The cult of exercise

It has been strange the last 2 days taking just a single diabetes tablet and a vitamin D capsule for an entire day’s medications. From 7 months ago when I was injecting fast insulin 3x daily and another slower insulin 2x daily, taking 2 different diabetes medications morning and night, a blood pressure medication, a cholesterol medication, and a low dose aspirin – all because I am diabetic – well, it is quite shocking to be taking a single tablet and a Vitamin D capsule (deficiency unrelated to diabetes) to get through my days. Happy shocking. Delightful shocking. But still kind of shocking to my system.

A small part of me resents the years that I allowed myself to deteriorate to the degree that I needed that much medicine to support my bad habits. However, every day that passes and I wake up feeling good inside my own body that resentment shrinks and fades just a tiny bit more. The more realistic, practical, rational parts of my mind understand that I was simply not ready before now to even curb much less try to abandon bad habits. Subsisting on far too much crappy food and barely moving … perfect recipe for outwardly decent health propped up by lots and lots of drugs. Growing up with an alcoholic, I have learned that change to individuals only happens when he/she is ready to undertake the steps to change. I have read a lot about and have a fairly broad understanding of diabetes and its long-term effects and the complications possible if left uncontrolled for extended periods of time, but I was unwilling to address or face those hard choices and bigger lifestyle-altering challenges. Hence the ongoing cycles of increasing dosages and addition of medications to control my blood sugar, because I was sure doing a poor job of managing my food choices and intake and not doing much of the moderate exercise prescribed. I could have, possibly would have continued until I got to the point where my health forced me to make changes. Or until I finally felt ready to change. Until one of those options occurred, nothing substantial or enduring was going to happen. The risk of shortening of my life and endangering the quality of the life I have is and was very real.

Denial is a powerful thing. Thinking, believing such things cannot or will not happen to you can carry a huge amount of weight in choices we make in the moment. Deep down, I also believed and felt that death and dying was not that big of a deal, that my own footprint is tiny and would be a bare blip on the radar, even to those I love most.

How sad my internal negative thinker girl has been and how hard she has worked lately to keep those thoughts alive. At the same time, how happy I am to have resisted the call for psychological drugs that would have quieted or shut her down completely through the years. In chatting with TM last week, I am reminded that there are lines I simply do not ever want to cross. My one, brief experience with anti-depressants (years ago, immediately after my daughter died and well before meeting TM) has cured me of any idea that such drugs could be a useful tool. For me, they were pure mental and physical poison, and I am adamant in my resistance to ever trying any branch of them again. For others they could be a miracle aid; for me, I felt even worse and the allure of skating closer to the edge was far too real and inviting under the influence.

Today I am just happy I was ready to do better before it was too late to improve and forestall any imminent long-term physical damage. Who knows what the future may bring, but right now I am just savoring the low dosage of medication and my ability to limit my intake of foods that will have an ill effect on my sugar. Progress.

With the recent surging interest in home projects and spending yesterday doing the domestic chore dance, I thought today would turn into a fun day to go scout furniture stores on my own while M is out adventure running with his friends. I went to bed last night with vague notions of what I would do today at the gym, being Sunday is typically a day where I may do a lesser workout as kind of my version of a weekly rest day, then come home and go furniture shopping.

This morning, the first thing that crossed my mind upon waking up was that I wanted to do walking deadlifts (there is a fancier name for them, but walking deadlifts is simpler and accurate). No furniture. No shopping. No let’s tackle the shower doors I did not get to yesterday. Nope. First thought in my head upon waking was walking dead lifts. And even stranger – I was very EXCITED about the idea.

I have lost my mind. But in the very best of ways, I think.

It could be that I shut off the alarm at 6 and slept in until 7:30. Hey, it’s Sunday; me, get off my back about getting up on time on our day off. But by the time I got up and got ready to head for the gym, the idea of walking deadlifts had merged with walking lunges. Where both once inspired a sense of dread, I felt only a tinge of excitement, the joy of revisiting a well-worn list or resurrecting another I have not touched in weeks.

And I was as shocked as anyone to find myself thinking that. I was almost embarrassed, because I was so apprehensive and anxious and resentfully hating, barely tolerating exercise not that long ago. Oh my how times have changed.

I think I have drunk the koolaid and crossed over into the cult of exercise. No head shaving and no chanting required thus far, although in my daily battles with my hair I find the idea of a shaved head very tempting for the purely practical reasons. Thankfully, my limited sense of vanity will not allow it; I fear my head is oddly shaped and would be extraordinarily unattractive without hair.

The dumbbell list is one I practiced, practiced, practiced during the last part of 2015. When J was on vacation, it was the go-to staple for feeling really challenged and then really successful. I had worked hard at it for several weeks to master each of the exercises and then still walked away sweaty, tired, satisfied, and thinking cues and small refinements for next time.

Last Thursday I had asked J to review the lower body warm-up, and after 2 days of trying I find it makes a lot of difference. Maybe it’s purely psychological, but I just feel better, more energized, more confident when I start whatever List of the day. Yesterday it was even the end of the second set of the hip flexors before I started remembering why I hate them. Progress.

So this morning I went through the warm-up and then got started on the dumbbell list. I have notes about what weights I have been using, and apparently I am a bit stronger since my last visit because some of them felt a little light. The walking deadlifts were particularly satisfying, because I remembered to pre-tighten/pre-tension the working muscles and I could elevate the rear foot much more competently this morning. These are little things J has taught me and it has become a game I play with myself to get my laps to and fro across the floor completed. It makes it sort of fun to test and see if I have made any further progress, because I can so clearly remember how it was when I got started. Short of tipping over sideways or falling down the only progress is forward.

It was beyond satisfying and well into OMG this is truly FUN. Maybe it’s today only. Maybe tomorrow it will be back to sucking eggs. But hey, even tiny mental victories – I’ll take them.

Speaking of falling down, I realized last night that I have not fallen, scraped, cut, or bruised myself in what feels like a couple of months. Amazing. I am usually sporting a bandaid or a bruise somewhere from something. Just another small aside that shows I am either doing something right or have learned to pay more attention to obstacles in my path.

Now, back to the dumbbell list. There are choices on this list, either/or options for various exercises. I forgot that this morning and just continued on doing every single exercise printed on the list. If there were 3 options for something in the rotation, I did 3 sets of all 3 options. I just forgot that I had choices and was in the zone where be happy and stick with the list was working well for me. J always says I can do more, work harder if I feel like it, and today I must have felt like it.

I did find I had to increase weight on a few of these and experimented with lighter and heavier on others. Anything with shoulders was light weights – 5 lbs. max. I forgot on the first and picked up the 8 lb. by mistake and immediately felt it in one shoulder after just a couple of reps. No harm done, but definitely an educational mistake I hope to not make again.

But the deadlifts, the crush squat, the rows, and the walking lunges I tested with heavier weights with successful results, albeit some struggle to finish minimum reps of the set on some exercises. I could definitely feel each increase, though, and I am still tentative enough with weights to not want to push my luck too far. Besides, I’d rather be able to do full reps than be dying halfway through and having to stop and start over.

M, J, everyone else I know who utilizes a gym assures me no one looks at other people, no one cares. It is reassuring, yet I know it is not exactly true. I recognize faces I pass walking to and fro, or if I do not recognize faces I recognize tattoos and/or gym shoes. I do not typically watch people doing their routines, although it is completely impossible to blind yourself while there and someone is jumping up and down on boxes in line of sight. There are those who are simply so graceful and competent in their execution I have to watch for a second. Or they are doing something similar to one of my lists. Or they are just huffing and puffing and trying their best, and it’s admirable to me and I cannot help but peek. I just want my fellow members to be getting what they hope for the energy expended.

My point here is that since being inducted into this cult of exercise, I have become a student observer as well as doing my own thing in the gym these days. For example, last Thursday J had been working with another client using strange tools we have not yet explored (which is fine, no big rush). I asked him about it Friday, because I cannot always discern what muscle is supposed to be working from a mere glance. It is nice when it is him working with another client, because he will know precisely which exercise I am curious about and be able to explain it to me. Mostly I am curious and partly I wonder if that is something I too will someday be capable of performing.

Today an Asian lady I have seen most Sundays for the past several weeks at least asked me about my routines and how often I exercise. I had to stop and think a second because I realize that I am there most mornings anymore, and that is what I said, most mornings for about 90 minutes. While it feels imprecise – I have taken a day off here and there since getting more serious about my practice – I did not feel compelled to qualify that with how long I have been exercising daily or how many days off I have taken in the last few months. English is not her first language, and between her speaking so softly and the accent, I had some difficulty understanding what she was saying to me and asking. But she wanted to know about training (she’s apparently observed me either working out with J or chatting with him when our paths cross) and she complimented me on “getting smaller,” which was so kind of her to say. I told her J is simply the best trainer and if she wanted to get some specialized help to make sure she asked for him versus being assigned to one of the others.

Yep, cult of exercise has captured me and is brainwashing me. It’s a term I use in a jovial way, but I recognize that my present obsession sounds like an addiction. Zealotry in any form is frightening to me, and while I feel extraordinarily engaged right now, I am far from preaching to others about my new-found success. However, I also refuse to be deterred by those in my midst who suggest it is an unhealthy or counter-productive thing, that some Very Bad Outcome awaits me for my present level of commitment and desire to practice and push forward with my training. I understand and appreciate their concern, but for once, finally, I am listening to my own body and trusting its messages. Sure, it still says “I want chocolate, soda, cookies, donuts … OMG, I NEED french fries!” but not quite so pleadingly or so loudly as before. Where I once felt trapped, desperate, hopeless, I now feel freer and lighter and willing and able to assess my options. With my big (diabetes control) and little (lunges) victories the program is working for me. Let me just enjoy the ride.

At least I am never bored anymore. Progress indeed.

One thought on “The cult of exercise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s