Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dear Sugar: The Day I Quit Working Out

Dear Sugar:

For fifteen years, I worked out consistently.  Working out helped me get through the stress of college (most of the time I was also working 2-3 jobs to pay my tuition bill).  Working out helped me manage the pressures of planning my wedding.   It aided me in managing my anxiety, my blood sugars, and keeping my weight steady.

When we were matched with our fourth child, I began to stop working out as much.  First, it was summer, and I had three children.   Second, I was a nervous wreck, slowly falling in love with the daughter who wasn't mine.  

When our daughter was born in September, I ceased working out.  And I noticed that some things happened.  Perhaps they sound familiar to you?

-I wasn't sleeping as well.
-My anxiety increased, in steady waves.  
-I had way less energy.  
-I was less coordinated and less strong.  
-I got hurt more easily (probably due to the aforementioned lack of coordination and strength).
-I was less motivated.  
-I dreaded the first two hours of every morning, because I was so slow to fully wake up.  
-My blood sugars crept higher more easily and quickly.  

Looking back, it was really a domino effect.   One thing leading to the next.  That feeling of helplessness and giving up, plus an awareness of spiraling "out of control."  I found a new normal, eventually, a normal of accepting that working out had succumbed to LIFE.  

Now, there's a natural break in routine with a newborn.  Feedings every two-three hours through the night, plus dealing with one child's restless leg syndrome, another child's sensory issues, and another one's asthma.   Then sick season where we got hit with strep and the flu (two solid weeks out of school).   

But for me, a type 1 diabetic, working out is essential.  Exercise lowers my blood sugar, gives me energy (which is needed since my energy-sucking disease needs a boost!), and decreases my anxiety (about everything, including my disease).

I hit rock bottom when a month ago, my hip was in excruciating pain.  I couldn't sit on the floor and play with my kids. Certain movement rendered me breathless.  The pain radiated down my thigh, around my knee, and down to my ankle.  I went to my chiropractor, then my general practitioner, and then to physical therapy.   I felt like I was 85 years old.  I mean really, hip pain?

Since doing the assigned exercises to increase flexibility, mobility, and strength, I'm slowly reintegrating working out back into my schedule.   It used to be non-negotiable.  I was THAT girl in the hotel gym on Christmas Eve, huffing and puffing on the treadmill.  

I'm trying to give myself a lot of grace.  And I'm trying to remember the WHY to working out.   

I share all this with you for a reason.   As a person who has been all over the proverbial map in terms of health, I want to offer a few "been there, done that" thoughts, hopefully so you do not end up in physical therapy:

1:  A lack of self-care is selfish, not selfless.
We are prompted to put our families first.  That's what good moms do, right?  WRONG!  Accept a temporary situation (a new baby) for what it is, but don't remain stagnant.  As my baby began sleeping through the night (and we did, too), I should have reintroduced exercise into my daily routine.  By not taking care of ME, I was not only hurting myself, but I ended up hurting my family with my limited ability to lift, play, and go! 

2:  Exercise isn't (just) about weight. 
Yes, you can lose weight or maintain your weight by exercising. Of course a healthy weight is important.  However, weight control is far more about what you put IN your body than exercise.  That said, there are SO many benefits to working out that go far beyond weight.  It's different for every person, but a few perks for me, when I work out, include:  I fall asleep easily and wake up energized, my anxiety decreases, and I feel empowered.  

3:  Exercise doesn't have to be what others like.
I.  Hate.  Running.   I hate it.   But I do like dancing, walking, and lifting weights.  I do what I love and reap the benefits!  Choose something you enjoy and do it.  

4:  Technology is great, but...
I'll be honest:  I think the whole FitBit, routing your run on your cell, tracking your diet in an app---I find these to be distractions.  I think some people find them helpful, and perhaps increase accountability, but fitness can be really, really simple.   

5:  Get the kids involved.
I've come to realize that my kids need to be included in my fitness routine since they are home all summer. They have their own set of free weights.  They have their own bikes and helmets (so they can pedal around the trail at the park while I walk, pushing the stroller). We love doing XBOX Just Dance! games together.  Again, these are not super strenuous things.  Because if it's not sort-of fun and occupies the kids, I'm not doing it.  Plus, it's really important to me to raise active, healthy children!  

What do you do for exercise?  What has gotten in the way of exercising in past, or what is getting in the way now?  What practical steps can you take to make a positive change?  

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