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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

there's a thesis in here somewhere

I swear to god.  I have a shitload of seemingly only tangentially related thoughts and anecdotes which I can just feel could and should come together to make a sweepingly brilliant point if only...  I dunno. It's tantalizingly there in my brain, like a sneeze that just won't happen.***  Nevertheless, since I can't leave the house till my laundry is ready to come out of the dryer due to my extremely rational fear that said dryer might burst into flames at any minute, I will now spew those thoughts and anecdotes in your direction, then tie them up in the sloppiest metaphorical bow you ever saw. You're welcome!

This train of thoughts began as my dear wish that I could write an entire blog post about how much I hate and despise Fitness magazine. I refrained from writing that post because three paragraphs of my ranting and seething, while undoubtedly therapeutic for me, would probably just make you all yell at your computer screens, Well, just don't read it, Andrea, DUH. In my defense, I got a year subscription for my Kindle almost free and one needs something to stare at on the train or bus when one has run out of lives in Candy Crush and one is too brain dead from work to read, like, an actual book. (Particularly since the primacy of text messaging has led to the demise of hilarious overheard cell phone conversations on public transportation, which is what *used* to keep me amused during my commute circa 2008.) Anyway. I have this Kindle subscription to Fitness. It's probably actively bad for my health, considering every article I read therein tends to elevate my blood pressure. The cutsey-poo language is like a million (French-manicured) nails on a million blackboards.  In the eyes of the editors, Fitness readers don't have workouts or gym visits. They have "sweat sessions."  I'm not sure why this annoys me quite as much as it does, but it ties in somewhat to the idea that sweating more means you've accomplished more and, especially, that the main purpose of exercise is to burn or (in the words of Fitness!) "torch" calories. I know I've probably frothed at the mouth about this before on here, but the media and the fitness industry pushes this idea, especially to women, that we should be exercising to burn calories! So we won't be fatty fat fat! So we'll have "bikini bodies"!

Well. Not only is exercise probably the least efficient way to lose weight (I'd link to the studies for y'all, but I'm a lazy lazy blogger), this ignores all the other wonderful benefits exercise has, benefits far more important than ( torching calories.  It's good for your heart. It's good for your bones.  Being fit increases your quality of life, especially as you get to be a sad, decrepit middle aged person like myself.  And maybe better than all that, exercise is fun. Or should be. There is no healthy toddler alive for whom running around in circles, attempting to climb on or jump off shit they shouldn't, dancing around crazily, or dragging things too big for them to pick up isn't The Funnest Day Evah. Exercise, done right, is what allows us all to get in touch with our Inner Toddlers.**** (Naps, too. Exercise and naps. Also, probably, boobs, our own or others'. I'm convinced.)

Even more important than good cardiac health, bones that don't snap like dry twigs, or FUN, there's the fact that exercise makes us feel better mentally. Segue into next anecdote...

I have a close (male) friend who's been overweight the entire 11 years I've known him, while being at varying levels of fitness during that time. There were a couple summers he was biking a lot and got into really good shape, though he only lost maybe ten pounds. (See above!) Then he had a bike accident which, while fairly minor, brought up some latent issues relating to an old friend who had actually died biking in traffic, and he didn't bike for a couple years in a sorta phobic reaction. Because biking was the only exercise he found fun, other than walking which he does partly for transportation (lives in the city and it's actually less of a pain in the ass for him to walk to work than drive) and partly for fun when the weather's nice, he gained the ten pounds back and lost a lot of his cardio fitness. Meanwhile, his on again-off again girlfriend, who knew he was overweight when she started dating him, was bitching at him that he needed to lose weight and get in better shape. He grudgingly went to the gym for awhile, even had a trainer, but because he wasn't doing it for fun or really even willingly, he didn't stay on the wagon. Meanwhile his girlfriend poo-pooed anything he did anyways as not enough, since to her the only thing that really counts as exercise is running. (Wut?)  Cut to this winter when girlfriend broke up with him suddenly (after only weeks before professing her love and how much she wanted to marry him, but that's a whole nother soap opera), partly because he hadn't lost the weight. (Again, wut?)  My friend started going to the gym again and doing indoor biking. Not because anyone was nagging at him, not because of any feeling that it was something he *should* do, but because he wanted honestly to get back into the shape he was in those summers he was biking so much. He was also pretty bereft about the sudden break up, depressed, not sleeping. To his absolute shock, he found himself enjoying going to the gym, because when he did, he felt BETTER. Less anxious, less depressed, just in a better mood. (He's also been going to this nutritionist who's telling him doing intervals are going to burn a shit ton of calories, but maybe she's read too many issues of Fitness. Whatever.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, my laundry is almost done and I need to get ready for my sweat session. See you later.


***the first analogy that came to mind was that it's like when you're just on the brink of an orgasm. Be thankful I didn't use it. Also? I know that sneezes don't happen in your brain. Just to be clear.

****My powerlifting friend Auntie Hammie once told this story about how when she was a little kid her dad would take her for walks in the woods by their house and she'd do the usual little-kids-in-the-woods things like find frogs and dig in the mud with sticks, but she'd also usually find the biggest rock that she could lift overhead and bet her dad she could carry it all the way home like that. And usually she could.  Not only was this sweet and amusing in how it foreshadowed her adult interests, it also made me heart her dad, whom I've never met. That's good parenting right there.


  1. What makes "sweating session" worse is when they truncate it to "sweat sesh." I think "sesh" may be one of the worst words gifted upon us by magazine editorial staffs everywhere.

    Also, your friend's ex-girlfriend - oy vey.

    1. Oh, yeah. It is often a sweat sesh. I read the "word sesh in some other context the other day, which I don't remember, and I was like, really? this is a thing now? Gah.

      And I editorially edited out "bitch girlfriend" from the post because that wasn't nice. And I figured out you smart people would get it from context anyway. :-)

  2. Fun. Fun is the bottom line, here. Maybe I need to start a fitness magazine that focuses on that. (In my copious spare time. Like when I quit my second job.) I can see it's a good thing I've never read Fitness--that would be a "book, meet wall" moment.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. Hah! On the sneeze thing, when I saw your ****, I was thinking to myself - wow, just like a nice big O. Shows where my mind's at!

  4. I hate all the newsstand women's fitness magazines so passionately, and yet I have subscriptions to several of them and even get excited when they arrive in the mail. And everytime, I pick up maybe one interesting tidbit and the rest just enrages me. So WTF is wrong with me that I keep doing this over and over?

    Way, way, way, way in the distant past, the magazine that eventually devolved into the travesty that is Women's Health was actually awesome. I think it may have been called Hippocrates, which probably explains why it didn't do so well. Had contributors like Mary Roach and others who actually did research and wrote well and had interesting things on their minds besides fake promises of "bikini bodies" and hair products and cellulite.

    --Note: I am now back from 20 minutes of googling in which I confirmed that the magazine did actually exist and I didn't invent it! It got gobbled up by Time Warner in 1988 and then I think the Evil Rodale empire probably chomped it up afterwards although I could be wrong about that.

    But anyway, I believe that's why I keep buying these awful things, is that I keep trying to return to a publication that doesn't actually exist anymore.

    Sorry for the endless comment..I think having blathered on about this I might have to write that anti-women's fitness magazine blog post I've been writing in my head every week.

    But meantime thanks for articulating so much of what's horrible about them!

  5. I never heard of that magazine, Crabby! I do remember having a subscription to Shape back in the late 80s/very early 90s when it was all about doing lots and lots of cardio and eating fat free everything. Since I did lots and lots of cardio and thought dry rice cakes were a perfectly acceptable snack, I was down with that. ::eye roll::