Healthy Change Chronicles

At the beginning of the year I started making some healthy changes. I started exercising and eating better. It was all going pretty well; I was feeling stronger and had lost 10 pounds. Then I had surgery and promptly gained all ten pounds back. Two weeks prior to surgery I kept putting my workouts off because I was so busy prepping for surgery; making sure the house was clean, organized, and ready to let me skip out on most of my responsibilities for the next 6-8 weeks. When the restrictions finally ended, I took another two weeks to settle back into my routine of chasing the kids, housework, and gardening.

Tonight I am getting back on the horse, well–elliptical, and getting my health back on track. As a way of tracking my progress I will journal after each workout, weigh in, and healthy milestone.

Week One:

Weight: 199 pounds

Waist Measurement: 40 inches

Wednesday:

Days since last work out: about three months

Workout: elliptical, 30 minutes

Equipment: elliptical and awesome tennies

Today I intentionally exercised for the first time in months. I set my time goal at 30 minutes, half of the sixty minutes I was doing 3-5 times per week three LONG months ago.

10 minutes in I could really feel it in my legs and buttocks. The muscles started to feel tight and resistant to movement and stretching. Like the hardened rubber legs and plastic pelvis of a Barbie, my legs would only move one way, back and forth. By 15 minutes my leg muscles loosened up, but I was tired. I was so tired I wasn’t sure I would make it to 30 minutes, so I told myself I had to make it to 20 minutes. At about 18 minutes my visiting 10 year old niece came up stairs for a drink of water and said I looked like I was enjoying myself. My reply surprised me a little; I said, “I am enjoying myself, it feels good to exercise, really good.” And that was the push I needed to get me to my original 30 minute goal.

What I learned today: hating exercise is all in my head. It does feel good to move, especially when I can do it while I binge watch series on Netflix and Hulu.

Thursday:

Workout: Strength training, 30 minutes

Equipment: 3 pound dumb bells and ankle weights, balance ball

I had to wait to reflect on this workout because I feel that I have a better idea of how good a strength training workout was a day or two later. Feeling the burn isn’t a good enough guide for me… I have to see how sore I am over the next day. More on the soreness level below, but *spoiler* it was a decent workout.

I should start by saying that I do not count reps, life is hectic around my house between the kids, dogs, chores that pile up, and the always on TV. I prefer to do each exercise for one minute, two if I have to it one side at a time (one minute each side). This way, I can stop and take a quick 5 second rest if I’m getting shaky or feeling weak before I finish up the minute.

First up was arms, for arms I use my balance ball as a workout bench. The benefit for my core might be minimal, but I wouldn’t count it as negligible. I got through all the exercises, but by the eighth minute I was getting really shaky and struggling to finish out the minute of those last couple exercises (lateral lifts was one). I guess continually using my arms to pull myself up out of bed helped keep me toned.

Surprisingly, the core exercises were a breeze. I expected after a major abdominal surgery that I would be feeling rather weak in the core and went way easier on myself than I should have. So noted for the next strength day: planks… at least side planks because diastasis recti–the struggle is real after a 9 pound and 10 pound baby.

The legs were a little tougher than I expected. All those frontwards, backwards and sideways leg lifts were TOUGH! So much so that I spent the last two minutes walking back and forth in my living room with the ankle weights on.

What I learned today: I am simultaneously stronger and weaker than I expected. Does this mean I should live more in the moment?

Friday:

Workout: yoga/stretching, 20 minutes.

Equipment: Relaxing music and a well cushioned mat/rug

I used to hate yoga. I was never a very “zen” person. Between an anxiety disorder, too much to do, and excessive caffeine consumption… “zen” was not something I understood. But mostly, I just couldn’t stand the super calm and airy voices used by so many yoga instructors. I once laughed so hard through an entire yoga video that at the end I physically wasn’t able to get into downward dog. But my body was still wrecked from having babies and required a good stretch to be able to make it though the day. Also, the anxiety might have something to do with the tense muscles, especially those in my back, hips, and legs.

So I started looking up yoga poses and stretches and just doing them on my own for a minute per pose/stretch. Turns out I actually really like yoga. I like it so much that I don’t often take actual “rest” days from my fitness routine; my rest day is yoga day.

I only did 20 minutes instead of my intended 30, but I was so sore across my lower back that I was having a hard time with the poses for that low back area. Unfortunately, most of the poses I do are intended to stretch the lower back, hips, and buttocks because that is such a painful and tight area for me. But, no worries, I am sure that after another week or two I will be up to a full 30 minute yoga session.

What I learned today: if you can, never skip the stretching! I had to skip most of the yoga and stretching during my surgery recovery because most of it put too much pressure on my sore and swollen belly. My abdomen is no longer swollen, but it is still tender around the navel from a nearly healed hematoma. I wish I had been able to properly stretch during that time, but we work with what we have, right?

Update:

So it has been almost a year since I tried to start this fitness chronicle. It was my attempt at keeping myself accountable. I hoped that maybe if I had some readers cheering me on I might keep going. Surprisingly a few people did actually read the original story. Not surprisingly, to me at least, I stopped working out almost immediately after I started writing everything down.

I just couldn’t get back into the swing of my healthy fitness routines. There were so many things that had happened, but one thing that really stuck out was that I took a job that I didn’t want. I hadn’t even applied for the job, the job had sought me out. I had decided that I wasn’t going back to that field after my contract hadn’t been renewed in my last position and I had spent a year examining my life, career, and goals. I realized that it just wasn’t the right fit and that is probably why for the first time in my life I had been dismissed from my job.

I took the invite to this new position as maybe it wasn’t so much the job before, but the place I had been working and decided to give it one more shot. They seemed to really want me. But right away I started feeling… off. I was getting sad about the opportunities I was about to miss, anxious I was making the wrong decision, overwhelmed by the massive amounts of work I had to do, truly saddened by the dismal amount of pay I would be receiving, guilty about the long hours I would be working both at the office and at home, and I was becoming irritable, depressed, physically ill… and the job hadn’t even started yet.

A few months later I was diagnosed with Bi-polar II. This didn’t come as some kind of total surprise. I first suspected it when I was in the middle of my first bout of post-partum depression and had started researching the topic of why anti-depressants never work quite right for me. But having the official diagnosis, suddenly a lot of things started making sense. All the way back to when I was a teenager, maybe even younger. So, as painful as returning to teaching was. It was at least helpful in the sense that it lit the proverbial fire under my rear to take my mental health seriously.

So that is what I am working on right now–my mental health. I am in the mental/spiritual part of that journey. I get on the scale when I am at the clinic or when the kids want to see how much they’ve grown at home (I am 188-so I’ve lost a few pounds anyway). And I am getting to the part of my journey where I am starting to itch for a walk more often. So maybe soon I might get back on the elliptical, but I am not going to do it just because I want to get down into a certain size. It is going to be because it feels good and I enjoy it.

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