Tag Archives: strength

Functional Fitness Means LOTS More Painting

I get asked a lot about functional fitness.  What does it mean?  How does it impact Quality of Life?  What is Quality of Life?  To me, Quality of Life, means the ability and energy you have available to do the things you love to do with the people you love.  Quality of life is not guaranteed.  It is not a status that you unlock or a level you achieve.  Quality of Life like “health” is a continuum. It fluctuates from day to day.  And each of us has a different default level from which we fluctuate.  Many things impact our quality of life including genetics, family, socioeconomic status, age, gender and fitness level and social network.  And only some of our quality of life is under our control.  We can, if we wish, work to improve the things over which we have some control. Fitness level is one of those things.  And functional fitness is the process of using exercise to increase our abilities to do things in our everyday lives.

LiftBoard

This has come home to me in a very personal way as we engage in the “eternal, internal, house painting project”.  I am not kidding you.  This has taken a week longer than forever.  There are days when I never want to look at a texture gun or a roller or a paintbrush EVER AGAIN.  However, I can state in no uncertain terms, that this bloody, everlasting, wall pigmentation project would have never even gotten off the ground if I hadn’t worked over the years on my functional fitness.  I primarily teach dance classes, but I do some yoga and resistance training and walking/running as well.  And all of this has helped prepare me for the rigors of home remodeling.  Whether it’s lifting one end of a 14-foot-long 2×12 board or rolling paint on to a ceiling or climbing a ladder or performing the equivalent of 100 squats in a two hour period in the course of spraying texture on the wall (using the power tool that my husband and I have affectionately dubbed the “poo flinger”) my more traditional fitness program has made this possible.  I’ve increased my aerobic endurance, upper body strength,  flexibility, balance and sheer bloody-mindedness so that I can do this painting stuff with my hubby for approximately eleventy billion hours per day.  I even have the strength (in theory) to bludgeon him to death with a HVLP sprayer.

PainterDown

Which makes me wonder, “Is this a good thing?”  Why don’t we just hire somebody to do this?  Hey, HUSBAND!  Why don’t we just HIRE SOMEBODY TO DO THIS?  I guess the main reason is that my husband really loves to do this kind of thing, and he wants us to do it together.   And even if I don’t love painting quite as much as he does, I do love him.  And I am deeply grateful that I currently have the strength to do that.

Does that mean everybody has to exercise this way?  Does that mean everybody is even capable of getting to the point they can exercise this way?  Of course not!  Everybody is in a different place on their fitness continuum and everybody has different priorities for how they fit exercise into their lives.  There is no moral imperative to work out or to ever wield a painting implement.  But I will say that exercise helps move you towards a point on the Quality of Life continuum which may give you more energy and more choices about how to spend that energy.  And that my friends is why I exercise.  Oh, and of course, because it’s fun.  Well except maybe the painting part.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. ‘m SUPER excited to announce that after months of planning, Courtney Marshall, Candice Casas, Ragen Chastain and I are launching the call for proposals for a new anthology about fat people in the fitness/exercise/athletics/dance world. We plan to include first person stories, interviews, academic pieces, poetry, and art. You can get all the information (including about how to submit a proposal) at www.fatfitnessanthology.com Let me know if you have any questions, deadline for proposals is July 15!

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Frank Sinatra as Exercise Inspiration

In case you’re noodling over my semi-bizarre title, let me just say this.  Frank “did it his way”.  And when it comes to exercise, I’d like to invite you to do it your way.

I was inspired to write this after reading a great post by a young exercise guru named Ryan DeBell.  In his post, he talks about some of the anatomical differences in the hip region that can have a dramatic difference in the way we squat.  If you aren’t too squeamish when it comes to looking at human bones, I’d like to encourage you to hop on over to the article.  Because those pictures of bones tell a story that is very interesting.

The pictures feature the bones of the hip, showing us the socket part of the joint on the pelvis (called the acetabulum) and the ball part of the joint on the head of the long bone of the leg (called the femur).  When the pictures are compared, side by side, it is clear that there is a LOT of anatomical variety.  The angle of the ball part of the joint differs widely from one person to another.  The length of the ball part of the joint is different.  The position of the socket part of the pelvis is very different from one picture to another.

From this picture, Ryan extrapolates that these bodies would perform the “squat” in ways that are very different from one another.  He posits that one person would be more comfortable in a wide stance and another would be more comfortable in a narrow stance.  And he suggests that this difference is likely to continue expressing itself, even after a fair amount of exercise in both strengthening and increasing range of motion in the hip joint.

It’s also fascinating to me that Ryan followed up his blog post with a brief video. Here it is:


Basically what the video says is (and I’m paraphrasing): “Yeah helpful commenters, I didn’t say that because hips are different people should stop working on their hips.  And no I don’t have reams of incontrovertible evidence detailing the exact range of human hip diversity.  But what I am saying is that even if you exercise a lot, people are still going to be different. ”

And the end of the video is so awesome, I’ll quote it here:

“Keep doing it so you can be the best version of you in your movement.”

Okay, I want to give this guy cyberhugs.  Seriously.  Because what he says makes so much sense not only in the context of exercise, but also in terms of body diversity in general.  It should be obvious, right?  We don’t all look the same.  Some of us are tall and some of us are short.  Some of us are designed to be weight lifters and some of us are designed to sprint and some of us are going to run long distances like marathons and ultramarathons like a freakin’ gazelle.  Some of us are designed with a great deal of musical talent.  Others of us can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  Does suggest that the sprinters can’t do marathons or that the non-singers should just mouth “Happy Birthday to You” at the next family gathering?  No it does not.  However it does suggest that the sprinter’s body is likely to respond to 26.2 miles in a way that is very different from the gazelle.  It means that the non-singer is going to have a much different experience learning to sing opera than the kid who rolled out of bed at age 18 with a high “C” and perfect pitch.

And speaking of singing, there is so much diversity in music, and in many ways it seems more accepted.  I am a soprano.  I can sing the same notes as many altos and even some tenors.  But no matter how much I train my voice to extend my range, I will not  be an alto or a tenor.  The quality of my voice will not match those voice types.  And the more I try to train my voice to artificially create a sound that is not right for me, the more fatigued and frustrated I will become.  And if I train against the natural tendencies of my voice long enough and hard enough, I am likely to experience pain, injury and possibly even permanent damage.  Does that mean I stop working to extend my range?  Of course not!  But it does mean that I need to progress in a way that is in harmony with my anatomy and my abilities.

You know, as I watched the Golden Globes last night, I found a number of things really striking.  One thing I noticed was how tall most of the women were.  And another thing I noticed was how similar all the women looked to one another.  There were a few striking and glorious examples of body diversity, but the vast majority of the women at that show could have easily swapped couture gowns with one another.  And I think this is one of the main dangers of consuming media in our culture.  It makes us lose touch with how much natural diversity there is in bodies.  It gives many of us the sense that our bodies are all wrong because everybody we see on TV and in the magazines either look the same naturally, or are photoshopped into uniformity.  But if we look outside of media, if we look in the real world, I think there is a beautiful and astonishing level of difference.

So how do we bring this back around to our title?  How do we relate this to Frank Sinatra?  My dear friend, I think it means you need to do exercise YOUR way.  By all means enlist the help of a personal trainer or exercise teacher.  By all means build your strength and extend your range of motion.  But while you are doing this, please listen to YOUR body.  Don’t assume that there is only one way to strengthen or increase flexibility in any part of your body.   Don’t even assume that there is only one right way to do a particular sort of exercise.  And when your body says, “OW it hurts when I do that in that way,” follow your Mom’s sage advice and don’t do that.  Just focus, as Ryan says, on being the best version of YOU.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. One of the things that is so exciting about the Fit Fatties Virtual Events project I co-created with Ragen Chastain (besides how cool it is to do anything with Ragen Chastain) is watching how different bodies respond to the very different challenges offered in the program.  Rather than asking everybody to do a 5K or a triathlon, we are encouraging people to explore a wide range of activities and pick a few  that feel great to them.  We are still offering early bird special pricing so I urge you to go check it out!

Try, try again and again and again and again and again…

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Fifth time’s the charm for Diana Nyad

I’ve been meaning to write to y’all about Diana Nyad.  As I’m sure many of you know, Nyad fulfilled a lifelong dream and became the first woman to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.  One hundred and ten freakin’ miles kids!  The swim took 52 Hours 54 Minutes 18.6 Seconds.  (Any of you who have ever competed in an endurance event know why I’ve included this detail in such exactitude…)  This is an amazing feat for any athlete.  Oh and did I mention that Diana Nyad was 64 years old when she did this?  Wowza!

I think the fact that Nyad completed this swim is deeply inspirational.  But I think the thing that I found most moving about the whole thing is that she completed this on her fifth attempt.  Yup.  Five times Nyad assembled a team, got in her swimsuit, called the media and started swimming.  Four times Nyad was pictured in the media being pulled from the boat or sporting welts from potentially fatal jellyfish stings as in the picture below.

Potentially fatal jellyfish stings raise welts on Nyad’s arms in 2102.

And then, at age 64, Diana Nyad got back in the water and tried again.  The fifth time was the charm!  I think there’s a lot we can learn from Diana, and I wanted to share a few of those lessons here with you:

1.  You don’t have to look like a supermodel to be a super athlete:  As you can see from the picture above, Nyad is strong and powerful and unbelievably fit.  But she doesn’t look like she’s ready to hit a runway any time soon.  She even seems to be sporting a little hello/goodbye arm action up there.  But she’s not worrying about that.  She’s not demanding to be photoshopped.  Even after her successful attempt, she looked like hell.  That’s what happens after you swim for over two days in the open sea.  You look like hell.  She doesn’t seem overly worried about it.

2.  Winning Athletes Build Winning Teams:  Diana did not do this thing alone.  She had a team of 35 people working with her during her successful attempt including kayak paddlers who kept watch for sharks and even a jellyfish expert who scooped jellyfish out of her way as she swam.  She didn’t go this alone and she expressed deep gratitude for all the people who helped her.

3.  Treat Failure as a Learning Experience: Diane didn’t simply try the same thing five times.  She learned from each of her record attempts and made adjustments.  In particular, when jellyfish thwarted one of her attempts, she had a special jellyfish mask designed to help her avoid that particular problem.  Even that caused problems on her latest swim, causing her to drink a lot of seawater and risk dehydration from vomiting.

4.  You Can’t Control Mother Nature: One of the things that caused serious problems for Diana in the past was the lightning storm that ended at least one of her record attempts.  By the same token, Diana says that during this last, successful attempt, the gulf stream behaved in a way that was very favorable for her.  You can’t know exactly what the weather is going to do.  Nature cannot be controlled but must always be respected.

5. Even Super Athletes Face Embarrassment: Five times Diana told the media she was headed for Florida.  Four times she didn’t make it.  Four times her name was paired with photos of her being dragged from a boat, falling short of her goal.  Four times the caption said that she failed.  I have a hard time imagining how much grit it takes to try again and how much guts it takes to call the media for the fifth time, at age 64 and say, “yeah, but this time, I’m gonna make it!”  That is some serious, serious courage.

 

6. Sometimes You Gotta get out of The Water so you can Swim Another Day: Four times, Diana had to make the decision to get out of the water and stop trying.  Four times, she had to accept that in order to avoid permanent damage to her body and live to try again she had to stop.  On one of her attempts she had to stop after swimming for over 40 hours.  Yes it’s painful to stop and admit temporary defeat.  But the most important thing is to live to try again another day.

7. Successful Athletes Ignore the Nay-Sayers: I’m sure there were many people both close to Diana as well as complete strangers who told Diana she was crazy.  In fact some accounts suggest that friends and family begged Diana to give up this attempt.  And while it’s extremely important to consult experts on whether it’s okay to go forward, to get cleared by your doctors, to talk with the anti-jellyfish mask people, you don’t have to listen to everybody who’s got an opinion on your body or what you’re trying to do.

Lest you think that these rules only apply to ultra-endurance athletes, I can say that I have used each of these lessons in a much more humble way in my own athletic endeavors.   I only completed a marathon after the third attempt.  When the training for earlier marathons led to pain and cortisone shots and stress fractures, I took time off and healed completely.  I learned from each try and adjusted before trying again.  I ignored lots of people who said I would never make it.  I enlisted the help of some truly amazing people to get across the finish line.  And when I crossed that finish line, I looked like poop warmed over.  It wasn’t pretty.  But I did it.  And each time I told everybody in the world I was gonna do a marathon, and then had to tell them that I was taking some time off to heal but would do a marathon next year, I was embarrassed.  But I got over it.  The third time I tried I told everybody.  I solicited donations for the Arthritis Foundation.  I took the risk of being embarrassed again.  But I have to tell you, crossing the finish line was worth all the embarrassment I ever felt.

At this point, I’d like to offer one more lesson Diana Nyad has to offer us:

You’re Never Too Old for Fitness!  And those of you in the Bay Area will get a unique opportunity to show this to the world on September 18.  Learn the menopause mambo and then come on out to dance a Hot Flash Mob for menopause awareness.  Show the world that women of all ages can shake their collective groove things!

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Thursday Theater: Dancing Queen

It is difficult to describe just how happy this video makes me. You guys already know I have a thing for videos featuring spontaneous dancing. But unlike this video, in which the girl clearly carefully set up her video camera or phone to capture the moment, the “Dancing Queen” video subject doesn’t seem to know she’s being recorded. She’s just rockin’ out because she feels like it. She’s simply gettin’ down with her bad self! I especially love the punches at :43 and 1:41, the sassy finger move at :51 and the collection of awesomeness at 1:50 and 2:07. It makes me so sad when she finally gets on the bus and it all comes to an end.

It makes me feel so hopeful that in this world of stigma and shame and hate, people still find a way to let their inner groove thing out. Because this sort of spontaneous expression, this is what so often dies when people are shamed. This is the bit of ourselves that learns to hide when the bullies come out. This is what we lose when we insist on using shame and bullying to try to make everyone’s body conform to a single impossible standard.

This loss of our sense of wonder and playfulness and spontaneous joy is one of the great costs of a society that bullies people. And that is why I am so excited to be participating in the Stop The Pain Anti Bullying Conference this Saturday in Riverside with the Size Diversity Task Force. I’ll be giving a speech called “All Bodies are GOOD Bodies–Learning to Love the Skin You’re In” and participating in a panel discussing bullying. The event is already sold out, and over 600 young people aged 12 to 20 are expected.

I am hoping that I can help in some small way to help young  people learn to protect themselves from those who would teach them to be less than, to stay under the radar, to go unnoticed.  And I hope in small way to help them stop bullying themselves and one another, so they can take that ability to dance and live fully in the moment from when they were very small,  grow up to start whole spontaneous dance parties like this guy, and still be dancing like this lady when they are old and grey.

Because at every time and at every age, I hope you dance.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to come speak at your school, business or special event?  I speak on a wide range of topics related to fitness, self acceptance, bullying prevention, body love, Health At Every Size (R) and love your body week!  Click here or just send me an email to learn more!

Size Acceptance Young and Old

I recently ran across this photo on Facebook and was floored by the brave beautiful young woman staring at me.  And when I read the post from Stella Boonshoft that went with it, I got even more excited.  And the longer story, was also touching and interesting.

I’m so amazed at the brave and amazing things that young size acceptance heroes and heroines are up to these days.  They are putting themselves out there in new and exciting ways.  They are making a significant impact on the movement and on peoples lives at younger and younger ages.  They are getting it done!

To a certain extent, I think young people in the size acceptance movement are very fortunate.  They’ve grown up in the age of computers and the internet where the concept of size acceptance may be available at a much younger age.  Even if they are the only fat kid in the class, they can connect with other fatties all over the world via facebook and tumblr and twitter.  After all, I hadn’t even heard of the notion of size acceptance until I was nearly 30 years old.

We older folks have a lot to learn from the younger set when it comes to body acceptance.  We can see what a life is like when size acceptance begins in high school, junior high or even elementary school.  We can see the energy savings that come from not beating yourself up for 40 years before you start to feel better.  We can marvel at the bravery of a college girl posting a revealing picture of her body with rolls and stretch marks and all.  We can be encouraged by her direct stare and her challenging words:

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.

and FUCK YOU ALL who tried to degrade my being and sense of self with your hurtful comments and actions.

GUESS WHAT IT DIDN’T WORK HAHAHAHAH

But if we read between the lines, we see that growing up today as a fat person is no picnic.  The same technology that allows young people of size to connect with one another, subjects them to the potential for 24/7 bullying–often from anonymous sources.  Stella’s story has generated relatively positive results–receiving hundreds of likes per minute when first posted and launching her blog on a national stage.  But she has also had to shovel through some of the nastiest vitriol the Internet can serve up.   And it’s not hard to imagine that Stella’s story might have had a very different ending.  In our visual world, the pressure to be stick thin and look like a television show/rock star/supermodel/celebrity is greater than ever.  And maybe we, who grew up in a different time, have already endured decades of lumps, can offer some perspective to the younger generations as well.

They say hindsight is 20/20.  And I find myself having more and more hind to my sight these days.  So I can offer Stella some thoughts and advice.  I can say things like:

Enjoy your day in the sun.  They are rare but beautiful.  But know that rain will come as well.

You  don’t have to read every comment.  There’s only so much nasty a body can endure in one day.  Let your friends help you filter through and find what you really need to know.

You are not a persona, you are a person.  That means you will not be perfect.  But that’s okay, because what makes us human makes us real and allows others to relate to us.  This allows us to do good in the world.

There’s a place for folks of all ages in the size acceptance movement.  The generations are different and face very different challenges.  But those differences ultimately make us stronger.  We are better when we learn from one another.  Here’s to using our differences to unite, to share and to build a better place for all of us.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to get my newsletter and a bunch of awesome free stuff?  Why not join The Fat Chick Clique?  It’s super fun, totally free and literally takes ten seconds to join (well 15 if you type slowly.)  oxoxoxo

Why does doing good sometimes feel so bad?

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you a glowing report about an amazingly awesome activism event–Take Back the Beach.  It was powerful and wonderful and moving.  It was a  special and discrete moment in time where things went well, everyone got along, and changing the world seemed not only possible, but inevitable.

And then I came back home to my email inbox. And that mailbox was filled with the real-life frustrations that come when many people within many groups try to make the world a better place.  Along with the magic moments of transcendence and transformation come many days of messy arguments over who holds what power and who is making the rules and who is following the rules and who gets the credit, and who gets to speak and who is heard.  Sometimes it’s really hard to hold the thread and keep the focus.  It’s easy to forget that it’s really about making the world a better place.

I wish I could say this experience is unique to one group, but I’ve experienced it in so many places and with so many organizations.  Sometimes it’s tempting to go off into a corner and just try to do activism all by yourself.  But that doesn’t work either.  To make change you need a lot of people, all working at the top of their game, all sharing to the best of their abilities.  Everyone needs to be valued.  Everyone needs to be recognized.  And each and every time, you have to realize that there is no group of people, anywhere in the world that is going to get it right all the time.  People are fallible and relationships are messy.  We are all by turns proud, defeated, aggressor, and victim.  All you can do is try to build groups with enough strength and elasticity to bend and not break when the wind blows through.  And then you try again.  And then you try again some more.  Wash, rinse and repeat.

That’s why it’s so helpful to have those special moments in the sun, like Take Back the Beach.  It helps me so much to have these memories to treasure and hold close and remember why the heck we’re doing this in the first place.

My little Chicklettes, please remember that the road to making the world a better place is never a smooth one.  Sometimes reaching a wing out to help somebody else simply results in two feathery butts bouncing on the ground.  But sometimes you and the entire flock will soar!  Here’s to remembering your days of high flying.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Thursday Theater: Choosing what Kind of Exercise is Right for You

There are a number of different forms of exercise to choose from. All three forms are good for you, but it’s a good idea to pick just one to start. Which one is right for you? Depends on what you need in your life right now. Check out this short video to learn more.

Love,
The Fat Chick