March 06, 2009

Gym Bunny? Or Not?

This Guest Post was written by Cari Corbet-Owen: Clinical psychologist and author of 'The Mind over Fatter Programme' and 'The Joy-Filled Body: Eat! Play! Love and Live!' Catch her over at her website, Ditch Diets, Live Light!

I'm trying to think of the most sensible thing I've done.... and you know what, I had to conclude it was resigning from the gym - and feeling relieved about it. WHAT? I can just hear the .... and she thinks that's sensible??? Hold on, hold on, I can explain.

One upon a size xxxxl (that followed the period when I had been not so sensibly anorexic and thin enough that you could have faxed me) I signed up zealously at the gym. Yip - I was going to exercise this fat bod into submission, even if I got exercise bulimia, (which I thought from experience was a vastly more sensible option than anorexia, I mean I could eat loads doing the weight loss thing this way) um... even if it killed me. It nearly did.

Now, look to my credit, I had gone out and invested in leggings and a headband that matched my leotard, you see if there was one thing I knew for sure it was that I wasn't going to be fat AND unfashionable! I my fantasy life I just knew I was going to be one of those 'cool-as a cucumber, hardly-raising-a-sweat-types' who arrived in pristine makeup and left looking the same way.

So I try to make myself as invisible as possible. But Houston we have a problem. My breasts alone are about the size of the Grand Tetons and if I unleashed them two black eyes would be my lot. I'm only about double the size (even if it was only in my mind) of every other thinderella there. How come they all seem to have that cucumber coolness while I'm more um.... well let's just politely label it 'beet puce'. and I'm breathing as if in labour.

Everyone else's makeup seems run-proof. Mine - ( I don't usually wear any but I made an exception for gym - I mean that's sensible isn't it?) well it's sweated itself everywhere and to cap it all, I've got about as much rhythm as a broken windmill. When everyone else's leg is up - mine's the only one still down. The instructor tries smiling at me and I want to slap her. Why does she have to notice me. She (that's me) shuffles, look down....I mean, I'm a psychologist, that's a rational reaction isn't it???? Please say 'yes'.

And if you've ever believed in this 'no pain, no gain' principle you'll know that you get two stages to stiffness; the first day you're worried you're not going to live and by the second day you're more concerned that you are going to! I went through both these. So, you've got to admit that the only sensible thing to do to avoid future near death experiences of this kind was to turn in my resignation. By that I mean, I buried that gym card in my bottom drawer and never went back.

But it did teach me something of value (I finally locate my sensible cap)- being a gym bunny isn't for everyone. Some people like structured classes. Not me. I'm someone who likes to hop on my bike, throw on my shoes when the fancy takes me and head off on a hike, or dance when no-one is looking. (it has to be when no-one is looking - remember I told you about that rhythm thing)

I'm not someone who does well starting off doing too much too soon. I suppose I have to admit that my masochistic tendencies just aren't developed strongly enough. And if yours are, and your body doesn't take exception, that's cool by me. I discovered my body really does much better with regular exercise that I can increase over time. It really likes getting stronger and fitter slowly, it finds that sustainable and enjoyable.

I hate anything that means I have to dress fashionably (what was I thinking? truth I could easily win the award for the worst dressed woman around) - and heck when I'm out enjoying the breeze (I prefer the outdoors too) and the delight of being active, I don't want to have to compare myself with a cucumber cool flawless barbie. I used to aspire to being one, but I've handed in my notice on that idea. Getting older is fabulous - as my eyesight declines, I'm finding it vastly easier to fall in like with myself.

I'm also someone who hates having to get into my car to drive somewhere to exercise - it just robs my day of time. I don't do well on an exercise program that I have to tie my life in knots to fit in. I want being active to just be a natural part of my day. So, I'd rather have a workout walking up the steep hill to the shops with my backpack on. I'm killing a couple birds with one stone.... fitting in my shopping, fitting in some sunshine, smiling at a few people on the way, doing my affirmations, taking a break from work AND striding out. An hour later I'm back at my computer feeling refreshed and invigorated. I somehow never felt that way at the gym.

Yip, I guess, there are many ways of staying fit and healthy and the best way to do it, at least for me, has been to find out what I enjoy and what I know I can keep on doing without it being a bore and a chore and something I dread.


  1. My 2 biggest problems with structured gym classes is that (1) you actually have to get organized and motivated enough to get to the gym at a particular time and (2) I'm incredibly picky, so the few classes that I think I might like are usually evening classes, and I'm a morning exerciser.

    But someday, maybe the planets will align and I can find a class at the right time and give it a try again.

    Good for you for figuring out what works for YOU; we're all different when it comes to exercise!

  2. I find structure can be nice for practicing bellydance moves or for an exercise DVD, but I'm not great at having to go somewhere to work out. If I can't fit it into my day, usually in the morning ro late evening, it just doesn't happen.
    The best thing we did was invest in an elliptical a while back. Add in a few free weights, a ball and a yoga mat and we pretty much have a mini home winter gym.
    In the summer I love to walk or run outside. It's good for the soul. Having to go to a place to workout just doesn't do it for me...

  3. That's awesome that you figured out what works and doesn't for you.

    I'm like you in that I prefer working exercise into my day. Riding my bike to accomplish errands just makes me feel so much more productive than driving to the gym to work out (during which I will think about all the errands I need to accomplish)

    My friend took me to a yoga class once, and when the yogi (?) had everyone do deep breathing, I became suddenly convinced that this was what the zombi apocolypse would sound like, and had to leave the room to laugh.

  4. I really enjoyed this post.

    It's great that you found what works for you as far as a workout you can stick with, but even better that you are more accepting of yourself.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Great post!
    Most of the time, I like working on my own, but during the times when my motivation takes a walk out the door, then it really helps to have a gym class or an exercise buddy or a hyperactive dog to get me going.

  6. I'm not a gym bunny, either. But when I DO go-- usually to take advantage of the pool-- I'm always happy at the number of people of different shapes/ages/body types/etc. at my gym. Maybe the fact that I even notice this is a sign of my lack of self-consciousness, but I love that it doesn't feel like a meat market.

  7. I actually liked going to the gym, but I wasn't a gym bunny. I was there to exercise, not be fashionable. I didn't go to many classes either.

    At the time, it was just so convenient. It took me 5 minutes, max, to leave my office and get to the gym. It gave me a nice break from work during the day. It meant I didn't have to worry about fitting in exercise before or after work. It was great.

    But once I no longer had that job, once I actually had to get in the car and drive there outside of work hours, I stopped going. So I gave up the membership. Which is fine. I can work out at home.

    But if I ever had those circumstances again - a gym close enough to my office that I could duck out and get in a good workout during my lunch hour (and a job where I actually had time to do that) - I'd definitely go for it.

  8. I hear ya - I do have a couple exercise classes that I enjoy but I also love just getting out and walking/running when I feel like it.

  9. Finding something you enjoy doing is the ONLY way you will continue to do it, so good for you in finding it and sticking to it!

  10. Totally agree. For me a gym membership doesn't fit into my budget or family situation so it's not even an option. I used to envy gym-goers and if I could I would if only to add variety and pick up pointers/ideas.

    But I've done pretty well teaching myself how to exercise (it really is a learned skill in my opinion, at least for me it never came natural). I read this quote recently:

    "When you know how to exercise, the world is your gym."

    But I would also note that there are times that the primary reason I am exercising is not for enjoyment but to perpetuate a habit I have decided is an indispensable element of my self-care. I almost always find enjoyment in the activities I choose regularly or else I move on to try something else. But expecting to be walking into it gung-ho every time isn't realistic. (Not that I think that's what the author is saying here - I'm just jabbering).

  11. I prefer to exercise outdoors, too, but I did end up joining the gym that's right next door to my office. (I doubt I would have bothered, otherwise.) I've found that it's handy for rainy days, for when I can't squeeze it into my morning before work, and for trying new fitness things without investing in separate classes/equipment. Most of the structured classes don't fit well with my schedule, but I do make the BodyPump class a priority. I find it's a much more enjoyable way for me to do strength training: all I have to do is switch the weights on the barbell now and then and follow along. The instructor provides the music, the routine, and the drill-masterly bellows of encouragement. :-)

  12. I had a thoughtful, adding to the conversation, thought-provoking comment.

    Then I read Linteater's zombie apocalyspe comment, laughed, and forgot mine.

  13. My biggest problem with structured gym classes is me, other than that, it's the mirrors.

  14. My only gym-bunniness happens at the karate dojo (and there, we wear karate gi's). 'course, mine is sleeveless so I can show off my deltoids - that's my only tip to fashion. :)

  15. I don't like going to real gyms with lots of people and that peculiar gym smell. I too take issue with having to get in the car and drive somewhere.

    Thank goodness I have a little gym downstairs in my building with treadmills and an elliptical, and I occasionally go down there. But I like doing videos and yoga and weights up in my room the best. I'm a homebody exerciser.

  16. Hurray for the non-gym bunnies!

    Except after a year of being a non-gym bunny, in the past few days I've reconnected with a friend who loves working out in the gym so I've been going with her. When its just me, though, I'm all about working out at home or outside.

  17. Give me a combo platter! A bit of exercise on my own at the gym or maybe a run outside....a class if needed. I like to mix it up constantly! Nice post!

  18. I prefer the term "GYM RAT" to bunny. Bunny means you dress cute and dont sweat. I love going to the gym and getting stanky. Of course it helps that my office is located upstairs from our gym, makes it mega easy...and of course I get paid an hour each day to work out. No aerobics or tae bo classes here though, only stinky sweaty (guys mostly) picking up and putting down heavy things and running on treadmills. It rocks.

  19. Luckily I'm a student and get to use the school gym for free (bonus that it's actually a GOOD gym, unlike my undergrad ... it's so nice to finally go to a real school). Being in Denver I find it a little more difficult to do cardio stuff with the altitude, but also I tend to get on the elliptical, play around for 10 minutes and decide that's fine for the day. Classes are better for me - I can try new things, it's a set hour, and I don't have to think about what I'm supposed to be doing. My favorite though is riding my bike outside - can't beat Colorado scenery! =D

  20. Also, @ linteater - hahahaha, now that's all I'm going to think of in yoga!

  21. Your post reminds me of when I first started going to the gym. An Aussie in Europe, runny makeup, thunder thighs, surrounded by serious gym junkies who always looked totally cool and in control.

    I never took a fitness class as I DON'T like being told to bounce around in time with others or being in the dark about what's coming next, but at my first (foreign) gym I felt really self conscious till my husband said "Why do you think they are all looking at you? They have their own stuff to occupy them" He was right; no one was worried about chubby ol' me except me.

    Since then, over 10 years ago, I have worked on just doing my own thing in the gym and doing it as well as I can and I now absolutely love the fact that everyone in a gym (not a gym class) is doing their own weights and cardio program to suit them and it doesn't matter a rat's bottom what anyone else is doing or thinking.

  22. I loves my gym time.

    1 A five minute walk away; built in warm-up time.

    2 Definitely don't need to dress up, but it does encourage me to shave my legs at least once a week.

    3 I know just about everyone there, and they know me. Talk about accountability; if I don't show up, I've got a dozen people the next day wanting to know why.

  23. i loved this post! You are hilarious and yet completely honest at the same time! you really are an amazing writer =)

  24. "Getting older is fabulous - as my eyesight declines, I'm finding it vastly easier to fall in like with myself."

    Here I thought I was finally on my way to being comfortable in my own skin, and I find out it's just time to replace my glasses.

    We have a gym membership, but it's mostly for the family activities - and childcare for the youngest when my teen is busy. I'll use rowing machines and treadmills, but will not do the group classes. My lack of coordination would make almost anyone look like a ballerina in comparison.

  25. I agree, great post. I, too, find running to the gym hard to do. I'm new to blogging, but am finding out that many of my motivational problems are shared. Nice to have company in that regard.

  26. Gyms frighten me, and you just confirmed why. There's to much exercise involved in the exercise, you know?

    And I'm going to be really honest here and say that when I do some of my core exercises, I can get a little, um, gassy. Best to leave certain things like that at home.

  27. I love the classes at the gym. I go after work, it's a 5 minute bike ride from my house. It's nice to take walks and ride bikes, but I need a LOT of exercise if I really want to lose weight, and I won't exert myself enough without the group. Also, I'd probably miss whole muscle groups. I do love a good long hike once or twice a month, but I just don't have the time to exercise like that every day.

  28. As much as I adore the outdoors, I thank the fitness gods every day for my gym. Living in the UK means soaking, freezing weather during the winter months-- and forget at-home exercise in these tiny living spaces! Plus, it's pitch-black outside by 4pm.

    I look forward to mixing it up again soon, but I know I'd be incredibly depressed if I didn't get out to the gym nearly every day November-March. It keeps me sane.

    Fitness is definitely about what works for each individual. It's hard to come up with a GOOD excuse not to when we're presented with so many options!

  29. I just came back from a step class here i had to leave half way through! I AM USELESS at co-ordinating myself and am a beginner at the gym. I like doing my cardio on the treadmills, bikes and the cross step, I LIKE THAT. I am feeling a bit rubbish as the classes do burn a lot of calories and I feel its a shame I dont feel like I can keep up and I cannot cope with the humiliation of leaving half way through again.

    Oh well! Slow weight loss it is!


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