Fit or Not Fit

This came in as a comment to one of the “Day in the life” posts.

One movement involves leaning forward; this irritates my lower back so I substitute something else.
Jesus! You’re practically crippled by your weight. A normal person would be able to do this easily.

It”s enough of a workout to get my heart into the aerobic range
If a bit of shuffling around gets your heart rate into the aerobic range, you are seriously, seriously unfit.

Don’t kid yourself that moving around and breathing hard constitutes exercise.

Getting past the fact that my lower back is stronger than it has since I initially cracked my tailbone in 7th grade and that aerobic exercise IS whatever gets your pulse into a particular range, this does bring up one point I thought worth talking about.

That is: I don’t claim to be especially fit.   I don’t think I AM fit. There’s quite a few reasons for this.

First?  A lot of the “fit”, “not fit”, and “fitter” ties into the comparison trap.  Not helpful.

Second, I’m pretty damn jaded about the whole fitness & weight loss industry.  I spent many, many years losing weight through diet and exercise and then regaining it.  I also have no illusions that “Exercise is all you need to lose weight” applies to me.  Each time I’ve worked out regularly without dieting, treadmill for a couple miles and then weights, 3x a week, for over a year?  I’ve lost ~10lbs total the first month and then stabilized at my new weight.  I’ve gotten stronger and usually felt better (yay – not everyone does).  But exercise hasn’t made me thin, which, of course, means I’m not and can’t be “fit” in the popular culture.

Third, of course, is the question, “what is fit”?  What is the standard in use? There is one standard by which I am “fit”: metabolic fitness.   To quote Glenn Gaesser,

[M]etabolic fitness can be defined in terms of how the human body responds to the hormone insulin. “Insulin sensitive” bodies tend to have excellent glucose tolerance, normal blood pressures, and heart-healthy blood lipid profiles.

My ARNP assures me that my blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood lipids are all quite good.  By this measure, I am “fit”.  Yet – and this is the really big reason – I don’t feel “fit”.  Why not?

  1. Lifting 35lb speakers or the swivel chair is difficult. (Lack of strength)
  2. Half an hour of walking tends to make me want to sit down. (Lack of endurance)
  3. The man of the house walks a lot faster than me. (Lack of speed)
  4. I am fat.

Now, item #4 is pretty much one of those emotional things that goes back to 4th grade and overhearing my mother ranting to my aunt how it didn’t matter that I played soccer well or that my team made the state playoffs, because “she hasn’t lost any weight!  We bought her cleats, the uniform, paid registration fees, went to every practice and game – and she hasn’t lost weight!  It’s all a waste!!

But items 1-3 tie into the fitness standard I find most useful, which is “being able to do what I want to do in my daily life”.

Problem?  My best employment skills are in an industry that requires me to glue my bum to a chair and focus for hours on end.  FocusFlowProblem-solve. These are sedentary tasks.  Physically speaking, the only thing I need to do is to go up and down the stairs at home, get to work, sit all day, and come home.  That’s it. My life does not require a lot of activity – even the crunches and such that avoid the back pain common to many desk workers is optional. Which means that activity is something I have to consciously do. It doesn’t just “happen”.

I’ve also learned from years of being clinically depressed that exercise helps me manage depression, even while depression makes me not want to exercise.  Which, again, means I have to think about exercising.

That’s why I think about exercise, and, guess what, thinking about it makes me more likely to blog about it.  It’s why I’ve been riding the bus this last year – because it makes ~40 minutes of walking (round-trip) my going-to-work habit.   Doing it 4 or 5 days a week means that I am getting more than 2.5 hours a week of walking from commuting, and I’m increasing my speed and endurance.  It’s also why I work out with dumbbells – and those 35-lb speakers are easier to lift now. Longer walks on the weekend also help with building endurance.

There are other ways to increase activity in my life, of course.  Taking a pay cut (and possibly going back to school) to get into a field which doesn’t require as much bum glue, selling my house in a crappy market to move to a more “walking” neighborhood, or finding someone to pay me to follow Springsteen on tour and dance the entirety of every concert* are all examples.  But at the moment I’m comfortable with the steps I’m taking now.

To sum up: By some measures, I’m fit.  By others, I’m not.  I am currently working to improve my level of fitness, using my own personal measures, for my own selfish reasons.  And I’m including it in this blog.  Not because this blog is about how “a 400lb woman starts working out and loses 250lbs and becomes a triathlete like magic!”, but because this blog is about what it’s like being me.  :)

* Offers to finance the latter can be directed to living400lbs at gmail dot com…. ;)

9 thoughts on “Fit or Not Fit

  1. Fitness, like health, is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each of us has to do what works for us individually and comparisons of what I can do versus what you can do versus what JoeSchmoe can do are useless since none of us are exactly like any other one of us. We don’t all have the same body type, metabolism, talents, or abilities. The thing that I don’t understand is why there is such a big deal made about fitness/health. Neither of those is a moral imperative, and by making them moral imperatives, too many people are marginalized and discriminated against who could be (and are) valid contributing members of society.

  2. The thing that I don’t understand is why there is such a big deal made about fitness/health.

    Hi Vesta :) I think it’s a lot of things, like:
    1) It’s something you can do to reassure yourself that you’re healthy, aka not dying right this minute. Considering that most of longevity is genetic and we don’t actually choose our parents or grandparents, something we can DO seems appealling and gets blown out of proportion.

    2) Movies, athletes, and other celebrities. Sure, we know there’s stunt men and special effects involved, but there’s still a bit of “If I was really in shape I could do that like James Bond / Beckham / Buffy”.

    3) Sports, competitions, and the wow factor. There is that “Hey Mom, look what I can do!” when you’re improving your abilities – whatever they are.

    4) Feeling that independence requires a certain level of physical ability. “I want to be strong enough to fight off / run away from a mugger.” “If the Army calls me up I need to be ready.”

    5) Some people seem to make it part of their religion, whether consciously or not. There’s rituals and the quest for “perfection” (according to various definitions). And some people do get an endorphin high from exercising, which gives them an immediate payoff.

    There’s probably more… ;)

  3. You are exercising more than enough to get whatever health benefits one can actually get from exercise, & those benefits are frequently & liberally exaggerated. It is your body & your life & you owe it to no one to meet anyone’s expectations, & there is no hard & fast evidence that the amount of exercise we get or even IF we exercise has any bearing on how long we live or how healthy we are over the course of our lives. “Fitness” has become very narrowly defined & as a moral imperative.
    I hear those voices in my own head, both as a fat woman & as a disabled woman, now an older fat disabled woman who wants to stay as mobile & independent as possible for as long as possible & who fights against becoming one of those ‘invisible’ fat, old, disabled people. I have been active all my life, still am, but my walk this morning of well over an hour reminded me that I not only push through that beginning reluctance to leave the house; some days, I also push through quite intense physical pain to exercise, but I do it anyway. It rained last night & some this morning, my joints hurt badly, my right leg (on which I have always depended excessively because of the CP in the right leg) ached, heel spurs in my right foot gave me agony, but I still walked an hour & ten minutes. Was this physically the best thing for me to do or did I do it only out of stubborn pride & determination & the desire to show ‘them’[, whoever ‘they’ may be, that I am no fat stereotype & I am as good as they are. You & I both exercise more than the average thin person in this country, but thin people don’t get the grief about it that we do.
    And amen to what you said, too, Vesta. Making fitnss & health a moral imperative & a reflection one’s worth as a human being marginalizes a lot of good, smart, productive people who contribute a lot to our culture & frequently are rewarded by ridicule, rejection, & disdain. We all deserve better…&, as I have stated before, we all deserve full rights & access in this culture & the right to OWN OUR OWN DAMN BODIES & to live in them as we see fit without being censured or punished.

  4. And of course, what I was trying to say (since I get so wound up & sometimes think faster than I can type) is thatI have hemiplegic cerebral palsy on the LEFT side of my body.

  5. Well, that person who replied is appallingly uninformed about exercise.

    If it is enough to get you breathing hard and your heart rate up, it is exercise for you. What gets me sweaty and breathing hard and my heart rate up isn’t necessarily going to be the same as for someone else. Nor should it be. We’re different people with different goals.

  6. Well, that person who replied is appallingly uninformed about exercise.

    Indeed.

    BTW, I figured you would understand the “activity is something I have to consciously do because it doesn’t just happen on its own” point :)

  7. I think the most obvious reason to exercise is that it feels good. My run is often my high point of the day. It makes you feel alive, strong both mentally and physically, and tough. It is also excellent preparation for meditation. What else is simultaneously calming and invigorating? :)

  8. Pingback: Is it fat or lack of exercise? « Living ~400lbs

  9. Pingback: Weight Cycling Industry « Living ~400lbs

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