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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A Food Diary Is Pretty Much What It Sounds Like

My diary history began in about 1978. I treasured my little lined book with the Mork and Mindy cover, the delicate lock and tiny silver key. I hid the key under my pillow. Turns out my younger brother could pick the lock with his pinky nail. So most of my diary was in all caps: “KEEP OUT OR DIE PIG FART! IF YOU ARE READING THIS YOUR EYES WILL BLEED JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE CARRIE!”

Being in Catholic School at the time, there were also little prayers. Things like, “Dear God, if you have to make a whale eat someone again, maybe it should be Sister Jordan? And maybe that could happen before my piano lesson on Thursday?”

But there were secrets, too: “Jessie gave me a pecan. What does that mean? I am keeping it in my desk forever.”

By college I was a budding writer. When I skipped off to Paris in 1989, I poured my heart out. In French. Song lyrics, mostly. In my defense, I was madly in love with a singer, the winner of the French version of Star Search. And if you speak any French at all, you know pretty much every word rhymes with every other.

I hadn’t kept a diary again until our head of CoreNutrition Barbara Lincoln asked me to keep a food journal. All I had to do was download an app and type in everything I ate or drank for five days. No problem. It gave me something to do when the other mothers at pick-up were tapping importantly on their phones. I imagined them typing: “Tell Hil I’ve got Iowa covered,” while I banged out “2 T cold saag paneer, 1 apple, and a Dunkin Donuts flatbread.”

Five days straight of food journaling. And then Barbara asked for the password to my account. Insert vivid flashbacks here of my brother and his tiny pink fingernail, of the French musician who cheated on me with a Swedish flight attendant and then made fun of my songs. None of that matched the horror of allowing Barbara to see what I ate every day. While I was running a fitness studio.

And yet, somehow I swallowed my pride (and then journaled swallowing my pride – No saturated fat! No calories!) and gave Barbara the password. We are planning a meeting to go over my food choices in detail. But Barbara’s initial reactions already have made a big difference in my energy level. Bottom line is, I need to ask myself: “Am I eating healthy food that nourishes my body, or processed food filled with sodium and junk?”

In our first meeting, I discovered:

1. I was eating about half of what’s necessary to sustain life. Whaaaa? Yay! I get to eat more food! But wait. There’s more…
2. Barbara doesn’t want me to add just any calories. They have to be healthy. I’m not eating enough vegetables and fruit. “How can I wash, prepare, cut and bag a bunch of fruits and veggies when I feel like I’m shot out of a cannon every morning?” I ask. “Make time,” Barbara gently insists. “Five to seven servings a day.”
3. I eat too much saturated fat and not enough healthy fat. Sausage pizza and saag paneer are not great choices. Walnuts, salmon, olive oil and avocado get the green light.
4. My diet is high in sodium from processed foods. And I’m not drinking enough water. Add the Megaformer sweat factor. Hello, H2O!
5. I should trade some carbs for high-quality protein, about 75-90 mg a day. Bye-bye flatbreads.
6. No more half-n-half with my coffee. That one really hurt. But with whole or 2% milk I’ll get some protein and less saturated fat.
7. I need to nix the granola and go for 2% Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and raw nuts. Guess what? It’s delicious.

I’m not focused on losing weight, but I’m truly desperate to have more energy, sleep better at night and just feel better. I’ll keep you posted after we do a deep dive into my food choices. But just the process of keeping a food diary has been insightful. Saag paneer is not a food group. And I need to get chopping.
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