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I never really know how to start these more personal posts; the peek behind the curtains. Shopping? I could talk about that all day long and into the night! But exposing my vulnerabilities and talking about something potentially embarrassing and a trigger? It makes my heart race. Luckily, as personal posts this one’s a pretty fun one though it has its moments of highs and lows.
Back in 2013-2015, I was on top of the world physically. In the best shape of my life! I was running half-marathons regularly, competed in my first sprint triathlon and was generally enjoying all the benefits of a highly active lifestyle. It feels weird to say this but I loved working out. Rowing. Ballet. Spin. Barre. Running. Pilates. I enjoyed all of them! I’d quit my job in the Summer of 2012 and the extra time had allowed me the freedom to concentrate on my health. Seeing the results in the physical was a jubilant experience for me. I made plans to continue down the road of health.
But. But but but. As sometimes happens in life the best laid plans…well, you know the rest. There’s not any one moment I can pinpoint as a turning point. Rather, I unknowingly conspired with my life to fall back out of shape.
In 2014, I went back to work. Although I promised myself that I wouldn’t fall back into 70+ hour workweeks or highly charged office politics situations like the ones that had burned me out before my 30th birthday, senior level jobs in general tend to be very demanding. I staggered and struggled for awhile to find my work-life balance.
I was working out when I went back to work, but less regularly and with long breaks dictated by project deadlines. Around the same time, many of my girlfriends and workout buddies started having kids and my support structure for exercise fell away. Maintaining my previous activity levels wasn’t impossible. I allowed it to fall by the wayside and then got frustrated with myself when I couldn’t keep up with my previous performance. The promotions rolled in at work and so did new job responsibilities…and out rolled my regular workout schedule. I tried keeping up but instead I was pushing myself too far.
As a result, in the Summer of 2016 I stress fractured one of my feet. Only I didn’t know it at first! I kept working out through the pain, annoyed and angry at myself that my workouts continued to plateau or get worse. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until four weeks later when my body finally broke own. On a run, I broke the other foot. Quite literally, both shoes had dropped.
Upset and feeling defeated, when I couldn’t handle the pain any longer I made an appointment for x-rays. A visit to the doctor confirmed it — I was hobbling on two broken feet. The prescription? Rest, and lots of it.
As often happens with situations that trigger us, rest was a very hard prescription to accept! Physically, I already felt myself falling out of shape. Exercise was my way of releasing work stress — without that, I wasn’t sure what healthy outlet I’d use to cope. And in the back of my mind, the fear of not looking my best was nagging at me. In a family with two Type II diabetic parents and a personal history of being overweight, backwards was the last way I wanted to go.
Then, in October of 2016 my life turned upside down when my Dad passed away. Suddenly, caring for my Mom and grieving became my top priorities. My work was commendably understanding and empathetic (thanks in part to my CEO having himself lost his Mom just 9 months earlier). Holding myself together became a challenge. I was still injured, I was tired, and I was a little depressed. Being active held no interest for me — driving two hours each way to my parents’ place to help take care of things, my job responsibilities and the at times overwhelming sadness were hard enough to balance.
So it should have been no surprise to me when a few months later, my jeans stopped fitting. And my bras felt a little too small. At first, it was all too easy to blame the washing machine and dryer at my parents’ place, which did have a history of shrinking clothing. But then I got a couple of new pairs of jeans, and some new bras which soon themselves felt tight. I was also in pain from my injuries while this was going on, having not let my feet fully heal.
How could this be, I wondered? I panicked. Instead of listening to my body. Instead of resting and concentrating on my mental health, I went a little nuts trying out different diets. Some worked (Whole 30 was excellent!), some did not (keto diet felt awful; Metabolic balance put on the pounds, etc.) and I was scrambling.
Finally, I realized that I was pushing myself beyond my limits, both mentally and physically. I had to stop. Stop trying to work out while I had two injuries that needed rest to heal. Stop torturing my body with eating plans that weren’t satiating, satisfying or enjoyable. And stop breaking myself down when what I needed was building up.
So I had to stop everything (except work) and rest. Really, really rest. No workouts besides gentle walking. No diets — working with a nutritionist I’d used in the past, I focused on getting my metabolism back to normal instead. And no bad emotional influences, instead allowing myself to move through the pain of losing Dad and back to my center.
With lots of support from family, my boyfriend, and friends, I worked my way back to emotional health. In March, after a long physical rest, I got the OK from my doctor to start working out again. I made it to the point in my career where I have a pretty good work-life balance. Best of all, I felt that delicious hunger to start working out again. Those pleasant feelings of enjoying working out were coming back.
Things were looking up! I’m sure I’m not alone being in a position where before I’d realized it, my workout regimen had fallen by the wayside and when it was time to bring it back, I really had no clue where to begin. My doctor and I agreed indoor rowing was a great place to start because it is low impact and strengthens critical muscles in the legs, core and back. Pilates classes focusing on low intensity with lots of stretching were also good to start getting my flexibility back.
But I knew that to really get back into shape, I’d need more. By this time, my body was pretty out of sorts. I had knee pain because I was carrying too much weight around. Running was a challenge because my endurance and breathing were labored. My muscle tone was pretty much non-existent.
My first thought was to rejoin ClassPass, but man has it ever changed from the last time I was a member in 2012 or so! At that time I’d paid $100 for unlimited classes monthly — a plan which no longer exists. Reading reviews of its current state online, I was not encouraged, and after a poor experience with customer service trying to restart my account, I abandoned that idea as a non-starter.
The questions became, Where could I find a workout that was challenging enough to aid me in returning to good muscle form and dropping back to a healthy weight? One that would offer lots of variety and enough different disciplines? One that had a reasonable membership fee? One that would excite me enough to keep coming? And perhaps make some friends along the way?
I’ve found it, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! In Part 2 of this post, the gym that is absolutely delighting me and a special invitation to join me in my journey back to fitness!