Absolute Beginners: Absolute Bye-ginners

It occurred to me last week that the only exercise I’m getting right now is the exercise I get while I’m out doing stuff for Absolute Beginners.

That’s not really an ideal situation, but there are a few reasons for it. I injured my foot while running a few months ago and had to take it easy on my feet, including not squatting heavy weights (heartbreaking, right after I had set a personal record on my squats). Around the same time, I started seeing a chiropractor, who informed me that my shoulders are hella weak; that my bottom half was plenty strong, but that my bad sense of balance betrayed poor core strength, and that my arms just don’t even work in certain positions, basically. So I couldn’t work on my upper body too much, either, until we got things at least a little better straightened (or curved, in this situation) out.

The shoulder weakness is the result of a few different things – cake decorating at an incredible speed for three years (cake decorating involves more lifting than you’d think and also requires you to hunch over to your left for most of the day); genetic tendencies to have strong legs but weak arms; a bad fall I took a year ago, in which I injured my shoulder and it apparently never healed quite right. Oh, and aging. Let’s not forget that. My bodily resilience isn’t what it used to be.

Add on to that that I spent a week and a half away from work, because my emotional health was so bad that I was considering hospitalization and I needed time to see all my doctors and get things on track. Add on to that getting sick a few times. And then introduce giant work projects that have me up and out of the house for most of my free hours, and you have a perfect storm of not-going-to-the-gym-except-for-my-fitness-column.

So, I’m going to stop writing Absolute Beginners. There’s something preposterous about talking about trying new fitness things while you’re suffering, physically and emotionally, enough that you cannot uphold your regular fitness schedule. Because of that situation, too, the column has become less of an opportunity for me to say, “Hey, I’m bad at sports, I tried to do this, I wasn’t graceful at it, but it was fun and you should go out and try it too!” and more of an opportunity for me to ruminate on what fitness means and how that ungracefulness feels and how my injuries affect my fitness and how that, in turn, affects my emotional health. I mean, that’s redundant after a while, for you and me both. Even now that I’m feeling emotionally quite good, I just don’t know how to change the tone without just scrapping and reconceptualizing the whole thing.

Not every idea is a winner, and sometimes winning ideas don’t pan out. I think Absolute Beginners falls somewhere between those two things (hopefully more toward the latter). There’s the problem, too, that there are ultimately a limited number of fitness activities that I have access to or want to do, so what happens when they run out? It doesn’t seem worth it to keep forcing the issue of finding and trying new fitness things that I can’t seem to quite write about in anything other than very personal terms, and that’s especially so when I’m also just not keeping up with my fitness.

And in the end, I really just want to get back into my normal routine. I think my shoulders are getting better, my foot has healed, and I know that by now I’ve probably lost a tremendous amount of my progress in my beloved barbell lifting. Lifting has always been a huge source of relief and relaxation and joy for me, and while during the process of writing Absolute Beginners I’ve found a lot of cool activities that I want to try again, I think the best thing to do, if you care about getting into fitness, is to find the activities you love and stick to them. It’s time to get back to the gym.


[Image via Shutterstock]
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