Starting Over

Have you given up something in the past, but never fully lost the desire to pursue it – a job, a hobby, etc.? You think about it. You talk about it with others and research it when you have a spare moment, but the action’s yet to be started?

It’s been eight or nine years since I stepped foot in a fitness gym. I used excuses back then as to why I needed to quit. The timing I went never worked well. The stress of the infertility got to me. A cold or virus would keep me away for a week or so and I’d get out of routine.

A year or two later, I started exercising at home for convenience’s sake. Before my bone marrow donation, I was probably in the best physical condition since early secondary school. Jillian Michael’s DVD coached me on kickboxing, and then Michael and I would cycle or go for a walk afterwards. My body was healthy and it felt so good. That routine worked for me.

Then the accident happened which caused my concussion. A few weeks after my concussion, it all caught up with me. My body was used to high intensity exercises and now I could barely move because of the concussion symptoms. A few weeks later, my body didn’t know what hit it. Intense pain plagued my muscles  for months. I’d lie in the tub frequently because it was the only thing that would somewhat bring relief. Even my skin was sore. Then my muscles began to atrophy.

Doctors tested me for Arthritis, Fibro Myalgia, and other muscular diseases. All medical tests came back clear. It was just my body revolting from the stress and change it was experiencing.

The medical teams in charge of my initial post-concussion care tried to get me moving again; light weights, little bits of cardio. But another thing began to happen. My heart rate would spike too quickly causing instant headaches and dizziness. It was hard to stabilize it. So, I stopped.

At times throughout the years, I would try exercising again, but the only thing my body tolerated was a light walk with Michael and my dog around the small block by our house. The weather conditions had to be just right for me to be able to endure it and not have symptoms react from the humidity, cold, or barometric affects.

Though my body wasn’t ready for it, I never gave up the desire to exercise. I missed it. Surely there was something I could do.

Without realizing it at the time, working at the physiotherapy clinic was a God-ordained move. Seeing many others with injuries and physical limitations do their therapy exercises kept the idea that I can do hard things in front of me daily. I signed up for physiotherapy on my shoulders and neck while I waited for the next steps with my Post-Concussion doctors. This began the practice of daily stretching. It was small incremental changes. To be honest, I didn’t like it. I wanted more, but it taught me the need to be disciplined with the small things, so that hopefully I could handle the harder and bigger things later.

When I started with Dr. Lamb, the pain management doctor, I was used to following a routine of stretches. He challenged me to push into the pain (within safe reason) rather than fearing I tear a muscle. He showed me I had been too soft in my approach. His tough love mindset coupled with his slightly sadistic humour helped to push me into further, disciplined stretching.

After a few months, I noticed I was able to endure longer walks with Michael and our dog, Mac. We began walking a short block in the mornings and a larger one in the evenings together. A few months after that, we were taking an hour long walk once a week.

As I continued to see progress, the desire grew to challenge myself to exercise again.

While working on learning to be consistent with my stretching, I found a book at Chapters Book Store called Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink. This book helped to build that mindset within me; to start where I am and keep moving regardless of how small the progress might be at first. Showing up daily and doing something will help me win in the long run. Your mindset and behaviours change as you work towards your goals.

God used that, along with studying for the Warrior in Training Bible study to begin to build the desire for greater self-control and discipline in me.

Then, as I reached the completion of the pain management treatments, I saw an ad for Wall Pilates. It was an app that guides you through a 28-day program of Pilates, offering stretch like exercises with no weights, fast movements, or heavy tension. So, I gave it a try. It took me three months to complete the 28 days, but I did it! The Lord helped build confidence in me in being able to complete an exercise program again for the first time in seven years! Muscle was beginning to form and it felt SO good to feel a bit of strength return to my body.

This also fueled my courage to climb Johnston Canyon in the Rocky Mountains. It took us five hours to the top and back. Michael, his brother and wife, and me all did it together. They were very encouraging, cheering for me along the way, and seeing the difference in me to be able to handle the decently strenuous climb. My heart was so full of joy and thanks to God for this amazing victory!

Having the success of completing the first program, I signed up for another 28 days. In the middle of the program, I took a break to celebrate my parents’ birthdays at their cottages. Having the Lord continue to develop His discipline within me, I was able to return and pick up the exercises where I left off.

By the grace of God, it is very exciting to say that I walked into a gym again on Tuesday, August 22 and began progressing my strengthening. No matter what exercise I was doing, there was a big smile on my face as joy and thanksgiving to God filled my spirit!

Admittedly, I don’t always have the best attitude when starting my stretches/exercises. Some days I am tired and don’t want to do them. But then I remind myself that it is a gift from God to be able to do this again! It puts my mind back in the right perspective and the drive to keep going. When I show up and “get after it,” as Jocko says, it helps me feel the victory for that day, which helps with my tomorrow.

Is exercise something you’ve had a hard time remaining consistent? Diet and exercise really do change a lot for your body, but it can feel monotonous. On Monday, I’ll share the perspective God’s given me to keep going, I’ll pray for you, and we can create opportunity to hold each other accountable in this endeavour, because it’s so much more than just the condition of your body.

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