Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Dreadmill

Dear Women's Magazines -

In some ways, I'm atypical. I haven't eaten red meat since 1989, I do not see the big deal about SNL's Kristen Wiig, I don't have cable TV.

But in a lot of ways, I'm more like the mythical Everywoman that you claim as your audience . I have the following: a job that has its good points but could be better; more Stuff to Do than Stuff-Doing Time; ten-ish more pounds to lose; two dogs and a husband who all seem to like me well enough on most days (and vice versa).

On behalf of those Everywomen, I gotta tell ya - I'm not down with everything you're spewing at me every month. Some of it is on the money, some of it we have some common ground, and the rest - honestly, either I'm doing this all wrong, or you liiiieeeed like a tobacco exec at a Health and Human Services hearing.

"It's Easy to Work In Exercise During the Day"

I'm willing to meet you halfway on this one. I take all 20+ flights of stairs down to the cafeteria every day at work. And when I can, I exit the train one stop early and walk the rest of the way to my office - and have for the past year or so. Honestly, I do feel better and am more productive when I pull it off, and it's not that big of a deal timewise.

But I didn't lose any weight that way. It's just not enough to make an appreciable difference. Over the past two months I've dropped somewhere around 8 pounds, and I'm literally swimming my butt off. Figure a 15-minute drive to the gym, a solid 30 minutes of swimming (assuming I don't have to wait for a lane), another 45 to shower, dress, and dry hair and the drive home. That's a full hour and a half of non-work time that I had to scrape together out of my already-busy day. It's worth it and it's do-able, but "easy"? No.

Find An Exercise You Love To Do - And DO IT
We're in sync on this one. I like walking, but don't usually have the 3+ hours it takes to burn off as many calories as I need to burn. And finding comfortable sneakers for my extra-wide, flipper-like feet is no easy task. But put me in a pool - where footwear isn't required and flippers are a definite advantage - and I'll stay there for hours. I still get on a treadmill every so often and do weights; swimming, for all its benefits, doesn't build bone density. So in the past two years on the dreadmill, nothin' much. Two months in the pool - weight loss.
Which reminds me.... parents, you might want to try to steer your kid towards an activity they can do for life, like tennis or running or golf. I was a gymnast, and I assure you no co-worker has ever said, "You know, there's a balance beam and a springfloor at the park up the street from me. We should meet up for some tumbling sometime after work" or "You look like you a vaulter - are you interested in joining the company gymnastics team? We kicked Xerox's ass at the corporate Olympics last year."

"Getting in Shape Doesn't Have to Cost Any Money"

In theory, true. I'm sure there's someone out there who gets a charge out of running up and down their house's stairs and hoisting bags of flour or full suitcases or whatever around as weights. And I've heard good things about those $15 fitness DVDs, but my 19-inch TV and playful golden retriever (who does doga on my mat) make that impractical in this house. For those of us who live in the real world - one that has, like, weather - we need a gym.

My costs so far, for an 8-pound loss - I'm not including food, because I mostly shifted around by putting the $ I used to spend on cheese and crackers and Smartfood popcorn towards edamame and strawberries:

* Two athletic Reebok bathing suits - $70 + tax (on sale at Dick's Sporting Goods}

* One pretty bathing suit that proved shockingly and embarassingly inadequate for a good backstroke push-off - $30. I guess I'll bring it to the beach this weekend

* Swimming Cap - $15 (plus the deep conditioner from the two months I swam without one, and the haircut, and the damage to my highlights....)

* Sneakers for my impossible-to-fit, extra-wide, flipper-like feet for land workouts - $80

* Swimmers' shamwow-like super absorbent towel - $10

And keep in mind that I already had a yoga mat, gym bag, extra hair dryer, gym membership, etc. We have a terrific park near the house and I happily go walking there - but not when it's pouring rain (almost every day this month), not when it's over 90 degrees, not when Atlanta's air quality is "unhealthy for every non-cockroach living being" (daily from June to mid-October), and not when the pollen drifts obscure the walking path (March and April).

One free source of inspiration was watching The Biggest Loser. Those folks didn't just show up at the gym and go through the motions - they busted it, they threw up, they sweated through their clothes, they cried, they cursed their trainers. Honest to God, I think of that when I start slowing down on my laps and feel like it might be OK to stop before hitting my goal. And I keep going.

"When You Make Healthful Substitutions, You'll Never Miss Snack Food"

F-you. Seriously. DO NOT tell me that a crunchy carrot stick is a "great substitute" for potato chips. That's insane. What kind of half-wit confuses the two? I happen to love berries, but I'm not so clueless as to notice they're not covered with chocolate.

And the verdict is...
I'm renewing my subscription to Weight Watchers magazine (terrific recipes) and I'll still pick up the occasional copy of Self and Fitness.

Here's the thing - I go to church every Sunday. And the message does not change, ever - in my house of worship, it's "love thy neighbor as thy self" and "follow the Ten Commandments" and "your marriage and your family are important" and "it is impossible to have earned the mercy we are shown, it's a gift." In the past ten or more years that I've gone to the same church, same message. The people who went there 50 years ago? They heard the same thing, every time.

But I need to hear it every week, because it's hard to do and it doesn't mesh with everything I see around me. Same thing with my health - there are no giant billboards advertising carrots the way there are for soda and doughnuts and fried chicken. I need to read the stories every month of someone who lost weight and kept it off to remind me that it can be done.

So dammit, you've got me for a good $10 per month. Just add that to my tab above.

Well played, editors. Well played.

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