight loss, but skin is tightening up big time and more endurance, other things.

        Plus, gotta like Tony H. telling people that they’re like pterodactyls. The little things in life…

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