One of the things I hear quite often on the Fit Fatties Forums or in emails is, “I can only do two minutes of exercise or I can only exercise in a chair. Sometimes I feel like why bother. I used to be able to exercise a lot and now I can just do this much. I’m so embarrassed.”
First let me say, I feel ya. Sometimes it seems like everyone around me is doing marathons or ultra-endurance events or walking for three whole days in a row for a cure. Sometimes it seems like everywhere I look, somebody is dashing off an effortless 2 hour workout, glistening and smiling while climbing mountains, lifting huge weights and cycling the Great Wall of China.
And I have to remind myself to feel happy for them. That it’s not kind or productive to feel jealousy or hatred towards them or to sit on them until they stop looking so athletic-y and agree to sit and watch re-runs of Game of Thrones with me. And I have to remind myself that every athlete, and I mean every athlete had to start somewhere. And every athlete has had setbacks that have made them slow down, go backwards in their training and build gradually back up.
I have had several major injuries, surgeries and illnesses over the years that have put my training on hold or brought it to a screaming halt. I have had to go back to exercising one or two minutes at a time and gradually come back to a higher fitness level. And you know what? It kinda sucks. It really kinda sucks to have to go backwards in your training and slow down and start again. It kinda sucks to remember how easy exercise was when you were twenty and to feel what it’s like start up again at forty, fifty or eighty.
But you know what, we don’t all START as starship captains. And starting is way better than dreaming about imagining the process of starting. Two minute workouts are way, way better for your body than no workouts. And exercise in a chair can be a safe and wonderful starting place if standing workouts aren’t comfortable or safe for you right now. And if a two minute chair workout is something that you can do safely and consistently and relatively comfortably at this point, then I would say that a two minute chair workout should ROCK YOUR WORLD RIGHT NOW! And I’m going to let Captain Kirk and Spock tell you why.
If we look at this exercise thing with cold, Vulcan Spock-like logic, it’s fairly plain that one of the most important things is to live to exercise another day. Now I don’t mean that you’re actually going to die after your workout (at least I hope not). But it’s really, really common for beginning and returning exercisers to do way too much too soon. If you’re lucky, you simply hurt all over the next day. This does not inspire most of us to do another workout. If you’re coping with a chronic illness or condition, you may find yourself so weak and exhausted that you can barely move the next day. You may find that you have inadvertently used up a whole week’s worth of “spoons” in one go. If you’re recovering from an injury, you may find that you have severely aggravated the injury site. Or if you are even less lucky, you’ll re-injure yourself or have a brand new injury to deal with. All in all, doing way too much too soon is not something to be proud of or wear as a badge of honor. From a cold logic standpoint, it’s kinda stupid.
Because there is an alternative. If you start small, at a level that is comfortable to you, and if you increase gradually, at a level that is safe and sensible, you don’t have to go through massive amounts of pain and injury and frustration. You can progress in your fitness efforts without having to quit and go back to zero all the time. You can spend a whole lot less time visiting your doctor or sports medicine specialist. You can integrate exercise into your life without it taking over your life. You can expend a reasonable amount of “spoons” on working out and still have some left for washing your hair and taking the kids to school. Exercise will feel great and you will feel like doing more. And if you ask your inner Spock, he’ll tell you that this is the smart move.
After that, you just have deal with your inner James T. Kirk. First you have to tell your inner Captain that he needs to calm the heck down. He will tell you to run out, phasers blasting, smart mouthing and fist fighting every sassy alien that comes along. But let your inner Spock remind him of the need to live to fight another day. Then let your inner Kirk remind you that you can cope with most things with a swagger and a smile–including a two minute chair workout. Stubbornly refuse to be embarrassed by it. Have fun with it. Rock it out. Gradually, increase. And before you know it, you’ll be exercising more than you ever thought you could, feeling better and having a better quality of life. And then you can truly, live long and prosper.
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
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Great blog, Jeanette! You know why I love it, besides the fact that you so cleverly worked Star Trek into the message. I’m definitely a Star Trek fan.
I needed to hear this. Read this?! I got really really sick this spring and it’s taken a long long time to spring back. And this is after having a lingering problem for the past year. I’m a hot mess physically and know I need to start somewhere…but where. I feel like a wimp…but now you’ve given me the a-ok to feel that way. Thank you!
As Methos reminded Duncan McLeod – Live, Highlander. Grow stronger. Fight another day. This time around, I’ve found that I am gradually adding more and more time, more and more activity, instead of rushing at full speed ahead and ending up de-motivating myself. Thanks for this gentle and wonderful reminder. 🙂