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Ask a loser: Is exercise a hobby?

In the mid-90’s there was a TV show called Beakman’s World that ran Saturday mornings. It was like Mr. Wizard if the producers of that show were dropping acid and made one of Mr. Wizard’s co-stars dress up in a rat suit. I don’t think they ever said Beakman was a scientist, but he wore a lab coat, albeit a neon green lab coat, so it was heavily implied that he was scientific in some way even if his hair stuck up like Frankenstein’s bride.

Every week Beakman would answer science questions supposedly written in letters from kids around the world, though I always wondered if they came from kids around the crews’ familes’ dinner tables. He’d start each segment by reading one these letters like, “Kate from Los Angeles, California asks…” or “Jeff from Gooseneck, Minnesota wants to know…” Then they’d find some excuse to set off 100 mousetraps or set something on fire after telling us we should not try this at home without adult supervision.

I think I’ll emulate Beakman at the end of this way-too-long introduction, not so much with the pyromania but more with the question answering. Though if I could figure out a way to justify blowing up my toaster in the name of answering your nutrition questions, I would. I’m sure it would be a hit on YouTube. Instead, imagine me in a bright green lab coat with my hair a tad bit frizzier than it is normally saying to the camera, “Jen from LiveJournal wants to know, ‘ Do you remember what you used to do with your free time before you became so physically active? Do you miss what the old you used to do? Do you notice that exercise has taken up more time in your life or is it something that’s come naturally? Would you call it a hobby?'”

Thanks for writing, Jen! A couple months ago someone asked me what my hobbies were and my first reaction was, “Does healthy living count?” I do consider exercising and eating well a hobby, only it’s an emotionally manipulative hobby. It’s like the boyfriend who says, “If you leave me, I’m taking the Tori Amos CDs, the early stuff, not just her most recent crap.” I also consider crochet a hobby. However, if I decide not to crochet anything for months at a time, nothing bad happens. The only side effect is that I have a bag full of yarn in the corner that may become a choking hazard to my cat. No babies are going blanket-less and no children are sledding in the snow without ski caps sporting cute pom-poms on the end. My friends and family can acquire clothing without being on the receiving end of my D hook. However, if I quit eating my fruits and veggies and quit moving my ass, I will get fat again. PastaQueen no want to get fat again. PastaQueen like smaller booty! So exercise is a hobby, but a hobby I can’t get out of without undesirable side effects. Kind of like a cult, only I am not drinking any Kool-Aid. It has far too much sugar.

Back in January, I stated that one of the things no one told me about weight loss was that it would take time. I don’t just mean that it has taken me almost two and a half years to lose 190 pounds, I also mean that I spend between 30-60 minutes a day exercising and probably 30 minutes a day on average cooking. At first I really noticed this time suck, but now it just seems like a natural part of my day. I find it’s fun toying with it, finding the different ways I can get it done without wanting to stab my eyes out. I’ve been trying new exercises like my TurboKick class and my upcoming tennis lessons. I’ve been cooking strange vegetables and experimenting with new recipes. Oddly enough, when I put certain limitations upon what I am going to do, I find I can explore limitless creativity within those boundaries. I know I need to exercise, so now I can find thousands of different ways to get that done. Similarly, whenever I come here to blog, I know I need to cover the topics of weight loss, fitness, nutrition or obesity. Thinking up new ways to cover those topics leads me to some creative posts I wouldn’t have necessarily come up with if someone had just said, “Write whatever you want to.” Like, answering someone’s questions, perhaps. Sometimes rules and limitations can be freeing.

Before I ran around on nature trails and beat clumps of frozen vegetables against the counter, I think I mostly watched TV and surfed the Internet. So, no, I don’t miss what I was doing before. It’s not like the time I spent sautéing onions last evening was cutting into my refugee work in Uganda. I’m much more productive now that I probably ever have been in my life. Also, the healthier I became the more energy I got to do these productive things.

Some people scoff at the time I have to spend exercising and cooking, as though good health and fitness were something simply owed to me. Why shouldn’t I have to spend time working on my body? My body doesn’t owe me anything. I know that if I quit brushing my teeth and flossing I will get cavities. If I quit going to work, my boss is not going to keep paying me (though if he wants to that is totally cool by me). Many people want thinness handed to them on a plate, preferably with a handful of potato chips and dip included. But it’s something I have to work for. Some scientists even believe that I have to exercise longer and harder to burn as many calories as someone who has never been fat. I could be fatalistic and take this as an excuse not to exercise at all. Instead, I tell myself, “Well, that really sucks. I guess I’m going to have to run farther than everybody else.” Life isn’t fair. Oh, well. I suppose it makes it all that more impressive that I’m succeeding anyway. I had to work twice as hard for it as the other guy. I suppose if I’d been spending all this time on another hobby like building model ships, I could provide my local geese with an armada. But the duck navy is going to have to wait because I’ve been spending my time on my health hobby and I don’t regret it, though it would be awesome to see some urban fowl warfare. No more stale breadcrumbs or you’ll get a BB in your eye!

Jen also asked, “Do you get antsy? Is that part of what gets you running or taking the classes you do? Can you comment on your energy level?” I wouldn’t say I get antsy, however I don’t ever want to get bored. If I get bored, I’ll probably quit what I’m doing. If I quit what I’m doing, I’m going to get fat again, and I’ve already told you what I think about my booty size. Momentum and force of habit are some of my best friends, right after my friends who have corporeal form and are reading this blog. (Hey there, friends with bodies! You beat anthropomorphic concepts any day! Momentum never sent me a birthday card.) There are many days when I do Pilates or train with my weights simply because I looked at my calendar and saw that’s what I was supposed to do today. I didn’t particularly want to do it, but I’ve got this pattern going, so why break it? And when I bend my leg and place my foot on the bathroom counter to clip my toe nails, I recall how amazingly nimble all that ab work and cardio has made me. I don’t always like to exercise, but I like what exercise allows me to do. I’m so used to feeling good that it’s easy to forget how “blah” I used to feel all the time from the sugar and carbs and television hypnosis. But I did used to feel like crap all the time and I know if I stop doing what I’m doing I will start morphing back into that turd-like state again. I’m not so much antsy as I am eternally vigilant.

Hope that answers your questions, Jen. If this were Beakman’s World we’d end with the penguins saying something witty before they turned off the TV. You’ll have to settle for what my cat decides to type on the keyboard. Let ‘er rip, Krupke! M,m,mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm (I think Krupke wants some M&M’s.)

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Vimilla • May 29, 2007 at 10:38 am

I spit coffee up when I saw the ‘leaving with the Tori Amos CD’s.’ My husband and I split up in 1999 – I kept “Under the Pink,” but “Boys for Pele” went with him. He eventually moved and lost his Tori CD. Of course, I happily still have Under the Pink. (Little Earthquakes is still on my get list.)

Anyway, been awhile since I’ve left you a message, but I’ve still been reading regularly. You are doing such an awesome job, and are looking hot to boot. Although, I suspect you know that!

–The Kokomo girl–


Kirk • May 29, 2007 at 11:34 am

I haven’t thought of Beakman’s World in years!

I sent Beakman a question one time. He never answered it. Total bummer.


egoldstein • May 29, 2007 at 11:35 am

This should go on your top 20 posts lists, a lot of really valuable insights. I’m so impressed with your progress and outlook on life.

One of the things I don’t get is when someone, say a former colleague, who is quite overweight and eating a whole plate of cookies says, oh, no amount of being thin is worth trading in peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for (or whatever they are eating). While I like to indulge in various things from time to time, no food, not even the tasting menu at French Laundry, is worth exchanging your health for. It took one week of visiting a relative at the hospital to see all of the patients with diabetes, heart problems, etc… much of which from eating too much, exercising too little, and otherwise engaging in lifestyle habits that are harmful (like smoking and drinking).

For me, eating well and exercising is not a matter of wanting to be thin, but instead wanting to live a long, healthy life and to be fit enough to participate in that life rather than watch it go by.


coraspartan • May 29, 2007 at 2:05 pm

I have thought about the “hobby” question myself. On the one hand, I think exercise should be considered a hobby, because I devote so much of my free time to it. On the other hand, I don’t think it should be considered a hobby because I don’t do it solely for pleasure; I do it to stay healthy and fit. My other hobbies are gardening, reading, spending time with my dogs, etc.–in other words, all things I do solely for the pleasure of them. But I wouldn’t exercise if I wasn’t trying to be healthy and fit. I don’t enjoy it for the most part–except yoga, which I LOVE. So I would call yoga a hobby, but I wouldn’t call my daily habit of going to the gym to work out a hobby.

Working out and eating healthy DO take up a lot of my time, but they are worth it, whether I call them hobbies or not!


lynn • May 29, 2007 at 3:43 pm

You are completely awesome. Just wanted to let you know.


virg • May 29, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I love the “hobby” way of thinking about this time spent getting fit and making healthy food. I have been creating this “athlete” persona for myself as a way to motivate me in this “get healthy and fit” lifestyle. When people ask me why I won’t go to the pub for beers and wings I like to say “I am in training”. :) Honestly I have no big event I’m training for, I just want to be better at my favorite recreational activities, and to one day do a real pushup and pullup, but no one questions my training explaination.

I would totally keep “Under the Pink” over “Boys for Pele”. Don’t wait another minute to get “Little Earthquakes” though.


yo • May 29, 2007 at 9:53 pm

“Hobby” is definitely a healthy way to look at it. And what’s more rewarding — a nice body and health, or, say, a huge collection of beanie bags, or scrapbooks, or sweaters you’ve knitted.


Emily • May 29, 2007 at 9:54 pm

I absolutely think of exercise as a hobby. Everyone I know who is fit and has been for years has something they do that is exercise, that they consider fun, or at least not the worst way to spend an hour. Getting and staying healthy takes up a heck of a lot of my time, therefore if someone asks me my hobbies, I’m going to list it.


Speakout • May 29, 2007 at 10:30 pm


Here’s one for you!



Lindsey • May 30, 2007 at 12:29 am

I think whether it’s a hobby or not depends on your motivation. If your motivation is fun because you’re doing something you enjoy (hiking, rock-climbing, swimming, cycling, etc.) and it just happens to have some awesome fitness benefits, I still think it’s a hobby–just with great benefits. But if your dragging your behind to the gym doing something that isn’t that really that enjoyable because you want the fitness benefits, then I think it’s more like work than a hobby. So I guess it depends on how you exercise. I’m currently in the latter group right now, but I hope to soon be more in the former—doing things I more enjoy than because I want the exercise value.

But my real question is how are you liking the TurboKick classes? I ask becuase I think it’s based on these tapes called TurboJam. Like many folks here, I’ve tried all sorts of at-home fitness tapes (Pilates, TaeBo, Slim in 6, etc.) but the TurboJam tapes were the only ones that didn’t bore me to tears in a week or two. I just love the convenience and privacy of being able to work out at home, but I couldn’t find anything that kept me interested and engaged in the long term—until I tried TurboJam. They seem to have just the right balance of sportiness (punch and kicks) and danciness (even for those of us non-natural dancers)—mostly cardio, but some weight resistance training options too. Enough of a challenge to keep it interesting and feel like you still got a good workout, but not so hard it was discouraging. And I swear I don’t work for TurboJam!!:).

I guess I’m just wondering how the TurboKick classes are because if you dig them, I might have to try and find some in my neighborhood instead of just doing the tapes to mix things up on occasion. You gotta let us know how they go/are going.

Also, as a random sidenote, I just want to express my thanks too for this blog. I only recently discovered it, but I think it’s amazing–both what you’ve accomplished with your weightloss and fitness, but also your inspiring ability to not only to be brave enough to share it with us but also in your eloquence of expression.

Your weight is right where I am now, I too have an initial goal of 160 (may reevaluate when I get there) and we’re both 5’9″, so I kind of feel like I have a partner down this path too. Just not enough tall girls out there—too few who can appreciate how awesome it is to be in a size 12!!! I’ll never be 2 or 4 (or would want to be for that matter), but will make a pretty hot little 8 and unless you’re one of us taller than average girls, you just can’t quite get it. Not many women would be ecstatic to say they weigh 150 or 160 lbs in this culture, but that would probably near perfect for me.


Yolanda • May 30, 2007 at 4:39 am

Exercise a hobby? I think it depends on the person. If hobby is something we always do because we like doing it, then I think not all people who do exercises considers it as a hobby.


Marshmallow • May 30, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-bang, ba-da-brilliant post! [10 points to anyone who gets the reference in the afore mentioned text ;-)]

I guess I can split my exercise into two camps – the first being serious training, and the second is my hobby component. The hobby component are the classes, and the stuff I do because its fun – spinning, kickboxing, hiphop. My interval training? I take that a bit more seriously – rather than a hobby, perhaps a challenge or a ‘project’?


Pat • May 31, 2007 at 2:47 am

I agree that it people have different purpose in doing exercise. We know that some are just doing it for the sake of weight loss. While others are doing it for a healthy living.


jenni • May 31, 2007 at 10:14 pm

I loved Beakman – weird science rocks. Thansk for the reminder of a great show.


jenni • May 31, 2007 at 10:14 pm

I loved Beakman – weird science rocks. Thanks for the reminder of a great show.


Oscar • June 1, 2007 at 1:07 am

I think it’s a hobby. The reason that we do it everyday and consider it as something we need to do in order to please ourselves with the results makes it more as a hobby.


Jen • June 1, 2007 at 8:24 am

Like Marshmallow said – My kickboxing is my hobby and all my other stuff like weights and running is training for my hobby… LOL The whole world revolves around kickboxing!

I’ve recently been on holiday and took a week’s semi-enforced rest (walking only). By day 2 I wanted to kickbox on the beach!

FWIW I can’t remember what I used to do with my “free time” before I started exercising.


Tammy • June 2, 2007 at 7:57 pm

I know I’m still adjusting to all the time it takes just to make a salad the way I like it – but as for exercising, it’s more than a hobby, it’s a mini vacation every day. I actually wish I had more freedom to pursue my “hobby.”

Very insightful and motivating post… you look great!


PastaQueen • June 4, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Linsey – I know you left your comment days ago, but I wanted to say I did like TurboKick a lot. I’d never taken an aerobics class before, but it was fun and the routines were challenging enough that I never got bored either trying to learn them or trying to keep up physically.

And I’m glad you’ve found the blog to be helpful!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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