Exercise: Let’s Share the Pain, Shall We?


(This woman’s smile is surely a lie. Also, what’s up with her floating right pinky toe?)


If human evolution worked quickly, our bodies would’ve adapted already to lifetimes of sitting on our butts in cars, on public transport, in front of computer screens, or televisions by now. In my completely unscientific opinion, we’re still much more suited for hoeing rows, hunting game and berries on foot, and walking everywhere we go. Our brains have adapted to changes in our habits and environments faster than the other parts of our bodies. And so we are required to add artificial exercise to our habits to, in effect, pay for the technology our brains have worked hard to invent and implement.

I despise exercise for exercise’s sake. I find it dull and senseless. Sure, it intellectually makes sense: if I don’t want to die early of heart disease or type II diabetes or high blood pressure or whatever, I need to exercise. If I want to keep my stress levels at a manageable level, I need to exercise. If I don’t want my joints to stiffen as I age, I need to exercise. Did you ever hear a less palatable list of reasons for walking five miles on a treadmill, jogging miles out of doors, or flinging a medicine ball back and forth with a semi-stranger? Exercise–when done properly–places physical demands on me that I’m not comfortable with at all. But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? If exercise were a comfortable thing, we’d all be doing it all the time.

Get out! well-meaning people say. Go for a hike! Go swimming! Walk with friends! Walk the golf course! Join a gym and take classes! Ugh. Okay. I have excuses, dammit. I live IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, meaning a rural area where I have to take my life in my hands to walk on the road, trusting that the Meth Heads With Pickups and Semi Drivers Servicing the Orchards see me before running over me. (Applies to cycling, as well.) So I have to drive at least 20 minutes to go on a hike. And hiking takes place in the woods–hello? There are ticks in the woods. And serial killers. It’s hardly even safe to go out in pairs, let alone all by one’s self. Swimming? OMG–germs! The only pools within seventy-five miles are the park system pools where toddlers toddlers in diapers take swimming lessons. Every time I’m in a public pool I think of that time we were in a hotel pool and there was actually poop floating in it. Walking with friends? Have you ever tried to coordinate walks with friends? It’s a major effort. Schedules! Getting to the Place of Walking! Having friends who are available in daylight hours in the first place!

So, golf. Golf costs money, and I suck at it. My shoulder is a wreck right now, plus I still have performance anxiety even though I played in a ladies 9 hole group for three years. It is not a reliable form of exercise unless one can afford to play a couple times a week. And you don’t get any real exercise unless you don’t use a cart. Plus, weather. That leaves the gym. Again, money and driving there. Time, time, time. With driving and working out and showering and dressing, two to two and a half hours are just gone. Seriously, the showering thing is a big issue. If I sweat, I must shower or…okay I know this is weird…I get a headache. Plus, I hate feeling the feeling of dried sweat on my skin. I hate smelly. Smelly is gross.

Exercise for exercise’s sake doesn’t produce anything. It doesn’t get laundry folded or novels written or groceries bought or put away or bathrooms cleaned. Nothing. Standing desks? It’s complicated. The weird thing is, I enjoy physical labor. I enjoy planting things in the garden, or splitting and stacking wood (okay, I did that like three times when I was a teenager, and there was beer). I like painting walls, and don’t mind heavy cleaning. I think I would probably enjoy climbing ladders and picking apples or peaches. But I’m not looking for a career change, and I’m getting kind of old to throw myself into those things now. Though I am planning a re-do of the front garden this year. It’s amazing how things have matured and overgrown in the past seven years.

But exercising feels so good when you’re done! Yes. So does hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, or eating half a pan of brownies. (Mmmmmm. Brownies.)

All right. That last part is definitely true in a couple of ways. There’s the feeling virtuous part. Hey! I just burned 250 calories by sitting on a stationary bike watching an episode of Victoria. I don’t have to suffer again until tomorrow. Woot! A lovely seventy-ish woman I know decided to start doing CrossFit a few years ago because she found she couldn’t pick up and install the giant bottle of water for her office’s water cooler. Wen I expressed my admiration, she made a muscle and said, “Sometimes when I look at my arm, I run my fingers along the defined muscle and think, Hey, I did that.” That kind of freaked me out. Self-admiration. Pride. Accomplishment through pain? I admire it but the idea of increasing my strength isn’t motivating for me. My biggest goal is to look better. Actually that’s 90% of the reason I exercise at all. Only 10% is staying limber and mobile. Longevity? Meh. I’ll live however long I live, and then I’ll die.

The other way exercise can feel good afterwards is, well, the sensations in one’s body can actually feel pleasant. Accepting the fact that my body feels physically good is difficult for reasons I won’t go into here. But the feelings are undeniable. Before I sat down to write this I did a 20 minute Tara Lee FLOW dvd yoga session. My muscles fairly screamed as I did the simple moves, but there was a satisfying release, as well. It got a tad challenging in the end, but I pushed through it. I treated myself to her 5 minute Savasana when the session was over. (It’s the Corpse Pose, a kind of concentrated rest where the muscles release in an active way.) Last night, after procrastinating by writing all day (ha!) while wearing workout clothes, I hopped on the exercise bike while watching tv with the husband after dinner. It did feel really good when I was done, and the shower afterwards felt even better.

It’s the necessity for regular, programmatic exercise that’s the kicker. Programmatic bores me. I’m good at changing up my workouts simply because I hate being bored. I try to mix up the treadmill, the bike, Kinect fitness, Kinect Dance Central (yeah, that’s pretty funny), walking outside, and yoga DVDs. I’ve thought about joining a gym, but, really, the driving/time/cost thing are issues I don’t want to deal with. My days feel short enough. I just wish I had willpower and discipline to get out of bed every morning like my awesome Dad does and exercise first. It’s the Hard Thing I can’t seem to do first. Even though it’s a priority, even though I say it’s mostly for vanity, but secretly know it will help my slightly high cholesterol and bone density. Discipline and desire. I wish I had both.

Please do tell me what motivates you to exercise. I need your inspiration. Do you enjoy it or do you do it in spite of disliking it? What kinds of exercise do you do and why? I’m interested to hear.


February 23rd  Words

Journal: 425 words

Long fiction: 0 words

Short fiction: 0

Non-fiction: 0 words

Blogging: 1282 words

Exercise: 25 minutes yoga

(photo: shutterstock)

8 thoughts on “Exercise: Let’s Share the Pain, Shall We?”

  1. Kimberly Burnette-Dean says:

    I am absolutely miserable on my exercise bike right now as I’m reading your blog post! (Counting the seconds until it’s over with.) The only exercise that I truly enjoy is swimming. But of course that requires having a gym membership or perhaps moving to the Caribbean. Wait! That’s it! Move to the Caribbean!

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Gosh, Kimberly, you were up early and exercising. I am so impressed! I hope the seconds and minutes hurried up for you. And I highly approve of a move to the Caribbean–send me a postcard!

  2. Karen Terry says:

    My stroke I had last summer motivates me to exercise. Before I had my stroke I would wake up at 6:00 am M-F with my youngest son and we would walk 3 or 4 miles. After stroke happened all of that changed. I try to walk as much as I can.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      I’m so sorry about your stroke, Karen. Walking is such good medicine, yes? I hope you get lots of chances to walk and that it helps. You have a great attitude!

  3. skyecaitlin says:

    So much of this is very true; I love walking, but I am dealing with bipolar weather conditions where I live. I did do yoga faithfully, but I am living proof that yoga can create problems if you aren’t careful. It is very warm and sunny here today( it should be bitter cold), but it is a lovely day to be outside and walking. I will mull this over a bit.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      That’s terrible news about the yoga, Skye. I hope you’re okay. Enjoy the temporary sunshine. It’s so good for the soul.

      1. skyecaitlin says:

        I need oodles of sun: I have SAD. Nearly all my life, I have lived in wooded areas, so I know exactly what you’re describing. I hate writing this ( it was melancholic) but I hate walking in my complex because it reminds of my little tea cup ( I walked her four times a day—even 3 AM), so the neighborhood cries out her name.
        Her name was Gypsy Li Eva Yasmin Dogstar ( she was my third of this breed).

        1. Laura Benedict says:

          What sweet puppies. Of course you must miss your little Gypsy terribly. 😕

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