Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fitness Goddess

Jackie Warner and my girlfriend share similar dimensions.
If you’ve been paying attention to my Twitter feed and Facebook statuses, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been trying to go to the gym more, and have been whining about it pretty constantly. I’ve learned a little something about relationships in the process and want to share it with my lovely readers.

My girlfriend is fond of saying, “you’re skinny, not healthy” which is probably the most accurate assessment of what’s going on with me. Having a Buddhist’s mind for only eating out of necessity and petite Asian genes galore, I have always been skinny. But Nikki is right. Just because I look like I’m healthy doesn’t mean I actually am. I have my weekly trip to Wendy’s. Up until a few months ago I was smoking 3-4 cigarettes a day, which I know isn’t a massively unhealthy amount, but I can’t imagine smoking any amount is a good thing. All of this probably wouldn’t have even been noticeable if I wasn’t dating a fitness goddess. When you’re living with someone who runs 5 miles a day and lives at the gym, you tend to start wondering why she’s never out of breath and a couple flights of stairs kicks your ass.

Another source of epiphany on my lack of fitness is football. I’m in week three now of a coed-flag football league and I’m doing just terrible. It’s a no contact league and somehow I’m always sore after the games (mostly from falling down a lot). This is probably where my Asian genes work against me. Ever hear of an Asian football player? Me neither.

I share similar dimensions with Mulan...or maybe the dragon.
I’ll admit my privilege in this though. I don’t have to work at all to look like I do. I sleep 10 hours a day. I play a lot of video games. My quads (learned what they were called from Nikki, it's the top of your legs) are used almost entirely to support my laptop for writing. I subsist on a diet of Wendy’s, ramen, and breakfast cereal because I don’t really know how to cook. Yet, even with all that, I’ve hovered around 100 lbs since 8th grade (don’t worry, I’m short enough for that to be well within normal - BMI 20.5). If you think that all sounds fantastic, let me ask you this:  could you put a baseball uniform on and easily infiltrate a Little League team? If your answer was anything along the lines of, “Of course not, I have boobs and hips” you’ve got me beat, because I’m positive I could pull of an Amanda Bynes type switcheroo for the LittleLeague World Series except I’m hopelessly unathletic. The point being, I’m not trying to build the body I have into the body I want. All the exercise I’m doing is only going to change the composition of the same shape I’ve always had; I’m literally exercising to lose my nerd’s lack of stamina. This is probably a strange concept for a lot of women, exercising for functionality rather than appearance, which is kind of a shame, isn’t it? More on that later.

So now I’m trying to go to the gym, which is kind of not what you think. We have a tiny fitness center in our apartment complex that nobody really uses, except for me now apparently. My girlfriend uses the massive athletic complex gym at UCF for real athletes and, while she’s offered to come with me to the free fitness center in our complex, I always tell her I’d rather she didn’t. It’s impossible to go to the gym the 1 hour a day I can tolerate (I get so freaking bored), when the person who is supposed to be your gym buddy could stay there for three hours quite happily. More than that, I’m fairly certain I use most exercise machines wrong the first time, realize there’s no way I’m supposed to bonk my head that many times, and then have to look at the vague silhouette diagrams on the sides to see what I should have been doing. I definitely still have this "please oh please oh please don’t embarrass yourself in front of Nikki" thing that has persisted since I met her. Despite the fact that she could probably really help me in this, being the multi-sport athlete and personal trainer she is, I still really want her to think I’m cool even though I’m really obviously not. This is when I realized my fitness idol and hero was actually my girlfriend. She exercises to be a better athlete and ends up with the amazing body she has because it is functional for what she does. When I realized I was doing very badly in my own sport, I figured out fitness wasn’t something that functioned only for looks, which I already have and exercise wouldn’t change, but should help me do the things I want to do physically. Ladies, look at your own fitness routine and ask yourself, is it helping you do what you want to do? Does it make you more functional or are you doing it in hopes of changing your appearance?

Oh! Yep, I was on it backward.
So the question becomes, how does a couch potato date a fitness goddess? Actually, strike that, I don’t like couch potato. Revised:  how does a bedroom bunny date a fitness goddess? All my exercise usually comes in the bedroom, so this is far more accurate anyway. To this point, she has tried to help me be a better person and I’ve convinced her an occasional trip to In-n-Out won’t kill her girl abs. This is one of those surprisingly complex relationship questions most people probably don’t even consider. A differential in fitness and health goals can really strain a relationship. I mean, she is up at 6 AM every day for jogging, and I’m rolling into bed most nights around 2 AM not to be awoken until noon, which means there are whole chunks of the day where one of us is awake while the other is asleep. My sister says this is completely normal, especially since she’s had her son, but I have the lesbian urge to merge here. I’d pretty much wrap myself around Nikki 24/7 if I could figure out how to manage that without it being socially awkward. I think the answer is incremental change and unconditional acceptance of benign traits. Let me explain that since it sounds all jargony.

In any long term relationship, you’re going to find there are things that don’t match up that can be changed and things that don’t match up that don’t matter. The skill set to develop here is to figure out the difference. When you’re with someone special, you’re going to have this urge to want to be a better person for them, and they’ll have this whole other set of interests and ideas than you, which can end up enriching you as a person if you’re open to trying. You’re not changing to suit them, you’re trying what they like and seeing if it might also be something you like but have never considered. Positive changes in your life can come from other people’s desires for your best interests. Take the smoking thing, if Nikki hadn’t pressured me, I’d probably still be doing it—incremental change. There are other traits though that are basic to happiness and aren’t really harming the other person, but just might not be what the other person would like for themselves. My sleeping in doesn’t hurt anyone. I’m a freelance writer. I can have the sleep schedule I want so long as I’m productive with my waking hours. It doesn’t really hurt me for Nikki to get up at 6 AM since I’m a dead to the world type sleeper, and it doesn’t really hurt her for me to wake up at 11:30 or noon. So we just accept those idiosyncrasies as part of the lovely tapestry that is the other person even though it doesn’t match our own personal preferences. If it doesn’t hurt you or make you unhappy, let it go.

I don’t expect the complaining about going to the gym will leave my Twitter feed anytime soon even as I’m getting into better shape, but hopefully I’ll stop falling down so much during games.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A word of caution. Working out can be dangerous. One can get hurt on exercise equipment.

Maybe a compromise is in order. Try something out of your normal playbook. Put on a mask and have your wonder girl teach you how to use the equipment. Pretend you are someone else.

You get really flustered and concerned (from the sound of it) then drop into thinking you are too much of a dork to deserve her so you don't want to embarrass your self further.

Forget it! She is as lucky to have you as you are to have her. She doesn't want you hurt! And nobody else does either.

Have her teach you one or two machines. Simple steps first. Once you start to show some progress and want to do more have her write down what you might try working on next. This is how it works for the rest of us except we aren't sleeping with the lucky trainer.