When I read about this woman, I thought Oh EM GEE! I have to tell you guys about this! Here we have a woman who not only decided on and trained for but has actually embarked on a mission to row herself in a teeny-tiny boat, 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Tokyo to San Francisco. She has no sailboat following her, only a support team working with her from the shore with GPS and weather tracking and communications gear. That’s so cool!
But then I experienced what most of us experience from time to time, that sadness that I will probably never do anything remotely like this. We all feel this from time to time. Sometimes I even feel this when hearing about my dear friend Ragen Chastain’s training for an Ironman–something I probably do not have the body and definitely do not have the will for.
But that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the Fit Fatties Forum that Ragen and I created. Sure, some of the folks on there are posting about their marathon medals and 10K triumphs. But plenty of people are also talking about the walk they took around the block or maybe riding a bike for the first time in 20 years or arranging a 5 minute dance party in the living room with the kids. Because if I know anything about exercise and about bodies, it’s this. You have to work in your own time at your own pace if even at all.
There’s no law that says you have to exercise. There is no moral imperative. You aren’t a better person if you decide to do sit ups on an incline board rather than making a meal for your family or reading a book or watching TV or staring at clouds. You may have the choice whether or not to engage in fitness, or you may not have much choice. You may have to choose between exercise and getting a few hours of sleep before you go back to work at a demanding job. Or you may have to choose between exercise and having just 1 hour in the day to do that other thing that you really want to do. You may be facing challenges that mean one hour of exercise will leave you without the energy to lift your kids up off the ground or wash your hair. So you may decide not to exercise at all. And that’s okay.
But if you do decide to exercise, I really encourage you to exercise in your own time and at your own pace. There is no need to compete with somebody written about in the newspaper or your best friend or your kids or even you from ten years ago. I think competing with our former selves often causes the most consternation. A few years back, I did a marathon. I routinely trained 8 or 10 miles in a day. There is no way, I could walk out the door and do that right now. I haven’t trained walking or running distances in quite a while. And given the fact that I’m older and I’ve struggled with some physical challenges, if I did decide to go train for a marathon right now, I’m fairly certain that I’d find it a much tougher row to hoe than when I trained years ago. So, while it’s tempting to fall into a “back then I could run a MARATHON so why am I tired after a 5K?” mentality, it’s not really useful. That was a different time and a different place and a different body. It’s far more productive to concentrate on what my body can do in this place on this day.
More productive? Yes. Easy? Not so much. I really struggled with this as I’ve been recovering over the past year. There have been days where folding the laundry has been a big challenge. And I’ve worked with lots of students over the years for whom, their scheduled exercise for the day might be putting the laundry away or walking the dog around the block. And we’ve worked together, putting guilt and shame aside, holding frustration at bay and saying, “in my own time, at my own pace, if at all.” And giving ourselves permission to be fully and completely who we are at this time, at this place in our own bodies.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)