Sometimes Exercise isn’t Fun

Monday’s walk, for example. I started off creaky and achy and it got worse.  No sudden sharp pain, nothing bad enough to tell me that I had injured myself.  Just an collection of uncomfortable aches and pains that I felt wimpy to complain about and yet couldn’t stop myself from complaining about.

I sped up the treadmill, I slowed it down, I tried a little incline, I took the incline off.  Nope.  I watched Barefoot Contessa (lime meringue tart) and was glad I was alone in the mini-gym so I could just say “Ow ow ow ow” very quietly while I walked my grand total of 15 minutes.

Tuesday I felt fine.  Walking was easy and quick and simple and the 15 minutes went by like THAT.

It’s not like I had worked out hard on Saturday or Sunday and was recovering on Monday. It’s not like I suddenly was in so much better shape Tuesday.  I am out of shape, which is why I’m doing a 15-minute walk.  I know it’s going to take time to work up to where exercise feels good instead of just tiring or ache-producing — in fact, I’m surprised that exercise is generally helping me relax at this point and not JUST making me tired.

As someone I compare exercise notes with once wrote:

The first month of starting a fitness program, even a very sensible one within your present fitness level, is going to mean that you are going to be tired. You’re going to need an extra half an hour to an hour’s sleep a night so that your body can build the muscle it needs to start getting stronger and more energetic.

She also pointed out that experienced and enthusiastic exercisers tend to forget about that part.  (While I’m tossing out bad news, I should probably point out that not everyone gets “runner’s high” either.)

But I like being able to walk.  To maintain this, I go for walks.  Sometimes it feels good.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  That’s life.  And now I have “Sometimes It’s A Bitch” in my head.

35 thoughts on “Sometimes Exercise isn’t Fun

  1. Sometimes it does hurt. Some days it is harder than others. And, not to burst anyone’s balloon, but as someone who has walked, either inside or outdoors, virtually every day for over 50 years, just because you do it all the time & HAVE done it since dinosaurs ruled the earth doesn’t necessarily mean that it will stop hurting. Of course, in my case, I have cerebral palsy, have had since birth, I have serious balance issues, one leg shorter, smaller, weaker than the other, compounded by a weakened knee on which the patella was smashed in1980, aging, & arthritis. Most of the time, unless I am going across the street to the store for five or ten minutes & sometimes even then, I use a heavy duty four-prong cane for support, because I stumble & trip easily & sometimes my knees &/or ankles wobble & threaten to collapse under me. So, honestly, much of the time it would be easy to sit back in my chair & skip it. However, I do believe that some moderate exercise is good for me, I know that I can stiffer & more sore if I sit too long & in fact MUST get up & move around in the house a lot every day, so, pain or no pain, I keep walking. I am 60 years old & I have no idea whether or not someday I will be using a scooter or an electric wheelchair, this is my first lifetime in a disabled body, but I want to stay as mobile & as independent as I can for as long as I can, so I move. I try very hard not to allow myself to go back to compulsive exercise again, as it is damaging & now, at my age, could be disabling, but I do exercise. However, sometimes it IS a bitch, & sometimes it is a battle of wills between my determination & my aging, aching body.

    Today I have been out twice, & walked a total of about 50 minutes. The ground is momentarily bare & I was considering trying yet another walk. However, maybe reading a book would be a better idea.

    • Yeah. Me too. I had a hip replacement 8 months ago and have been trying to get back to normal (normal for me being walking a couple of miles a day plus a few classes at the gym).

      I’m constantly struggling with “Should I take it easy or push myself?” I’ve got mild chronic pain that I didn’t have five years ago. Sometimes going to the gym 2 or 3 days in a row leaves me sore and miserable, and then I take a break for a week. This week, I’ve been walking to work and back almost every day – a mile each way – but I haven’t been going to the gym. I hate that I’m a slower than average walker (for downtown Toronto rush hour) at the moment. I hate that doing what I used to think of as a moderate amount of activity is just as likely to tired and sore as bouncy and energetic right now.

      Just wanted to say I’m with ya.

  2. I find that even at times when I’m walking very regularly and feeling very fit, I still have days when, for some reason, exercising is just HARD. I don’t get that burst of energy after maybe 10-20 minutes into it that I usually get, I don’t start feeling good, and I generally have some sort of ache or pain or worry just niggling at me the entire time. The more regularly I exercise the less it happens, but it does still happen.

    I figure in some ways it’s like teaching. I have days, when I’m teaching, where, for whatever reason, things just do not work at all. I don’t know if it’s me, the students, the materials, or what, but for some reason nothing clicks. It can be really frustrating, but I just try to remember that even really great, experienced teachers I admire have off days, and you just have to get through it and know that the next class will very likely go much better.

    All of my walking right now is being done with a “I’m doing this for the outcome” mindset, rather than a “I’m doing this because it’s going to make me feel good” mindset. I’m trying very hard to walk this baby out of me in the next week and a half. And, I have a friend who’s been coming by most days around noon to go for a walk. It’s only a short (10-15 minutes) stroll around the block, but I’m tempted to draw the shades and pretend I’m not home most of the time. My back hurts, I’m short of breath, I’m off balance, and it’s just not fun to walk. At this point I’m trying to suck it up most days and just do it, but I am looking forward to a time in the near future when I’ll be walking because it makes me feel good again. I do think there’s a time and a place for both, though, depending on a person’s goals.

  3. I hear you! I am a morbidly obese person and have just joined a gym myself. I am right there with you. I have noticed I need more sleep too, glad to hear it’s not just me!

    KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

    Kitty

  4. Thanks for this. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that no matter what the activity or how well we usually perform it, we’re still going to have ‘off’ days where we just don’t do things as easily or as effectively as we usually do them. It doesn’t mean we suddenly suck forever at what we do, or that we should stop doing things we know are good for us. Just once in a while we need to cut ourselves a tiny bit of slack and know we’ll do better another time.

  5. To anyone reading this:

    How do you decide whether the pain you feel is something you should push through vs. a message that you should stop?

    For most of my life, exercise usually made me feel good and gave me more energy. Even the first month, heck even the first day of a new routine. Yes, I had days where I felt sluggish, but it wasn’t painful, except in a really minor way.

    But in the past few years almost all kinds of exercise started hurting.

    I prefer not to do exercise that hurts because (a) sometimes that leads to injury and (b) it feels like a punishment, and I don’t want to introduce that feeling into my relationship with my body.

    There are still a few forms of exercise left that feel good (swimming mainly), but walking is not one of them, and I would like to be able to walk longer distances.

    • My advice as a layperson would be that, for your own safety, if you have any sharp pain while exercising, you should stop. If you get it checked out and are told it’s fine to keep going in spite of the pain, then you can if you want, but I wouldn’t walk keep going through sharp pain.

      For me, I’ll keep going through achiness or soreness or minor discomfort, slowing down if I need to. But actual pain would definitely cause me to stop, unless I knew there was a reason for it and had the OK to keep going anyway. Like, I was getting some sharp, stabby pains which would last for a second or two in my lower belly when I was walking early on in the pregnancy, and my OB told me it was round ligament pain, very normal when walking, and I could keep walking if I wanted. So, I felt fine continuing to walk. But I wouldn’t keep working out through sharp or stabby pain unless I got it checked out first, because that seems like it could cause serious injury.

      • What about breathlessness – my husband was giving me a hard time about NOT taking the stairs up from our downtown bus stop (the escalator is broken) and instead taking the elevator because by the time I get to the top of the stairs, I feel like I”m going to pass out.

        He told me I should suck it up (not in so few words) because exercise is supposed to feel that way.

        Is it? Am I not pushing myself hard enough if I resist the feeling that my lungs are imploding and I feel lightheaded, even though there isn’t any sharp pain?

        • I work at a gym (front desk a couple of mornings a week. Not as a trainer).

          We have a form to assess exercise readiness, and safety issues. If someone experiences exercise-related dizziness, they’re supposed to get permission from their doctors to work out there. The doctor will usually give permission with the caveat that the person must rest until the dizziness goes away before continuing to work out.

        • Heidi, I’m trying to think of a polite way to tell you to tell your husband where to stick it. He’s just plain wrong. “Lungs imploding”?? No, exercise is NOT supposed to feel that way (unless you enjoy that sort of thing). I love to exercise, but if it felt like that I wouldn’t do it. Sure, about once or twice a week I like to throw in the odd wind sprint, but just randomly pushing your heart rate through the roof is NOT a good way to improve fitness levels (assuming that’s even your goal).

          Personally, I’d suggest you get a hear rate monitor. I realize a lot of us are loathe to set foot in a sporting goods store, but you can order them over the internet pretty cheap (definitely check the chest strap size, sometimes you need to add a bit of elastic to make it fit). Learn what your resting HR is and your exercise ‘comfort zone’ (by taking a leisurely walk, for example). If you want to push yourself a bit more then google something like “max heart rate test” or “Lactic threshold test” and do one. Don’t rely on charts or averages and don’t push yourself too far on your own… once you can no longer say a simple phrase (like the pledge of allegiance if you’re stateside) fairly easily that’s as far as you need to go. Do most of your exercise at less than 70 or 80% of that number.

          Whenever I tell non-exercising friends (fat or thin) to do this, they think I’m nuts because it seems more in the realm of Olympic athletes than beginners, but it’s very very helpful to know what’s a reasonable push and what’s just inviting a heart attack. It’s actually far more important for beginner exercisers than it is for seasoned competitors. Really one of the best parts of learning your own HR range is that it will alleviate some of the fears that come with pushing your body in new ways. You’ll know what’s enough and what’s too much (which clearly you already know, but it’s nice to have the numbers to back it up!)

          When I do aerobics I try to remember I want to gently coax my heart into better shape, not beat it into submission with a sledgehammer.

          • Thanks for the suggestion – this is very helpful! I hadn’t thought about actually purchasing a heartrate monitor but will certainly do so when I can.

        • Heidi, your husband’s info is out of date. Nowadays it’s understood that any exercise is beneficial, even mild exercise that doesn’t raise your heart rate or make you breathe heavily.

          • I wonder if that’s partly a guy thing. My husband is okay about acknowledging the benefits of mild and moderate exercise for others, but he tends to think it’s a waste of his time to do anything that isn’t really intense. Of course, that means he finds exercise so unpleasant, tiring, and sore-making that he stops after a few sessions, but I think he’s really had “no pain, no gain” beaten into his psyche.

            • It’s not just a guy thing, I used to feel kinda the same way, like it didn’t count unless I had exhausted myself.

              I wish I could still do the amount of exercise that I used to think counted as “I got hardly any exercise today.”

        • No way. It is supposed to be a challenge but not so much that it leaves you winded. It all depends on your level of fitness. One day you may walk up the stairs if you are ready. The symptoms you describe are too much. Good for you for taking the elevator. That is self care too.

          If you want to exercise, start walking a few minutes every day. It is OK not to exercise too. It can be helpful but it is not required and it is not a magic bullet.

          I climb 3 flights of stairs where I park and it has only become a little easier in the past 2 years. No great changes but I am proud I can do it without stopping or having my lungs burn. Maybe I am doing better than I thought.

        • Heidi –

          When I’m lightheaded and my lungs are imploding, MY husband asks if I need to take a break or use my inhaler. (Inhaler for exercise-induced asthma.)

          Take a break.

          • My inhaler is a good idea – my asthma isn’t severe, so I think I forget that there are good times to USE the dang thing and not just when I’ve got allergy-induced wheeziness.

            My husband means well – he’s just got wacky ideas about what exercise SHOULD be, I suspect (and he’s never been very out of shape).

        • Exercise isn’t supposed to make you lightheaded. Breathing more deeply and faster than usual is normal, but feeling like your lungs are imploding isn’t. Sounds like you need to go slower, stop to rest halfway up the stairs, or to work up to them by doing something easier a few times a week.

  6. I have lived in the diet mentality for so long that exercise was punishment for being fat and so I quit exercising when I finally gave up wanting to be a size 0. Recently, I started again, because I remembered all the good parts about exercising and I started with a kettlebell workout because I’ve always liked weight resistance training.

    I started by following a 6 minute routine I found on YouTube and I only made it halfway the first day and instead of beating myself up, I just put the weight down and accepted that was my starting point. 4 routines after that, taken 2 to 3 days apart depending on how sore I was, I finally made it through the whole 6 minutes. It’s a great feeling to feel my body getting stronger and it’s great to know that I can put the all or nothing mentality behind me and that I finally open to celebrating what my body can do instead of hating it because of what it can’t.

    Sorry that was kind of rambly, but I’m so happy to have found the FA community and a measure of self-acceptance.

  7. It’s weird, but I can never, never think of anything I consider to be “exercise” as fun. I don’t know why.

    I like to do explicitly non-exercise, yet physically strenuous, things for fun. I don’t even like thinking about fitness, though of course that is one practical outcome of doing certain fun things.

    I don’t think it’s because I am so scarred by dieting and weight loss culture that I feel this way…I think I remember feeling this way as a kid, before all the stuff really hit me. And I think it’s because I’m still so much like a kid that I believe focusing on “fitness” is a boring, adult thing to do, and that it instantly sucks the fun out of everything.

    Kind of off-topic, but this always comes up for me when it comes to “exercise” of any kind.

    • My husband feels the same way, and when I really trying to push the weight loss agenda, getting him to exercise was really painful. I finally let him be and he’s starting to figure out what he wants to do.

      • I can understand why the weight agenda would make it especially contentious. For a while there, when I was dieting, I exercised to a dangerous extent b/c I believed that if I ever stopped, I would never exercise again. Since, you know, I actually never liked what I was doing.

        I’m really, really looking forward to healing this part of my history. I’ll be moving near the water soon, and I’ll get to do two of my very favourite things whenever I want — swimming and kayaking. Which never feel like “exercise” to me.

  8. The weather lately here in Seatown has been making me feel rusty on my walks lately. With my new schedule I’m thinking about doing my walks downtown before work.

  9. Thanks for the reminder, I think.

    One of the things I’m looking forward to post-pregnancy is being able to start up a good exercise routine again [I’m walking & doing prenatal yoga & stretching, but had to scale way back on previous activity], probably the “conservative” (more spaced out & easier/slower) version of Couch to 5k. I’m really looking forward to it, but your post also made me remember how much it hurt when I was starting it the first time – I’m amazed I stuck it out long enough for it to get enjoyable.

    btw, I’ve done a few 5ks, but I still haven’t found the “runner’s high” yet either – the closest I’ve come is the “yay, there’s the finish line, now give my my Propel and a muffin” high. :)

  10. I sometimes get shin pain when I walk. It’s my reminder to stop, stretch, and slow down.

    Yesterday I had to go into Manhattan for a doctor’s appointment and I walked all over the place. I was feeling fine until I came home and crashed–an hour long nap, and early to bed. I was wiped out. Just when I thought I had this exercise thing down. :-)

    Some days are just a lot harder than others.

  11. I am looking at my first day back after a week off sick, period, but a month of once-a-week iffyness.

    Yeah, mama, this is going to hurt. Thanks for the solidarity! We’re right there with you (isn’t everyone this time of year)

  12. Pingback: March Round-Up « Living ~400lbs

  13. Pingback: “Peaceful” and “relaxing”? « Living ~400lbs

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