Sunday, November 1, 2015

Baby Steps

As it turns out, I am in the worst shape of my life right now. Well, 4th grade was kind of my pudgy phase, so maybe that was slightly worse. We'll say I'm in the worst shape of my adult life right now.

About a year ago, my life changed a lot as I took a full-time job as director of the English language program at school (a 40-minute commute from home). This was my first desk job, and I felt a heavy weight of responsibility on my shoulders as I was in charge of not only an important university program (a BIG money-maker for our floundering regional campus), but also the lives of young adults from halfway around the globe. College is not like elementary school, I learned. You can't expect every student to succeed - after all, they're adults in charge of their own decisions at this point. But still, I tried. I tried so hard to make sure every student got exactly what they needed, passed all their classes, was happy and healthy, and felt secure so far away from home. Spoiler alert:  I was not successful in saving every student. **Add more weight to shoulders**

Amidst the stress of commuting and keeping my head above water as I learned SO MUCH in my new position as director, I stopped working out and started parking my butt on the couch a lot more. And let me tell you, I am feeling it in my body.

One year of sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day has destroyed my neck, shoulders, and core muscles. I didn't realize it while it was happening, but I can feel it now.

I thought going back to teaching would feel so good, but after a couple weeks of moving around and standing for hours, my body started to ache. More than ache, actually. Some nights I have had so much pain in my neck and shoulders that I needed to take ibuprofen just to sleep. Some days I could barely lift my arms to write on the board during class.

I starting going to a massage therapist once a week, but it didn't help. In fact, it seemed to make the pain worse as she dug into all the knots in my shoulders (including underneath my shoulder blades) and tried to release the tightness in my neck. She told me my shoulder blades are sitting much too high - a result of tightness in my pectoral muscles from sitting hunched in front of a computer. My chest muscles are literally pulling my shoulder blades up - like tightening the straps on a backpack - which has caused me pain in my jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and core.

Now, I am a firm believer in the power of diet, exercise, and mental well-being in curing whatever ails you. So you'd think it would be easy for me to eat more vegetables, start an exercise routine, and do a little meditation in order to end this excruciating pain in my body. Another spoiler: It is not easy!!! I am so out of the habit of healthy living that my body and mind reject every attempt at it, despite the fact that I know I'll feel better.

Why is that? I'm sure everyone reading this has had a similar experience in some area of their life. Why is it so hard to do what we know is best for us? How do we break bad habits? Of course, I've read plenty of articles and seen enough TED talks to "know" the answers to these questions, but still. I wish it weren't so hard.

In any case, I'm ready to make a commitment to healing my body, starting with what I'd like to call my Baby Steps Workout Plan. I've been an athlete in one capacity or another for most of my life: ski team, volleyball, fast-pitch softball, indoor soccer, slow-pitch softball... I was always up to try anything, and I was typically able to do anything because I was in good shape. All these activities helped me to stay fit, sometimes without even making a conscious effort to work out.

But now I feel weak. My arms are weak. My legs get tired. Core muscles? What are those? I can't even do the lighter workouts I used to do, like jogging and yoga. I have zero stamina, and I've lost most of my flexibility. Thinking of this makes me feel very depressed, which makes me want to go lay on the couch and watch Netflix series while eating cheese.

Instead, I've decided to get back into shapes with a baby steps approach. I will do something every day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and I will record it in a journal. My hope is that all these little "workouts" will start to become longer, more challenging workouts as my motivation comes back and I build up stamina.

For example, on Tuesday of this week, I did about 2 minutes of a high intensity workout that should have taken about 15 minutes. Why did I stop? Because I literally could not go on. I was gasping for air, my legs felt like jello, and I just couldn't do it alone. But in my journal I dutifully recorded my two minutes of burpees and lunges, vowed to not judge myself for being SO out of shape, wrote myself a motivating message ("a little at a time"), and moved on with my day.

On Friday, I did about 6 minutes of a 30 minute yoga video (I was not kidding when I said I am seriously out of shape). It is recorded in my journal.

Yesterday I did a 28 minute foundational yoga video. It led me through very simple poses, mostly seated stretches - easy stuff, but hey, I did it. I'm counting it as a workout, and I proudly recorded it in my journal with another motivating message to myself ("stick with it - you'll get there").

The cats are very supportive of my yoga efforts.

Today, two more yoga videos. Again, they were easy, foundational videos, but they are exactly what I need to start re-building my strength and gaining confidence. I realize now that if I try to jump back into my old exercise routine, I will give up because I'm not at that fitness level any more. It's simply too hard, and it kills me to say that because I used to be in such great shape! I used to lift heavy objects without thinking twice! Now I'm that girl that asks men to carry things for me. Ugh. I will get my strength back.

So, that's my Baby Steps Plan. What do you think? Anyone else want to join me in a Baby Steps Plan of your own?

1 comment:

  1. I know how you feel - being out of shape and having a hard time motivating and it's a cycle that feeds on itself. I think your approach is a great one. Baby steps! Go Mackenzie!