How a non-athlete exercises, part I

I am not an athlete.

Aside from about a 30 second stint at middle school intramural volleyball, I’ve never been on a team. Never had a coach. Never heard “there is no ‘I’ in team,” or “get out there and give it all you’ve got!” (Things I’ve heard coaches say in movies or TV). I don’t even really like to exercise, but as a physician I certainly understand the reasons for, and wish to achieve, at least a minimum of cardiovascular fitness. During the 80’s and 90’s, I managed to pretty regularly do aerobics tapes (yes, VHS TAPES) including Gilad and Cindy Crawford. In fact, I wore out Cindy’s Next Challenge Workout VHS tape and eventually bought it on DVD! During med school I found an old clothes rack NordicTrack in the classifieds (um, pre-ebay) and used that pretty regularly, usually watching taped (yes, VHS TAPES, again) episodes of ER trying to spot any errors. I also have taken my dogs on long walks (30-60 minutes) most days out of the week. Then, after the big 3-0, I really needed to start working on exercise with a purpose. That purpose was to counteract the weight gain from  too many nights on call with unlimited access to an excellent hospital cafeteria and fully stocked with junk food resident lounge.

I began the Couch-to-5K program and completed 2 5K races. I also took a Pilates class and a yoga class, both nothing fancy held in a school gym as part of the city parks and rec program. I tried a bean class. I tried one Zumba class (it was fun)! I tried one BodyPump class (it was hard)! Then I moved and began fellowship, moved again to join a practice, and the only thing I could really manage were the dog walks. Flash forward to 2 years ago, when my husband rediscovered his love of tennis, began playing in a league, and asked if I’d consider taking lessons. Quoting the movie Annie, “I’ve never even picked up a racquet!” I started taking a few lessons and eventually became good enough to hold my own playing in a clinic with others, though I am firmly stuck in the land of advanced beginner. I decided to go back to that couch-to-5K program and am now in week 6, and last night I had my FIRST EVER appointment with a trainer at the gym. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for it but it came free with a new gym membership, so I figured I couldn’t turn that down. It was hard. And humbling. And I realized, yet again, that I am not an athlete.

What have I learned about all these attempts at adult athleticism? Throw your pride out the window. Expect to be bad at it. Don’t let that bother you. Nobody is watching you. If they are watching you, who cares? If someone is insecure enough to make fun or laugh at someone else struggling, clearly that is his or her problem, not yours. Try to have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Something is usually going to be a little sore. Maybe a lot sore. You’re not going to be an expert. You will make progress. And you will be doing something good for yourself. So that’s my story, for now. I have more ideas, suggestions and links to come.


3 responses to “How a non-athlete exercises, part I

  1. I’m looking forward to reading more! I love my elliptical trainer and long walks – nice and low-impact, but I still get my heart rate up.

    I’ve been told to do more core exercises, though, and I’m having trouble even getting started with those. It will be nice to hear more suggestions and ideas from you.

  2. Pingback: Exercise Resolution? « The Doctors' Rheum

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