On Not Working Out

This is the view from my apartment in Cortona.

This is the view from my apartment in Cortona, Italy, where I am teaching for the month of May.

Let me start with a confession: I have not worked out for the past month. This situation is surprising because I love training and have exercised regularly for the last twenty five years, rarely missing a session. At age 22, I started doing boot camp-style classes three times per week, gradually increasing their frequency, intensity, and efficiency, and then added weight training to my regime. I practiced bodybuilding seriously between 2009 and 2013, both before and after competiting in a figure show. Even during my subsequent pregnancy and post-partum periods I went to the gym every day that I was not booked with my personal trainer, except during the few months following my cesarean section, when I was forbidden from lifting anything over ten pounds. Now here I sit in Cortona, Italy, completely healthy and injury free but still not inclned to work out. WTF is going on?

These narrow stairs are far more steep than they appear to be in this photo. Cortona, Italy.

These narrow stairs are far more steep than they appear to be in this photo. Cortona, Italy.

To be honest I am not exactly sitting around in Cortona, twiddling my thumbs. I am regularly moving, mostly upwards with grunting glute muscles. Cortona is a medieval town perched upon a steep hilltop. With every step, inhabitants of this delightfully maze-like village are either ascending or descending. My 30-pound and rather gigantic 15-month-old son is usually strapped on my back or sitting in his stroller while I go uphill. Though I do incline sled pushes all day long, I do not consider the effort involved to be “working out” since it is not focused or targeted. While inside my apartment with stunning views, I am either chasing my son away from the bidet—he considers it a child-sized play fountain—or crawling on my hands and knees, pretending to be a rabid horse. This physical activity is nevertheless not comparable to the full body workouts, split training, and cardio sessions that I was doing until a short time ago.

My son at a Roman restaurant immediately before he ate an entire quarter chicken.

My son at a Roman restaurant immediately before he ate an entire quarter chicken.

I stopped going to the gym for two weeks before flying to Cortona because I simply had too much to do. I tend to work flat out all the time, and am not easily stressed. I am always overburdened and have never had a single moment where I could sit back, sigh with contentment, and think “well that is a job well done; now I can enjoy a weekend off.” HA! Whenever my LSP asks me if I am busy, I answer “I have one hundred years of work left,” which I am sure bugs the shit out of him. But it is more or less true. So the excuse of being “too busy” to exercise does not hold much weight for me. All the same, during the last two weeks of April I was sincerely “too busy” to make it to the gym, and I also did not eat regular meals or take pee breaks while scrambling to meet a number of deadlines before my trip.

Skipping work outs is a horrible punishment for me because I get angry, sore, and resentful as a result.

The main piazza in Cortona, a good place to buy bread and wine etc.

The main piazza in Cortona, a good place to buy bread and wine etc.

The gym is my special protected time—it is the only me time I have left in my life—and it always makes me feel better, no matter how tired I am that day. And yet now that I have stopped, I am reluctant to restart my workouts in Cortona. Am I being lazy? Or is my body telling me to take a break? I am not sure that I can trust my body right now, as it is also telling me to eat shitloads of panforte and gelato. I will not even mention the bread and red wine. How can I tell if I am resting and recovering or being a lazy slob? Is there some kind of quiz I can take that would solve this dilemma? Please send me any advice you might have. In the meantime, I will be carrying gigantor around while eating and drinking to my heart’s content.

Another view from my window in Cortona.

Another view from my window in Cortona.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

3 thoughts on “On Not Working Out

  1. This is just what you should be doing. It’s called rest based living. Where your workouts are based on lifestyle, not based on a physique goal to achieve a specific outcome at the end of the “workout”. You are getting a physical and mental response out of living an active life with a small child which you didn’t have to consume your time before. I think this is so good for you. It makes you appreciate that all that structured fitness training you have done in the past wasn’t wasted! It prepared you to be fit for a child, to haul yourself up hill, stairs and still have energy to lift that kid up and down every 2 seconds. I feel some envy for you, as it is not requiring thought..it is just how you live in Italy. It seems to have worked for us before gyms existed right? When you get back to sitting all day or having the gym at your fingertips, your routine will be here, and I will be here ready to train with you!

    Enjoy and I loved this post. I will be sharing with my clients.

  2. Okay. I see what you do every day here in Cortona. You neglected to mention your son’s sadistic desire to go up and down stairs relentlessly with you in tow. Or the added physical demands of dealing with said son through torrential rain. I hear you running up the stairs with your beautiful 30lb boy in your arms (this after pushing him straight up a gruelling incline). You may not be “working out” in a regular pattern – but you are getting a work-out none-the-less. Agree with fitbabe – this is the kind of life that does not require a gym. And rather than gyms, Cortona has gelato shops! If you live here – you need them.

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