the side-effects of exercise

I expected a bolt from the blue, a major revelation, some kind of spectacular come-to-Jesus, hallelujah kind of moment would proceed my starting to get up early, making me a protein shake, and heading on over to the gym to perform some kind of exercising/flailing maneuver, and yet, there has been no falling to my knees and clutching my head, no seizing of my heart, no visions or moments of self-discovery. Just me, getting up in the morning and thinking I am going to go on over to the gym and swim some laps, I think.

And that’s what I did. I put on my only swimsuit, which is not a sleek and Olympic-caliber swimsuit that makes me smooth and glossy and slippery like a fish but instead is a plaid halter number from Target with matching boy shorts, dug out my dusty accoutrements–the rubber hat, the goggles that I feel make me look inquisitive and somewhat developmentally disabled, the nose clip, the ear plugs–and I biked on over to the gym. The pool was, to my surprise, filled with tiny old ladies who were bouncing up and down looking bored and chatting with each other in front of a young instructor looking frustrated and on the verge of beating everyone to death with a kickboard.

I hesitated a moment over by the hooks on the wall, about to pull off
my T-shirt dress in front of a room full of people, to be exposed there
in all my weird, wrinkly glory, and then I realized I didn’t care very
much. I was at the gym, preparing to be strong and awesome, and if you
don’t like my thighs, you can go look at your own thighs. There are
many mirrors for you to do exactly that.

The class cleared out, and I swam, up and down the pool, veering around
small old ladies wondering where the ladder was and young swim team
hopefuls slapping the water with their outsized adolescent paws like
it had done them wrong, and I swam. I was getting very tired, and my
arms were aching, and I thought I must have been swimming for hours and
laps and laps and hours, and it turned out it was less than five
minutes. My endurance might be a little low. My arms might be a little

I stuck it out for a while longer, pushing myself until I felt like I
was going to sink right to the bottom of the pool, and then I staggered
out and into the locker room, and then came back out for my towel, and
then came back out again for my bag. And that was my return to
swimming. For a whole 15 minutes that felt like three hours.
Maybe, I thought, I really need some exercise. I went home, and was
useless for the entire rest of the day, because I am pathetic. Except I was pretty awesome, yeah?

I decided to cross-train, I looked up the yoga classes at the gym
(because the idea of Bikram is still weirdly terrifying and
intimidating) and I bravely crawled out of a warm bed filled with warm
boy to bike home and make myself a protein shake before I wound my way
over to the gym. I was the first one there, and wondered if I was in
the wrong place, but then a tiny blonde lady bounced through the doors,
turned on some soothing music and started doing things like lifting her
entire body up off the floor, balanced on a single pinky. She offered
modifications, and that was nice.

We balanced on our pinkies for a full hour, dropping from pose to pose
to pose, and it was remarkably aerobic. I only almost fell over twice,
and I think I have finally figured out Downward Facing Dog (which is
really harder than you’d think a pose where you just sort of…face
downward ought to be). I felt wiped out at the end. The teacher, who is
adorable and has very strong pinkies introduced herself at the end,
told me I did a great job and I wandered out, feeling vaguely out of
it and tired but really lovely and not at all flexible and strong. That
would come with time, I promised myself.

And then I went home, and have been useless all day. Though I have to
cop to a psychological effect–I worked so hard! I think. I am going to
let myself slack off for a little, as a reward!
And then it madly gets
out of hand and it is 5:30 in the afternoon and the only thing I have
accomplished is a shower. I brushed my teeth! Unfortunately, I cannot
invoice for that.

That’s going to stop, right? I’m going to build up endurance and power
and strength and feel all energized after exercise pretty soon and get
over my rationalizations, right? Because as much as I love it and as
good as exercise feels, I really cannot spend the rest of my life lying on
the couch and putting off doing anything more strenuous than sipping
water and patting the cat after working out, no matter how like a magical Viking yoga and
swimming and tomorrow, Body Pump, make me.

I assume I have to just not wait for a bolt from the blue, and just do
what I have to do, as one does. Class is at 5:30 tomorrow morning. By
noon, I will have cured cancer.

10 Replies to “the side-effects of exercise”

  1. It gets better…I think.
    I used to be a morning workout person. Then I stoppped and became an evening workout person. I miss the mornings, its quieter, and once its done you are good to go for the rest of the day!

    Except that my pool is insane at 6am – seriously – its like WalMart at midnight.

    Anyways, it gets better :) Congrats!

  2. I was a swimmer and never ran until recently. When I got back into the pool after a very long absence it was very very hard. In fact I swam over the weekend after not swimming for a month and just could not do my full workout. Swimming takes a lot out of you. Keep up with it and just add a minute or two each time and before you know it you’ll be swimming miles.

    I do yoga too and love it. It helps you remember to breath. It also makes you bendy.

  3. “… if you don’t like my thighs, you can go look at your own thighs.”

    I love that line! LOVE IT!!! I will keep that as a mantra in my head from now on!

  4. Yes, it will get better. What you are experiencing is just the weakness leaving your body.

    Also, you probly did, but make sure you eat within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. Recovery eating is important whether you exercise for 15 minutes or 45. And stay hydrated! Not doing either of those things could potentially make you groggy all day after a morning workout.

  5. My two cents:

    It completely gets better! If you stick with it. I know it blows now, but it won’t after awhile, and you will think you are awesome. This is coming from a pessimistic perfectionist. I most successful if I just DO it, consistently, and don’t JUDGE everything (Did I do that long enough/hard enough? Am I a weenie because I can’t lift over thirty pounds?).

    I, like you, find myself thinking I am a delicate flower quite often and still believe in everything I just said.

  6. I was at the gym, preparing to be strong and awesome, and if you don’t like my thighs, you can go look at your own thighs.

    Awesome quote! I should print it out and tape it to my locker.

    It’s a transition. When I worked out in the morning it always took me 2 or so weeks of consistently getting up before it felt normal. After that I found working out in the morning energized me. Not only did it energize me, I made smarter food choices throughout the day as to not “undo” my morning workout.

    I ended up quitting my morning workouts though. Frankly, I just love sleep too much. I’d rather take a chunk of my time after working to exercise then wake up early. It’s all personal preference though.

  7. Excellent! My grandfather used to say something similar in the context of someone not liking the smell of something, “You don’t like it? Then sniff your share and move on.” Your thigh comment made me think of that.

    And as other posters said, make sure you’re well-hydrated, and eat something real roughly within an hour of finishing up. By eat something real, I mean a meal with protein, fat, and whole grains. Like a sandwich and veggies.

    Give it a week or two. In the interim, have a cup of black or green tea for a little caffeine afterward (but not enough to make you jumpy and negate the happy chemicals :).

  8. Ah, sweetheart, your writing just tickles me.

    Yup, it gets easier. I recently returned to running after a long hiatus and the first week or two I had to come home and TAKE A NAP after every run. And, like, that nap was the most productive thing I did the whole rest of the day. So, yeah.

    Now? Four months later? I am running like a rock star at the crack of dawn every morning and then bouncing around with amazing (and I’m sure highly annoying) energy and endorphin-fueled happiness the rest of the day.

    I miss the naps, though.

  9. It does get better. But remember, it’s best to build up. If you feel wiped out after a workout, you’ve worked too hard. And that can lead to giving up. Start slow, 10 minutes, and then work up and you build up strength and endurance. I like to do short workouts a couple of times a day because sometimes those long ones are just too exhausting.

    Also, I find some days swimming is just hard. I’ve heard other swimmers say that too. Yoga and swimming are not easy exercises. But you bike and I find that a great exercise. Maybe you should set some cycling goals, because that’s an activity you enjoy, and it would be good cross-training.

    I love your writing. It was really a delight to read this.

  10. I would love to hear some strategies about how to wake up for workouts. If I could afford a trainer again, I would schedule one for an early appt., but I can’t. As a new mom who works outside of the home full time, the mornings are all I have left as far as time goes.

    I want to feel those endorphins again and get more solid arms & legs! (I’m a sleep lover as well.)

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