Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Exercise and Embarrassment

I have a long history of making plans to exercise but then talking myself out of it before the appointed time comes.   This commonly happens when I make plans to exercise after work..  All day long I am so committed to carrying out the plans but then somehow the plans get altered during my drive home.   Oh, I always have some really valid excuse.  Well, it seems valid to me.  I swear, I really saw that one drop of rain hit the windshield.  It really did look dark over yonder, it COULD have been a storm!   You name it, my mind has turned it into an excuse!   But it wasn't until recently that I realized that those really are just excuses.  The REAL reason is that I am embarrassed and it is easier to say "it's looking like rain"  versus saying, "I'm embarrassed".

What in the world am I embarrassed about?  Well, I am embarrassed about the pitiful physical shape that I find myself in. I don't want people to see me struggling to be active or to see my fat jiggle!   I don't want to face the fact that someone may THINK bad thoughts and ridicule me in their heads....or even worse do it  outloud to my face.   I don't want to be embarrassed!

You see, I am one that if I am working out and I see someone beside the trail I pick up the pace so that I look strong to try to negate the fact that I’m honestly just overweight and really working hard!   I don't care that mere seconds before I saw that person that I was ready to fall off my bike in a pile of tears.  I don't care that only moments earlier I was ready to stop running and crawl my way home.   If someone is  looking, I never want to be embarrassed of act weak.   I pick up that pace.  I don't give up.  I push through...all to avoid some ridicule that I fear I may face.

SOOO, in the past when I have been consistently running it has been in the mornings and in places that do not have lots of eyes watching.  I like to ride my bike on trails that are not inundated with people.  I like to be's a protective measure.    But when I run after work where I currently live, I have to face the fact that the roads that I will be running on are chock full of people arriving home after a long day of work. (Lines of cars wait at the stop signs!) The sidewalks are filled with people walking their dogs.  There are kids playing in the front yards.  There are, God forbid...other people exercising!   Whew...that's a scary prospect! 

I have been gearing up to start running now that I'm starting to get a slight hande on the biking thing and now that I know that this fear is what is causing my myriad of excuses, I hope to be able to avoid the pitfall of making them in the first place.  There is no getting around it.....someone may see me!  (Gasp!)

Finding a trail to ride has been the same way.  Ohhhhh  there are a ton of cars parked at the trail head.  I bet the trail is going to be BUSY!  It doesn't matter that it's only 5 cars and tons of acres in the park containing miles upon miles of trails, I see cars and I immediately dread the aspect of people actually seeing me exercise....and struggle!

It is a very real fear.  I can't say that it is valid, but it is real.   I have pushed through this to an extent while we ride.  On the nice days of summer  there is NO WAY that I can go on a bike ride and expect to be on a trail where there are no other bikers.  (Well, except the day that we went out and it felt like it was 220 degrees....we were the only fools out that day!)  I have therefore just groaned when I see a parking area full of cars but unload my bike anyway and prepare to head off on the busier trail.

And you know what?   I haven't been struck dead when we see another person on the trail.  I honestly don't even inwardly cringe..I am too focused on getting my bike off the trail and out of the way of the faster bike riders.  (And yes, I know the proper trail etiquette that uphill riders have the right of way, but I still move off for everyone since I am SOOOOOO slow!)   I haven't seen looks of pity.  I haven't seen looks of horror.  I haven't seen anything like that.  I have heard comments of "Have a great ride"  and "Beautiful day isn't it?"   Occasionally I'll even hear words of encouragement  (usually from hikers that I am slowly working my way past on an uphill section.) 

I know that years ago I was talking to my brother about exercise and being embarrassed.  He made a comment that has NEVER left me.  He told me that almost any biker gains a few pounds during the winter months and they dread the first few rides of the new riding season....until they get themselves back into riding shape and shave off that winter weight.  He told me that every biker knows what those few extra pounds feel like when riding a bike.  He said that most bike riders look at someone that is out there overweight and still 'doing it' with extreme respect because they know how 5 extra pounds feel and can only imagine the extra 50 that I carry is 10 times worse than even they experience! (And he went on to say that many people that he has biked with started biking because of a weight problem!)  It matches up perfectly with a letter that was written and went around the internet a few years back.    I wrote about it in March of 2014.   You can read it here.  Seriously, it's a GOOD letter.  I found myself crying as I read that post just a few minutes ago...and according to the post I cried when I first read it!   It really is a must read!

I can't say that I am feeling great about being so ‘out there’ while I go riding (or running again when that happens) and that the embarrassment is gone.  I still struggle with wanting to allow people to see me working out and allowing them fobseeing my struggles.  I don't like to put myself out for ridicule, even if it has never happened and only something that I perceive COULD happen.  But I can see how allowing that fear is only hindering myself.  So it’s time to set aside the embarrassment and move onward to the free and open MaryFran.   Damn the consequences, I'm heading out into the wide world and exercising where and when I want!