Why do I exercise? How do I stay motivated to do it? Those have been some of your favorite questions for me lately.
Why do I exercise? That’s an easy one, because to begin with I went to the gym to stay out of surgery. I twisted my ankle over five years ago now, and I didn’t think anything of the sprain. I mean we all sprain our ankles now and then, right? Except I twisted it about three times in two weeks. Apparently, I have permanently damaged my Achilles’ tendon. Orthopedist told me that she could do surgery with an almost guaranteed loss of movement, or I could hit the gym and put more muscle around the injury – think of it as an internal splint. I chose gym. I hit it with a vengeance and when I went back months later, she said, “You really did it. You went to the gym.”
“You told me to,” I said.
“I tell a lot of people that, but they never go.”
Hmm . . . surgery in my 40s with a almost certain loss of movement forever in my ankle, so I’d never run again. I’d never . . . do a lot of things again, or I could exercise more. It seemed an easy choice to me, and one I’m very glad I made.
When I walked into the gym three, or is it four years ago, I was medically not allowed to run. Now I can hit 6 mph on the treadmill for sustained periods, not for long sustained periods, but I can do it. Before, the ortho told me, “You can run to save your life, like if a car is about to hit you, but other than that, don’t.” Now I’m looking at signing up for a Monster Run.
It was my ankle injury that got me into the gym, but my back and hip stopped hurting from all those hours typing at my desk. At the very end of a book I give up nearly all gym time, and most everything else that isn’t writing, and my back starts aching again, so exercise is better for all of me, not just my ankle.
I admit that about three years ago I was doing more cardio, eating better, and had attained the weight I wanted, and then I lost my workout partner – a lot of things happened and I started to lose some of my progress. I hadn’t realized how much until my knees started hurting. I went to a different orthopedist, one for knees and found out that if I don’t lean down and take off the weight I’ve gained back, and put the muscle I’ve lost back on, I’m headed for knee replacement with in two to five years, and probably more like two, or I can hit the gym harder. I’m going to hit the gym, thanks.
I haven’t gained that much weight back, but it’s not how much you weigh, it’s how much your body can tolerate. Think of your body as a car, some can pull heavier loads than others without ruining their suspension. Apparently, I’m over my weight limit and need to get some strengthening done to my undercarriage, that would be the muscle I need back. So, Jon and I have started eating better again, but this time we mean to stay with it as a permanent nutrition change, a lifestyle change. He was told that he, too, needs to lean down and muscle up if he doesn’t want to have another knee surgery, and since early heart attacks run in his family that’s another good reason to exercise and eat healthier.
And before you ask, we do not exercise together. It’s one of the few areas where we are not compatible.
So, we exercise to stay healthy and out of the operating room as the patient. I like that I’m a size 8, but it would never have been enough reward on it’s own for me to do all this, but being able to go up a flight of stairs without pain, now that’s a reward. I also find that my mood is lighter, happier, and just all around better when I exercise consistently. That’s not just me, studies have shown that exercise truly is a mood lifter, and a natural antidepressant. It won’t cure serious depression on it’s own, but it helps.
If your body doesn’t need as much exercise as mine does to stay healthy, great for you. It really is a genetic thing how much weight your body can carry and be in good working order. The same goes for how much junk food you can eat without upsetting your system. Everyone is different, so do what makes you feel good, but I’ll add that the older you get the harder it is to stay in shape, especially if you don’t exercise and eat junk food. Our goal is to get Jon at his “fighting” weight before he hits 40, because that is a metabolic milestone that makes everything harder. Whatever weight you want to lose, muscle you want to gain, doing it before you hit another decade is usually a smart idea, because it does get harder from there. I love every decade, life just gets better, but the one thing I have noticed is that its harder to get in shape and stay there, but thanks in part to the fact that I do workout, it’s the only downside to getting older that I’ve found. I believe sincerely that the amount of good, consistent exercise, and healthier eating habits are a large part of why I get mistaken for being ten to twenty years younger than I am. I admit that part is awesome, but I’m also happier, healthier, not in constant pain, and Jon and I can dance for hours again. We danced a lot when we dated, but injuries and lack of exercise had stolen that from us. Hard work in the gym and the kitchen won back what we thought was gone forever and we just recently proved that we can literally dance the night away again. That was a very sweet extra to all this healthy stuff, and more romantic than we could have imagined. Yay, gym workout and eating better, who knew they could be so damned romantic?