Get the Glow

I’ve had lots of time to think about exercise now that I’ve been sidelined with an injury. I know myself and I would never take the time to reflect on working out if I were able to just do it instead.

I’ve become grateful for this opportunity. Even if it comes with a torn hamstring, I also got a big Aha moment out of it.

For years, I said and truly believed that I loved to exercise. Now, from my perch on the couch high atop an ice pack, I can see that I felt compelled to exercise. It was a box that I checked in my frenetic daily life, the thing I did between dropping a kid at school and grocery shopping. Can you truly love doing something when you feel guilty if you miss a day? When you feel pushed to do it by factors outside yourself, like the secret yoga pants consortium that meets in a Masonic Temple and spends billions of dollars each year researching how to hypnotize female consumers into wearing them every single day?

I made that up about the yoga pants.

Still, there were plenty of days when I should have skipped the workout and didn’t think I could. What was I so afraid of? That I would instantly gain weight, lose muscle mass, have an acute heart issue, lose my yoga pants license?

I get it now. I wasn’t exercising out of love for it (or me), but out of some vague fear of not doing it. And as a result, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Or why. Now that I can’t move my leg in certain ways, I get to think about it.

I suspect I’m not the only one.

I talk to lots of people about their workouts and most of my conversations go something like this:

Me: So what’s your workout routine?

Other person: I run. I snorkel or ski on vacay. I go to the [big box gym up or down] the road.

Me: What do you do there?

Other person: Stuff, you know, like classes, the elliptical, some free weights. I had a trainer, but, you know, now that I think about it, I haven’t seen my trainer lately. Maybe my trainer went missing? I don’t know. I tried yoga. Hated the smell.

Me: So what do you do to balance your body?

Other person: Balance my checkbook?

Me: No, your body. How do you make sure you work out in a balanced way? You run, right? So what do you do for your upper body and core?

Other person: [Blank stare] I workout every day, so yeah, I’m good.

Me: Okay, so do you like your body? Are you happy with it?

Other person: Like my body? I like wine. I put it out there on Facebook all the time. I really like wine.

Me: Okay, but how about your body?

Other person: [Pointing to themselves] This?

Me: The thing under your head.

Other person: I don’t know. I’d like to lose a few pounds. I’d like more definition. I’m tired. I’ve got this thing here [pinching a little flesh in their midsection, bottom or outer thigh]. I’d like to lose that.

Me: How long have you felt that way?

Other person: Hmm. Probably since college. Like 1993.

Look, we all have limited time, whether because we’re parents or working or just because we’re mortal. And the time we dedicate to fitness is precious. We need to make it count and be efficient and cost-effective. We want to see and feel the benefits of the time, money and effort we’re putting in. And there’s an easy way to make this happen: Just be mindful.

What’s not working right in your body? Are you addressing that? If you have lower back pain, are you working your core? If your hips are tight from running or cycling, what are you doing to open them? Have you hit a plateau with your favorite workout? How’s your eating? What are you doing to ensure you maintain good posture and balance as you (gracefully) age?

Maybe it’s time to do an inventory of your body and look for ways to change up your routine so you get the results you want. There are so many fun, great options out there. Do some investigating. Try a new workout, preferably with a good buddy who makes you laugh. Think about what you need. Talk to fitness professionals. We love to chat.

When you exercise with purpose and intention, you get results. Which makes you feel successful. Which makes you happy. Which gives you that sunny glow people in commercials always have.

Get the glow. Fall in love again with exercise.

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What happens when you tell a fitness instructor she can’t exercise?

What happens when you’re told in no uncertain terms you need to stop exercising for weeks, maybe months?

My first reaction was total panic. Normally, I’m in a constant state of motion. A great white shark will die from lack of oxygen if it stops swimming. I feel like that. Stop me from moving and I won’t be able to breathe. I won’t be able to live. At least, not in the way I want to live.

I own a fitness studio and I love to teach. What would happen to me professionally if my clients saw me unable to demonstrate a lunge or plank series? How would I justify pushing them beyond their limits when I was suddenly so limited myself?

And what about all that hard work I’d done to get strong? Would my muscles atrophy into little piles of mashed potatoes? I envisioned myself blowing up like somebody attached a bicycle pump to my mouth, a Macy Day Parade balloon in the shape of me.

Then there’s the mental side of exercise—the endorphin rush, the sense of accomplishment, the stress release. Where would that come from now?

My pity party was short, but intense, playing out mostly in the parking lot of my orthopedic surgeon’s office. I cried shamelessly while I walked around in circles, looking for my car in a sea of other dark-colored Subarus. I had lost my car. My mind. My fitness. My sense of self. This was a disaster.

But of course, it wasn’t a disaster. If I wanted to see a real disaster, I could turn on CNN. Or go back to the surgeon’s waiting room where people had injuries that would keep them from ever being able to walk again or locked in chronic pain for the rest of their lives.

No, this was an opportunity.

When I confided in a client that I might need surgery, she didn’t say: But what if you no longer have well-defined deltoids? She said: “If you’re on crutches, will you still teach?” Yes, I told her. Nothing would stop me. I could still use my imagination to plan new routines. Finally I had more time to focus on marketing and the kind of day-dreaming that helped me move us forward as a company.

And in the interim, I had just found about ten extra hours a week. I could eke out some time for those projects that have been on hold since I opened CoreMotion. My over-stuffed closets. A novel I’ve been trying to finish writing for three years. The books stacked up on my bedside table. Movies!

Instead of wasting time worrying about blowing up, I could really focus on nutrition. I could read up on the latest research and conduct my own little experiment on just how important eating is to overall health and wellness. (My hypothesis: Very!)

We have many clients at CoreMotion who have undergone major surgeries or faced life-threatening illnesses. Every day I see them fighting to regain their strength, balance, and power. I have such respect for them. They will inspire me when I start to regain my own strength. In the meantime, I have new empathy for anyone who has an injury or illness.

And I’ve discovered that endorphins and happiness are everywhere, like Easter eggs waiting to be found. I’ve come to appreciate my time with the kids in a new way. I can’t play baseball with them or jump on the trampoline, but I can bake muffins with the 8-year-old when we’re the first ones awake in the morning. Or finally attack the crystal-making kit the 6-year-old begged for (and is seriously more science than I ever thought I could handle.) I can grab those increasingly rare moments when the teenager wants to just hang out with us and laugh.

I can even sit still long enough to marvel at this gift I’ve been given, all wrapped up in the form of an injury.

Elise

 


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