Exercise for the person who hates exercise

If I’m being honest with you, the most physical activity I get during a week is when I walk the dog.

Rivanna Trail hike
With Pyrrha by the Rivanna River.

Clearly, this is not sufficient, and I need to do more. I’d say that we eat quite healthy (meat only once a week, lots of vegetables and fruits, no desserts, no soft drinks) — although I’m sure we could eat less cheese, which is not really something I’m really willing to sacrifice, owing to the immeasurable joy that it brings to my life. That aside: I need to get moving.

I have a standing desk at work, which is already something in my favor, according to every fifth article you see these days. But aside from taking P-dog for strolls, that’s about it.

I’m also the athletic black sheep of my family. My dad plays hockey or some other strenuous sport almost daily. My mother has a six-pack and goes to these super-intense workout classes every other day. Kelsey (and her husband) are impeccable physical specimens; Kelsey is a champion hockey player and Alex is a titled martial arts master and surfer. Grace, as I mention below, is a certified yoga instructor and all-around badass. And Sam is also a champion hockey player and possessor of generally remarkable abs.

And then there’s me. The one who doesn’t even LIKE exercising, much less is trying to fit it into her life. So, personal assessment time.

Hiking with Christa in some beautiful park, July 2009.

Favorite forms of exercise that I’ve tried:

  • Walking. I love walking; I really do. People laugh when I say that, but it’s such a pleasant, mind-clearing activity. I’m looking forward to walking to work soon and continuing to walk around the neighborhood and to the Downtown Mall. We’re lucky to live in a very walkable place. And having a dog as a walking companion is the best possible thing.
  • Hiking. The fittest I’ve been in my life is when I spent a summer living in Denver and went hiking multiple times a week. I actually had muscles! I hardly ever go hiking in Charlottesville (like, once a year), which is a real shame.
  • Ballet. I took two ballet classes this year and loved them, even though I’m a wretched dancer.
  • Cycling. I love biking around town, but I need to get a bike first. Goal for next year!

Things I’ve tried that don’t work for me:

  • Yoga. I really like the IDEA of doing yoga. It appeals to me so much: breathing and twisting your body around in a quiet room with a bunch of sexy women. But I am TERRIBLE at yoga. So terrible. Even though my little sister is a certified yoga instructor, I have a wildly different body type. Where she is muscular and compact, I am long and weak. My legs are disproportionately long, my arms are spindly, and I am the least flexible person I know. I’m always the person in the room who needs “special help” from the teacher. So I don’t practice yoga. Because it makes me feel bad about myself.
  • Swimming. Ever since my parents forced me to join the neighborhood swim team when I was young, I’ve despised the pool. My coaches told me that I had lovely strokes, but that I was just way too slow. Just the slowest. I hate smelling like a pool and I hate the notion of swimming laps.
  • Zumba. No. Just no. This is my personal hell.
  • Running. My father was a champion professional runner, and he likes to tell me that I was “built to run,” but I just cannot make myself do it. Again, I like the idea of being great at running, but I lack so much motivation. I think part of me is also reactionary to the prolific running culture in Charlottesville. Not participating makes me feel like a curmudgeonly rebel. (“You ran 10 miles this morning? Well, I sat on the couch and looked at my dog.”) Also, everyone I know who runs all the time is constantly in and out of physical therapy, which is not something I’m particularly interested in trying. I think I could make myself run in moderation in temperate weather.

I’m generally quite lazy, and so partner accountability and public shaming do wonders for me. Also being a part of a class. Having paid for a class (as with ballet) where I’m expected to show up each week and where my friends are counting on me (to at least give them rides) is helpful.

Based on this information, what do you think would help me? What is your weekly fitness regimen, and why does it work for you?

8 thoughts on “Exercise for the person who hates exercise

  1. I walk, swim, and cycle. I signed up for a women’s triathlon two years ago and it was incredibly motivating. My husband, Coty, a stellar runner most of his younger life was a super encourager and sort-of coach for me. I loved doing the triathlon and was more in shape than I had been in a LOOOONG time. Now, I am walking, cycling, and swimming. I love all three of those and enjoy mixing it up with different types of workouts. I think walking is about the best, low impact, health promoting exercise you can do. And it is mind clearing. I also love walking with people and have great conversations with friends when walking. I am NOT a fan of running. I did it to train for the triathlon, but I don’t enjoy it. I do, however, LOVE to swim. Love everything about it except that first plunge into the pool. After that, I’m in exercise heaven. Cycling has also become something I really enjoy these days. Every time I hop on my bike, I feel like a kid again. We love the cycling routes in the country around where we live and I feel it is really great overall exercise. It is worth it to get a good bike – doesn’t have to be super expensive, but helpful to do some research. I have what’s called a fitness hybrid – sort of a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. I found it on Craiglist, so I’d say do check there. People often think they are going to “get into” cycling, buy expensive bikes and then decide after the bike has sat in the garage for a year, to sell. Mine is a Trek Womens Specific Design bike. I got it for a steal of a price, hardly ever ridden, and it’s perfect. It is also worth it, comfort wise, to get good cycling shorts with padding in the seat! My other sort of silly thing to do is the hula hoop. It provides a good core workout and is just fun, once you get the hang of it. The key, though, really is just to find something you enjoy doing, get the right equipment, and do it consistently. All the best!

  2. All this and you are one of the skinniest people I know…I work out to wishing to ‘look’ like you….knowing I could starve myself and work out daily and STILL never be as skinny as you! Ha be thankful for a long, lean model body that you don’t even have to work for! *jealous! 🙂

  3. I say stick with the forms of exercise you love! Walking and hiking are especially great because, as you noted, you can take Pyrrha along. It’s hard to force something that isn’t there. I tried to make myself like hot yoga for awhile, because I liked the idea of it, but I truly hate it. I’m now perfectly happy practicing non-sweaty, soothing yoga instead!

  4. I want to do a triathlon next year, so I’m working on swimming and I’ve got running down (though I’m one of the injured ones you mention above), but biking is the thing I haven’t done much yet. So you should get yourself a bike soon and then we can ride together!

  5. Biking! Z and I have lived in Chicago for over five years now without a car. I bike pretty much everywhere – school, grocery store, meeting up with friends. It gives me autonomy over my schedule, its good exercise, and it keeps me warm in the winter. Get a good, used bike and a good bike lock. I love it!

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