I’m So Vain. I Probably Think This Blog Is About Me.

I totally stole this from CHUNK: The Blog (Hi, ladies!):

Gertie’s entry, The Usefulness of Exercise, links to a recent New York Times article (“Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?”) about how exercise doesn’t equal weight loss. We could argue this point for hours, I suspect. You all know I didn’t start exercising until I’d lost 110 pounds, so clearly weight loss can be achieved through diet only. However, I’d like to think exercise caused my weight loss to excel for about a month after I began to walk regularly and again a few months later when I started strength training. Of course that could be due to my renewed energy and commitment to my weight loss, plus the fact that I didn’t and still don’t eat extra calories on the days I work out. Well….almost every day.

But stepping away from the exercise is or isn’t necessary for weight loss argument for a moment, let’s discuss its other benefits, namely the cosmetic value.

On workout days, I put my tennis shoes on in front of a mirror in the dining room. The mirror is too heavy to hang on the wall, so to make the room appear larger, we put the mirror on the floor against the wall behind the dog dishes. (It kind of freaks the dogs out because they don’t understand that they’re watching themselves eat. They think other dogs live in the house.)

I could put my shoes on anywhere in the house, but I sit in a chair in front of the mirror because…(Oh vanity of vanities!)…I can watch my calf muscles flex.

A few years ago, my calves were smaller than they are now, even though I am the cardio queen of the arc trainer and elliptical. My skin still dimpled because the muscles weren’t very pronounced or strong. So I took matters into my own hands (well, legs, actually) and began doing calf raises two to three times a week.

I started slowly – just three sets of ten on a flat surface. Then I purchased a step like they use in aerobics and began lifting each leg individually and increased the number of reps. The step increased my range of motion, offering a more challenging exercise. After a few months, I added holding a 10-pound weight as I lifted. This week, I began holding a 15-pound weight. I hope to increase that to 25 pounds by spring.

The results? My calves are no longer scrawny and – bonus – my ankles are much stronger. They don’t feel wobbly anymore. Also, my toes are more flexible which is awesome considering I have arthritis in both my metatarsals. And honestly, I really like how they look. I only wish I could wear high heeled shoes. Alas, my toes scream “NO WAY!” every time I try.

As long as I’m being vain, I’ll tell you that I flex my chest muscles before I take a shower, admire my forearms while I type, and wear sleeveless shirts that emphasize my shoulders. I’ve worked hard for this body, as wrinkly and floppy as it can be in spots, so why not give it a look-see from time to time? It’s not wrong to appreciate the bodies we create and mold. Not wrong at all.

I know exercise can be a pain in the ass. But the payoff can be really cool calves that you admire in a mirror. Cosmetic is just as good a reason to work out as health in my book. If I worked my calves like I do and still had dimpled skin, I wouldn’t do it. If I strength trained like I do five times a week and still had scrawny arms, I wouldn’t do it. If I worked the cardio like a mad woman and couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without being winded, I’d stop doing that, too. I want physical proof of my work.

Exercise yields results beyond weight loss. And after years of obesity, I want to admire all my hard work. It makes me happy. Vain? Perhaps. But I highly recommend you take a look at all your hard work from time to time. After all, what’s it all for if we don’t feel good about it?

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