Over the past few months, something unusual happened to me. While I still suffer from ongoing pain and flares knock me flat on my back for 2-3 weeks at a time, I started pushing myself to do a little bit of exercise even in certain kinds of pain. I knew I could always stop, I took it slowly, but I knew I needed to exercise for general health. Somehow I passed a point where the pain and inflammation was so bad that exercise only made it worse. Instead, it started helping me feel a little bit better, even while still in pain.
Although I was getting over a repeat concussion, I still forced myself to go skating with my daughter. And when my wrists were hurting from writing, I made myself take walks for circulation. When my pelvic pain was pinching, I started to stretch. It may not sound like much, but for someone who was instructed by doctors and physical therapists for several years not to exercise in order to manage the pain, this was a big change.
Over the holidays, I began taking walks by myself just to get outside, and I skated for the first time for myself on a nice rink. For the first time in a decade, I had a real workout. I remembered what it felt like to have a healthy body and to be an athlete. I felt a twinge of independence, of power over my health, like I was coming to the top of the mountain. Sure, I still have to find my way down the other side, but I’ve made it to the top, and I have a new perspective.
So the past few weeks, I made a commitment to take time in my daily life to prioritize exercise. I went through my wardrobe and donated old exercise clothing that doesn’t fit or work any more for me. I ordered new skating practice clothes, and new running shoes. (I wear them daily for everything to minimize pain/impact, but I need new ones for serious exercise.) I mapped out available ice time for open skating and freestyle (figure skaters only) sessions within 30 minutes of my home. (My favorite rink is farther than that, but I can’t drive that much regularly with my pain.) I moved the pilates dvds into the living room where I can see them. And simultaneously I’ve been working on our family nutrition as well.
This is not a New Year’s resolution. This came on before the end of the year. And I’m not resolving to do anything. I’m just setting myself up so I can make some lifestyle shifts to becoming more of the person I used to be, who prioritized health and wellness first, who was strong and had endurance and moved. I started reading a great book called Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. I’m trying to bring back fitness and healthy living to the front of my mind. It’s no longer a wishful thinking. It’s something tangible, something I can reach.
Part of this came about with the realization that I’m now nearly 42 years-old and I’m reaching an age where arthritis and osteoporosis may not be far off if I don’t build strength. After 10 years of modified bed rest, my body doesn’t move the way it did. I work with a physical therapist, a chiropractor and various physicians, but there’s nothing like changing how you move. After my first bout with disabilities from repetitive strain injuries, I studied a lot about posture, ergonomics and movement. I know that movement effects everything we do. As we’re not built to sit at desks, we’re also not built to lie around or stand around. Our bodies are meant for movement.
And while I write this amidst the worst flare-up I’ve had in at least a year, I do it knowing that I’m already on the other side of the mountain. It’s still treacherous and scary, but I know this mountain now. I may never make it to the bottom as 100% pain-free, but I’m adapting to where I can resume more of what was my life each year. It’s still colossally slow. Icebergs move faster. But I can envision being strong again.
I went for a run this week, mid-flare. I haven’t run without my pelvic floor feeling too weak to stand in years. And wow did it hurt the following day. It definitely delayed my flare reduction, but I don’t care, because I was able to run, and that was freeing.
Last week, I went to the biggest ice rink in our area and took the ice with other figure skaters for the first time in what seemed like forever. (More recent skating has been on sessions with my daughter, open to anyone.) I skated hard. I worked on speed, spins and jumps. I had a real skating workout. This was pre-flare and it was awesome. And I realized something very important: I may be out-of-shape, but I’m not out of time. Not yet anyway.