Journey to the Center of the Pendulum

Most of us don’t consciously want to hurt ourselves. However, by driving our bodies beyond what they can do or, conversely, by not challenging them at all, we are hurting ourselves.

I’ve swung to both extremes of the exercise pendulum. I was an extreme exerciser for several years while losing weight and in the early years of maintenance. Body parts started falling apart and still I pushed myself because: A) I was afraid I’d gain all my weight back if I didn’t kill myself working out; B) I didn’t believe osteoarthritis was a big deal and I called myself a wimp (Yeah, that was real helpful.); and C) I was afraid of what all the pain meant. 
After knee surgery in 2010, I worked pretty hard to get myself back in shape, although not to the too-thin body I once had that hurt all the time. Things were going along pretty well until this past summer when my hip started to burn. I thought it was “just” sciatica and a tight IT band. Stretching helped. So did deep-tissue massage. And nothing beats a foam roller for working out the kinks in your glutes and those hard-to-reach muscles in the hip when you’re not in the presence of someone with a willing fist or elbow. 
I felt it most when I rode my bike (my favorite exercise in the whole world). Some days my hip would complain like a 7-year-old in the back seat: “Are we there yet? How many more miiiiiiles?” I’d stop a few times to dig my right butt cheek into the corner of a bench or the edge of a guard rail. Don’t think THAT didn’t get me a few strange looks from other bikers. But still I biked and sucked down Advil like Tic-Tacs and told myself it would go away.
Then in December, my hip did more than complain. Standing up became difficult and I stopped exercising almost entirely, adopting George Carlin’s philosophy on exercise: “No pain, no pain.” But exercise keeps me sane and not exercising feels as natural as breathing through my ears. It was time to get my head out of my ass and address the problem.
I went to the doctor in January and according to the x-rays, I have OA in both the sacroiliac and hip joints. She prescribed meloxicam (a prescription NSAID), and as much as I hate taking drugs, it’s made all the difference in how I move. Not a half hour after I took it the first time, I was on my elliptical working out with minimal pain.
Of course, having gone to the extreme of no exercise for several weeks, my lungs and legs let me know they were not happy. Thank goodness muscles remember, though, and within three weeks I was back to 30 minutes of cardio and 20 to 30 minutes of strength training.
In this journey to live in the middle of the exercise pendulum, I won’t push myself so far to get in shape and stay there. It’s about building what I can and maintaining what is complete. (This is true with weight, too, am I right?) And while my routine is not as intense as the routines of other people, it’s crucial that I stop comparing my abilities to what I could do in the past and to those who don’t have the same issues. Do I wish I could run like Sondra? Lift weights like Lori? Do lunges like Carla? Swim like Shelley? Box like Mari-Anne? Zumba like Kristin? Spin like Angie? Crush a Cathe Friedrich DVD workout like AJ? Absolutely! But I can’t and I won’t try and I’ve stopped wishing I could.
At least…most days *grin*

11 thoughts on “Journey to the Center of the Pendulum

  1. Yea, I've come to realize I'm not super woman and I don't want to be. Really exercise is about my mental health just as much as the physical. It is a balancing act and I do find myself sometimes wishing to be like others with their abilities but like you have come to realize I'm just me 🙂 Good post as always Lynn.

  2. “No pain, no pain” – I love that! You know, back when I was working out with my small group and trainer, I hurt all the time. Sure, I was getting smaller and stronger, but I was always hurting. And even though I miss that smaller body, I don't miss it enough to go back to hurting so much. I guess we all have to find out our limits, and unfortunately it sounds like you found yours via some pretty major pain and injury. 😦

    And now, as I start back to running, I'm not as eager to run miles upon miles as I am to just run, period. Less miles and no injury? I'm there!

  3. Such a wise post. I'm glad that you're taking good care of your body by finding middle ground for your exercise program. I have bad knees, and if I do to much, they let me know.

  4. Every time I try to exercise, even mildly, I injure myself. My answer is PT exercises to strengthen the stuff around the OA-affected joints. But still, it's important not to push it TOO far but also not to give up completely.

  5. I think Meloxicam is a wonder drug. It helped me when I was first diagnosed with my anterior knee pain. I was able to wean myself off it in the summer of 2010 but it is an amazing drug.

    These days I am all about knowing my limits. I have been fortunate to work with an exercise physiologist since this past summer, and my knees are now strong enough so that I can do 30 minutes of interval training on the bike three days a week in addition to a further 30 minutes of steady state work. I also do another day of just steady state cardio, and I now do weight training for my entire body as well. I deal with chronic knee pain, but it is a dull pain–and I can handle it. Plus, not exercising now is not an option for me!

    I have lost 16 pounds since this summer, and I hope to lose about 20-25 more. I just saw the physiologist today and told her I wanted to lose over 30 pounds. She told me that it was not wise for me to get that skinny because then I would deal with more joint pain. Now I am worried about being a healthy weight instead of skinny minny!


  6. I like this! Someone said “Moderation in all things – even moderation.” I have knees that protest if I ride my bike for ten miles but don't complain if I walk for three. I can also do a 60 minute Zumba class with no problems. I know I want to keep the knee pain away so I'm careful. 🙂

  7. Shelley, I totally get your comment: “Sure, I was getting smaller and stronger, but I was always hurting.” What's the point in being so small that you hurt all the time? There MUST be balance. Now if we could only get our minds to accept what our bodies already know. Ali, you get that, too, obviously 🙂

    I'm happy to hear from you guys about this subject. I never want to come across as “poor me” because that is NOT how I feel. Rather, I think we all have physical issues we need to work around. Like I said, it's about how we get our minds to accept it.

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful and supportive comments. You guys really are the best!

  8. As usual your posts speak to me. I could have written much of it myself and reading this post somehow makes me accept my own reality. I take meloxicam for my knees but I have hip issues and arthritis in my feet, ankles and elbows. My doc suggests I can take the meloxicam as needed but the reality is I need it all the time. I don't take exercising for granted now, and I'm grateful for what I can do. I compare myself to me in the past and have to remember to forgive myself and accept myself.

  9. I can relate. I was losing 100 pounds and was afraid to change anything, or reduce any exercise for fear of gaining the weight back. Having an IT Band injury after running Hood to Coast I was forced to reduce my exercise and change it drastically. I did not gain weight, in fact, I lost a little bit of the “running weight” I'd gained. I now have a pretty good relationship with rest days and exercise!

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