Monday, January 18, 2010

Whatever Gets You Through Your Weight…It’s Alright, It’s Alright

Today I had another one of those “all or nothing” exercise days, like the kind I wrote about last month at Refuse to Regain. I thought I’d address it here to see if ya’ll have similar kinds of issues.
Here’s how I woke up today, as I do most days: I sat up, moved my neck in a circle (crack, crunch), twisted my lower back side to side (crack, crunch), stretched my feet (cramp!), stretched my arms over my head (oh THAT’S where that rotator cuff tear is!), and asked, “How do I feel today?”

I’d optimistically laid out my workout clothes on the dresser last night because, according to my Excel spreadsheet, I was scheduled to do 30 minutes on the elliptical and 35 minutes of strength training and core work.

But my plan didn’t take into account the pain in my left shoulder and worse, restlessness. My mind’s been going in all kinds of directions lately, and Advil doesn’t touch that.

Just to be clear, I realize when physical takes precedence over the need to exercise. I take pain and inflammation seriously. But in every instance I have to honestly assess if it’s real pain or my head making excuses for not wanting to work out. It’s that double-edged sword of arthritis. On most days, however (and once I press pass that initial discomfort), moving is of more benefit than the heating pad.

Convincing my brain of that before a workout is 99 percent of the battle, however.

Today I implemented the strategy I tried last month. Instead of doing everything or nothing I’d planned on my nifty spreadsheet, I’d do a little.

I told myself before I started that if I only got 5 minutes on the elliptical and half my strength training in, it would be OK. No beating myself up, no regrets.

I hopped on the elliptical and put “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” on the iPod. Last week’s Lucy Lawless “Not My Job” segment got me to 11 minutes on the elliptical – a full six minutes longer than I’d planned. Success! Old Me would have kept going even though I felt fatigued (having been a staunch supporter of the old “pain is weakness leaving the body” bullshit). Today’s fatigue had more to do with SAD than arthritis, and New Me was OK with that.

I moved on to push ups and some leg work. No problems. Got back on the elliptical for another 10 minutes. Felt much better than the first time. Finished up the workout with only a minor modification to the Thera-Band exercise that is killer on my shoulders. I logged 10 less minutes than I’d planned on the elliptical, but I felt, in a word, good.

Here’s how I see it. My old workout formula was:

“Lynn + Laying Off = You’re Weak and Lazy and Will Gain All Your Weight Back!”

This formula for “success” often left me in pain. Stupid, I know, but I’m still (after how many years?) coming to terms with arthritic reality.

So now I’m slowly adopting this formula:

“Lynn + Laying Off = No You Won’t Gain 170 Pounds Overnight AND You’ll Feel Better The Rest of the Day and Tomorrow AND You’re No Longer Causing Irreparable Damage!”

The same holds true with restlessness. Compassion is the common denominator. I can only concentrate for 10 minutes? No problem. After 10 minutes of cardio, do a strength training circuit. Repeat when willing. What I’ve found is that not only does this break up the workout, it demands more concentration, thus disrupting that restlessness, at least for an hour or so.

Never thought there was a middle ground between pain/restlessness and doing nothing/ doing everything. I think it’s because I have an over abundance of leftover fervor from my weight-loss phase. I was DETERMINED to lose weight and now I’m HELL BENT on not gaining it back. Even though in March I’ll mark three years at goal, I’m still that 300-pound woman who decided five years ago that, by god, she was going to lose weight. I appreciate her chutzpah, but 130-pound me needs to tell her it’s OK to ease off just a bit.

Whatever gets you to your weight, it’s alright, it’s alright…

14 comments:

  1. That all-or-nothing attitude is very hard to break. It can be a motivator and a detractor all in one! I think you obviously have something figured out to have maintained for 3 years ;)

    I love Wait, Wait too!!

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  2. I'm going to use your idea about breaking up the cardio with weights the next time I am struggling with getting through my cardio like today for instance.

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  3. Yes, yes, on the blog The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talks about whether or not a person is a "moderator" or an "abstainer." I'm a moderator on the things I'm moderate about. But on anything that I'm not naturally moderate in--I'm an abstainer. It's much easier for me to say no M+Ms than just a few, no chips vs. just a couple. (Or no Moo Jrs vs. just one, lol.)

    I can see exercise would be the same way, worried it's a slippery slope to inertia, you keep on with that black in white thinking instead of flowing.

    Yeah, life. So many lessons to learn, things always evolving. love, V

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  4. I think this is a great post, Lynn. I used to feel the necessity to go all out and do intense exercise every session, and well look at where it got me--problems with both knees (granted the knee situation is genetic and was exacerbated by hard-core exercise). I am now a firm believer in listening to my body. I know what minor inflammation feels like in relation to pain. Once I really damaged my left knee, I was in a lot of pain--and I even had a PT who told me to just "try doing something." How wrong she was.

    I am glad that you are finally getting to know your body and what it can handle. I remember reading your blog last year, and you said you were very worried to miss even one day of cardio. It seems like you have really started to listen to your body without gaining weight, and I think that is great.

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  5. That all or nothing attitude is what got me fat and also what got me to finally lose the weight. Same goes for exercising...I can't explain it - but like last week when I was going to be late(!) to my workout due to my dumb car window breaking, I considered not going because I wouldn't get the whole workout in. How crazy is that?!? Good to hear that eventually you can figure out the middle ground on days that you need it. You give me hope, my friend!

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  6. I think the older we get the more important it is that we listen to our body. When I was young I could push through the pain and be fine. Last fall I tried that and was injured for a few weeks. Great post!

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  7. What a great post! I think that it's often better doing something rather than doing nothing, but one ill-timed workout can lead to weeks of recovery and weeks without working out. It's such a hard balance to find!

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  8. Lynne, have you tried incorporating dancing into your exercise regime? You might want to consider it, especially for days like today that feel off kilter. Create a playlist of your all time favorite dance songs. Shuffle it. You can dance for 10 min., 20, 30. Choice is up to you. But dancing freely to music you love....best.exercise.ever.

    (ok, for me.) :)

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  9. Thank you, thank you!!! I was going to not go to the gym because due to dumb circumstances I feel groggy and tired and I figured I wouldn't be able to do the tempo run and weights that are on my plan. But now I am going to go and just start out with the idea of doing what I can handle today.

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  10. Great post! It is so important to realize that very few things in life need be black or white, all or none, yes or no, us or them, this or that...okay, I think you got it :)

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  11. Oh, this was so good Lynn. Seems a lot of us with weight issues struggle with that all or nothing mentality. I realize now that that was what kept me heavy for so very long. I was DETERMINED to not deprive myself of anything that tasted good. Yikes.

    And for the aging me, I LOVE this phrase 'Compassion is the common denominator.' I struggle with that 'restless mind syndrome' too. And days where it just seems like I don't DO enough, whatever that means. Thanks, Lynn, for your thoughtfulness, and your good writing.

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  12. I just want to say that I can really relate to the opening of your post. All those cracks. I hear them when I get up, and I hear them in yoga. I find them so satisfying!

    weight loss

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  13. I'd agree with you totally on mixing up your workout, it makes it so much easier to only focus on the next 10 minutes than dreading the thought of working out for a half hour or more.

    It helps keep your mind fresh on what you're doing plus it keeps your body guessing as to whats coming up next.

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  14. I too lost over 130 lbs, and have kept it off for over 6 years now. Congrats on your accomplishment! The "all or nothing thinking" is a real problem and must be tamed. One of the things that is helping me is practicing Bikram (hot) yoga. Althought this form of yoga is so intense and challenging, at first I was all-or-nothing with it. I either busted my ass doing the 90 mins, or I just didn't go. I'm currently doing a 30 day challenge (go every day for 30 days) and this has forced me to find the moderate practice that will allow me to go every day. Bikram has also allowed me to have a new appreciation for my body, despite being surrounded by much longer and leggy bodies....this yoga is so hard (I dare you to try it!) that you have to appreciate the body that lasted through it. There are people of all weights and sizes there, and no judgement. Each of us just does what we can each day we go. Some days are better than others, but any day I get into class is better than a day I don't. Check out the story in the current Oprah magazine about an overweight woman who got into Bikram and how it changed her life. You have to try this, even if it doesn't seem like something that would appeal. I went kicking and screaming to my first class and was surprized beyond belief that I actually liked this form of exercise.

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