Exercise is just movement, we can all move

Now I have always acknowledged that exercise is important if you want to lose weight and if you want to feel healthy and fit and you want your body to do the things you want it to do. I’ve suffered the pain and aches of muscle and ligament atrophy, blaming it on something else, imagining I have some awful disease or illness when in actual fact I’d stopped doing what my body was made for… moving.

Some people are put off by the thought of exercise, I’ve enjoyed it for most of my life… skipping and hiking as a kid, my ‘must improve my bust’ Carry on Camping style keep fit as a late teen, leaping about in my stripey leotard to Jane Fonda tapes with my big perm tethered under a sweat band around my forehead in the 80’s, going to the gym, cycling, walking, a bit of dancing. I even used to practice purposeful calorie busting sex once upon a time. I kid you not, I would take the… initiative shall we say and I’d mentally count my way through sets. A couple of times I accidentally vocalised my set counting which was embarrassing but hey, anything’s possible in the heat of the moment. Tell me we’ve all done that right? Please tell me we have. If I fancied a really long work out I’d usually get the poor victim drunk first so I could really get those big quads and glutes pumping, it was a bit of a let down if it was all over before I’d got much beyond my resting heart beat.

What I like to think of it as now, and something that might appeal to people who shudder at the thought of exercise is just moving, movement, activity, doing something which requires any effort over and above that required to sit in a chair and type, or drive, or watch telly, or eat.

When I, in my hugely unfit mountain of a mess, began on this journey I really thought exercise would kill me, I was certain my heart would just shudder and die at the very thought and truth is had I attempted the Insanity workout at that stage it probably would have.

Besides that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself one bit and I think exercise has to be enjoyable or have a purpose… but then you probably gathered that from my TMI moment earlier. It has to be enjoyable or you won’t do it again but it also has to hurt a bit to make you feel you accomplished something.

The best time to make exercise hurt a bit is when you are seriously hugely over weight and haven’t moved for a couple of years. So now is the time to start and now is the time you will get the most pain out of the least exercise. See… bonuses to being morbidly obese ;). Who would have thought it?

So I changed my attitude to exercise, I was no longer a fit fat person I was no longer just a fat person, I was super morbidly obese (think I still am, not sure, don’t care) and I had not done any movement other than normal day to day functions for a couple of years. Remember my blog is about honesty with myself and that’s the truth. As much as I hate to admit what I did to myself, that is what I did, I ate crap and sat down, then ate some more crap and lay down day after day for too long. No matter what the reasons or excuses it happened, I did it. As a result I couldn’t look at exercise as I had before, there was no way I could spend two hours doing cardio at the gym (I hadn’t the confidence to walk past a gym let alone go in one so that was out anyway), I couldn’t walk far, I couldn’t do an aerobics tape, I couldn’t whizz off an hour on a cross trainer, I couldn’t jump up and down on the trampoline for half an hour, I couldn’t skip for 500.

There was no point in thinking I could just pick up where I left off and so I had to rethink. I just had to stop thinking of exercise and rebrand it ‘movement’. So that’s what I did. I began to move. Anyone who has followed me from the beginning knows I made some changes:

  • I gave up driving to work and started to take the bus as I had a 5 minute walk either side of each bus journey giving me a 20 minute walk which I’d not previously had. I could manage a 5 minute leisurely walk. I couldn’t have managed a 20 minute one and that’s the sad truth.
  • I committed to a 100 days of health challenge to dance with my kids every day for 20 minutes. Now don’t kid yourself that this dancing was anything more than moving from foot to foot, the odd knee bend and a clap and some chicken arms thrown in at first. That is all it was and it wore me out. But I did it and enlisting my kids to help and support me was a master stroke, we used to just bang on some high energy music, move the coffee table and dance and laugh and chat and bond as well as burn up some calories and get those atrophied muscles working again.
  • I stopped asking my kids to get me things and started to haul my fat ass off the chair and go get ‘it’ myself.  I forbade them from fetching me anything unless it was a dire emergency.
  • As each load of laundry finished I took it upstairs, instead of waiting for the whole week’s laundry to be done and taking up huge piles to each bedroom on one trip, I made lots more trips up stairs.
  • I cleared every room in my house out of clutter and unnecessary belongings systematically room by room until they were all done and we had a huge heap of saleable goods which we no longer had use for in the dining room which we set to selling on ebay and made £1400 from. The clearing of the house was mentally refreshing for me, it helped symbolise a fresh start, a new approach, a clearing away of old crap and of course it had me bending, twisting, standing, stretching.. just moving. 
  • I stopped taking the lift to my first floor base at work and started using the stairs and this progressed into me taking a walk at lunch time (when I got a break) and trying to climb all 8 flights to the top which I eventually managed after just a couple of weeks.
  • I started going for a walk at night, while it was still dark, just five minutes or so, trying to pick up some pace that was lacking in my commuting walks.

Any one of these in isolation was an improvement on what I had been doing and combined they amounted to over an hour of movement a day that I had not been doing up to that point. My strength began to return in my muscles, my aches and pains started to go away, my flexibility increased, my posture improved, my stamina improved and I could increase my level of exercise. I don’t care what impact it had on my weight loss or calorie burning, it was doing me no harm and it was doing me a world of good. There was and is a time in the future when I can think of purposeful exercise to trim here and tone there and burn up x amount of energy or fat but for now it’s about moving.

I know we watch the Biggest Loser and see them beasted to breaking point in the gym but that’s not fun and it’s not sustainable and it’s why they pile weight back on when they go home again. These programmes and their lose 140 pounds in 5 months trainers have a lot to answer for, it’s not real, it’s not sustainable, it’s as quick a fix as the Cambridge starvation diet, it’s just as unhealthy if not for the pressure it puts on the body for the damage it does to the mind. Fat people don’t think like slim people, it’s OK for a guy or gal who has spent a life time slim, for whom exercise has been a life long pleasure, for who it is their career or part of their career, they are not in the head of a fat person and movement is where it is at, just movement with a gradual build up. Go to these guys when you’re near goal and need to intensify your workout but not when you’re 300 or 400 pounds, they will destroy your soul eventually and they do not understand your mindset, making you cry and hate yourself is not healthy. Driving you to physical collapse is not healthy. Even if you find one who was obese, ask them honestly did they do what they are asking you to do at the start of their weightloss journey? Only if they did and can prove that take any notice of them.

I went from those early days of moving more very quickly into the next phase which was more testing but still manageable yet a challenge all at the same time. I started walking on the beach where the movement of the sand necessitates more intensive use of muscles, trying to climb the sea defence wall’s huge steps, I extended my walking and made my dancing more focused by starting a simple online Zumba class and using a walking video on You Tube, where I could pump my arms and legs in a way I was not prepared to do in public. I added wrist and ankle weights eventually.

I started clearing my garden and doing a few projects out there, just gradual increases. This one led to me starting to grow my own herbs and that led on to me growing salad leaves and spinach and I’ve got quite a little farm going on out there now. That gets me out in the fresh air, breathing good oxygen not stuffy dust mite laden stuff in doors.

I began to practice Tai Chi again, focusing on controlling muscles and relaxing my mind and body at the same time, using imagined resistance to improve my strength, posture and general sense of well being, teaching my body to breathe again. It helped increase my mental strength and reduced my stress levels.

Now I do all kinds of movement including using my treadmill and exercise bike and I’m getting close to the point where I think I might start to feel not too self conscious to use a real bike. I’ve ran on the beach with my kids, I’ve climbed that wall to the top, I’ve made it to the top of my building and down again using only stairs day after day, I run up and down stairs again. I’ve danced and jumped and I’ve used resistance bands and now I’m using more weights for strength training. Resistance bands are fab, anyone can use them, they’re a couple of pounds online, you can sit in a chair and use them on arms and legs there is no excuse. 

But I still am very overweight and I’m not at a point where I’m back to my usual self yet and so I still use activity in place of what might traditionally be thought of as exercise.

This week I’m weeding my garden (needs it bad) and painting my garden walls (need it bad) and I’m tearing up a huge hall stairs and landing carpet and I’m preparing the same for decorating and I’m going to paint it all. It might take time but I have time, I’m going to do it, all of it, the low bits and the high bits.

What I’m trying to say here to anyone who thinks they can’t exercise is that you can, even if you are bed bound and the most you can do is hang a teddy bear from your ceiling and punch it with both hands you are exercising, you are doing more movement than you would normally. Even if you just lift one leg up and drop it again 10 times a day it is more than you were doing. Your body will love you for it and it will reward you for it by helping make it easier and easier so you can do more and more and you can use up more and more energy and strip away that fat faster and faster making yourself strong and lean again or for the first time.

You can do it, you can start right now.

I got my kids to take a video of me trying to get out of my lazy boy recliner when I was at my biggest. I cried when I watched it for the first time last week. I was so embarrassed, I struggled to even get out of a chair, the chair where I spent most of my life when I wasn’t forced by necessity to earn money to provide for my kids to leave it.

I get out of my chair with ease now and it all started with just that one spark of understanding that I had to think of moving not exercising and I had to start small and build up. Exercise seemed a ridiculous concept to a 347lb 46 year old languishing in a lazy boy. Moving didn’t.

Try it you will like it and so will your body, I promise 😀