I’m going to blog my way through Jeanette DePatie’s awesome exercise book, The Fat Chick Works Out. Jeanette is one of the co-founders of the Fit Fatties Forum, a discussion spot for fat athletes at all ability levels–everybody from the gym rat who does a marathon every few months to the person who just wants to try out this whole “exercise” thing without it being conflated with weight loss.
A main focus of the book is starting slow and not breaking yourself. There are a lot of activities to find out what your starting level of fitness is and guidelines on how to ramp up (no more than 10% a week, *if* you’re feeling good). I tend to do that to myself a lot–I push too hard, I regret it, and I get out of the exercise habit. Then when I come back, I forget that I’m out of practice and expect things to be as easy as they were before, and the lovely cycle starts up again.
So, here we go with Week 1. The first step is to pick an exercise and set up a schedule for yourself. I’m skipping the “Rock the Block” exercise because I’ve done it before, but it’s a really neat way to figure out your current level of fitness. You walk for 40 minutes, or until you’re tired, whichever comes first. Then you take that distance and duration, and that’s your starting point.
My plan is to walk 5 days a week, for roughly half an hour a day (getting my weekly 150 minutes of exercise) with a goal of 5-ish miles per week to start. My standard walking days will be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, but that will flex a little bit depending on my weekly schedule.
The theme for Week 1 is coping with panic and managing expectations:
We’re terrified of being fat, or out of shape, or headed for serious health problems. We’re terrified that we’ll never be slim enough or fit enough to be accepted by our peers or approved by our doctors. We alternate between despair from the failure of all the previous exercise programs we’ve started and discarded, and wild optimism that this will be the one time that everything is perfect. This time we’ll lose the weight, achieve fantastic muscled bodies like Greek Gods or Goddesses, attract a rich and gorgeous spouse who wants to sweep us off to a fantastic yacht in Monaco where visiting Hollywood producers will discover us and put us in blockbuster movies as long as this time, we don’t make one small mistake and blow everything.
So what happens next? We lose all perspective and fueled by equal parts panic and fantasy, try to do way too much too soon. This leads to pain, injury, frustration, burn out, and ultimately drop out. Which leads to more panic. Which starts the whole thing up all over again.
I love her focus on doing what you can do, then building on that one step at a time. It’s very realistic, and it has a much better chance of helping someone be active for life than a program that asks you to start with a ton of exercise all at once. And I really like the way she shoots holes in the Fantasy of Being Thin right from the get-go.
So, this week, I’ve walked twice so far, Tuesday and yesterday. (I didn’t start on a Monday, darn the luck.) Today is a rest day, but I may get in some yoga and PT stretches. Tomorrow, I’m thinking I’ll walk in the morning before work, hopefully before the temperature cracks 80, since it’s been in the 90s all week. Since I missed Monday, I’m shooting for two walks over the weekend, subject to change if my ankle gets cranky. I’m visiting my brother, four hours’ drive away, so that may make it tricky to squeeze a walk in. But I’m pretty sure I wake up earlier than he does, so I can get in a walk in the morning. He’s even got a treadmill, so I’m in luck if it’s stupid hot there too.
My assignment for the week is to come up with a little mantra that encourages incremental thinking, and say it to myself as I’m working out. Something upbeat, like “Every little step gets me there” or “Each step brings me closer” (the ones Jeanette uses). I’m kind of blanking on that, so I may just shamelessly snag hers. I may also use “I am already an athlete.” Although it doesn’t explicitly have the focus on each little step, it’s a way of accepting the skill level I have right now and working from there.