But thanks to a couple of serious health issues – an accident where I was run down by a taxi, resulting in a serious spinal injury, a year and a half of difficult physical therapy, surgery and recovery; followed by breast cancer, with a mastectomy, reconstruction, full year of treatment, and years of other drugs and procedures – I do know quite a bit about starting again. I know what it’s like to try to rebuild strength after being unable to lift a plate. I know the struggle to build up over weeks to a walk to the end of my driveway.
And after taking over a month off at the end of last year, the struggles of getting back into shape have been front and center in my mind. Throughout the Fall, I tussled with a cold/cough that hung around too long, and I just felt tired. So I decided to take a break. At first, I thought it would be just a week or two, but it turned into more than a month. It was a good, needed rest for my body and mind, but getting back into shape is tough. It’s shocking how quickly our bodies lose condition!
So here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years about getting back to active:
Start from where you are right now. Forget about what you could do six months or three years ago. OK, you don’t have to forget about it completely if that’s part of your goal for what you want to get to, but don’t obsess about how you used to be able to do x. Comparing your time/weight/endurance to what you could do then is pointless. For me, that meant acknowledging that, whatever I’ve done before, right now I cannot run as fast or as far as I once could. Right now is where you start; it’s your stepping off the curb spot. You can’t step off the curb that’s three blocks away; you’re here at this spot.
Give up judgement about where you’re starting. It’s neither good nor bad, just reality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered people who are embarrassed to admit their reality. I’ve had clients not want to tell me their weight or how quickly they get winded when walking. It’s good if realizing your current state makes you want to change something, want something better. But beating yourself up is just wasted energy. Feeling bad doesn’t get you anywhere; taking steps to change will.
Figure out the next steps that are appropriate for you. And this involves a realistic acknowledgement of where you are now. If you’re 57 and have been sedentary for years, don’t try to lift the same amount of weight as that 18 year old kid at the gym who spends hours a day working out – that would be a great recipe for hurting yourself! Figure out your next steps, and constantly re-evaluate to figure out your new next steps. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out – get advice from a qualified trainer if you have questions.
Make changes, if necessary. If your body has changed, the way you exercise might need to as well. Once again, this involves an accurate picture of where you’re starting….See a common thread?
Cut yourself some slack. If you’re getting started again, congratulations! Breaking inertia is the hardest part. If you’ve done that, pat yourself on the back. Ease up on the judgement and frustration. Just keep taking the next step, and know that each one is probably easier than that very first step.
Have fun! Yes, it can be super frustrating. Trust me, we’ve all been there. But try to find some joy in whatever movement you are doing. Maybe basketball is no longer the sport for your aging hips. Maybe lifting 100lbs. is not going to happen with your post-surgery body. Maybe those changes are just temporary, maybe permanent. Still, there are always plenty of ways to move your body. And plenty of places to move. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, try changing your location. Hate the gym, get outside. Find some nature. Make an effort to find joy in however or wherever your body can move. And that’s a choice that has nothing to do with your body, only your mind.
Be here, be now. And enjoy yourself – this is a good thing!