As I type this, all of me hurts. I shouldn’t hurt, I’m in high luxury. I am sitting in my bright yellow IKEA chair with my feet up, windows open, in a British bathrobe. I don’t mean to imply that the Brits make a specific different sort of bathrobe, like in your head you’re wondering “are British bathrobes double-breasted” or “is British bathrobe a euphemism for a casual suit or something”. No, I just mean to say that this one was purchased in England. Now I think of it, it probably wasn’t even made in England. Hang on, I will check the tag.
Oops. Ok. I see. We’ll have to start over.
Right. So, as I type this, all of me hurts. I am sitting in my bright yellow IKEA chair with my feet up, windows open, in an Indian bathrobe. (Maybe you were expecting China? So was I. This blog is already surprising us both and we’ve only just started).
I’m sore because I went to the gym and then cleaned the house, one then the other without a rest, meaning I didn’t stop moving and lifting things really for a few hours solid. My feet hurt and my shoulders hurt and my back hurts. Not in the way of like, how a woman such as a landlady might grumble about her corns or her sciatica. But in that way of like, someone hiking through a forest might take their shoes off and sigh with deep pained satisfaction. Perhaps they reach a clearing with a small stream, and they even put their feet in the water? Now that’s living. Bloody hell, enjoy it mate.
My whole life I hated exercise. I prided myself on being good at eating things and watching screens, sometimes interacting with said screens (Buffy on Xbox, Crash Bandicoot on PS2, Freecell on Windows. I also prided myself on variety).
When I look back to the school Cross Country, the memories of the very real anxiety it caused me still makes my stomach twist a bit. One year I called my friend Bushfire the morning of it to make sure we were going to band together in friendship and cross the finish together, you know, a deadly serious oath, as if we were in a literal war. She coughed pathetically and said she was sick. Not going. What happened to no man left behind?! I don’t know if you can be betrayed to your very core at 11, but if it’s possible, I’ve lived it.
I obviously had to fake a sickie too, because the idea of doing it alone made me feel like maybe I’d quite literally die. I think part of the problem was that I insisted on wearing the tiny cool shorts the tiny cool girls wore, but puberty had arrived and brought with it my thighs. My thighs are lovely, they are soft and they hold my torso up and give my knees something to hang out with, but really, they should have come with some Care Instructions. Namely: do not try to encase in shorts, especially not tiny shorts, because they will EAT EVERY PART OF THAT FABRIC and then rub together in a glorious celebration of friction and then pain and then angry red tender rash. Little 11-year-old Kate would desperately trying to shuffle jog while pulling fabric out of her crotch, in actual pain. The cool girls definitely did not do that.
Shorts notwithstanding, in memory the cross country was thirty eager fit children sprinting down the streets then a hundred complainers shuffling behind them. What was I so afraid of?
My whole life I saw exercise as ‘no pain no gain’, believing that boot camps and treadmills and blisters were the only way to be fit, and that I wasn’t one of those people who did that sort of thing. I was an inside girl. Jigsaw puzzles and books and cream donuts, that was who I was.
Even when I lost 50kg, most of that was just diet choices (which at the time, were quite frankly insane; I was just having a lot of canned soup and boiled broccoli and cashew nuts, because I had no idea what nutrition was). I’d walk to the supermarket and back but that was the extent of it.
Then my bestie Annie started lifting weights, and I was jealous. She could pick things up and charge around the house with them, one-handed. I don’t know if she was ever doing it to show off or just because it was easy, but either way it worked, and so I booked in and went to visit her trainer Pete.
The first time I ever did deadlifts I was amazed to realise that the only thing you do is bend down, stand up, bend again, then you – get this – stand up and rest for a few minutes. I was in awe. Standing there is PART OF IT? It’s REQUIRED?!
The first month of lifting it was never hard. I emailed Pete and asked for more sessions, more to do. It’s too easy. I only go in for 45 minutes and I actually enjoy it. Something must be wrong.
There’s just something about that flippin barbell. I’ve tried swimming and Zumba and jogging and was incredibly AWARE the whole time that I was exercising and I wanted to be sitting down. But if I’m picking up a very big heavy stick then I’m not worried about the clock. Is it Freudian? Maybe I’m just into big metallic phalluses?
Exercise is the best hangover cure. The best way to feel alive. It’s my meditation and the best way for me to be my own parent, making sure my little limbs get to have a turn being sweaty and moving. Go on little limbies! Get your work in! Wiggle wiggle!
More than once in life I’ve granted myself time off from lifting, a two week “pizza and sitting” reprieve, thinking at the time it’s a gift. But after a few days I feel listless and sad and easily irritated. I have to exercise to be happy, which is such a horrid realisation. It’s at odds with the carbohydrate-focused personal brand I’ve cultivated since childhood. Who am I? I can’t be a girl who says she loves working out.
It rocked me to the core to realise I fucking ENJOY sweating. That I ACTIVELY SMILE when I’m finished. That my laundry line is mostly stretchy pants. That I WANT to push myself. Oh god. I feel so gross typing this, like I’m admitting to liking my maths homework. (I really liked my maths homework. I used to do bonus chapters for fun.)
I’m sore today, and I’m so happy about it. Exercise isn’t a punishment, it’s a flippin REWARD.