That slogan is garbage. And not just because brownies are awesome. It's garbage because skinny doesn't mean fit. Or healthy. Or strong. Skinny just means skinny.
Some skinny folks don't exercise at all. Perhaps they're genetically waifish, or perhaps they actually find meals of kale and green tea to be perfectly satisfying (keep on telling yourselves that, health nuts). That's all fine and dandy, but what good is skinny if you get winded walking around the block, or you haven't got the energy to play with your kids in the park, or you can't lift your own suitcase?
I spent much of my childhood putting in thrice-weekly three-hour gymnastics workouts (of course that's pocket change by gymnastics standards, but I digress) and coming home to balanced, home-cooked dinners. In college, I usually made it to the rec center three times a week for an hour-long workout or a miserable run (I hate running). Despite a steady diet of blueberry bagels, buffalo wings, and Mr. Pibb, I maintained a physical condition decent enough to continue to play around in the gym and do a handful of impressive tricks. That's just youth and genetics. I've always been a small gal.
Then ten years go by.
I worked four or five different jobs during that period--including at gymnastics facilities--yet, for about a decade, I had NO regular, routine fitness plan. Sure, I was skinny. I had two babies, each with a 45-lb weight gain, and each time I returned pretty quickly (six months or so) to my normal size. But it was when I was hugely pregnant with my third, lumbering through the Y to watch my two girls take swimming lessons, that I realized I was itching to be able to move and jump and hop and just feel energetic. (Nothing saps energy like pregnancy. You tend to make a lot of "never again" statements when you get to those last several weeks.)
When Kid C turned three months old, he was old enough for the nursery at the Y, and I started exercising again. I managed twice a week, and soon worked up to three. Sometimes I work out four times a week, even if one day is a bike ride or some exercises at home. That's not easy, but it's so worth it. Why? I feel great--after ten years of not even realizing that I DIDN'T feel great.
Here's where I go all infomercial:
I have so much energy. I can jump on the trampoline with the kids. I can play around with them in the yard. I bounce around the house. I have absolutely no shame when it comes to playing Just Dance. I used to have back pain; it's almost never a problem now. I've been teaching preschool gymnastics (the most exhausting age group to teach, because it involves the most physical demonstration and enthusiasm) when I used to just want to work with the older girls who didn't require so much hands-on physical activity. I'm 36 and I feel 20.
I'm in so much better shape than I was ten years ago, even though, according to recommendations, I didn't have any weight to lose. But now I know: skinny isn't everything. Skinny is a smokescreen. If you're skinny, that's swell, but how do you feel?
Exercise isn't always about size or weight. It's about feeling healthy. If you're 170 lbs and you're eating reasonably well and exercising and, above all, feeling good, you're probably more fit than the 100-pounder who's living on sips of Diet Coke between mouse clicks. If you want to lose some weight and you're thinking of starting a workout plan, don't be intimidated by someone smaller than you--they may be out of shape too. Fitness isn't a size, it's a feeling.
Here are my own personal workout rules. They might work for you. They might not. You and I, we're different.
- I need a plan, and I need someone to force me to execute the plan. So I do fitness classes--usually a cross-train style class with a prescribed list of exercises to complete, or a high-intensity kick box class. I won't get even remotely as good a workout if left to my own devices. It's worth it for me to pay for the pricier gym ($59/month) with lots of classes rather than the cheapo fitness center ($10/month) with only equipment. I don't have the self-discipline to NOT join a gym.
- I work out a minimum of two days a week. Often three, with a (usually unfulfilled) goal of four. If you are just beginning to work out, don't just go one day a week. Start with two. Make it a must-do part of your schedule. What's 3 hours in the grand scheme of a week?
- Workouts involve a significant bit of torture and often leave me completely sore. I subscribe to the old "if it hurts, it's working" adage. Disclaimer: If you are an adult, you should be able to differentiate between "good" hurting (an exhausting workout) and "bad" hurting (an injury).
- I never thought I'd actually be the person taking my tennis shoes on vacation. But I do, because I know that when I get back to my regular routine, I won't be set back as much. So even though I hate running (have I mentioned that?), even just one quick run makes a difference. This might be in my head. But, lots of things are.
- I fuel myself for exercise. I drink my coffee in the morning and have a small breakfast. About an hour or so later I work out, and I recently read that drinking coffee an hour before a workout is great for energy! Turns out I've been doing something right all along!
- Find the workout you like. I'm a
littlelot jealous of the many options available to those in large cities, but I've found what I like, even in my small town. I won't suffer through a long daily run or watch the clock for an hour in a step-aerobics class; that would only make me less motivated to go exercise. I only use the treadmill when a good class isn't available. As I mentioned, I hate running. For me, running is sometimes part of a workout, but not THE workout. (If you can tolerate running, you have a gift. Don't take it for granted.)
- Push yourself. If you haven't exercised in a long time--or ever--it will be very hard at first. But it WILL get easier. This I promise you. Don't select a fitness class because it's easy for you. If you want to duck out of aerobics before the hour is up, stick around and keep moving, even if you can't keep up with the instructor. If an exercise is too difficult for you, ask the instructor for a modification. Try, try, try.
- Find ways to exercise at home if you can't get to the gym. There are days I just can't do it. But I bought a bike after a 20-year lapse, and I love it. The kids got a trampoline for Christmas, and it's a fantastic workout. Lots of people swear by workout DVD series. A long walk is better than nothing.
- Energy begets energy. After a while, you'll notice something: you won't avoid stairs, you won't get tired playing with kids, chores will become easier, activities will be more fun. Force yourself to work hard, and you'll notice a change for the better.