January 8th, 2013

Fit is not a weight or a size.

I promise this isn't going to become the fitness blog, but our friend Hanne Blank has a new book out which I'd like to share with you. Hanne wrote "Straight: The Suprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality", "Virgin: The Untouched History" and "Big Big Love, Revised: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them)"

Hanne's a thinker and a talker and a teacher and she's kind and I wanted to talk about her book because I'm glad to know her -- I don't know that Roswell fanfic is appropriate here, but we'll be giving away an autographed copy to the person with the best comment -- whatever that is, it'll be entirely subjective.

So we welcome you to sit back and read this short conversation between Hanne and me, and I also invite you to buy the book, or one of her others.

Clickenzee to go to Amazon

Q) Who should buy this book?

I know it says "Fat Girl's Guide" on the cover, but really, it's for anyone with a body who has issues or problems or fears or freakouts about movement and exercise or about doing those things where other people might actually see you do it.

Q) For me, the gym was intimidating at first -- there was a sort of locker-room culture that I felt alienated from, I was afraid that people would notice that I didn't know how to use the equipment -- I very much felt like an outsider. And then there was the shower. All this really served to make me want to stay home. How can people find or create friendly & supportive spaces for exercise?

There are a couple of general approaches, but they both really boil down to "show up and be present and learn."

Some folks feel more comfortable if they get together with friends and like-minded people to exercise in a group, for instance, walking or cycling buddies, or a group of people renting out a pool together. Then there's some cameraderie and shared experience while you all get your sea legs at the same time.

Other people just hit the gym, or the sidewalk, or the trails, or the pool, and figure that they'll learn by doing with this just as they would with anything else. A lot of the intimidation we feel around exercise is really unfamiliarity that just happens to push our body-image and incompetence buttons.

Bear in mind that you don't *have* to do anything at the gym except show up and get the lay of the land until you feel comfortable. If the setting is unfamiliar enough to freak you out, there's nothing wrong with going in and just hanging around a bit. Or take it in stages: change to your gym clothes except for your shoes before you go, then go into the locker room just to change your shoes, then spend half an hour poking around some of the weight machines (or what-have-you), without putting huge pressure on yourself to Do A Full Workout Plus Negotiate The Entire Locker Room And Shower Routine All At Once. You just don't have to.

Asking for help is also completely cricket. The phrase "I've never used this particular machine before, can you give me a rundown?" is very useful.

Part of the picture here, too, is that as you get used to exercising around other people, other people will get used to your being there exercising around them. You'll stop feeling like everyone's staring at you, and they'll stop wondering who the new person is. Win/win.

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You can get The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts here, (you can also read a lot of it using "look inside), find her on the web here or follow her on twitter at @HanneBlank

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