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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