Witnessing fitness…

cat lifting weights

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest post for fitness blogger Saguren’s site Exercise and Health, on the topic of fitness blogging in general. When he issued the invitation, I was interested in contributing a piece because I find his blog helpful, interesting and balanced. I highly recommend you check it out.

You can read my guest post with his added comments at this link. I am also republishing my original text below.

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I have a tendency to get a little annoyed by some fitness websites (not this one) — for at least two reasons.

First, it often seems like they’re ‘preaching to the converted’ — catering to people who are already fit.

Second, they can come across as looking down on those who aren’t, by over-simplifying both what the attainable goals should be and what it takes to reach them. 

(An earlier post of mine from a few years ago also touches on this idea.)

I was especially interested in doing a guest post for this site because neither of those is true here.

For all my early life, I had little natural inclination toward strenuous physical activity. My interests ran to the cerebral and stationary: writing, reading, meaningful conversation. 

(My twin sister, in contrast, was in high school sports and seemed, from very early childhood and throughout, to have a noticeably faster metabolism, even though we share the same DNA.)

Years later, recognizing the cumulative detrimental effects on my specific constitution of not being more physically active, I finally found the resolve to make changes and incorporate regular exercise and healthier eating into my lifestyle.

The efforts were rewarded by improved overall health, and have become a permanent part of my routine for many years now, though they still require self-talk and determination.

Here are a few points I’d appreciate fitness buffs keeping in mind when they’re out to encourage others…

1. Everyone can take steps in the right direction

…but not everyone is going to find achievable the success you may be reveling in, or will find the fitness focus as enjoyable in itself as you do.

As mentioned, I obtained positive results from changes I made in exercise and nutrition routines, but I’ll never look like a body builder and those steps will continue to require purposeful resolve.

2. You don’t know the background obstacles your readers are working with

…so be encouraging while taking care not to imply too high a standard. 

After I recovered from two-plus years of cancer treatment in my 50s, I came away from it with permanent physical limitations. More than one cancer survivor/motivational speaker I’ve came across since has unwittingly left me more discouraged than encouraged, because they were harking back to their extreme good fitness before their diagnosis. (Both had been long-distance runners.) I’m happy for them to have returned to it — but I didn’t feel they could relate to my experience, having never been into sports and exercise beforehand. 

3. Don’t discount or underplay the role of mental health…

The effort it takes to move toward better physical health is precisely what is blocked by psychological difficulties; the two are, of course, intertwined. 

In order to feel more positive, I must get moving — but I can’t get moving because I feel so negative. 

Gives ‘cycling’ a new meaning. 

Yes, the cycle can be toggled to build upward rather than downward — but not without encouragement and determination, and only by starting with small measures. 

This is why every seemingly minuscule step must be celebrated; it is the only way to build productive momentum. 

4. Everyone’s success is unique to them…

I cannot expect to arrive at a similar shape as my sister, who has been ballroom dancing competitively for years — and we are identical twins. 

While the sciences of fitness and nutrition have made great strides, the relationship between the innate physique and environmental conditioning is still not completely understood — including, for example, how cells store and shed fat in different people.

For me to have trimmed the excess pounds I have since my treatments may be an even more satisfying achievement in its own context than my twin having never had to do so.

My favorite activities are still writing, reading and meaningful conversation.

Now, as part of maintaining whatever level of health is available to me, I’ve tried to add a more active spin to them — for example, sometimes writing or reading while on a stationary desk-bike, and arranging to converse with friends while out walking together. 

The challenge is to take whatever steps are accessible to me, however small, within my circumstances. 

Keeping this in mind counters the unhelpful comparisons with others — because only I know internally what it has taken for me to accomplish whatever small successes i have. 

The positive effects on my sense of self and wellbeing are incalculable.