I mentioned that two weeks ago I broke one of my toes – not a serious fracture, but a painful one initially. Walking was difficult for a couple of days, but by the third day I was getting around fairly well. I decided to attempt my Monday evening class – it’s a body pump class, which is basically a series of repetitive torturous exercises with barbells that targets each muscle group until they wear out or yell ‘uncle!’. Outside of lunges, which obviously put a great deal of force onto the toes of the back foot, and push-ups that do the same, I figured I could at least attempt the class. My injured toe was the fourth one, so much less crucial than a big toe or pinky toe is for balance and activity.
I performed squats when everyone else lunged, and I modified the push-ups to knees down, and everything went well. I felt a few twinges as I went, but the class is so grueling I think most toe pain was masked by other pain. It was incredibly satisfying to know that I could manage / work around this injury and still stay active.
I knew that power yoga was out of the question, but by Thursday I was feeling the effects of not running / stretching. I decided to go for a nice long walk to test out the toe in a running shoe, and to see if I could push it a little more. After a mile of walking, I started jogging, then running, then all out running – no hills, just level, predictable ground. I made it two miles before I felt a twinge, and so I slowed down for another couple and then stopped.
This week I’ve reintroduced everything back in – Monday’s class with only push-up mods, Wednesday’s run with hills and distance (and an insane amount of rain in the middle), and then my yoga class. I was a little nervous to try that – toes are so important in the practice. Plus, they are just out there, completely exposed. The instructor knew that I’d be playing the class by ear, but I still had this moment of panic when I looked down at my bare feet on the mat. But I did it, a few one-legged moves thrown in for chaturanga. Planking, no problem. Push-ups, I’ll see you soon.
When I left my class I felt buoyant. The temps have fallen slightly, and the evenings are cooling down some. I walked to my car and my whole body felt relaxed. It’s been such a frantic week, but that’s not the exception around here. I got into my car and took a deep breath and just sat there for a moment. This is how I felt –
Grateful – it’s really a bizarre and wonderful and mysterious thing that our bodies are able to heal themselves. I know this time it was a minor thing, but I also know just how much I can break my feet and rebuild them, and they somehow knit themselves back together to a point where I can push them as hard as I want to or need to and they can take it.
Determined – I’m reminded again about how important it is to carve out time for exercise. It’s taken me four decades to get to this place of understanding about myself, but the definition of this is clearer to me now than it’s ever been. I think there are many ways to be active and fit and engaged, and I always considered myself to be all of those because I stayed busy, I went on walks, I wasn’t a couch potato. But that is not enough. I’m amazed out how quickly my body reverted back to the way I used to feel all the time – restless (daytime and sleeping), sore, achy, jittery. Even adding back in one piece at a time wasn’t enough. I have to do all of it, and it all needs to be at a level that is rigorous and challenging and really, really difficult to get through. Strength + cardio + flexibility + core + intensity – somehow it produces this balance that wipes away all of those other issues.
Accepting – this isn’t rocket science, I know. It’s what any doctor or PT or trainer or fitness article will tell you. But I’ve spent the majority of my life telling myself that it doesn’t apply to me. (Because I’m healthy-enough, active-enough, smart-enough, thin-enough etc.) It wasn’t enough. This is what it has to be, and it’s not a luxury or a thing I try to fit in where I can. It’s the vehicle that lets me be better at all the other things I try to do and want to do. It’s not about status or distance or medals or recognition. It’s about feeling completely comfortable in this body that is aging, whether I like it or not. I wake up feeling that way, and that is more of a gift than I could have imagined for myself at a younger age.
I don’t know what took me so long. I wonder if a lot of the things that I’ve struggled with in the past might have been eased a bit (or a lot) if I had started this at a younger age. The more I push and pull myself physically, the less push and pull I feel from other things – stress and emotion and anxiety and worry. They aren’t gone completely, but they don’t swing as widely as they used to. And when they threaten to, I have a strategy in place. It’s on the calendar. It doesn’t get skipped. I don’t ease up, I don’t leave early. I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable. I’m strong in my body. I relish in its strength.