I am pursuing personal training for a bunch of reasons. In order of importance, these reasons are:
- I really, really like moving things around and being freaky strong
- I like being able to walk, scurry, sprint, ride my bike, swim, and play on swing sets without getting winded
- I like being flexible and bendy
- The apocolypse
- It will likely improve my cardiovascular fitness and overall health
Keep in mind I, personally, find all these things important. You may enjoy (or tolerate) physical activity because of all, some, or none of these reasons. Or you may not. I love a Health at Every Size mentality and will continue to talk about it (a lot), but health is not a moral imperative. Health is not a ticket to basic dignity and respect. I’m at a place where I’m doing things that I enjoy, that improve my health. This does not make me better or worse than anyone else.
It does, however, make me do ridiculous things like meet with a personal trainer. Rob and I introduced ourselves yesterday, and we sat down at my local hamster wheel to fill out the appropriate paperwork. We talked about goals, what I’ve been doing for fitness lately, why I’m coming to this gym (online coupon for a month’s membership and 4 personal training sessions). And then we get to the fun part. I’m far enough removed from my dieting days that my weight and such are more of a passing curiosity than a cause for panic, so we measured my weight and body fat percentage. He wrote down the numbers and said, “Of course, we’d like to see your body fat percentage around [number redacted] percent.”
“Well, that’s a relative “we”. See, I’m here to work on these goals, regardless of any changes in weight or body composition.”
“But diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mortality….”
We went a couple rounds, with me citing these studies, and him citing his book of clients. I’m thrilled for his clients. They have achieved something that they wanted. But only one client he showed me had maintained the weight loss past five years, which seems to correlate with the statistics I cited in our conversation. Her goals are not my goals, and those odds are not odds I’m interested in.
We stopped debating when I said, “Here’s the deal. If I lose weight, you get a giant gold star and a letter from me for your book. If I don’t lose weight, but I do gain strength and reach my other goals, then we still both win.” We came to a truce and he sent me out for a warm-up of my choice. I like the elliptical machine.
We then did barbell squats, leg presses, leg extensions, and wall sits. And by we, I mean I. He pushed me to do reps, and we laughed as my legs shook. We gossiped and talked a little smack. It was glorious. I’m sore today, but I can’t wait to go back next week, after doula training. While Rob and I don’t see eye to eye about weight, I have an ally in my corner because I was able to advocate for myself and put down boundaries about what I wanted out of my personal training.
I know that many large women have trouble finding workout clothes in their size. They either can’t find it or can’t afford it.
I remember wanting to start working out a few year ago, having nothing appropriate to wear, and going to Target, where the only pants and shirts I could find were just a smidge too small, but what else was I going to do?
Well, I’m older, wiser, and love online shopping. Of course, I’d love it more if I could shop in stores, but I’ll take what I can get for the moment.
In stores, Old Navy carries workout gear through an XXL. Their regular sizing is generous, and an XXL will likely fit through a 22/24, even though they’re marked as 20. They have capris, yoga pants, sports bras, tanks, and t-shirts, and carry compression gear. Online, they carry sizes 18W-30W in their plus section. While the selection is a bit smaller and the fat-tax is pretty generous, they carry all styles of gear at decent prices. I went on a spree a few years ago, so Old Navy is what I wear, and I find it pretty darn comfortable!
You’d never know it by their pathetic in-store offerings, but Target carries some decent women’s workout clothes online. Unfortunately, their search function is difficult to use. Some good sleuthing will find you good deals, though.
Woman Within has cemented a place in the online shopping experience. It is great for basics, has excellent prices, and they consistently offer up to a size 40W. Workout pants, skirts, shirts, comfortable swimsuits, and sports bras are available.
Junonia is synonymous with classic plus size activewear. They’re a little pricier, but they’re known for quality and a variety of clothing to cover every activity from skiing to golfing to swimming to tennis to running. Their sizing goes up to a 6x/40W in some pieces.
I’ve heard great reviews of Sparkle Skirts from the fitness group I’m a part of. With pockets, compression shorts, and as finely obnoxious of a print as I could ask for, I’m excited to order one in the future. Sparkle Skirts offers sizing up to a 3x.
Share your favorites, too.
Last week, I was invited to go to an archery range with a new friend while I was in Seattle. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous; arrows are rumored to be pointy, and I’m not always known for my physical grace. I shoot handguns a few times a year, but this is completely different.
I ended up having a great time! We shot for about two hours. It was calming to focus on exactly how to hold my body for the next shot. When I got a good shot it was exciting, and every few minutes someone yells “Clear!” and I’d walk down to the end of the lane and pull my arrows out of my target (or from near my target). I loved focusing on where my arms were, my posture, my footing, and exactly what level of strength balance were required. I had a pretty righteous crick in my neck from sleeping in hostel beds, and it felt great every time I pulled the bowstring back and brought my shoulder blades together. It may not have been awfully strenuous, but I was moving for the whole two hours. I’ve looked up an archery range close to me, and I look forward to visiting it soon.
Movement and activity are important for health. Traditionally, we look at movement and activity as exercise- often a punishment for the outrageous sin of eating. When we remove the goal of weight loss, movement and activity are important for other reasons. Regular physical activity improves mood, blood lipid levels, sleep, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and energy levels. We breathe better and our cardiovascular system responds quicker and recovers faster. When you find something you enjoy, it is a great stress reliever, too.
I haven’t always loved going out and doing physical things, because exercise felt like a chore for so long. A few years ago, I removed the ‘should’ from activity. It took a while, but I started wanting to fit some activity into my life. I feel better when I move. I have less pain, breathe better, and recover faster when I have to hustle somewhere. Also, I’m having a lot of fun!
Joyful movement is all about finding something you love. I love swimming, elliptical machines, biking short distances, weight lifting, chasing my friends’ kids, and I just may love archery now, too. I have a game on my phone, Ingress, that means I walk around for hours stopping near public art and landmarks looking suspicious (It is a sort of highly technical multi-player, never-ending version of capture the flag that uses Google’s maps and your GPS).
I’m still discovering things I like to do, and how to fit them into my schedule, especially as my schedule is so variable. I like working out at a gym; not everyone does. I got a deal online for a month’s membership and some personal training sessions at a local gym. I’m looking forward to getting to know their machines and find out how I can improve my ability to “throw things around.” I love my strength. While you can almost always find me in a dress, and often find me in heels and makeup, I still love the opportunity to help carry a couch, or climb a tree, or move some boxes.
I have friends who love to dance, love to run, love yoga, love to garden… When you remove the temptation to judge activity solely by its calorie-burning attributes, it really is all about what you like.
Movement has also been an opportunity to pay attention to how I feel. For a looong time, I assumed that I got winded before my muscles ever even noticed what was going on, and my feet hurt, because I was ‘out of shape.’ Turns out, I have asthma (I thought I got rid of it as a kid), a pretty impressive heel spur, and a decent case of plantar fasciitis (Those translate roughly to “perpetually walking on spikes”). I got an inhaler, and it works like magic! I have orthotics coming in next week, and I can’t wait to be able to step up my game, physically. I’ll have to figure out how to fit them in my dressier shoes, but I expect to feel quite a bit better on my feet. That means I can do more walking with less pain, which is so great when I like to play Ingress and wander around on foot for hours. Paying attention to yourself as you become more active means you can understand your own needs better.
What do you like to do?