Fitness Frenzy Inspiration: Charlotte of The Great Fitness Experiment
Charlotte Hilton Anderson is the author of “The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything” which chronicles her “journey to find my way through the morass of contradictory claims and information in today’s health- and fitness-obsessed world. [She] tries out a new workout each month in an attempt to discover what works, what doesn’t, and what’s just plain weird.” Her blog features some of the most fascinating and hilarious writing about fitness, weight, and the media out there. She has become my personal blog hero/guru, and I’m so lucky that she has agreed to do an interview with me to kick off my Fitness Frenzy week here on HangryHippo!
HangryHippo: Recently, there have been a whole slew of fitness/weight experiments in the media–such as Drew Mannings Fit2Fat2Fit–and the results are fascinating. How did this whole experiment begin for you?
Charlotte: I’m totally fascinated with Drew too! It’s an interesting idea although I have to say I’m glad it’s him and not me. As for myself, my start in fitness was a little more normal. I had 3 babies in 3 years (which is how you spell c-r-a-z-y!) and never quite lost the weight between each one so after #3 I decided I was going to get serious about getting healthy. Unfortunately I had no idea what “healthy” even meant much less how to get there. So I read every fitness book, website and magazine and all I got was confused. Everything was so contradictory! I decided that the only way to figure out what works best for me and my body would be to try everything! And I’ve spent the last 5 years (and two more babies) doing exactly that.
Everyone wants to know: so far, what has been your favorite fitness experience and your least favorite? And are there any embarassing/ridiculous stories you’re willing to share with us here?
I have a lot of favorite workouts! So far the most fun I’ve ever had is a toss-up between Circus Arts (trapeze, tightrope, etc.) and hula hooping. My favorite workout to do regularly is yoga. The most effective workout I’ve ever done is Rachel Cosgrove’s The Female Body Breakthrough. The workout with the best bragging rights is CrossFit. You get the idea! Least favorite is a little harder to define but I really did not enjoy Mixed Martial Arts. The training part was fun but I learned that I absolutely do not like getting punched in the face. Weird, right?
As for embarrassing moments, my life is pretty much one long string of them. My most recent one involved sneezing/burping while upside down in a headstand so hard that I shot chunks out my nose. It hurt SO BAD. I cried a little. My ego suffered too.
From your personal experience, what would you recommend for people who are just beginning to explore fitness for health/weightloss reasons?
There are so many great programs out now that I usually tell people who are just starting out to find what they love. If you hate running, don’t run a single step! People get really caught up on what is “right” exercise and then they think that because they hate jogging that they hate exercise. Not so! If you love dancing, try Zumba or TurboKick or Hip Hop Hustle. If your thing is weights, try the Monkey Bar Gym for a great intro into functional fitness. If you adore dodgeball, I can guarantee there is an adult league in your area. But don’t make yourself suffer through workouts you hate. Life’s too short for treadmills!
You write quite frequently about issues surrounding beauty and the representation of ideals in the media. Can you delve more into some of your realizations and discoveries?
I struggle with my own body image a lot and always have so it really helps me to take a serious look at the media and the messages they are sending out. I’ve found if I can verbalize my arguments then they stay in my head better for the next time I’m having a break down in a dressing room. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that skinny does not equal healthy. A lot of research shows that people with an “overweight” BMI live longer, healthier lives than people who are underweight or even on the low end of “normal.” Strangely those studies don’t get quite the press the others do though. My point is that it has to be about using your body to help you be a happier person, not using your person to make a prettier body.
On top of being a hilarious writer and fitness guru, you are also a mother of 5 (6? 100?) children. What about the issues that you discuss do you try/want to instill in your offspring for their future–health, self-confidence, taking care of one’s body?
Yes, I finally had to concede defeat to Angelina Jolie when I read she’s adopting all the alien babies on Mars (Star said so, so it must be true, right?) Seriously though I worry a lot (a lot a lot) about being a good mom to my kids and I know they are learning a lot from me – both good and bad – every day. Kids are such perfect little mimics and they see everything – I found a panty liner in my 2-year-old’s diaper! Hello Charlotte, time to close the door in the bathroom! – that it has forced me to really examine what kind of person I am and what choices I make so that I am modeling good behavior for them. I would hate for them to “inherit” an eating disorder from me. What I want most is for them to be charitable – both with others and with themselves. I truly believe that kindness trumps everything, including thin thighs!
And, finally, what’s next for you? Will this journey ever reach it’s peak or do you see it continuing on indefinitely [I sure hope so!]
I suppose one day The Great Fitness Experiment will go to the great Google Cache in the sky but I will never stick with one routine forever. I hate being bored and I love novelty! Honestly I wish it could last exactly the way it is now but I realize that being able to do what I’m doing now is a gift and one that won’t be available forever. So I’ll just try to make the most of it now and deal with the change that will inevitably come when it happens.
Thanks so much, Charlotte! You’re absolutely fabulous and keep up the fantastic work…and work-outs!
(Image courtesy of The Great Fitness Experiment)