Have you ever been in the habit of eating right and/or exercising, only to have your good habits fall by the wayside when life throws a curveball at you? Maybe you moved, changed jobs, suffered an illness, went on vacation. Maybe the weather got too crappy to go walking, or your neighborhood gym went out of business.
It’s happened to me, more than once, and I bet it’s happened to you. It took me a while to see the pattern, and fully absorb how much I hated the two-steps-forward-three-steps-backward approach to health. Once I did, I was determined to not let it happen again. If something gets in the way of my workouts, or I eat a few-too-many unhealthy foods on vacation or over the holidays, I am ready, willing and eager to jump right back on the healthy bandwagon.
Now, something like undergoing a surgery that carries with it a 4-to-6-week “do not lift more than 10 pounds and do not over exert yourself” rule really gets in the way of a proper workout. Yes, I can walk and ride my stationary bike, which is sufficient for general good health, but it is most certainly not sufficient for being and looking really, really fit.
This phase of my life could be a complete derailment of my ongoing fitness efforts, or it could be a small, annoying speedbump. I choose speedbump.
I’ve already mentioned the deep irony that I spent 14 weeks of my life this summer getting in fantastic shape, only to turn around and be forced to stop lifting weights. For 14 weeks, I tracked what I ate every single day and reported it on an online forum. It was tedious, and toward the end quite maddening (but I had committed to reaching the finish line, and so I persevered). I found time to work out even when I was so overloaded with work and school that I could barely come up for air. Anyone who thinks that a “little thing” like major surgery is going to make me slide into a sedentary lifestyle and throw away the results of months (nay, years) of hard work has got another thing coming.
The week before I was rushed to the emergency room in pain and in shock, I bought four things: A skinny pair of black pants from the Gap, a skinny black shirtdress from Macy’s (I bought this about 8 hours before my ER visit) and two bikinis. Do you want some more irony? The bikinis (bought online) arrived in the mail the same day I had my surgery (and was wondering if I would ever wear a bikini again). Hahahahahahahahaha!
Sure, each of those items still has the tags on them, and I could return them. But I won’t. Because I will wear them. Wanting to fit into a “skinny” item of clothing is admittedly one of the shallower motivations for being fit and healthy, but my philosophy about motivation is “whatever it takes.”
I had a raging appetite when I arrived home from the hospital (perhaps my injured body’s cry for nutrients?), but it has now backed off (perhaps because I’m exercising less and thus have lower food energy needs). This will make the first step of my two-pronged approach to getting back into fighting shape easier. That would be prevention.
Four years ago, when I broke my ankle, I was even more exercise-restricted than I am now. So, yeah, fitness level was going to drop. I just made sure I ate prudently so that lost fitness would not be coupled with gained pounds. That is exactly the strategy I am adopting right now. Today, I put on a pair of “mid-range” jeans (not my skinniest jeans, but not my loosest). They fit just fine (yay!), but I ditched them mid-day when the minor swelling I still have around the abdomen made me grab for my yoga pants.
The second prong is to use everything I know to prevent a brief hiatus from turning into a long-term decline. When I am cleared to dust off my barbells and dumbbells I’m pretty sure I will still have some minor restrictions (like, abdominal-specific exercises will probably not be on the table). I also will not have worked out for a month. Jumping in headfirst would be stupid (and the number one rule is “don’t be stupid”). I know how a beginner should workout, and I know that for a while, I’ll need to act like a beginner. That means starting slowly, building up gradually and listening hard to my body. Soreness is fine, but injury is not.
Part of making good health a lifestyle choice means learning how to roll with the punches. I’m down right now, but I’m not out! I will rise again, and I will be better than “good as new.”