Big Girl Badge: Learning To Exercise (Reluctantly)

I now have barbells instead of a right hand.

It’s no secret that I hate working out. With the exception of riding my bike, which I don’t do often enough, I have yet to find a single physical activity that is not like pulling teeth to make myself do. While it’s obviously my business what I do with my body and while I still believe health is not a moral imperative, I’ve decided that I’d like to be able to climb a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. Also, despite my best efforts at body acceptance, I’m approaching a weight I am no longer comfortable with.

For me personally, taking care of my body seems like a grown-up attribute, whether due to a sense of responsibility for my health or the simple sense that my body is starting to decay as part of the inexorable march towards death. To that end, I’ve decided once and for all to try to find a way to exercise that I do not totally hate. My doctor says you need at least 90 minutes of cardio a week, so I’m going to try to start out with that.


Maybe this is cheating because I’m being paid to write an article about it, but I attend a free workout class with Bon Iver‘s trainer Jeff Rogers in the park and I don’t hate it. There are arm lifts, squats, lunges, and lots of running in place. I feel pretty tired and awful by the end of it, but not without a sense of accomplishment.

Workout time: one hour


I take a walk with my roommate to Bushwick to go get her bike, then ride a little ways to McCarren Park, then up to Greenpoint, then back home to Williamsburg. Sure, we stop to get tacos and micheladas, but I’m hoping all the bicycling cancels that out.

Workout time: half an hour


I am so tired, you guys. I had to turn in two articles yesterday and all I want to do when I finish work is make dinner and watch Velvet Goldmine on Netflix while sealed to the couch with Super Glue (which makes things awkward when I have to pee). I can’t exercise all the time, okay?

Workout time: 0 hours


Determined to make this work, I put on the workout DVD that Jeff Rogers gave me and do his 15-minute “body weight”/cardio workout with my roommates. Then we do the 7-minute abs one. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am dead tired by the end of it. I never knew 22 minutes could feel this long. My roommates definitely make it more fun, though. Even/especially when we try to use the squares on the floor to do a “speed ladder” and keep bumping into each other.

Workout time: 22 minutes


I really, truly mean to work out today, but I’m so tired I fall asleep right after work and wake up with a start to remember I’m supposed to go meet up with my favorite alt-lit wunderkind/internet buddy Marie Calloway at a reading. I go to the reading, and then the after party, and then drag myself home to bed.

Workout time: Nada


I get up and work for eight hours straight, taking no breaks. I think about doing the tape again for the purposes of this post, but that would make me late for my booty twerking class, for which I have high hopes!

TOTAL WORKOUT TIME SO FAR: 1 hour, 52 minutes. Not bad for a beginner?

I haven’t totally failed at this, but I still have some questions.

Question 1: I am very busy. How do all you exercisers out there fit exercise into your busy schedules? A lot of the time, I have to rush to finish work just to make it to whatever I’m doing that night, leaving zero time to work out. Working out also takes an inordinate amount of time (in the form of showering/blow drying my hair) and planning (can’t be too hungry or too full, or I will feel sick). How do you negotiate these things? And don’t say “get up earlier,” as I feel like shit when I get up any earlier than I need to. I AM A CREATURE OF THE NIGHT.

Question 2: Why am I so tired all the time? Well, I’ve got a chest cold that seems to be dragging itself out into an infection of some sort, which is definitely part of it. I’ve also been working my butt off. (Unfortunately, not literally…my job involves sitting on my butt much more than it does working it.) They say exercise is supposed to give you more energy, but I have never found that to be true…I always feel tired and crappy after I exercise. But maybe I just need to do it more?

Question 3: I am going to make this an ongoing series, so I ask of you: what physical activity should I try next? This is one of the only times it’s not bitchy to tell a blogger to start going to spin class, so go nuts. Maybe I will even go to YOUR spin class!

To be continued…

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    • Elwar

      1. You don’t have to work out every day. Most of marathon running friends swear by every other day. You might be tired because you’re pushing a bit too hard. Stick to 30-45 minutes too.

      2. The thing that keeps me going is that working out transforms that end of the work-day blah tired into a hey now I feel relaxed tired. I work out at the end of the day because mornings don’t work for me.

      3. Try a dance class maybe? Something that feels like doing something that’s not just working out? That works for me.

    • Kendra

      For me, the key was finding an exercise routine that I could complete at home. I have a yoga mat for crunches, jumping jacks etc. and some small barbells for weight training exercises (Michelle Obama arms). I watch tv when I do this. If I’m feeling intellectual, I watch the news, but mainly I watch crap shows on online.

      Oh yeah, and after work for sure. Screw waking up early.

    • TB

      I swear by really short, really intense bursts of exercise instead of looooong boring gym sessions. An easy favourite is to vigorously skip (as fast and hard as you can without throwing up) for a few mins, a couple of times per session. Mix that up with some crunches, squats and light weights. All can be done at home. Sometimes when I am extra lazy, I complete my warm up stretches in bed.

    • ikea

      Exercising to get exercise sucks. I’ve found that the the most effective way to stay fit is to find a physical activity you enjoy, like biking. Fitness becomes a byproduct of fun. I think having fun also takes you go past the point where you would normally be tired and give up, because your mind is focused on having more fun and not how tired your body is.

      If you can’t find a physical activity you like or don’t have the time, just bang out as many pushups on your bathroom floor as you can before you take a shower, or like TB says, skip as fast as you possibly can for a bit. It literally takes about a minute a day. Anything that really gets your heart going in a short amount of time is good. Also have it in your mind to progress. Don’t be content with staying at the same level of reps or whatever. Have ever increasing goals in mind and strive towards them, instead of just going until you feel tired. Having a goal drives you to do more than you normally would.

      As for the tiredness thing, I think exercise gives you energy in the sense that over time you’ll have more endurance, but I don’t think that anyone is bouncing with energy after a workout. And sleep! Sleep is just as important to fitness as exercise!

      Having a cold and just starting out with this is definitely going to make it harder though. In this situation is might be better to get healthy before exerting yourself too much.

      • ikea

        Pardon the typos…

    • Candules

      I’m a huge fan of this routine:

      1. Wake up, have sex. This get the heart rate up and is the perfect warmup/motivator to be awake.

      2. Go to Prospect Park. There are always a million people running and biking, and there are enough super-fit attractive people to make me want to exercise, but enough obese people power walking to make me not self conscious about my own fitness level.

      As for your energy, I have found it usually takes a couple of weeks to start feeling better if its been awhile since I’ve run. Also, I know this makes me sound like Rob Lowe on Parks and Rec, but I have a juicer and if I make some carrot-beet-apple-celery-ginger juice after I exercise, my energy lit’rally multiplies. Juicers are the bomb.

    • Lynna

      I went from super lazy and eating Oreos by the pack at my heaviest and sick all the time last year to being a fitness nut this year, and what I’ve learned is that you have to start out slow. Maybe do the 7 minute abs a couple of times a week right before you jump into your nighttime routine and reward yourself for completing it with a tiny treat (a square of dark chocolate or something else indulgent but small enough that the calories won’t undo your hard work). I used to make high protein brownies and stick one right next to my water bottle to motivate me to finish the p90X videos because those were hard! And you have to eat after working out anyway, so it’s a win-win.

      Definitely find something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do physically and start taking classes for it. You’ll be so focused on learning the new skills you acquire that the exercise part won’t even matter. Circus arts, dance, krav maga, double dutch, trampoline flips, anything – whatever sounds like a fun experiment to take on.

      Eventually you’ll get used to exercising and just feel weird if you don’t do it regularly. Aside from working out with my trainer once a week at her private studio, I never work out at a gym because it depresses me. Just find fun alternatives – playgrounds are still a useful thing as an adult!

    • Sharon

      High Intensity Interval Training seriously changed the way that I work out and saved me so much time. I am also super busy with at least 2 hours of my day eaten up by my commute on the train every single day. I found these 12 minute workouts on and they work! Really, truly they work! Just please ignore the overtly sexual thing going on with some of the hosts. The workouts are really great and really tough. Also, it doesn’t require that much room. I have plenty of space in the teeny living room of my railroad apartment and the moves and equipment that they use can be modified or replaced with stuff that you have around the house and already own. Good luck!

      • Sharon

        I need to clarify – the hosts don’t do anything overtly sexual but some of the earlier videos and how the workouts were filmed were really, um, pointed in what they focused on. But seriously, give them a try. It’s been really helpful for me and really great for people like us who live in a crazy busy city and don’t have that much room to move around at home.

    • andrea dunlop

      Don’t try to work out every day or you’ll set yourself up to fail. Aim for something really doable like 3 times a week and stick to it. For cardio try jump roping, it’s more fun than a machine IMO and you get a ton of bang for buck, 20 min of jumping rope is equal to about an hour running. For weights try the Nike Fit Club Ap, it has a bunch of different interval workouts for all different levels. Also, go to the Crunch on Lafayette if you can, all the cute boys in there create extra incentive for working out.

    • Tania

      If you figure out how to feel better after exercising, write about it! I completely concur with feeling like crap after, even though everyone else seems to rave about how great they feel.

      I think they’re lying to me.