In July I will be celebrating my second year with SparkPeople. As I think back over these last months I realize that my general approach to increasing my fitness has been one of experimentation. In other words -- I’ve been trying many approaches to exercise, and nutrition, and wellness in order to find out what works well for me and what moves me toward better health.
EXPERIMENT def.: to try out something in order to find out more information -- or to make a test of a principle or assumption. Is it true? Does it work for me?
I’ve read articles, listened to friends and experts and then proceeded with my “experiments” (aka “setting goals”).
Most of my experiments have been with exercise since I began this journey at virtual zero activity level. I had a series of accidents which left me with chronic migraines and fibromyalgia pain. I was unable to walk without assistance. I read that exercise might help me but I had no idea how to begin. Two years ago I hadn’t met a physical therapist and my knowledge of exercise was limited to “no pain no gain type” calisthenics. Since then I’ve come a long way.
Now while I would like to start this blog telling you all about my fabulous exercise “successes” (and I have had many) I feel compelled to begin with the one issue that got in my way more than any other – Fear of Exercise.
Fear. The one thing no one wants to face
AND the one thing that was keeping me from making progress . . .
because when people told me I needed to exercise I felt like I was walking into the mouth of an enormous gray-haired-old-lady-eating crocodile!
I felt dread at the thought of exercise. And for good reason. Every movement I made brought me pain. Why would I want to do more of it?
So First I had to face my Fear of Pain ---
Picture it: I’m going to physical therapy for the very first time. The therapist introduced herself and, as though she read my mind, the very first thing she said to me was, CJ, “Let me assure you, Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. Let me say it again: EXERCISE DOESN’T HAVE TO HURT.”
Wow! What a relief. I actually started to breathe again. Then she showed me some “micro” movements that I could do without pain. They were gentle stretches that actually helped my body relax. She showed me how to “experiment” with just how far my body wanted to stretch and to not push myself beyond that point.
Those gentle beginning movements helped prepare my muscles for more physical exertion. And gradually, with more activity, I noticed less pain in everyday tasks. I am now not only walking again, but doing so without assistance and WITHOUT pain. In fact, I’m hoping to enter a 5K in the fall.
Best of all I’ve learned that I can be free of fear when I pay attention to the cues my body gives me. Now I can experiment with new exercises because I no longer fear that what I am doing will lead to more pain. I am aware of my limits (and they change from day to day) and I’ve learned to respect them.
This is where I am now. Some days my experiments feel good and I amaze myself with my progress. Some days I learn that the particular exercise activity isn’t for me – at least not today! Meanwhile, I’ll keep experimenting.