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I’m Not Saying Endorphins Are A Myth, But…


I’m not one of those “workey outie” kinds of people.

I don’t get high off of endorphins and I don’t take selfies of my meticulously toned body parts —

(except that one time in 2011)

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— and pretty much the last time I set foot in a gym is back in 2002 when one of my part-time college jobs was waking up at 5:00 a.m. to check the swim team into the weight room and watch them work out.

It was exhausting.

And that’s the thing about gyms — it’s not the workout itself, or even the grossness of sitting on a semi-porous vinyl bench still smeared with another person’s haphazardly wiped sweat marks, but the sheer mental exhaustion of constantly trying to look like you know what you’re doing.

At a gym, many of us tend to place this ridiculous expectation on ourselves that we still have to somehow look attractive while we’re sweating and grunting beneath cold fluorescent lights. When I used to straddle that bench thingie on the lateral pull-down thingie with my arms splayed out on either side of my head, this was my thought process:


I wish my shorts were a little longer.

I wonder if that girl can tell that my sports bra is from Target.

Did I shave my armpits today??

Thank God no one’s close enough to see my leg hair.

Crap. This is heavy. What kind of face am I making right now?

Seriously. Can people see up my shorts?!

Which is hardly conducive to growing muscles, let alone maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth.

do care about my health, however, and also, if I’m going to be honest, how I look in a tank top, but the biggest motivation for me to physically activate my body on a regular basis is that it feels good to feel strong.

It feels physically good, it feels emotionally good, and even the hurt — I’m just going to say it — hurts so good.

I’m not talking about that endorphin rush people say they get when they work out. I think I’ve maybe experienced that feeling, oh… once in my entire life, and it’s pretty much the same feeling I get when I book a flight to somewhere I’ve never been before or unearth a box of Girl Scout cookies from the pantry that I hadn’t known was there, neither of which requires the superfluous emission of sweat upon which the endorphins apparently feed.


I hate the sweat.

And yet I still work out because that good feeling I’m talking about is one of overall health. Strength. An abundance of energy. And it’s something you can’t understand until you’ve felt it yourself.

So. If you’re like me, and you don’t really want to drink the Gym Monkey Kool-aid and struggle to get into the whole Yay! Exercise makes my whole world turn kind of vibe, there are still things you can do to improve the physical state of your body along with that whole mental feel goodery thing I talked about without committing whole hours of your day.

My jobs — freelance writing and virtual assistantship — require me to be on my ass in front of a computer screen pretty much all day long. Fortunately, my boss is my self, and my self allows me to take breaks whenever the mood strikes. And it usually strikes whenever the sun happens to look particularly inviting or my back starts to hurt from all of the sitting. So of course it wouldn’t make sense for my break to entail more sitting — just in another room — so those are the times I choose to move. Get the blood flowing. Tell my body that I don’t hate it as much as I did that night I scarfed half the box of cookies I’d discovered in the pantry.

(I didn’t actually do that. Moderation, people.)

When it’s time for a break, I will do one of several things:

1) Work out to Jillian Michael’s Shred. I wrote a whole post about it back in the day, and it’s still my go-to video for a quick and dirty workout at home. All you need is 20 minutes and a set of light dumbbells. You can grunt, you can sweat, and you can embrace the work in all of its horrific ugliness, and then you can hop right into your shower without first making your car smell like a gym locker. And, holy cow guys, I just saw that the entire Level 1 workout is available for free on YouTube.

2) Walk the mutts. My dogs have high energy, and I tend to walk them one-at-a-time for better control. We’ve had to establish some new routes since the move, but so far on a short day (ie. when it’s cold, not sunny, or I just don’t feel like it), I walk them each about a mile. But on a long day, I walk them each three miles down to the river and back. Even on the occasions when I’m not walking particularly fast, it’s still a great way to get moving and take in some fresh air.

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3) Work on a house project. From painting to de-wallpapering to scrubbing bird crap off the back deck, there’s always something to be done around here. It’s never a workout in the traditional sense, especially when I’m drinking a beer while doing it, but it’s always physical, and it always finishes with a sense of accomplishment.

Unless, of course, I failed miserably.

But the physical part is still there.

Which, when it comes to the upcoming swimsuit season (and thankfully ending Girl Scout Cookie Season), is all that really matters.

What do YOU do to get moving?


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Oh yeah, exercise. I used to do that. :) For various reasons, I was ordered off all activity for pretty much my whole pregnancy and then had a c-section, so was off for a while there too. So it’s been like a year since I’ve done anything but walk.

Just got the green light to exercise again. Guess I probably should. A little hard to fit in with new demanding task-master, who is, frankly, a bit of an attention hog. But you just reminded me I have a couple of Jillian Michaels DVDs, so maybe can try to fit those in. 20 minutes sounds do-able. Although I remember those workouts and they are pretty brutal 20 minute sessions. I like the efficiency though. (I actually kind of love the gym, but it’s always the getting there that’s hard. I imagine it’s not going to be any easier now.)

You’re right about the strength thing. I assume I have none at the moment, due to the long-standing orders of “don’t lift anything over 10 lbs,” which is less than groceries or some people’s handbags. Would like to get some muscle back. Maybe three years ago I made a goal to be able to do a pull-up. I think I am now less able than I was then. Sad.


Definitely give Jillian a try! It’s hard-core for sure, but you can always start at your own pace. I thought I was going to die the first couple of times I did it, but the improvement is swift if you can manage to stick with it. What I love about it the most is that it’s SO hard to talk yourself out of it because you don’t have to drag yourself to the gym, and it’s only 20 minutes!

Or you could do like my friend did and pop out another baby right away — she’s building crazy arm muscles toting the two kids around. ;)


Really?? Maybe needs a cache refreshing or something… The issue happens every time I update my theme version and I have to go through and fix it. Only big bummer about this theme.


Oh, ha! I meant no about having another kid to get strong. Your photos are good now. Sorry – should have been clearer.


Ha! That makes much more sense.


Oh, and there’s something wrong with your photos.


Yeah… should be fixed now. Love technology!

Jeannine Bruner

Well- this year being my 35th (ack- when did THAT happen?!), I made the choice to have it be about improving me. So…twice a week I see my trainer at a gym filled with macho, weight lifting college guys. However, even though their buffness is all up in my face, I don’t feel uncomfortable there- not like I did with the gym that had mostly women & I was on my own. Having a trainer makes me feel like I know what I’m doing & I am enjoying the feeling of getting stronger. I will start running again once it is warmer & school is out. I am not enough of a morning person to get up early enough to run before having to get ready for work & running in the dark terrifies me. So, I am a seasonal runner- only during the summer & only when its not TOO hot. I have a treadmill, but I despise running & not getting anywhere. I will walk on it & watch TV, but running on it is a NO. It’s a lot easier to be lazy, but now that I am closer to a number starting with a 4, I realize my old ways of thinking “I’m thin, I don’t need to work out” weren’t working- yes I was thin, but man, was I out of shape! I hope to keep it up–> down several inches & 15 lbs since mid December!


1. Happy early birthday!
2. YES! Having a trainer is SUCH an exception to the gym discomfort factor. Well. I think *I* would still be uncomfortable, but decidedly less so, knowing I’m learning to do everything correctly.
3. Running. Yuck.
4. Congrats on the inches and weight loss!! And also on recognizing that it’s not even necessarily about being thin — it’s about being in SHAPE and feeling STRONG. That is awesome!!
4. “I despise running & not getting anywhere.” <-- There's a metaphor in there somewhere, I think. :)

Colleen Brynn

I have a gym membership in Waterloo, and I joined because a friend convinced me we would try all the classes together. We managed to do a few, and I even found a couple I liked, but I realised I am really not a gym person. I would much rather go for walks outside. That, and I think everyday activities can be enough to still consider yourself active. My roommates here in Mumbai go for runs and do yoga. I count going to school, sweating like crazy, climbing up and down stairs to class, squatting at kid level and general discomfort while adapting to life here as activity enough. Thank you very much.


Ha, good point! Though if you *did* want to try yoga, India would certainly be the place to do it. :)


Crossfit crossfit crossfit! (can you tell I like crossfit?) It’s actually more love than like even if it makes me feel like i want to die a lot, but in a good way. I didn’t grow up athletic AT ALL and always struggled with my weight and fitness. I found crossfit through a running partner of similar abilities and body type. I showed up at my gym the day after my 39th birthday asking them to help me get into shape before the big 4-0. From the moment I took my first class a few days later I loved it. It just clicks with my need for structure and community. I love weight lifting (who knew?) and since I get bored easily the constant variety keeps me on my toes. The best part is I can go there for an hour and not have to think since they come up with the workouts and programming. I’m a *bit* of an over thinker so that hour of brain peace is priceless. I’m now 41 and have come a long way even if I am still fairly heavy and refuse to give up ice cream.

Anyway, love your writing! I found you when looking up stuff about being childfree. You made me feel less weird for my decision. Happy to have found you. Good luck with the remodel!


Okay, so I tried Crossfit once — it wasn’t at a gym, but in my neighbor’s yard. The group was AWESOME and they were way into it, but when I literally got a scab on my tailbone from doing sit-ups in the grass, I just kind of thought that maybe it was a little too hard core for me. But GOOD for you! Crossfit is badass, in my humble little opinion.

I’m so glad you found me too, and I hope you stick around!!

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