A LOOK AT WHAT INSPIRED THE POPULAR EXERCISE APP: ZOMBIES, RUN!
AMBER LOVE 17-FEB-2015 Discoveries like this story are among the reasons I love my Twitter network. On the writing platform Medium, @NaomiAlderman shared her success story about developing the exercise game where you hear zombies chasing you and you’re supposed to run in accordance with those attacks. Well, Naomi is fat. Her story is inspirational and, for me anyway, tearjerking. The app is called ZOMBIES, RUN! if you’re interested in buying it. Not only is the app another success for people who aren’t size 2, but it’s a success for women in STEM too.
*Note: Because I don’t know Naomi Alderman, I used good old internet memes for visuals.
THE PROGRAMS WE’RE TOLD WORK
Naomi, like me, gets migraines. I have several friends who also get migraines and none of us experience them the same way. One loses vision. One is photophobic. Sometimes there’s vomiting, but not always. I can listen to TV, but not watch it during my migraines. Naomi experienced this illness from the time she was a child – a fat child in gym class.
“I used to throw up after gym class. I once turned blue and had some sort of seizure. Not that any of the teachers cared, because obviously I was a fat kid and so the solution was more exercise.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
Concerns like this are why people risk legal entanglement when speaking out against TV networks and shows like the “Biggest Loser” which is notoriously unhealthy, shame-driven, and falsified in their presentations of extreme weight loss. I cringed when I saw commercials for The Rock’s new show because he looks like a bully. I don’t want The Rock to be a bully. Bullies are not the right kind of motivation for anyone of any age. Does hateful harassment work? Sometimes, at least physically, but emotionally, it is disturbing.
One year in college, the director/professor of the theater program which I had to participate in for my media studies, told me I’d never be a TV personality unless I lost weight. I think his words were along the lines of, “You’ll never get anywhere in TV unless you drop 15-20 pounds.” He liked me. I mean, he hated everyone and he liked me. I think I’m the only one that ever got an A in his classes because I took him seriously even if my voice isn’t the best for broadcasting. And he meant his comment as honest criticism. He wasn’t wrong, per se, TV does have expectations for women in visual appearance. I doubt it was the producers that told Al Roker to lose weight or lose his job, but those are real concerns for women in media.
So on that summer break, I followed an incredibly strict diet using the Richard Simmons’ Deal-A-Meal plan. I lost 15 pounds and my professor’s eyes popped out of his head when he saw me in the fall. Of course it didn’t last. In real life, I eat bread. Lots of bread. And this was many years before going vegetarian. The plan worked, but still was not a “real” way for me to eat. I would revisit it every once in a while to lose a few when I wanted. It never stayed off, but of countless plans, pills, shakes and eating disorders I tried, the Simmons plan was the healthiest one for me. Trust me, like other fat people, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on trying to not be fat including gym memberships.
SOME OF US HATE SPORTS
Naomi found herself in an office job where they had a gym. One of my professional jobs (first time in global corporate), there was a tiny gym with a few pieces of equipment. It was hard sometimes to get access to it because there was so little, and once occupied, you stood no chance getting in a walk on your half hour lunch break. Unfortunately, when the company was in its downward spiral of economic catastrophe, they had to lease out as much space as possible and the gym and nurse were the first to go. Naomi was more fortunate that no one else in her office used their equipment.
“In the lunch hour, I discovered, I could just zone out there for 45 minutes away from colleagues I mostly did not get on with and away from my computer. And that’s where I learned that I could enjoy exercising as long as I didn’t have to take part in team games where I was always letting someone down or being measured in a competition where I’d always come last.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
There are things I like better about elliptical machines and treadmills compared to walking outside during a work day at an office. First, sweating. If I have to take the time to change my clothes, there’s 10 minutes of the lunch break right there – and that’s moving quickly. If an indoor gym is closer than an exit to a large corporate campus and a nature path (some of our big pharmas in NJ have this), then I’ll usually pick the indoors. Next, the sun. The sun and I are not friends. I’m deficient on Vitamin-D like everyone else that sits indoors, but my skin can’t handle the sun for more than a few minutes. I used to take walks at my last job, sometimes with a coworker who once commented that my ears were purple-beet colored after five minutes.
FINDING A PERSONALIZED ROUTINE
I love Naomi’s story about how she eventually found happiness working out four days a week and how she would fit in proper cardio times.
“This is the point in the story, I know, where I should say ‘and the pounds just fell off.’ But that’s not what happened. I have never, as far as I know, lost a single pound-through exercise.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
I can completely relate. I was working closely with one of my pilates instructors one year. I went to four classes a week and did extra on the elliptical machines. I was considering getting my own instructor certification, but I already had other school debt and didn’t want more. I didn’t (and still don’t) think the part-time freelancing of being an instructor can pay for itself, no less a lifestyle. I had lost weight, but that year was when I had been dieting hard and doing this shake program the instructor sold me as part of a MLM pyramid scheme. I gained weight from the whey shakes diet. I did’t lose weight until I stopped them and their over $300/box plan. At that point, I had people telling me, “Don’t lose anymore!” Why? At 120 pounds, I had only just squeezed into the “healthy” zone on the BMI chart doctors use to judge me.
“[No,] what happened was better: I started to enjoy being in my body. I felt better. I felt good. It is a very different feeling to be in a fat body that is moving a lot to one that hardly moves at all.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
Like Naomi, even though I was still overweight, I had more confidence at the gym because I had a small group of friends there, all women 40-70 years old. But that gym was very expensive, around $86/month for an individual membership and this was a YMCA. I may not be a team sports person at all, but I am definitely more interested if I have an instructor. I know that about myself which is why, over 40, I had tried taking an exotic chair dancing class hoping to work my way up to silks and aerials right before I was laid off again. Had to cancel all the classes I was forcing myself to try at other venues. Dreams of being like Emma Haslam – out the door for now.
Naomi designed the Zombies, Run! game for people like her and people that don’t think you need to only be rewarded if you are in peak condition.
“I think now that I couldn’t have made this game if I hadn’t been fat, if I hadn’t known what it was to struggle with exercise and to feel like it wasn’t for me.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
Please, as always, when you enjoy someone’s work, share it. I have only a few pull quotes selected here by Naomi Alderman, but go to the Matter magazine Medium page and read her entire story. It’s wonderful.
“And whatever you can do, even if it’s only moving a bit faster than a slow shamble, the human race can use you.” ~ @NaomiAlderman
By now, you probably know all about the kinds of shaming and harassment out there IRL and online. My worst experiences aren’t with total strangers, but rather with doctors who refuse to treat me like a person who knows my own body and my own limits. Getting dropped by doctors and insurance companies because you’re “fat in numbers” is a frightening reality many Americans face. They try to make it sound as if people are rewarded for getting healthier, when in fact, it’s that people are punished for not conforming to standards which have been questioned by other scientific critics (such as the BMI).
I’ve never tried it, but I’ve been hearing about Curvy Yoga a lot lately. It’s in Nashville for those you lucky enough to be there. At the gym I most recently belonged to, the yoga instructor was a quite curvy woman probably in her late 20s, early 30s. She had the most incredible flexibility. Size does not define your fitness.
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