When Exercise is the Enemy

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated walking.

It still strikes me as one of the grossest things in the world. If you do it for too long (especially in the Southern California heat where I grew up) you get all nasty and sweaty, your thighs start to chafe, you get cramps in your side and your legs — hell, your entire body — hurt for days afterward.

Even when I was young. I’d get some of the worst Charlie Horses during P.E. in middle school. I remember Mrs. Macintosh — one of the only kind P.E. teachers I had — and her expression of pity. She knew I was suffering, and she didn’t know what to do about it.

There’s always been an aspect of humiliation about it, too. Whether it’s being the last fourth grader to finish the quarterly mile walk — the Otter Pop bribes having melted to slush long ago, or having your high school weight-lifting teacher yell at you for walking the mile instead of running it, giving it your all.

These are the things I think of, when I think about going for a walk.

Logically, I know that there’s a biological system inside of me that releases endorphins, that should make walking — or other forms of exercise, feel good. A little hit to your body’s pleasure center that reinforces the idea that this is good for you. It feels so good.

And yet, it doesn’t. Any benefits from the endorphins is washed away in a tide of heavy breathing, side cramps, thigh chafing, and swollen legs.

Pain. That lovely system your body has set up to tell you STOP DOING THE THING YOU ARE DOING BECAUSE IT’S BAD! It’s why you don’t put your hand on a flame or waltz underneath a hornet’s nest. Either you don’t do the stupid thing, or you pay for it in pain.

It’s simple logic: If exercise equals pain, and pain equals bad, exercise equals bad.

Yet, on the other hand, this logical observation seems to be at odds with common sense. The only way that I’m going to lose any weight at all, is if I can make myself start exercising.

I need to. Hell, at this point, I almost want to.

But then, I actually go for the walk or whatever, and I end up in so much pain that I don’t want to move for days. And it’s not like I’m doing some great, superhuman feat. Mostly, I’m just embarrassing myself and the neighborhood by walking around outside. Or going down to a park and playing Pokemon Go for a while.

Hardly Olympian, just everyday things. Yet, for my entire life, doing these things has hurt.

And it’s not like there’s any immediate progress to be had. As someone who’s been heavy since birth, I need to be skinny yesterday. Barring that, I need to be skinny tomorrow. So starting an exercise regime now, one that’s going to take years upon years to see any kind of noticeable progress, just in time for my body to start falling apart from aging feels pointless.

God, make me a hot 20 year old with guns and abs.

I don’t need a slow, incremental process that may or may not ever yield any noticeable benefits. I need a miracle, STAT.

But, barring that, I need a way to get my brain out of my way.

Zach J. Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne”. He is a thespian, poet, and writers for young adults. He is the #2 Ninja Writer, and the former query intern for Pam Andersen at D4EO literary. Follow along on his adventure, and receive his Query Letter, Deconstructed.

(He/They) Ninja Writer. Thespian. Queer. Essayist, poet, novelist. “In Search of Sunflowers” available on Kindle now.

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