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Fat People Need To Run (Or Bike, Swim, Walk, Ski…)

October 7, 2010

One million years ago, Swen suggested running as a way to get started on her ABSolution! program.  Being too proud to beg off this activity in the face of a superstar volleyball athlete such as her, I started running.

But before I started running, two things happened.

#1.  I got breast reduction surgery.  This, to use a pun, was huge.  I am so grateful that this procedure exists.

#2.  I saw a really big woman at the gym running on a treadmill for over 45 minutes.

While it is nice not wearing a 40H bra, #2 really stuck in my head.  It was a week night and I hopped on an exercise bike behind this woman, with a 45 minute workout planned.  When I sat down on the bike, the woman was already running, and I didn’t think much of this, except probably how awful it probably felt for her.

As I pedalled away and paged through my library book, though, I noticed that this woman kept running.  No breaks.  She was sweating.  And not stopping.  I could see she wore earbuds plugged into something – she was either watching television or listening to music.  She wasn’t having a heart attack or taking breaks.  She was just running.  She was a big woman – picture a tall woman, someone who would shop at Lane Bryant – and she was running.

Seeing this for me was a breakthrough.  Seeing this woman said to me that running wasn’t off limits.  That people could do it, at any size.  They just had to make themselves do it.  I realized that I didn’t really have physical limitations.  I had lopped off the huge boobs, I was smaller than the woman running.  This woman was doing something I found impossible at my size, and she was appearing to survive it.   This suggested to me what I later discovered:  your weaknesses can be all in your head.  Running isn’t about leg muscles or strength or stamina.  It’s all mental.

This inspired a sort-of manifesto: FAT PEOPLE NEED TO RUN!

We need to see ALL PEOPLE exercising, not just the skinny and the twig-legged and the ectomorphs who would be slender and flat-bellied whether they ate carrot sticks and ran marathons or snarfed down piles of smashburgers and sat on their asses.

We need to see that exercise isn’t just for a certain class of people, off-limits to you if you aren’t a size 2.

We need to see ALL BODIES struggling and huffing and puffing and sweating because physical movement doesn’t just belong to the those who like Lean Cuisine.  Physical movement is possible no matter what size you are.

This is not a dig on skinny people.  Or people who are already enjoying fitness.  You can’t help your body’s genetics and you shouldn’t apologize for already enjoying the gifts of physical exercise and health.  Rather, this is a matter of branding and image control. In our society, there is an equation:   Exercise = That Hot Chick In A Sports Bra With A Flat Midriff.  Every magazine cover and every health club ad reinforces this image, as well as its converse, which is Fat People Are Not Included.   Fat people somehow become less fat by exercising under the cover of darkness or in their basements until they emerge, thin and appropriate.

What would this mean, if for just one month or week or day of the year, all the thin people of the world stepped out view and just the out-of-shape and the overweight took to the gyms or the sidewalks of America?  Thin people, we already know what you can do.  You represent an ideal for many of us, but not an everyday reality.  Thin bodies get a lot of media coverage on televisions shows and fashion runways, but we know that there is an obesity epidemic in this country, so thin bodies are not telling the whole story.  What if the thin people of the world just exercised in their basements for a while and let the fat people hold the banner of physical fitness?   Or what if more fat people took to the streets, evening out the imbalance?

What if we saw fat people biking, fat people jogging, fat people swimming laps, fat people hiking, fat people rollerblading, fat people lifting weights and kettlebells, fat people doing yoga and pilates, fat people playing basketball and tennis, fat people in step and spin classes?  How many more people would be able to see that fitness can belong to them, too?

I never saw the running woman’s face.  I don’t know her name.  She probably didn’t even know I was there.  But everyday I go for a run, I think of her and am thankful for her good example.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 3:53 am

    This Rocks!

  2. Hans permalink
    May 2, 2013 11:17 pm

    I bet Swen liked it when you called her a superstar volleyball player.

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  1. 2010 in review « ABSolution! Blog

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