Discarding False Narratives About Fitness That Hold Me Back
A columnist sets out to define physical fitness for his own unique needs
I don’t plan to ever discourage anyone from making New Year’s resolutions. But I also like to think I’m not the only one who, at one point or another, had an aspiration to get fit and set it as some kind of nebulous goal to be accomplished by the end of the year, only to abandon it later in shame.
I gave up New Year’s goal setting a few years ago. But in terms of fitness, these past few years have been my most productive. Upon reflection, I realize that a few important changes have helped me develop good habits to reach my goals.
Surprisingly, they’re all mental changes — understanding things better, abandoning negative feelings about my body, and confronting false narratives I inadvertently had internalized.
For example, I had to confront the narrative that there’s only one definition of physical fitness and one body type that exemplifies it, which is a ridiculous notion. I have friends who run marathons, others who power lift, and still others who practice skateboarding or snowboarding. To me, they all exemplify physical fitness, and yet their exercise regimen and their bodies that accomplish these amazing feats are different. So why should I have tunnel vision with such a narrow understanding of fitness?
Self-love and understanding
This change in my understanding about these things was particularly important as a guy with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). As a CMTer and disabled person, my body may never resemble the able-bodied archetype that is celebrated and commercialized, and that’s OK. I only need to concern myself with what fitness and movement should look and feel like to me.
Even within the CMT community, the exercises I enjoy and the movements I find beneficial are different from other CMTers. Still, I can look to amazing CMT athletes such as Paralympian Jamal Hill and bodybuilder John Nixon for inspiration and ideas.
Another revelation that my personal trainer helped me with was that for much of my life, I thought of exercise and physical movement as specific activities like running, cycling, swimming, or doing pushups or situps. That’s all we ever discussed in school. Because of my limited knowledge, I thought that if I didn’t like the exercises I knew about, then I must not like physical activity in general.
In retrospect, this is just another silly thought. Just because a picky kid doesn’t like spinach or milk doesn’t mean they don’t like food.
These days, I feel like I’ve grown in ways I’m proud of. I know I still have a lot to process in terms of body acceptance, fitness, and exercise. But as the common mantra in the CMT community notes, “Movement is medicine.” I now know that this medicine can be fun and enjoyable. It just took me some time to be able to say it with confidence.
I hope I will be able to continue my holistic fitness lifestyle of eating and sleeping well and regularly moving my body — not because I think it’ll help me achieve some type of appearance, but because I genuinely enjoy it.
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
Hi - thanks for sharing your insights............I'm "blessed also with CMT . Movement is definitely essential for physical as well as mental health. The more we move about the better. Giving up is not an option. Love your body? Well, that one is a bit difficult for me. Accepting , yes, striving to keep going yes , but definitely not loving the awkwardness of my gait, problems with balance and certain movements in hands and legs....I swim, exercise with a rowing machine and bike at various speeds and tensions almost daily for over one hr. I sleep well, eat and cook healthy and am still aware that the purpose is to maintain my damaged body as best as I possibly can. Just "KEEP ON KEEPIN ON!"
Thank you so much for your post. My CMT did not show up as damaging my body until my retirement years. I grieve what I have lost and what I can no longer do. I never liked exercise for the sake of exercise but did enjoy skiing, playing tennis, traveling, long walks, and other wonderful things I can no longer do, including playing the pipe organ. So, in retirement, I vacillate between feeling sorry for myself, hating my body, wanting to just sit and read, and get moving!. But.... even though it is counter-intuitive I know I must move every day and put away the negative thoughts and feelings. Exercise is medicine. Thank you for that reminder as I tough it out each day as a CMTer. It is good to hear from others who have the same struggles.
Christine L Wodke
How about joining Team CMT? We are affiliated with the HNF. We are a group promoting CMT awareness through being active. You can find us through the HNF website or through mine at www.run4cmt.com
I would be interested in a column about ideas for CMT-friendly household items and other modifications. I've found a few things not suggested in the usual OT/PT list (i.e., big lamp switch adapters, button hooks, velcro shoes, etc). I use jacket zipper extensions on blue jean zippers, for example (they works best with dark jeans, obviously. We need more colors!). Also, the Kitchen Mama electric can opener is small and very easy to use. And zip-lock bags with sliders. Another friendly item is toilet paper holders that are open-ended so you don't have to deal with those spring-loaded holders that shoot across the room when ever you try to put on a new roll (OK, maybe that's just generally clumsy me, and not CMT related, but....). I'm sure there are lots of great ideas out there. I'd love to hear what other folks have found to be helpful.
See Facebook page CMTA. Association
A recent post dealt with many members sharing just these ideas and tips.