Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Damaged Body

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.


NewMe said...

You are not alone. It surprising how many of us have major problems that just become worse if we "push" ourselves.

After hurting myself one time too many by trying to do more, I have come to the conclusion that
a) this is something I must accept; and
b) while respecting my limitations, I must keep moving.

You are you and no one else. Comparing yourself to others or even comparing yourself to who you were 20 years ago will do you more harm than good.

Keep walking and be well.

Elaine said...

Lynn, 10-pound hand weights sound HUGE to me! :) My husband and I just took up rock climbing, and he's getting better so much faster than I am...I have so little upper-body strength that I have to rest more and can't do moves as challenging.

I have to keep things in perspective. As you say, my goal is to push that threshold back, bit by bit, not to expect my body to do something it can't without injury.

Mary Ellen Quigley said...

I know is frustrating, but you can't change it. All you can do is keep moving by doing what your body will let you do. As long as you are making the effort, that is what matters most.

Mona said...

I've been reading all your posts for a very long time and you have always inspired me with your openness and honesty. We all missed you and prayed for you when you were gone. I think we're all wondering though where your weight loss is at? You haven't mentioned a weigh in since you came back and we're all wondering if the stress was too much and you lost ground? Or maybe it's just me.

Lyn said...


yes! We definitely need to accept our limits and RESPECT them instead of fighting our bodies. There are ways to work with what we've got... even if it's not the traditional way.


While I was away, all focus went *off* of diet, blog, weight, etc. I didn't weigh often but when I did it was always in the same 5-pound range up and down. I still am focused more on the 'living' part and less on the scale, but I think I will start doing a weekly weigh-in again to track my progress.

I'm also taking notes in my planner on any exercise I do and any pain or injury I have so I can find that threshold and not push things too far with my body.

mensa said...

I know one thing, those what you think are small amounts of exercise are working your brain to think positive. Keep it up Lynn.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Lynn.
In a small way I understand as I've just had surgery on my feet and was stuck in bed for 3 months, no walking or anything physical. I used to do kickboxing which i loved, and now I can never do it again. its small compared to what you going through but I just felt id share that with you. I am petrified that I do something to cause harm after my surgery, but I so want to become fit and strong! I am devastated that I cant go back to kickboxing and am working my best to accept what ive been dealt. Ive started with a biokineticist to help me exercise in a way that my body allows and wont do me any harm.
Thanks for an inspirational post!

Virginia said...

Gee Lynn you have been thru a lot lately. I am happy to see you keep a positive attitude and keep working the little things that move you forward. My guy ran until he was in his mid 50's and now has such bad knees, he can hardly walk. It is hard to be positive, but many of us are wishing you the best and praying for you every day. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

When I was your age, I couldn't have related to his post at all. I had always been one of those "healthy & strong" fat people.

Now, at sixty, ha--I can relate. :( I am continually surprised by what my body can no longer do. Just yesterday, I drug a chair over to a window so that I could wipe off the top of the woodwork. Same old wooden desk chair that I've used for that purpose for years. I find it more convenient than using a ladder.

I put my foot up on it and leaned forward on that leg, expecting to just get up onto that chair in one motion. Like always. HA!

When I could NOT get my other foot up onto the chair, I tried the same process with the other foot up there first. Same result.

I could not do it. Could not. I weigh 50 pounds less than when I did that little stunt in the past. The only thing I can think of is that with the weight, I have also lost muscle.


The list of new inabilities is quite long. I'll spare you. Just do what you can for your body now, Lyn. Sixty will not be pretty.


MargieAnne said...

Hi Lyn. Good to see you here. Deb is so right. As if we need to tell you. *smile*

One thing I have learned this year is that we can over-exercise and stress our bodies to the extent it takes months or more to recover. Take it easy ,... just as you seem to be doing.

It's clear that you love to move and you like a routine. Had you thought of 30 minutes of basic stretches daily and some resistance, maybe another 30 minutes two or three times a week. I know none of that is aerobic but it does strengthen your bones and muscles without doing any further damage.

I use a Jenny Craig book I got through TradeMe, our equivalent of Craigs List. I don't know if there is Jenny Craig in USA I think it might be Australian. If you want to know more email me.... and I will see if I can help.


Anonymous said...

Try yoga, Lyn. It exercises all your body parts really gently

Diandra said...

Well, the human body basically dies once we have used up the important parts. That's a tough truth, but it is what is happening to each and everyone. Fortunately it is possible to improve the condition of many things by finding the right exercise - or the right way to do your favorite exercise (I cannot imagine giving up running despite hurting my left knee three times in the last two years).

I think you are going about it right. See how much you can do without pain, and do that. Don't add too much too fast - your muscles may build up quicker than your ligaments and joints. And maybe find a nutritionist who can help you builda meal plan meant to improve your inflammations etc.?

(Since I eliminated about 80% of animal product from my diet, the inflammation in my wrists has disappeared, but of course a mostly vegan diet means lots of complex carbs, and that is not a diet for everyone.)

Moosecat said...

yes I can relate Lyn. Fifteen or so years ago I lost around 50lbs in 6 months, went to 3 high impact aerobics classes a week, did half an hour each morning before work, felt and looked wonderful! Ten years ago we started building our wooden yacht, cue hours and hours of hand sanding, holding a power sander above my head etc etc, and throw in a good dose of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Now I consider it a good day if I've got through without any pain at all. You just have to see what your body can do each day. Love to you from Australia. xx

16 blessings'mom said...

Lynn, I am glad you are back! I was checking every day to see if you had a new post up. I hope you know you have plenty of company here who are limited by these bodies of ours. I have these dreams still of when I was a kid, doing cartwheels down the beach, running everywhere. Now I have knees that crackle and a lower back that punishes me every time I even start to abuse it. My husband does Cross-Fit, and is in excellent shape, and doesn't understand why I am such an old lady...oh well. I do what I can, and always just a bit more than that. Thank you for sharing, I get so much encouragement from you!!!

Darcy Winters said...

You may just have to try something that isn't hard impact when you exercise. I haven't gotten up the nerve to try pilates yet, but you might try it or yoga. I did take a Qi Gong class and although the movements are super-slow, the next morning I hurt all over, so I know those muscles got worked!

Anonymous said...

I bought a Pilates machine 4 years ago on QVC..paid it off over 5 months. I was 46 years old, overweight and 100% deconditioned. I started slowly. It was gentle and easy and..relaxing. I became more flexible and had less joint pain and my body started to respond. felt so good to stretch and move again. It was my time for myself. I lost weight slowly as well and my body reshaped itself...Pilates is something for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

Oh..just noticed..Pilates on QVC at 8pm today :)

Laywoman Shawoman said...

Focus on exercises that consist of slow, simple and careful movement for durations. Instead of, for example, bicep curls with 3 sets of 12 reps with a 10 lb weights, try the same curls with 5 lb weights, and slowly do only 8 reps with longer breaks between, or circuit other exercises between sets to give yourself more repair time. Super slow - oh, and one awesome way to slow down is don't try to associate your breaths with the reps, just let the air flow in and out in a comfortable cycle the whole time. It's counter-intuitive but eventually leads to way more relaxed movement, less "jerking" and less possibility that you begin to rush the reps as fatigue affects toward shorter breathing.

For anyone else reading this, who is younger: don't put your body through a decade of obesity - it might not affect you now, but it evolves into all kinds of completely preventable health problems.

For those who have already had this damage: Take heart. It's never too late to improve your health and remember, what you do THIS decade is going to greatly influence your quality of life for the NEXT decade.

Think of your older self, and give that self a gift, from you, today. You will thank you later!

Lucy said...

I totally empathise, I also look back on the times I could really exercise, or even move around easily. You are right though that small amounts are SO much better than nothing, I bet you'll be amazed at the results you can get gradually, even if you literally start at one minute and build up 30 seconds every ten days. People don't think about that kind of training because it sounds too small to be considered, but when it is the only way you have to take it and in time it leads somewhere. Like you I used to be able to exercise and although it didn't stop me having any weight issues, I know it was a whole lot easier so I don't want to hear much moaning from people who can do real workouts!