• Reconditioning my life

    by Christy Sillman

    I’m not doing this because I think I’m fat. But I will admit to dreams of my own abdominal “situation.” This is a cardiovascular thing. In fact it’s doctor’s orders. But when you can barely make it up the stairs, how in the world are you supposed to start exercising?

    Atrophy. When I hear this term I think of wheelchair bound people with their shriveled up legs. Loss of muscle tone is essentially what it means, and apparently I have it. It makes sense.

    A little over a year ago I was bed-bound for seven weeks and even after my son Noah was born, I spent a lot of time in bed recovering from the cesarean section. At first I got into exercise with plenty of walks around the block, trips to the gym and even a few aerobic classes — the baby weight and a looming Bahamas trip was the main motivation. Then last April, I suddenly couldn’t get up the stairs without taking a break halfway. After months of testing, it appeared that my heart had also experienced some atrophy, and there was a serious loss of tone in the most important muscle we have. Now my doctor is pushing me to push myself. The problem is… I don’t like to exercise.

    Now, I know most people don’t like to exercise, so it’s not really a good excuse. But actually, I know several people who not only like exercising but they are a bit obsessed. Ranging from marathon runners, bikers, to even yoga masters, these friends amaze me with their athleticism. The question in my mind is how did they bridge the gap from disliking exercise to becoming Lance Armstrong? When does the enjoyment kick in?

    I want to join this exercising club. I want to crave athleticism. But I really like TV, and the internet, and basic vegging out. Can I find a happy place inside exercising?

    I’ve been a gym member in the past. I find it intimidating and almost like a spectacle. I relate working out to singing or dancing — it’s something that when done in public can be really embarrassing if you’re not good at it.

    I’m not good at exercising.

    I’ve had my fair share of treadmill and elliptical tumbles. The key is to make it look like you were so into your workout that you literally got carried away, then pop back up, chuckle at yourself, and keep on going… when inside you are pretty sure you just broke your femur.

    I’ve tried group classes such as dance, aerobics, yoga and Pilates. I easily get lost in these classes and tend to fall behind and generally don’t do well in group situations.

    I once took a stress management class which included a meditation period where 40 students would lay silently side by side in the dark for 30 minutes. The anxiety that I would do something embarrassing such as fall asleep and snore or have to fart really loudly was enough to induce a half hour of diarrhea, sweats and an internal monologue that was not the least bit relaxing:

    Breathe. Mantra is tantra?

    Meditate. Don’t fart.

    You’ll be ok.

    It’s been at least 10 minutes, only 20 more to go.

    Breathe. Meditate. Meditate. MEDITATE… oh crap was that a rumble in my tummy? Please don’t let that be gas forming.

    Maybe if I cough at the same time I fart no one will notice?


    That stress management class was one of the most stressful classes I’ve ever taken! But I did learn that I’m better suited for solo meditation.

    I’ve tried running outside in nature, and the idea of hiking sounds enjoyable. But I trip easily and have this fear of mountain lions and bears. Maybe if I was being chased by a mountain lion or bear I would have the motivation to keep going, but every time I try to “go for a run” I end up turning around and heading home before I even break a sweat. I am SO not a runner.

    I guess the key is to keep trying. Avoid giving in to my slug-like existence because now more than ever my health really does depend on it. Mostly, I just want to have energy to feed my soul and chase my son.

    So, my current plan is to start slow with long walks pushing my son in the stroller, and maybe even work myself up to a power walk or, yikes, a jog. I’m going to try another Pilates class tonight at a small local studio with a class size of four to six people. I’m hoping I’ll get the one-on-one experience to give my novice atrophied body the support it truly needs.

    Now I just have to avoid all egg products and typical bowel peristalsis-inducing foods for the rest of the day. Wish me luck!

      • Judy

      • March 13, 2011 at 9:52 am
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      Enjoyed this a lot. Had shoulder surgery a year ago, couldn’t lift my arm at all. Day after day I did therapy—ouch. Now the arm’s like new and those painful sessions with the elastic bands seem like a dream. You’ll get there.

    • Try strength training first with a trainer. It is the most fun I have had and then walk, start slowly. Pick a destination and then walk there and back. I find these things work best for me than setting out for a random act of walking. Just keep picking farther and farther destinations. You will be amazed at how far you will walk for something that excites you. On the walk home you will be so excited to be back and finished you will walke4r faster home than to the destination.

      • Grandpa Mike

      • March 14, 2011 at 11:15 am
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      I just got back from walking Noah and Leilani together. I’m sweating and huffing and puffing. The frickin’ dog drags me whenever we walk, then throw in trying to guide Noah’s stroller with one hand and not let him tip over into the gutter! I’ve had my exercise for the day.

    • I love your experience in the meditation class. So funny and relatable!
      I’m not a runner, or an aerobics lover, or a bouncing around kind of person. I hate it. But I found out I love yoga. It’s slow, calm, it’s on my terms, I only go as far as I feel comfortable, and I always, ALWAYS feel great after.

      But as I got older I did need to add cardio (yuk) so I got a treadmill from a friend who only used hers to hang clothes on, and I let myself watch TV while I’m on it. that way I’m vegging out my mind (fun!) while running ( not fun but I don’t notice it as much).

      • Maggie

      • March 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm
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      I always hated working out, even though I was an athlete in high school. During my college years I let myself go a bit, justifying it with the fact that I was an academic, and it was basically my job to sit around and read. I also resisted working out because my parents were both coaches– they are obsessed with athletics and it totally turned me off from wanting to work out. I always felt like if I did work out, I was doing it to make them happy and not myself.
      Eventually the only way I found I could work out and love doing it was to find a program that was nothing like what my parents did. So I joined CrossFit. The workouts are crazy and intense, but also really short. 15-20 minutes and you’re done. You can do it alone or with people, at home or at the gym, and you can scale the workouts to your ability. It’s not for everyone, but it got me to actually enjoy working out! Plus my parents don’t get it, so I get that little vibe of youthful rebellion in this mix 🙂

      • Christy

      • March 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm
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      UPDATE: I really liked the Pilates class! It was the personal experience I was hoping for, and I held all bodily functions back 😉 I’m going back tomorrow night…I pre-paid for 4 more classes, so at least I’m committed to that.

      I also was great about walking last week…but I do think I saw a Mountain Lion by my house. BUT I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so it could have been a large dog…but just to be sure I growled, bared my teeth, and puffed up while we walked by the bush it ran into across the street. Don’t mess with THIS mama bear!

      (FYI: There have been Mountain Lions in my area, and last summer even had a police officer warn us to keep all kids and animals inside! I’m not a total nut…just a half nut)

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