Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Are We So Mean To Each Other?

An unfortunate thing has happened as we have all gotten freer access to the Internet, to social networking, and have the ability to immediately comment on anything we read or see.  People who might have never been able to voice things out loud now have the ability to comment quickly on anything they read or see or hear.

I am here to say that just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

This week, I've seen no less than two videos posted to my facebook feed that show fat people dancing or working out.  The purpose of the postings was to snark at the fat person doing the dancing.  And I resent that, very much. As a fat person who works out, who rides a bike and dances her butt off at Zumba twice a week, I resent the implication that what I'm doing is "funny" or joke-worthy. 

I also greatly resent the idea that you think you have any right to comment at all on what I'm doing.

I ran into my Zumba teacher at the coffee shop today.  She is such an awesome woman.  She lost 80 pounds and has more energy than a 5 year old in a candy shop.  She never fails to make me feel good about what I'm doing, even when I feel like I'm flailing and not getting anywhere.  She tells me all the time I am so inspiring, that I encourage people.  I don't intend to do any such thing, but it's nice to hear it, especially after seeing the mean comments that seem to be poured on to videos posted of fat persons exercising.  People like me have avoided gyms and workout classes for many years because we know that there will be people staring at us, mocking us, and making snide comments to their friends when we aren't within hearing distance.  We know this because some people don't have an inside voice, and because we have seen the comments people make on videos or pictures they may have seen on the Internet.  Here we are, trying to get in shape, even possibly trying to lose some weight, and we are chided and ridiculed.  Who would even try after that?

It took me many years to get to a place of true acceptance.  I have said for years, since I was 25 years old or so, that I accept that I'm a fat girl.  And I think I was fairly accepting of myself, but never 100% there.  I gave it a lot of lip service, kind of in the manner of "if you say it enough, you will believe it."  Now that I'm in my 50's, I think I have truly reached that full acceptance.  I flail my way through Zumba in a class situation with others, where I am by far the biggest one there, and probably the least able of them all.  I put my fat butt, which is definitely wider than a standard chair, on the seat of a real, honest-to-goodness bicycle, and ride ten miles at a time, two or three times a week.  When I pass joggers or walkers or other bikers on the path, I don't wonder if they are looking at my butt and thinking that I shouldn't be flaunting my fat in public like that.  I assume that jogger is saying "Hey, I'd tap that." 

You see, it's because I'm not exercising for them.  I'm not riding my bike for my husband, my coworkers, my friends, or the anonymous (very cute) guy on the roller blades who passes me going the other way.  I'm not flailing away at Zumba to impress the other girls in the class, or to wow my awesome Zumba teacher.  I'm doing it for ME.  For the unhealthy me, who deserves to have my later years contain less pain and less loss of mobility.  For me, who deserves to have low cholesterol, no sign of diabetes, and blood pressure that is right where it should be.  For me, because I shouldn't have to look at stairs as the enemy.  For ME.  It's all about me.  And I know that I am in better shape physically than plenty of other people who never get off the danged couch, even though they may be half my size, or a third my size.  Size isn't the only determiner of health, if it is a determiner at all.

What bothers me about those who shame fat people who exercise, even if they do it quietly and out of my earshot, is that they kept those younger versions of me from being active, from making the effort and getting into shape.  When I see a fat girl dance, I have nothing but admiration.  There's a woman who knows that what is important to HER is all that matters.  When I see a fat guy on a bike, I'm like, "you go, dude."  When someone meets me on my bike path and smiles at me, I smile back.  I want them to know I appreciate their support.  A smile is a support.  A smile says "hey, I think you're great, and keep up the good work."

And that, ultimately, is how we should be treating each other.  Regardless of our level of fitness, regardless of our body size or shape, if we are working out, then we are doing the right thing.  We should be supporting each other, not trying to bring each other down.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Back At It

I managed to get two bike rides in this week.  The weather is finally moderating, giving us some spring-like temps.  This had been a long, cold winter.

Thursday promised to be near 70 degrees, so I took off from work.  We are in the process of finding a new rental house, too, so I did things related to that, too.  At the warmest point in the afternoon I, I put the bike rack back on my car and loaded up the Trek, and away I went.

I drove to Golden Ponds, which reopened a couple weeks ago after some flood repairs were complete.  This area links to the Lykins Gulch area, which would give me somewhat of a trail to ride.  It's not the whole Greenway, or even the full run of the Greenway that I usually ride, but from the Ponds to the airport, then east to Rogers Grove, around Fairgrounds Lake, and back to the Ponds gave me 6.5 miles.  Considering I've not done a full 10 miles since last September, I'll take it.  Where there was gravel, there was mud, and where there was pavement, there was still a lot of mud.  As the trail runs mostly along the river, and the river overflowed its banks and cut itself a completely new path, there was bound to be mud.

There is also great destruction.  The river bed is scoured out, down to the rock and gravel, and many trees are marked for removal or already removed.  One particular spot near Rogers Grove, where the river made a lazy turn and there was a wonderful little sandy beach where kids and dogs would play in the water, is now nothing but overturned trees and the river completely rerouted.  If I had not known where that spot was, I wouldn't have been able to recognize it from its new look.  The river itself has become more of a slough - shallow, spread out into multiple small channels.  How it will ever look like a river again, I don't know.  Rather heartbreaking to see.  All that wonderful scenery is gone, changed forever.

But this part of the trail is intact, thankfully, even the underpass at Hover Road.  That, at least, made it feel more normal.  Thursday I rode in 60-degree temps with cloudy skies, but no wind.  Today I rode in 75 degree temps, clear sky, and a brisk wind.  I am so out of shape, but I pushed myself through the wind, grunting all the way.  It felt good to be on my bike again.  It felt good to be doing what I love, even if it is in a shortened space. 

Our city people promise the entire Greenway will be repaired within the next two years.  As parts are repaired, more will be opened.  But seeing what I saw on my rides this week tells me that there is an overwhelming amount to be done.  One pedestrian/bike bridge I encountered was still grounded on the far side, but on the near side it is just hanging there, yards from the concrete it should have been touching.  Entire portions of the Greenway have been overrun and completely destroyed.  You can't even see where it used to be.  Repairs are going to be a daunting task.

But even so, I'll take it.  I have missed it, and the bike rides this week have made me feel a whole lot better.  Sore, but definitely better.