The Battle to Exercise

looking out over london eye

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There was another discussion this week about how busy I am, how I get up too early everyday to see Tom and have breakfast with him before work and he wishes this wasn’t the case. I completely understand that he’s annoyed that our morning interaction is me kissing him goodbye on the head in the pitch black (about 6.15am) while he grunts and rolls over. It’s not ideal. However I don’t know how to get around it. I like to exercise in the morning, and with an earlier start time at my new job, my workout has to finish by 8.15 latest. My marathon ban just adds to my own frustration when it comes to this argument.

Fighting over exercise isn’t something I’m new to.

I was told in an old job ‘no more lunchtime gym sessions’ as they would often run 5 mins over my hour lunchbreak (I would get in half an hour early to make up for this!). Working in a team where exercise wasn’t a priority made it tough to justify leaving on time to get to a class or taking my lunch hour to workout.

It’s a constant battle to exercise on holiday with both friends and family, where I’m told to just ‘relax’! This IS what I do to relax!! On a family holiday a few years, more than 3 members of my family spoke to me about their concern for my ‘unhealthy exercise habits’. I workout regularly, about 5 days a week for no more than an hour, take at least one full rest days and like to stay active. I’m fit, I’m healthy and I am an appropriate weight and BMI. I know long distance running can be harmful to your knees/body etc but I feel like I have a good balance of workouts, see a physio and generally try to look after myself as best I can. What I don’t understand is why people think it’s ok to criticise your exercise behaviour, yet no-one mentions the person who drinks too much, is overweight or smokes heavily?

On night’s out, I find myself giving excuses as to why I have to leave early or not drink too much. Usually it’s because I’m running the following morning, however this reason is met with groans and exclamations that it’s ‘so weird’ that I would get up early on a weekend morning to exercise. Why is it weird not to want to wake up with a hangover that leaves me confined to the sofa all day, achieving nothing on my two days off?

This comes as reports announce that the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week is ‘unrealistic’. Perhaps if people shift their viewpoint towards exercise and see it as a necessary addition to our day, and not only that but see that it can be a relaxing, enjoyable past time, rather than a punishment and a tool only for losing weight, then there wouldn’t be so many overweight, unfit and unhappy people in the UK!

Do you find yourself justifying why you’re working out or training for something? Have you ever had to battle to exercise? I’d love to know if I’m the only one 🙂

Photos taken last summer by Abi. 

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39 Comments

  1. January 23, 2015 / 8:47 am

    I think the comments that frustrate me the most are the ones when people call me weird/crazy/obsessed/odd just because I go running when it’s cold, or I get up early to exercise before having a day out somewhere. I don’t see my habits as obsessive or strange. Running and staying fit makes me happy and I certainly don’t see why it is ‘odd’ to want to do the thing that makes you happy! Great post – it’s nice to know I’m not the only one either 🙂

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 10:31 am

      I agree Ellie, if anything exercising is a normal, healthy habit (although I have seen people take it to excessive levels which I also feel is unhealthy!) Thanks for your comment!

  2. Cara
    January 23, 2015 / 8:56 am

    Charlie, you are not alone! Only last night I was having this discussion with my boyfriend!
    This weekend I will be leaving a friend’s birthday early as I am running the next day. I couldn’t agree more that getting out and working out brings so much more enjoyment and achievement than lying on a sofa all day hungover! On holiday I feel like I have to keep my exercise a secret from friends and family (who don’t exercise) for fear of their reaction and judgement. It’s awful! If only more people could see exercise as an enjoyable past time.

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 10:28 am

      THANK you! glad to know I’m not alone, although I do sometimes feel I am the only one battling it! I think if more people tried out different styles of exercises they would eventually find one that they enjoyed! I love the endorphins!!

  3. January 23, 2015 / 9:10 am

    Charlie, like Cara states above, you are definitely not alone! I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with being weird/crazy/obsessed or odd if you have a goal you are trying to achieve after all, what’s the point of life if you can’t chase your dreams? Just keep doing what you’re doing as it’s an inspiration to the rest of us.

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 10:27 am

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Phil!

  4. Katie
    January 23, 2015 / 9:24 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I’ve never commented before. However this post really struck a chord with me! It’s perfectly worded and I 100% understand what you’re saying!

    I particularly agree with the drinking/going out part. It’s such a shame that the only way my friends all get together will involve a drunken night out! I thought this might change post-uni, but apparently not. I’m not keen on late nights or drinking too much mainly because I’ll have some exercise plans for the morning, but how else can I catch up with friends? Especially at the moment with marathon training- those early long runs are vital and are just not possible with any form of hangover! I’m conscious that people think I’m boring just because I prioritise exercise.

    Although I’m lucky that my boyfriend loves exercise too- I think we are actually ridiculed as a couple. We don’t brag/post selfies/judge other couples that don’t exercise so I don’t see why we get mocked.

    It’s very frustrating, but it’s good to know other people are having the same issue. Great post.

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 10:26 am

      Thanks so much for commenting Katie (and for reading!) I am completely on board with the drinking with friends scenario, why can’t we do other things??? I get laughed at when I suggest that we go for a coffee or a workout class, or for breakfast on a weekend if it’s before 12! I am a selfie taker and put it on social but not on my personal facebook, and just don’t understand the resentment! It makes me soo sad that I feel I am losing some of my friends who don’t support my life choices!

  5. January 23, 2015 / 10:27 am

    Hi Charlie,
    Similar to the comments above me, this post really struck a chord with me and I just wanted to add to the voices telling you you are so not alone in this. It can be so bloody frustrating repeatedly having to justify why, just because someone else thinks long weekend runs/ early mornings to work out are ‘mad’, these things make us happy.

    I’m lucky in that a fair few of my friends are very into fitness/ endurance events so they get it (and if anything make my training look soft!), but the constantly being told I’m ‘obsessed’ or ‘crazy’ by colleagues/family can really start to grate. I’m not asking them to make my hobbies their hobbies, it just so happens that I personally feel like the best, happiest version of myself when I am pushing towards some kind of fitness challenge or goal.

    As much as I know it’s usually not coming from a malicious place (rather they really just don’t get it), I can never understand why anyone would want to talk me (us) out of something that adds, rather than takes away, from our well-being?

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 10:32 am

      Me too- we are improving our lives, both mentally and physically!! Thanks for your comment Ruth, glad to know I’m not alone!

  6. Kathy
    January 23, 2015 / 10:34 am

    I feel so lucky that this isn’t an issue for me. My dad has a borderline obsession with exercise, literally can’t sit still, so it was just a normal thing for me growing up. We even have a family outing to parkrun on Christmas morning with another family, and organise our own ‘races’ when we’re on holiday. I’ve been running since I was about 10 so my friends all just accept that’s what I do although I do still get called weird when I get excited about cross country or something but mostly it’s just expected. I have to admit, I have been getting a little bit grumpy when my husband goes out for his marathon training run when he gets in from work at around 7, meaning I have to wait until at least 8 for dinner but that’s mostly cos I do not cope well with being hungry!! Note to self: be more understanding with this 🙂

    Good habits / positive past times should be encouraged and certainly not met with concerns.

  7. Jas
    January 23, 2015 / 11:38 am

    Hi Charlie, I’ve been been reading your blog for a while and really enjoy it – this is my first comment and I wanted to contribute because I really hope you don’t get discouraged this criticism and pressure! On an RRP episode (your recommendation got me into this!), Rich talked about how eating vegan is ridiculed in a way that eating junk food isn’t, but he says he just gets on with it because he knows it’s right for him. Running and living a healthy lifestyle makes me a better, happier person and I think we just have to be confident that we are doing what is right for us. Besides, doing what we do probably makes us better friends/partners/sisters/daughters etc during the downtime. What do you think?

  8. January 23, 2015 / 12:43 pm

    Really enjoyed this, thanks Charlie. I have two theories
    1 – so many people just don’t get that exercise can be enjoyable, therefore they refuse to believe that we actually want to do it. It’s still perceived by so many as a chore and something you have to do.
    2 – we make non exercisers feel guilty! It’s their defense mechanism kicking in and they need to make themselves believe what they are feel about exercise is correct and we are wrong.

    It’s exactly the same with food. By choosing to eat healthily you open yourself up to all sorts of comments. Again people just don’t get it. I would love to force two weeks of exercise and clean eating on everyone and then see what they think!

    If I didn’t run regularly I would not be the happy, rounded person I am. Then people would have something to complain about!

  9. charliezbrown
    January 23, 2015 / 1:08 pm

    For me exercise is time to relax, it’s an opportunity to catch up with friends (and no phones out!), it offers some quiet time, time to listen to music, time to listen to language podcasts, an opportunity to make my body stronger … I literally could go on and on and on. I do think there is a balance and there are times when you need to just stop BUT I challenge anyone to offer more cons than pros to frequent exercise!

  10. January 23, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    For ALL of this I can relate, the other major challenge I have is that I work 14-hour days these days and sometimes spend 6 hours driving in a day. 🙁

  11. January 23, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    Oh my goodness, I have experienced this SO much! Nice to know I’m not alone. Great blog – please don’t get sidetracked into behaving a different way because of pressure from others. Living healthily on your own terms is so important! x

  12. January 23, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    YES! such a great post – I know exactly how this feels. I nanny for a family at 5am a few days a week, and on my days off from that job I get up early to work out. When I’m out with friends the night before a workout I often lie and tell them I’m babysitting to justify not drinking or staying out late. Everyone is fine with that reasoning but criticize me if I tell them I’m getting up early to run. People take it as a personal criticism when really, it has nothing to do with them!

    Check out my new running blog at http://www.upslopeeffect.com.

  13. January 23, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    I agree completely. I think people are really projecting their own guilt/limitations on to you. I do the exact same things (wake up early/leave parties early/drink less) and people seem to think it’s a major ethical decision. But yes, the healthier option does make me happier

  14. January 23, 2015 / 2:24 pm

    I’m new to your blog and already adore you 🙂 I have experienced this exact issue many times…my family has had those same “concerned talks” with me and I too hear the groans and derogatory comments about staying in at night to get up early to run/exercise on the weekends.

    I just think misery loves company and if it isn’t what others are into, they don’t understand, or aren’t willing to try to understand, why its what is important to you. Being healthy is important and no one else is going to make sure you are taking care of yourself, its up to you, so just smile and nod when the comments come your way and keep doing what you need to do to be a happy, healthy you. Remember, for all the ones that don’t like or understand your need to make healthy living a priority, there are a lot of us that are encouraged and inspired by your choices. Don’t let them get you down 🙂 Happy running!!!!

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 2:42 pm

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Nicki and welcome to the blog! You are so right that no-one else can be healthy for you, tonight I will smile, nod, laugh then get the tube home at 10pm!!

  15. January 23, 2015 / 2:25 pm

    I’m so glad other people feel like this! Not that we should have to, but at least we’re not alone!

    It’s ridiculous that in this world it’s seen as though the only way to enjoy yourself is to go out and get hammered every conceivable occasion. Even more ridiculous is that we’re seen as crazy for spending our time money doing something healthy, that we enjoy, that doesn’t cost anyone else any money or inconvenience. At the same time, drinkers, smokers, junk food scoffers and the rest indulge in ‘normal hobbies’ that fundamentally cost other’s inconvenience, time and money with ill effects.

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 2:43 pm

      I agree completely James-when people find out how much money I spend on my gym/classes/eating well etc they see it as a waste of money- but £10 for a packet of cigerettes and £30-40 on booze is money well spent??

    • charlotte
      January 23, 2015 / 2:44 pm

      Not that I don’t drink…and sadly I do have expensive taste in drinks -fizz and cocktails! 🙂

      • Cara
        January 23, 2015 / 8:24 pm

        As one of my fellow fitness friends once said, yes, healthy food and exercise classes may be expensive but it’s an investment in your health. Think of how much illnesses (that can be attributed to lack of exercise/poor eating e.g. Obesity, hypertension etc) cost the NHS!

  16. January 23, 2015 / 3:03 pm

    I can totally relate to the work side of this, at my previous job/company I was constantly asked how many miles I was running that particular weekend followed by “that’s too much!” I never felt like I could workout at lunch because no one would be ok with how long it took. Thankfully I left that job (for other reasons) and ended up with a company that is much more flexible and understanding. Of course it’s not always the case to leave a job that’s not supportive I’ve found that if there are certain people in your life that don’t understand, balance it out with people that do. Join a running club or seek out friends that have the same interest in fitness as you – it makes you feel like you’re not as crazy for loving what you do!

  17. lalaforte
    January 23, 2015 / 4:23 pm

    SO MUCH YES. When I’m on vacation, I love using my extra free time to fit in workouts or activities that I just don’t have time to do when I’m in the midst of my busy schedule. Last weekend I was in Florida and my friends were beyond shocked when I asked why they weren’t going on their regular 5 mile run that day and then insisted on going with them! Exercise and staying active is a huge priority in my life and when it’s a priority, it means that things like social hours and nights out are de-prioritized accordingly.

  18. January 23, 2015 / 4:35 pm

    I can completely relate to this. My parents in particular have said more than once, that I do too much, and they hope that I will cut back on my running/exercise because I was getting too skinny (I am well within the BMI for my height). They seemed so shocked that when I saw my doctor she said that what I was doing exercise wise was the best thing I could do for my overall health and well-being, and that all my testing levels were ones to be envious of.

    I don’t drink period, so generally people already think I am weird, so I just shrug it off for the most part, but with family/significant others it can be really hard. People are much more critical of healthy decisions than unhealthy ones.

    Luckily my husband understands and completely supportive of my marathon training/weight lifting/nutrition, so I at least have one person in my corner.

  19. January 23, 2015 / 5:20 pm

    I always struggle taking time to exercise while on vacation. This morning my hubby had to wait over 2.5 hours in our hotel room while I ran 12 miles on the treadmill before breakfast. He’s very supportive but I felt very guilty

  20. January 23, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    I completely agree with you on that one! Now that I am back at uni with 19-21 years old, my exercising habits seem even more weird to them but I really don’t care. To each their own. It does get a bit more complicated with the other half. He
    Will not say no to exercising, however I cannot enter all the races I’d like to.

  21. January 24, 2015 / 4:22 am

    I’m really lucky that my husband also likes exercise and has never complained about my running. I’m also very keen on sitting on the sofa eating cake and drinking wine, so I feel like everyone can see I have a good balance. My ‘guilty secret’ is giving up meat last in 2013 – it’s mainly for ethical reasons (the amount of land/grain/water that goes into raising meat as opposed to using those resources for growing crops and feeding many times more people). So I tell them that it’s because not eating meat is better for my (dodgy) heart and they all nod wisely.

    I only ‘know’ you via your blog and I’ve never had any concerns about an exercise addiction (as opposed to other bloggers) but if that many family member have had the courage to speak to you about it, it might be worth having a quiet, honest think about whether or not they’re right. From what you say about your exercise habits, they just strike me as pretty much spot-on but it never hurts to honestly consider peoples’ comments.

  22. tessietickle
    January 24, 2015 / 7:35 am

    You were told no more lunchtime workouts after being 5mins late?! My work has flexi time, so I come in early to have long lunches to run or have PT, or stay behind to make up for a morning’s long mtb ride across the Downs. It’s ace and a bit of flexibility goes a long way.
    I often get called weird or mad for switching onto water on nights out if I’m running in the morning but who cares – I’ll be the one hangover free, full of endorphins, making the most of my weekend! Enjoy your new job btw 🙂

  23. January 24, 2015 / 4:18 pm

    I’m fed of hearing “You wouldn’t catch me running for a bus!” and other similar statements. I’ve given up justifying my choice of meals and frequently choose to eat alone in social situations when not with close friends. I feel much better inside for my choice in foods than if I was to eat as many Big Macs as I’ve seen other members of staff chow down on.
    Also, what a ridiculous report stating that 150 minutes is not a realistic amount of time that people can work out for in a week. That is only 5x half hour activities. Even walking counts!

  24. January 24, 2015 / 5:28 pm

    Luckily my work is extremely flexible in hours, although I do get a lot of bemused looks when in my kit or before I shower afterwards.

    I do find these attitudes are prevalent and incredibly frustrating. I have friends who call me obsessed, weird, mad etc. They do not seem to understand that, as you said, this is my relaxation. This is my fun. Its the same on holidays with friends or family, this IS what I want to spend holidays doing! Furthermore it pushes me away from them and towards friends who either a) are happy to let me do my thing e.g. the friend who didn’t mind when i went to visit her and got up early to do a parkrun or b) actively want to join in and exercise with me.

    I also have friends who accuse me of being restrictive or over exercising. I am not restrictive in the slightest. I eat what I want when I want, chocolate particularly! But junk food makes me feel crappy. I like eating bad for me food that’s worth it- eg are really tasty! People are also shockingly uneducated with food- I hear a lot of ‘but you need carbs!’ because people don’t know many vegetables contain lots of carbs. When it comes to exercise, I don’t think my 5/6 times a week is a lot. I have worked up to this over years, and as I enjoy it its great. I am not punishing myself. I am rewarding myself after or before long workdays.

    I also hear a lot of ‘youre lucky you like healthy living’. Erm I’m not lucky. I make sacrifices because my health is important. I worked to find forms of exercise I love and therefore can sustain. We all have 24 hours in a day. Some days I dont want to do it, then I step out the door.

    As to motivations to act that way… for some its definitely guilt. When friends get mad I’m not eating junk, or throwing back vodka lemonades, it tends to be because either they think I judge them or they are judging themselves and feeling guilty. I hate how they transfer that guilt to me though- I end up bowing to their wishes and eating crap I wish I hadn’t., or on nights out I actively lie to people about what Im drinking (if you ask barmen to put lemon or lime slices in water, most will assume its an alcoholic drink). It does madden me. I am not allowed to say ‘You eat badly, you really need to do some exercise and that alcohol intake is incredibly bad for your body’. Sometimes I wish I could as I feel people really delude themselves.

    For some its sheer lack of education/convenient thinking. People really buy into the ‘running is bad for you’ trope because it suits them- free card out of exercising!

    For my SO, I think partially that I do sacrifice evening time with him to exercise, and partially it makes him feel guilty for lapsing on running. I can understand both. Now we are working on climbing together which is really helping, as it was the activity that took the most time out of seeing him (4 hrs or so an evening). We never see each other in the daytime so he doesn’t mind my early AM exercise as hes asleep, or lunch because hes at work. At weekends he sleeps in so I exercise early.

    Sorry I have now officially gone on a rant myself!

  25. January 25, 2015 / 10:18 pm

    This is such a great post, and obviously judging by the comments it’ something that has affected a lot of us. I’ve never experienced any outright negativity, my other half is quite supportive, but I think most people just think I’m insane for not drinking much or going home at a reasonable time, but I love working out and I enjoy it, so I don’t really care what people think any more.

  26. Taylor
    January 31, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I started to run and exercise regularly a few years ago and have been struggling with this in regards to family, friends and my boyfriend. I love working out and how it makes me feel, but I feel like no one in my life understands! Everyone seems to think I’m insane for wanting to eat healthy, not drink excessively and go run races.

    • charlotte
      February 2, 2015 / 10:22 am

      You are not alone Taylor!! Keep at it and thanks for reading x

  27. January 31, 2015 / 7:55 pm

    I don’t often comment but your writing struck such a chord with me. (I know I’m slightly late to the party but I only just stumbled across your blog.) I have similar problems at work – when I have to put my foot down and wrap something up in order that I can leave on time for once and make it to a spin class I get raised eyebrows, but leave at 2:30 (!) to collect your child from school because they threw a banana at another child and nobody bats an eyelid! I also get the occasional putdown from other women in the office and comments like ‘you try running around after two kids and see how much energy you have to go to the gym’. It’s good (sort of!) to see that this is something which affects so many others – being in a minority in my office makes me feel somewhat isolated!

    • charlotte
      February 2, 2015 / 10:21 am

      Thank you so much for your comment. I know exactly how you feel but good for you to have the courage and dedication to stick at it!

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