I Am That Girl Now

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I actually do remember.

My sister lugged home 50 pounds of groceries the other day. How, I'm not sure; possibly she has some of those nifty plastic handles that you can slip over the grocery-bag loops so that you don't end up with the inevitable ow ow ow these things are cutting into my hands like a rusty knife feeling. Which isn't the point: the point is that she actually weighed herself with and without groceries to see how much she'd bought, and promptly called me to say "Holy crap, lugging around 50 extra pounds exhausted me. I can't imagine how you ever felt like doing anything when you were overweight, much less how you managed to start exercising."

I do actually remember this. I know that a lot of the time it sounds like I don't, but I do. Back when I started exercising, I was managing to walk at about 3 MPH on the treadmill for half an hour. I hadn't done anything to exert myself in years; all I had was the memory that once, when I was just out of college, I'd been able to run, and how lovely that had felt. This, on the other hand, was not lovely at all. My face got so red and hot that it felt like there was a steam boiler in there that was about to blow up. My heart pounded so hard that it felt like I was a drum-- I could feel that beat slamming through my hands and feet and temples and chest and back. I could feel my ass sort of flapping around when I hit top speed, and the fat on the tops of my thighs moving up and down, and my boobs were, in spite of being compressed into a BoobLoaf by my heavy-duty sports bra, bouncing around in an embarrassing and sort of painful manner. The sports bra chafed the area under my arms because of the extra flab piled up around there, and left me raw and highly sensitive to the rest of my clothing.

And this shit was after I'd already lost twenty pounds. I can't even imagine how lousy it would have been before that point.

On top of the physical problems, there was the sheer humiliation factor. My treadmill's speed lever is badly marked, as I've mentioned, and all I knew was that I couldn't manage to go fast enough to get into the red-colored portion (which I now know starts at 4 MPH and goes up to about 7 MPH) that was marked "fat burning". I could remember being able to run once, and the fact that I'd let myself go so badly in four years really, really stung. I felt like I looked stupid. I also felt, irrationally, like I was drawing attention to myself (this in spite of the fact that I was doing this alone, before my Hub woke up, all by my lonesome on a treadmill)-- that I was a fake, a pretender, that it was painfully obvious that I didn't know what I was doing and that I was bad at it.

Besides, a fat girl sitting or walking slowly is part of the scenery-- a fat girl in motion is something to stare at. And at that stage, I would do anything to avoid being stared at.

I promptly hurt myself, because I was had lousy shoes and didn't think I needed to stretch because I figured that stretching was what athletes did, and not only was I not an athlete (HA!), I figured there was no way I was working as hard as an athlete was. (Not as well as an athlete, no. But in retrospect, I think, I was working every bit as hard.) D'oh. My feet hurt, my ankles hurt, my muscles hurt, and it all just sucked.

Not to mention the Chicago winter factor: at six AM in January, it's as dark as the inside of a coal mine. It looks exactly like the middle of the night. It feels exactly like the middle of the night. I would usually be ripped out of the middle of deep REM sleep when the alarm clock went off, end up standing next to the alarm clock with my heart slamming against my sternum from the adrenaline. To top it all off, it was freezing cold because our radiators wouldn't start to heat the place until at least ten minutes after I got up, and even then the exercise room would barely heat.

I do remember. I really, really do. I remember that it was scary, and humiliating; I remember that while I could fool myself about my size when I wasn't moving around, when I did start moving, I was forced to confront the cold facts of the matter and to admit just how bad things were. And because exercise became a daily thing for me, that was a nasty realization I had to face every single morning. I remember being very frustrated and very tired and pretty pissed off.

I also remember that, physically speaking, things got a lot better within the first three weeks. The human body is a miraculous machine, built to adapt; the question is what you ask it to adapt to. If you ask it to adapt to making your current body jog, then by God, it will adapt to it-- and your cardiovascular health improves long before the scale drops by any significant amount. I remember being aware that the odds were that I'd quit, and being fiercely proud of every day that I beat those odds. I remember hollering incoherent words of triumph when I first ran for a whole five minutes at a stretch. I remember how I could suddenly go up stairs easier, walk up hills without huffing and puffing, how suddenly any walk less than two miles seemed insignificant. I remember how amazed I was after six months when it turned out that I could keep up with my sister and father-- life-long runners, both of them-- on a three-mile run.

The summary of the whole experience, really, is to say that it sucked, and then it got better, and then it got to be kind of fun.

I do remember. I haven't forgotten a moment. I just happen to know that the part that sucks was transitory, a short part of the journey, and completely unimportant compared to the joy and triumph of actually kicking the ass of something that had intimidated me for most of my life. That's probably what frustrates me the most about my friends who won't exercise-- that I know that the only thing standing between them and something this great is a few weeks of suckiness, and nonetheless there seems to be nothing I can do convince them that those weeks are worth it, and that they'll end and there are good things that come after it. I'm no different than anyone else-- I just made it past the River o' Suck and I'm on the other side now.


  • Beautiful.

    I think that "The part that sucks is transitory" should be written in very large letters and hung on the wall of every gym in the world.

    By Blogger Mich, at 4:31 AM  

  • Very beautiful post. I also remember what it was like to be a lot bigger and find exercise hard, but the longer I live in my new body, the easier it gets to sometimes "forget" in a way and enjoy the here and now.

    By Blogger ms ralph, at 5:52 AM  

  • This is wonderfully helpful for someone who still has water from the River o'Suck dripping from her running shoes. But today I bumped up from 5lb to 8lb weights, and when I finished my second set of butterflies, I hollered, "Rrrrr!Eeeeiiight! Yesyes!" and that is a noise I have never made in an exercise context before. :) So I think I'm starting to see the other shore. Thanks, Meg.

    By Anonymous Jenny, at 11:03 AM  

  • Amazing post!!!! So amazing. The next time someone needs a helpful kick on the WoBFL boards in regards to morning exercise, can I send them here? Please!!!!???? :-)

    By Anonymous Shawna, at 4:47 PM  

  • Shawna, go right ahead. I do like visitors!

    By Blogger Meg, at 8:38 AM  

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