I think I can

Have you ever had to start an exercise regime or return to one after a break and found yourself lacking the motivation or inclination to do it? I had a horrible head cold last week and it had me on the couch for a good number of days and feeling sick for a good number more afterwards. In the lead up to this winter bug, I had been exercising nearly every day and was feeling great for it but then I got sick and the momentum broke.

Even after all my years of working at physical recoveries and developing a will to exercise, I still find myself each morning this past week wondering if today will be the day I get back into it – but I haven’t, despite the guilt inspiring self-talk and you know what, that’s normal.

Us humans are such creatures of habit yet we are also highly adaptable, we wouldn’t exist as a species if we were not but some habits (usually the healthiest ones) are harder to get back on track than others after a disruption of our routine.

Despite knowing all the benefits of returning to exercising, I have simply not been ready and thankfully after years of practice, I no longer have a melt-down thinking it’s the end of the world because I’m obviously NEVER going to exercise again because I’m too weak-willed. I am what I like to call a recovering perfectionist and life used to be quite black and white to my mind. I was, as my husband liked to say, an “all or nothing kinda girl”.

So if you also find yourself being internally berated, please try to breathe and take stock. You can do it; it just might take having a plan of attack rather than simply hoping you wake up one day with your exercise-will restored (or newly created).

As I have thought about my current break from exercise, I have tuned in to hear what my body has to say and initially, I was too tired after illness to jump straight back in and now after a longer break I am beginning to experience an increase in physical pain and discomfort. In the past, I let this pain grow to the point where I am spending so much time thinking about it and treating it, that I realise I need to start exercising again so it all settles back down and isn’t a huge part of everyday.

In more recent times, I have learnt to anticipate this ridiculous dance and come at it differently. If you find that you are bemoaning the fact that you haven’t exercised (even just internally) try to catch yourself at that moment and ask yourself, “What can I do now for the next 5 minutes that will count as exercise?” That may not sound like much but if it gets you up off the bench (or couch as it may be), that’s a good thing.

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The last couple of days I began with stretching and although it didn’t take long I felt better in my body and it shut down the nagging negative voice in my head, allowing me to feel pleased that I had at last done something. Yesterday as I was feeling more energetic, I added in one set each of my lower limb rehab exercises. Today I actually got myself to the basement (my exercise space) and did a series of stretching and strengthening exercises. So now when I think about this week I can honestly say I have started back and know I will continue to build back up to my pre-illness levels of exercise.

Obviously for fitter people you can start with a longer exercise interval to get you started but for anyone recovering from illness or injury, you start where you can, be it seated arm and leg exercises, walking laps of your home, stretching, mobilising your joints, climbing the stairs a couple of extra times, or enjoy a stroll in the fresh air. Any movement is better than none. Taken a day and then a week at a time, with realistic incremental increases, you will find yourself developing an exercise routine that suits you, a routine you can be proud of.

Recovery Reflection

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our choice which secret garden we shall tend. The invisible underbrush holding us back is our own thoughts.   When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but on the abundance that’s present – love, health, family, friends, work, and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure—the wasteland falls away and we experience joy in the real lives we live each day.” Sarah B Breathnach (2005)

A little over a week ago I wrote a post, laden with self-pity. It wasn’t my finest work, filled with errors and morose content. After posting it, I was plagued by a constant worry at the back of my mind that eventually saw me pull it down a few hours later. Asking for help can be challenging enough but to do so publicly, left me feeling vulnerable. I forgot that my email subscribers receive every post in their inbox moments after I release a post, negating my attempt to hide it.

At the time, I put my morose mood down to having a difficult week being unwell with a persistent sinus infection, which added greatly to my head pains, which in turn fueled my sense of recovery paralysis. But an interesting thing happened. A number of people contacted me, each with their own thoughts of how we could help motivate one another. In each correspondence lay sign posts for me to the many tools I already have at my disposal but have been neglecting to use or apply, and to new sources of inspiration and assistance.

This past week has seen a friend in Brisbane and I become walking buddies in that we phone or text one another at an agreed time to prompt us to begin our scheduled walks. It has been easy to set up and wonderfully effective in getting us out the door as promised. Another friend identified a few things in her life she would like to dedicate more time to and has since made a change to her schedule, providing her with time for walking in the mornings. She has also spoken with her wife about some of the priorities she wishes to pursue and was met with nothing but support. Yesterday a friend in Melbourne agreed to be my meditation buddy, so we can encourage one another and have someone to speak with as to our experiences. And my marvelous mother committed to walking a bit more in support of my efforts and has already surprised herself with how far she can go. She recently told me she, “continues to stagger along and despite some sunny days, still gets a sweat up shivering.”

What a bounty of rich rewards from an ill-considered plea for help!  When each of these people wrote me they shared something personal and vulnerable, which has both moved and helped me.  I am enormously grateful.

In the past week I have recommitted myself to meditation and my studies in this area, ensuring that I spend some time each day connecting with this deeply soothing practice. I began a hydrotherapy program with a session in the pool with my physiotherapist. A strenuous but rewarding work-out that left me tired but not weak, reminding me of how good it can feel to exercise within my capabilities. Although, there was a somewhat embarrassing but funny-in-hindsight moment in the whirl pool, when after having me walk many laps going with the flow of the water, the physio had me stop and turn against the flow. My legs were instantly swept out from under me with the rest following post-haste, had he not caught me when he did, I would have been dumped most unceremoniously into the middle of the kiddies pool.

I am walking at least twice a week and encouraging Jason to join me when possible. Fridays are also now marked out in the diary for my Pilates gym rehab program and recovery time, as it is quite challenging for me just now.  As I have begun to accept that my recovery is going to go at a slower pace than I originally thought, my exercise routine has been developing right under my nose.

I now realise that I haven’t, as I feared, changed from being the hard driven ‘excel at rehab person’. It is those very traits that have been making me feel so bad, begging to be released to get to work with my body.  The pain medicines have been providing a buffer, slowing things down and giving me time to rest and recover.  I am so used to my own mental ‘whip-cracking’ to keep my life on track that its absence has terrified me, leaving me blowing in the wind so to speak.

This past week has seen a lot of thinking going on in this head of mine and I have realised that I have been making myself miserable.  The effects of the medications has certainly blunted my motivation and caused a great deal of lethargy but I have been looking at this recovery as an ‘all-or-nothing’ deal.  If I can’t exercise to the absolute limit of my capabilities, then clearly I am failing, right?  Wrong and I can see that now.

Brain surgery is a big deal and it turns out, I have needed (and still do) a great deal of rest to recovery from the operation, the general anesthetic, the hospital stay and all the other meds pumped into me.  I seem to be the only person not to know this going in to the op or coming out.   I do now however and I refuse to let myself judge my progress poorly any further.

Thank you for reading and supporting me throughout this major life event and your patience as I find my way back to full health.

Have You Seen My Motivation?

It’s usually so easy for me to find. I wonder where it might have gone or why it left me behind. Within oceans of pain and injury, my motivation is an island of determination upon which I usually cling. How can I move forward without it? My mind seems numb in its absence?

Have you seen my motivation?