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02 May 2004

Exercise: Starting from physical & psychological scratch
I was a clumsy and very unsporty child. Parents & teachers though the best way to remedy this was to make me do even more sport! I spent my childhood feeling permanently humiliated; I was the last person to finish every race; the last person to be picked for any team; I could hardly catch a ball after about 10 years of netball practice. 5 afternoons a week!!

At the age of 16 a medical explanation (a spinal cyst) was discovered and supposedly rectified (i.e. removed). However, I promised myself that now that I had a medical "excuse" I would not put myself through any of the agony again and have done no exercise for the past 10 years. My confidence improved greatly after I stopped exercising.

But now I am older... I am not overweight, but my body fat % is surely 100%!!! at the moment. I do not feel unfit during my day-to-day life (walking, dancing a bit, working). BUT I feel an incredible sense of guilt over not exercising. I have joined a gym but the minute I slip those white trainers onto my feet it is as if my whole personality changes and I become that troubled and extremely self-conscious teenager again. I watch everyone else stretching in front of the mirror and looking so in touch with their own bodies and my instinct is just to get out of the situation as soon as possible - normally after about 10 minutes cycling! There is no physical activity that I feel comfortable or even able (from a psychological, far more than a physical perspective) to do. This is becoming a real problem for me socially - I am permanently looking over my shoulder to see if there is a potential physical "fun" (walk in the mountains; volleyball, etc.) situation to avoid. I no longer go to the beach because my body feels too flabby for a bikini.

I have to change! Since I know nothing about exercise and feel no motivation at all - only extreme fear - I would think that a personal trainer is the only answer - but this would cost a lot of money and would still involve appearing in the gym. I am not sure if I could keep even that up considering my state of mind...

Please don't tell me to find a form of exercise that I feel comfortable with - the answer is "nothing".

I am feeling very desperate. Please help.
Answer 346 views

01 Jan 0001

Hi Suzanne

Well, I must say that I feel totally out of my depth in trying to help you, and trying to undo year of stigmas and pressure. There's probably not all that much I can say that you won't have heard, and I can probably say very little that will change how you feel instantly. This to me is something that is indicative of more than just an exercise problem, and I really think that from what you have said that you won't be able to just suddenly switch your point of view with regards to exercise - it seems like a more comprehensive approach is what is required. How you go about this is up to you, I guess. I can only tell you what you probably knew I would - how good exercise is for you, how it should change your life and all that. I'm not going to do all this, because I don't want to add to the already negative view that you have. However, I think that your long term goal must be to get to a regular exercise routine, but I can't tell you how to get there. I think you know it all already. If I told you that those people you are looking at and seeing as so self-confident are actually not, then perhaps that would change something about it. I really just think that your problem is that you're trying to do this alone, going to a gym where you feel uncomfortable and then comparing yourself to others - this spells disaster every time. The question is who cares what they look like. I can promise you that no one at the gym is looking at anyone else because they are all too busy looking at themselves, and probably many feel the same way you to. The bottom line is that you are not alone in feeling like this, and I really think that one thing that may really help you is to find a friend and then train and exercise with them. There must be people in your life that you do not feel conscious of your body around, and they are the ones who can help you out in this case.

That is about the best idea I can give you. I hope that you are able to sort this out, but I really do believe that the inability to enjoy exercise is not merely an isolated problem, and may be something that you can fix as a consequence of changing the deeper problem.

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