Rule Number 1: Don’t be stupid

There area any number of illnesses, injuries and ailments that come with a short list of activity “do’s” and “don’ts.” The “do” list often begins with instruction to resume normal daily activity as well as light exercise (such as walking). The “don’t” list varies depending on what you’re on the mend from.

Trouble is, an awful lot of people break both sets of rules. They avoid going for a nice restorative walk either because they don’t like to exercise, or because they are paralyzed with fear that exercise will cause them harm. That’s stupid, because our bodies were meant to move. Let your body fall into disuse, and disease will follow. Ironically, people may fear exercise, yet they do something stupid like deciding to help move a couch or lift a heavy load of laundry when they were specifically told not to lift too much.

I, myself am a model patient. Truly. Whether I’m recovering from a broken ankle (four years ago) a bad case of shoulder tendonitis (last summer) or abdominal surgery (at this very moment), I go for the gold star. I do what I’m supposed to do, I don’t do what I’m not supposed to do. Thus far, this has earned me smooth, rapid recoveries.

I do the right thing because the outcome of my own health is more important to me than to anyone else, and because I am the most important person on my healthcare “team.” I choose my doctor, I make the ultimate decision regarding treatment, I do everything in my power to guide MY body toward restored health and vitality.

When you have worked hard to be (and look) fit, being told you can’t do most of the activities you usually do is very hard to bear. Obey the doctor, and you will lose some degree of fitness before the restrictions are lifted. Ignore the doctor by doing too much too soon, and you risk a setback that will likely increase the length of the hiatus and the degree of fitness lost.

My strategy is to get an appropriate amount of intentional good-for-the-body exercise, coupled with lots of time off my feet. Both play an important role in healing. I do light household activity, but I am careful to a) not lift too much and b) not fritter away my energy. Intentional movement can help increase energy in the right dose, but mundane “on your feet” busywork can drain it.

As much as it grieves me to watch dust accumulate in my basement weight room, I know that jumping the gun and doing “just a little light weight lifting” may delay my return to full-fledged weightlifting. Yoga and dance are out for now, too. It makes me sad, but my top priority is to heal fully and rapidly so I can do all the activities I love without fear of injury.

So for now, I walk. Not as far or as fast as I did before, but I am a little faster and do go a little further every day. Today was unexpectedly sunny, after the morning rains, and as I walked through my neighborhood, feeling the warm air on my skin and inhaling the damp earth smell, I was so grateful to have the ability to move, even if my options are fewer at the moment.

Go for a walk! Movement is a precious gift…don’t throw it away.