I hate exercising, and I know I’m not alone. I have to force myself. Even getting to this point hasn’t been an easy process by a long shot.
I played tee-ball but only because my dad was coach and I was good with the tee. Take the tee away and play big-girl ball? Forget it. I faked passing out halfway through running the mile in grade school. I calculated the number of “period” days I could exploit so I’d still get an A in high school PE. I have never done a pull-up, and don’t really want to. I barely survived one CrossFit class and couldn’t walk properly for a week. Chronic depression, binge eating, and social anxiety disorders don’t help either.
I did take 11 years of ballet despite my wide hips and lack of ideal ballet body. I discovered yoga was a good counterpoint to the rigidity of ballet, stretching out the stiffness. Although I was slim in college, I chain-smoked and indulged in late night Little Debbie binges.
I don’t know exactly when I started to freak out about my body, but after college I spent my days in an office chair tucked into a fluorescent cubicle, my nights alone on my couch with the TV. I felt myself expanding. Uncomfortably. Shit, I thought. I have to exercise.
Enter the workout DVDs. Yoga Booty Ballet. The FIRM. TurboJam, TurboFire, ChaLEAN Extreme. Brazilian Butt Lift. Enter the well-intentioned gym membership and paying extra for a trainer who punished my exercise aversion.
Just like I expected, it was all terrible. When I lost a pound, I reacted with a binge. I still ascribed to the “Real Women Have Curves” body image ideology, hating thin women along with every woman with proportional hips, since mine would never be.
After dozens of DVDs, hundreds of dollars, several weirdo diets, and endless stress and doom, I finally discovered what worked for me: bodyweight training, kickboxing, and every so often, lifting heavy stuff. It took time, but once I found the right routine for my body and my neuroses, I learned to stop worrying so much about my weight and start caring more about my health.
I would still rather marathon X-Files on Netflix than run an actual marathon, but I’ve learned that exercise is not supposed to make me hate myself. I’ve come to appreciate what my body is capable of, how much potential it has. Feeling shaking muscles burn, unleashing pent-up rage, getting out of my head and into my body — it was almost worth all the internalized drama just to find out how good I can feel.
So now I’m one of those people who likes exercise. Sort of. I do it for my mental health more than anything else at this point. But I also I finally feel something I haven’t before: strong.
Leigh K. Hoopes is a writer with a desk job in Cincinnati. She just got a new kettlebell and never thought she’d be so excited about exercise equipment. Read more at leighkhoopes.tumblr.com.