Here we are, a week into Spring, and Old Man Winter is putting in a return engagement! How rude! Just when the garden is sprouting and thoughts turn to getting out-of-doors more often, it starts raining again. March, conventional wisdom says, "Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Things are topsy-turvy this year: I think the weather gods got it backwards. March is leaving in lion mode.
This puts a damper on thoughts of dusting off the old bicycle and rollerblades, and makes me just want to reach for my warm blankie and snuggle time with the cats. It slows down my notions of getting back to exercise by any definition. This entire blog post is inspired by a piece written by a fellow blogger-friend of mine, Molly Campbell. You can hop over to her blog, and read her post that was the inspiration for this piece HERE.
As I've aged, (albeit not gracefully--as one pundit put it--"I'm fighting it every inch of the way"), I've gotten more sedentary. It all began with a bum knee. I used to be very active, and hated nothing more than sitting around doing nothing. Activity was my middle name. Not that I was ever a fan of exercise for its own sake or in its own name, mind you. No, for me, exercise had to be incidental to having fun. I like to play, and play at active things that 'oh, by the way, are exercise.'
Hence, at the age of 45, I asked for and got rollerblades for my birthday. I loved skating! I was so much fun, and I was in the best shape of my life in those days. 17 years and a gimpy knee later, those days seem a distant memory. (And no, the injured knee had nothing at all to do with the skating--it was caused by a completely unrelated incident aboard a boat we used to own.)
Something on the order of 9 years after the fact of the injury, I finally managed to qualify for county medical care, and had the thing inspected. The verdict: a torn meniscus, coupled with arthritis settling in. The treatment: a few weeks of physical therapy exercises to get my range of motion back. I managed that much, but the prescribed exercises actually ended up causing me to have more chronic pain in spite of the improved range of motion. So, I stopped doing them. "No pain, no gain" applies only in the absence of an injury.
I still take karate classes for self-defense twice a week. That is exercise while having fun...right up my alley. The karate moves are all adapatble for any ability. A lot of it is mental preparation, and learning to use the opponent's own momentum against them. Plus, on the days I have to use my cane due to knee pain, I am very confident, having learned some excellent techniques for turning a cane into a weapon.
But I digress. In the midst of the analysis of my knee, I raised the issue to my doctor that I'd been having some chest tightness issues, and she sent me for a whole battery of tests: treadmill stress test; echocardiogram, ekg, the whole nine yards. Report? Clean bill of health. Heart in good shape. Physical sensations probably from anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah, there's been plenty of stress in the current economy!
So, I am cleared to exercise. But I dont' do it. Why not? Well, because it makes me feel crappy, not good! When I workout to the point of getting my heart-rate up to the recommended level, I feel scary-lightheaded, out of breath to the point of 'it hurts to breathe,' that chest tightness comes back... and I feel weakend to the extent of 'gotta sit down and rest, before I fall down,' ...where is the incentive to continue? If I feel like I'm having a freaking heart attack when I exercise, why is that good for me? Why would I want to continue? All the exercise gurus tout the idea that exercise engergizes you, make you feel good, like you can take on the world. Oh yeah? How can I tell?
I used to feel a bit tired, but good, after skating 9 miles...and we used to do it 2 or 3 times a week! That was then. Now, after pushing myself through running in place, 40 sit-ups and forcing out 50 push ups (a very recent break-through!) during karate class 'warm ups,' I need a water break, and it is very hard to get myself back into mental readiness for class.
But, there it is. I still like to be active, I just find myself less and less able to be so. So, If you don't mind, I'll skip the exercise, forego 'spinning' classes, avoid the gym like the plague, and just go play.
Seen any good climbing trees around, anyone?