When I was younger, it was so easy to build, shape, and change my body and activity level whenever I saw fit. As a normal-weight teen I took up running on a whim with no ill effects. In my 20's I participated in strenuous aerobics classes with friends, swam regularly, and walked up to 4 miles every evening after my babies were fed and in pajamas and ready for storytime with daddy. Even when I hit the alarming high of 199 pounds in my mid-20's, I was able to jump up and start pushing my body immediately for change. I joined a gym and began lifting weights. Bought a rowing machine and put it to good use. Started doing Tae Bo in my living room. Whatever it took to transform my body. And it worked, and my body responded.
I am not sure what happened in my 30's... whether it was age, or the effects of my new binge eating habit, or the extreme stress I went through, but my body definitely changed. I tried to ride my bike to college but that only lasted a few weeks before I injured myself to the point of being unable to bike. I took up walking with friends and within 2 months I was seeing the doctor for a torn meniscus. I tried to do old-lady swim aerobics and wound up limping and hobbling in pain for days, advised by my doctor not to move my legs "aggressively" from side to side in the water as it was aggravating my joints. I joined a gym AGAIN and the strength training, led by a personal trainer, sent me to the doctor who prescribed medication, a brace, and physical therapy. Time and again, when I bumped up my activity it resulted in injury, damage and pain.
The orthopedic surgeon said I have severe degenerative arthritis and bone spurs in my knees. He said if I didn't lose weight I would be unable to walk in a very short time. I did lose weight, and I am still walking with no problem on a regular, daily basis, but now at 43 I am dealing with a *very* different body than I was even 10 years ago.
Sometimes it is frutrating. I watch the Biggest Loser and wish I could push myself to burn, burn, burn the fat right off my body. I see plenty of people my size out biking and running and I feel a twinge of jealousy. Over the past 4 years, I have experimented with just how far I can push my body with exercise, and I am not happy with what I've found. I am working with a damaged body. And I wonder just *how* damaged, sometimes. It seems like every activity hurts me... and not just in a "work through it" kind of pain, but in a "stop or you are going to truly cause yourself harm" way.
Now I am at a point where I am super, duper cautious about how much exercise I do. I am *afraid* to do too much. I walked too far this spring and had plantar fasciitis pain for MONTHS on a daily basis as a result. I still can't go more than about a mile at a time without limping. All kind of stuff is cropping up, including that recent bout with bursitis that took weeks to heal. I feel like an old lady sometimes. But all the doctors, therapists, and specialists tell me my injuries are from "overuse." How can it be overuse if I only walked 2 miles? Or biked 15 minutes? Or lifted 10 pound weights and messed up my shoulders?
So I take it easy. I am starting to accept that I do, in fact, have a damaged body in some ways; MRI films and x-rays confirm that. I cannot even begin to push it Biggest Loser style because of joint damage. But I *can* do a little here, a little there. In my own mind, I still have a picture of a stronger me. I still believe that if I work just under the threshold for damage, I can gradually push that threshold back. There are definitely limits, but every day I am working this body towards a goal. It's kind of like when I weighed 278 pounds and all I could manage was to walk out the door, across the street and back in the house. It was exhausting. I thought it was ridiculous and wondered how doing THAT every day could possibly benefit me. But within months I had worked up to longer and longer distances and was able to walk my kids to the nearby park... something that had seemed WAY out of reach before. Now I am getting on that bike for a few minutes each day, or lifting a very light weight a few times each day, and sometimes I wonder if that little bit of activity can *possibly* do my body any good. But you know, we have to start somewhere. Five minutes is better than no minutes. And if I can work up very slowly and find that threshold where I do not end up injured, then I can work my body under that threshold to become the stronger person I want to be.
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