Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Strength Training

Exercise and I are not friends. We never have been. I never get the endorphin rush, it exhausts me no matter how in shape I am, and I look like a boiled lobster within five minutes of starting.

None of that is an exaggeration.

However, I've had increasing issues with osteoarthritis in my hips in the past couple years. It got diagnosed four years ago, after nearly a decade of problems that I ignored, and that year, I went and lost almost sixty pounds in an effort to hold off on the pain. That worked really well until I had foot surgery two years later. It's gotten progressively worse since then (though my foot is so much better, thank goodness), which meant that since it hurt to move, the weight came back. More weight added more pressure. It's a deadly cycle.

In December, I knew I had to do something about it. Something more aggressive. No more slacking. No more excuses. I'm only in my forties, and I am far too young to just shut off a big part of my life. Instead of just trying to lose weight, however, I needed to strengthen all my muscles to support the joints better. I talked to my family, and we decided to up our membership to the gym to include all of us and turn it into more of a group effort. That way, there's always somebody in the house to support you.

We started going just before the new year. I can't do treadmills--the impact on my hips makes it hurt too much, counteracting whatever benefits I might get--but ellipticals are perfect. I added in weight machines on my lower body--extensions, abductors, adductors, etc.--while at home, I started daily squats and some basic core strengthening exercises like hip crossovers. I started very small. On the at-home exercises, I was more interested in making sure it became a habit first rather than looking for results, so I started with just five while I figured out when was the perfect time of the day for me to do them to ensure they happened. Those numbers increased as the past month progressed, as did my weights at the gym.

Frankly, I'm shocked at the results so far. 

Though I've lost what I'd gained since we renewed our wedding vows in Vegas in October, I'm not obsessed with the scale. My metric for success is pain. Where before I measured a good day by not having to take any ibuprofen just to suffer through, it's different now. I have more good days than bad, and I've only had to take painkillers once (on Sunday, in fact, because Saturday night I couldn't get to the elliptical I wanted and spent time on a treadmill, big mistake, and since I knew I would be walking around San Francisco for hours, ibuprofen was on the menu). This is such a win for me, it's not even funny. I knew exercising would help osteoarthritis--just being on the elliptical earned me a few hours of no pain before--but I didn't anticipate such swift results when I added strength training. I have whole days where I don't even feel a twinge. Know why that's such a big deal?

That hasn't happened to me in well over fifteen months. Even on a good day, there would be twinges, or I'd step slightly differently and my leg would go out from under me.

Needless to say, I'm not giving this up. It's giving me my life back. I still hate exercise, but damn if I don't love the results.


Carolyn said...

Adding in the strength training next. This is so key, the mindset, the little steps, the building up. I am super excited to get started on the weight training! And yeah this time I am less it being all about the weight loss though I think that will come in time. It is more the Feeling.

Vivien Dean said...

Strength training also helps your metabolism, so you burn more calories when you're at rest. The progress might be slow, but it's supposed to be steady, so even if weight loss is the ultimate goal, I think it's doable.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but there are actually days when I'm anxious to get to the gym at night because I'm feeling energetic and I know I can do a little bit more to make myself stronger in the long run. I've literally put it on our schedule so that it's an appointment. I treat it as necessary and that's what it becomes. It's helped as much as taking it slow in making things stick.