Building Strength for Everyday Activities – (My Fitness Journey – Vertex Fitness Diary 4)
Since I’ve begun working out regularly at Vertex Fitness, I’ve been building strength and watching my body change. It isn’t always in the way that I expect or anticipate, but it is for the better. Right around the time I started my fitness regimen, it just so happened that I had gained a bunch of weight due to a medication that I was taking. What was supposed to be ten extra pounds was actually twenty pounds, put on in about a month’s time. I’m still grappling with the ways that this has affected me.
I’m a feminist and huge believer in body positivity. There are no good bodies or bad bodies—just lots and lots of different shapes and sizes. I believe this to my core, but at the same time, I always felt vaguely like a fraud. That’s because I had always been thin, my entire life, without ever having to work for it. That’s just the way my body worked. I’m hypoglycemic, meaning that my blood sugar occasionally drops problematically low, and it’s a factor in my high metabolism. As an adolescent, I actually had to drink those Ensure weight maintenance shakes, because I had a difficult time maintaining a healthy weight—all of the pictures of me before high school show knobby knees and sharp cheekbones. At the time, I was even frustrated with my ‘boyish’ figure—I had nothing that could be described as a womanly curve until I was well into college. My mom actually used to have to buy shorts and jeans for me in the Juniors’ Boys aisle. Other girls had rhinestones and butterfly embroidery on their flare cut jeans—mine came with a wallet on a pocket chain and were cargo style. As you can imagine, I had to beat the boys off with a stick.
Not too long ago, before the body shift, I remember being horrified at something a friend of mine had posted on Facebook. As they were getting on to a bus, some man, a complete stranger, called her an unflattering name and told her that she should lose some weight. The friend in question was a professional dancer. She was in fantastic physical shape, but she was not thin. In the comments on this Facebook post, some discussion had sprung up around when it was appropriate to express ‘concern’ over someone’s health. (Let me go on record as saying that if that ‘concern’ involves calling out a stranger on a bus, you are not concerned for their health, you are an asshole.)
I jumped in. “Health and weight are NOT the same thing. You cannot tell whether a person is healthy just by looking at them. I have a very low BMI, and I am NOT a particularly healthy person. I am tremendously unfit, I get winded walking up a flight of stairs, and sometimes my blood sugar drops so low that my speech starts slurring and I get confused. But no one would ever know that just by looking at me. Thinness does not automatically equal good health, and heaviness does not automatically equal an unhealthy person.”
Fast forward a few years, to where I am now. I’m twenty pounds heavier than I was when I made that post, but I am so much healthier. I don’t get winded walking up the stairs anymore. Even the symptoms of my hypoglycemia seem to have abated somewhat—I have not had a dangerous blood sugar drop in quite a long time. But not only that, but I am stronger and more capable now.
Last week, I had to push my workout back to the next day because a friend needed help—their apartment building had caught fire, and the smoke and water damage had ruined much of their belongings, and they needed to move out of the now-condemned building on a moment’s notice. There were only three people who were able to come help out on a week day—my friend’s father, another female friend, and myself. While the friend organized and packed things into boxes and taped and labelled, I was available to help carry. The hallway was condemned, so everything had to be carried down their narrow fire escape.
It was so narrow and treacherous that boxes couldn’t be carried in front of you at your natural center of gravity—everything had to be hoisted onto your shoulders. I’m sure I would have been yelled at if my trainer had been there to witness such poor form. Amazingly, as I hoisted box after box after box and made literally dozens of trips up and down their fire escape, I did not quit, and I did not get tired for quite a while. I was able to lift things that I never would have been able to budge just six months ago.
My friend’s dad even noticed, and remarked on how strong I was. Considering that I’m only 5’3”, I’m never quite what folks expect. It’s ironic. Even as I look less and less like the women in the Lululemon ads, I am more confident that I could take any of them to the mat. (Views expressed are the opinion of the author—Vertex Fitness does not condone challenging fitness wear models to combat.)
Oh, and if you were wondering? No, my trainer STILL did not give me a break, even though I had spent the previous day schlepping boxes around in a friend’s barbecued apartment while trudging through asbestos water and sheet rock stew just to help out in their hour of need. Sucks to be me.
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