Confessions Of A Non-Exerciser

One of the greatest taboos in our society is a blatant disregard for one’s own health. Smokers, drug users and the overweight are all shamed to varying degrees for making choices that might keep them from living to be five hundred million-billion, or whatever unnatural age those creepy “calorie restrictor” people think they can attain by giving up all sensory pleasure. We are constantly bombarded with messages that fat is unhealthy, sugar will kill us, and dudes will only like us if our bodies fall somewhere on the continuum between Keira Knightley and Beyoncé. We listen, and often, we pass those messages along. After all, what’s more American than telling other people what they should and shouldn’t do with their own bodies?

It’s this very shame that has often caused me to keep quiet when my friends start talking about yoga, step aerobics or the noises this one lady makes when using the thigh machine. But, fuck it, this is a safe space to confess: I don’t “work out.” I’ve tried it before, but I didn’t much care for it, so I quit and never looked back.

This does not necessarily mean I don’t get any exercise. Like most New Yorkers, I often have the occasion to walk, bike, or even run (away from the odd mugger) as part of my day-to-day routine. As a freelancer who lives about a ten-minute bike ride from the nearest gentrified commercial strip, I ride my bike for at least twenty minutes a day. Those delicious sandwiches aren’t going to magically fly into my mouth by themselves (seriously, no good restaurants deliver to my house). But the idea of jogging on an endless journey to nowhere like a spandex-clad hamster in a wheel is not my idea of a good time. Nor is being in close proximity to numerous sweaty strangers, all grunting and groaning in an uncomfortably intimate fashion as they strive to fit some unattainable body ideal. Maybe it’s just that I’m from Connecticut, but the only person I want to have see my grunty o-face is the person I am currently having sex with, and even then, it takes some getting used to.

There’s also the terrifying issue of germs. Other people’s sweat is gross. I don’t care how good folks are about wiping down their machines after use; as my even-more-germophobic tattoo artist friend pointed out to me recently, gyms are one of the top spots for contracting MRSA, a.k.a. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a.k.a. “modern antibiotics can’t cure your supergerms, holy shit you are fucked!” I feel it’s best to avoid them altogether.

I realize I speak from a position of relative privilege. Modern life dictates that many people don’t have the occasion to expend much physical energy in their daily activities, so they must turn to those fluorescently lit boxes of sweat, germs and muzak. I’m also not genetically prone to obesity, although I should note that I’ve worked pretty hard to like my body the way it is, tummy and all, rather than perfect it, two tasks that I think are equally difficult in their own ways. For reasons that have nothing to do with health and everything to do with the way my heart melts when petting baby animals, I don’t consume any meat, eggs or dairy, although being a vegan doesn’t necessarily make you skinny (God bless you, Daiya cheese nachos).

I should also make it clear that I don’t hate anyone for going to the gym; that would mean I’d hate most of my friends, and I love my friends like a non-exerciser loves not exercising. I’m just tired of the way society judges anyone who doesn’t submit herself fully to its “health” standards, which are often really just beauty standards in disguise. Would Kate Moss still be admired as an icon of cool if we truly cared about “health”? Regardless, she can do all the blow and smoke all the “ciggies” she likes and I won’t look down on her one bit, because guess what? Health is not a moral imperative, no matter what The Biggest Loser or Skinny Bitch would have you believe.

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    • andrea dunlop

      THIS: ‘I should note that I’ve worked pretty hard to like my body the way it is, tummy and all, rather than perfect it, two tasks that I think are equally difficult in their own ways.’

      and

      THIS: its “health” standards, which are often really just beauty standards in disguise.

      I am a lifelong athlete but the whole culture surrounding exercise (especially for women) can be such a turnoff. For instance, I will NEVER buy clothes or shoes from Reebok ever again because of those horrible shoe ads with the butts and boobs. Nike gets my $ these days because their ads are actually about SPORTS, not sex appeal.

      /rant

      • Eileen

        I totally agree. I love running, biking, etc, and yes, a part of me does it to stay an “attractive” size, but I get so much out of a good run that has nothing to do with my butt, my boobs, or any other part of my sex appeal (that’s my time to think, for example, and plan out papers, and let off some stress, etc).

    • matbo

      Awesome! I only ever exercise as a means of transportation. Sometimes I go for a walk or a light jog for clarity of mind, sometimes I take an hour of kickboxing – but these are done so infrequently that they do not contribute to my health. If everybody just used there bike everywhere (combined with public transportation to go far obvs) I think the majority’s health would benefit – oh and the planet’s would too!

    • DrinkAwayTime

      I eat heavily, but make up for it by running. I make up for running by smoking. I make up for smoking by assuming my motorcycle will kill me first. All this ‘logic’ is smoothed out by a steady stream of alcohol. It’s just all about keeping a balance :)

      • Goldie

        Yes.

    • Jinx

      I love this article. Thanks for writing something so refreshing and relatable.

      I don’t work out either, and I’ve been (jokingly) called a “skinny bitch” by my friends multiple times which hurts my feelings, dammit! Just because I’ve been genetically blessed with a size 2 frame doesn’t make me a bitch or mean that I should huff and puff at the gym anyway, for “health reasons”, like my 170-pound vegan friend. I get a reasonable amount of exercise from walking to my classes, and I love KFC. Sue me.

      /rant

      • Jacquelyn

        If your so-called friends is addressing you in that tone, you need to drop them right now. You cannot help that you are small framed and if I were you ,I would not let them try and downgrade you. The word Bitch is nasty within itself and words should not be used such as that .
        Hold your head up high and keep on truckin. Tell them if they continue to address you in a disrespectful way, you will ditch them likes the
        B-I-T-C-H-E-S that they really are which means NO-CLASS.

        Tell them to look at the basketball wives and they will know why they

        cannot get ot keep a man because of their disrespectful ways.

    • G

      I admit it SEEMS like i exercise more than I do because I do it only sporadically (5-6 times a month tops) and when i do i feel proud enough to mention it. I think when you get into a routine though, it can be very therapeutic simply for stress release. Outside of any vain reason for doing it, I have felt like laying into a punching bag more frequently than id like to admit lol.

    • Goldie

      I love this. It’s so true that people use “health concerns” to criticize your looks. My mom and sister did this to me (who were avid power-walkers) all through high school. I wouldn’t exercise at all for many years out of spite. Weirdly enough, the same spite motivated me to get over a lot of my body image issues and like myself the way I was.
      Now I like to exercise some, and I’m actually 20 lbs lighter than I was in high school and skinnier than both those bitches (i kid, i kid– love my fam)

    • Kat

      This is such a great article! It’s both hilarious and thought-provoking. I used to exercise, but I HATED it so I’ve now quit and I’ve lost weight because exercise made me feel like I could eat more and that I’d “earned” it.

    • Arnie

      Never been to the gym, and never intend to go. If I enjoyed it, I might, but I feel so silly getting all puffed and sweaty and yucky for the sake of… jogging on the spot.

      My sources of exercise are wrestling with the kids I work with, walking places I need to go, and playing the occasional game of football or ultimate with my flatmates. If I’m going to exercise, I’m damn well going to enjoy it. I’d rather die early and be happy.

    • EmilyJV

      I know one person in my life who has gotten a staph infection. It was my dad and of all things he got it from the hot tub at the YMCA. THE HOT TUB!! There is no God.

    • Carmen

      Why you use such a bad language? Are you ok?