I’ve swung to both extremes of the exercise pendulum. I was an extreme exerciser for several years while losing weight and in the early years of maintenance. Body parts started falling apart and still I pushed myself because: A) I was afraid I’d gain all my weight back if I didn’t kill myself working out; B) I didn’t believe osteoarthritis was a big deal and I called myself a wimp (Yeah, that was real helpful.); and C) I was afraid of what all the pain meant.
After knee surgery in 2010, I worked pretty hard to get myself back in shape, although not to the too-thin body I once had that hurt all the time. Things were going along pretty well until this past summer when my hip started to burn. I thought it was “just” sciatica and a tight IT band. Stretching helped. So did deep-tissue massage. And nothing beats a foam roller for working out the kinks in your glutes and those hard-to-reach muscles in the hip when you’re not in the presence of someone with a willing fist or elbow.
I felt it most when I rode my bike (my favorite exercise in the whole world). Some days my hip would complain like a 7-year-old in the back seat: “Are we there yet? How many more miiiiiiles?” I’d stop a few times to dig my right butt cheek into the corner of a bench or the edge of a guard rail. Don’t think THAT didn’t get me a few strange looks from other bikers. But still I biked and sucked down Advil like Tic-Tacs and told myself it would go away.
Then in December, my hip did more than complain. Standing up became difficult and I stopped exercising almost entirely, adopting George Carlin’s philosophy on exercise: “No pain, no pain.” But exercise keeps me sane and not exercising feels as natural as breathing through my ears. It was time to get my head out of my ass and address the problem.
I went to the doctor in January and according to the x-rays, I have OA in both the sacroiliac and hip joints. She prescribed meloxicam (a prescription NSAID), and as much as I hate taking drugs, it’s made all the difference in how I move. Not a half hour after I took it the first time, I was on my elliptical working out with minimal pain.
Of course, having gone to the extreme of no exercise for several weeks, my lungs and legs let me know they were not happy. Thank goodness muscles remember, though, and within three weeks I was back to 30 minutes of cardio and 20 to 30 minutes of strength training.
In this journey to live in the middle of the exercise pendulum, I won’t push myself so far to get in shape and stay there. It’s about building what I can and maintaining what is complete. (This is true with weight, too, am I right?) And while my routine is not as intense as the routines of other people, it’s crucial that I stop comparing my abilities to what I could do in the past and to those who don’t have the same issues. Do I wish I could run like Sondra? Lift weights like Lori? Do lunges like Carla? Swim like Shelley? Box like Mari-Anne? Zumba like Kristin? Spin like Angie? Crush a Cathe Friedrich DVD workout like AJ? Absolutely! But I can’t and I won’t try and I’ve stopped wishing I could.
At least…most days *grin*