A New Take On Exercise

Something is always better than nothing. I tell that to my high school Dance & Fitness students; I tell it to my Spinning class. I share it with the people in my fitness challenge groups. I think it's a good mantra, don't you?

Except that it's easier said than done.

I was forced to live this mantra myself after my double mastectomy in May 2014. Major surgery called for major down-time. And I want to be clear-- in my 45 years of life only once was I  "down" for any length of time-- it was the bed rest that enabled my daughter to make it to full term in my belly. Other than that, my surgery was the first time my constant movement was slowed to a stop. 

Little by little I moved my body. At first it was walking around the hallways in the hospital. I progressed to walking around the house. Then it was walking around the block, my daughter holding onto me so I wouldn't fall. I worked up to walking in the greenbelt with my husband, then by myself. I worked in some PiYo (the home version) through the summer and was able to support my body weight with my arms little by little, with modifications of course. The whole time I kept thinking, "Something is always better than nothing." And I grew stronger. 

Doing laps around the nurse station.

And a funny thing happened to me along the way. I learned to be grateful for what my body COULD do rather than get stuck on what it couldn't. Facing my mortality made me appreciate the small victories And the more I acknowledged the small things, the stronger I got. 

Modified for upper body, back, and hamstrings.

Looking back, after two surgeries and almost a year since my diagnosis, I hardly recognize the person I was before. :Here are some ways I have changed:

1. I work at a high intensity (8-10 on a scale of 1-10) only twice a week now. I use the two spinning classes I teach to go all out.

2. I rest more than I ever have. The day before and the day after a hard workout are days I go on walks with my husband and dogs. We keep the pace moderate (with stops for the dogs to sniff) and don't worry about time, distance, or heart rate. I allow myself complete rest on especially busy days, and don't beat myself up for missing a workout.

3. I do resistance training/body weight exercises for a short time several days a week.  I spend 10-15 minutes max on exercises that matter. One or two sets with heavy weights or body weight is all I do.

4. I do yoga/sun salutations to increase blood flow and flexibility. (See video above, 2 months post-op).

5. I can't do many of the things I used to do, ie pull-ups, toe push-ups, but who cares? I can strengthen my upper body in many other ways. And here's the big news-- I don't beat myself up about the the things I can't do. I focus on all the wonderful things I CAN do!

Gone are the days I workout for multiple hours a day. Gone are the two-a-days, or three-a-days. Gone are the guilty feelings (or anger) when I miss a workout. Gone is the competitive nature of exercise. The new me welcomes simple movement and the joy it brings. I breathe in, I  breathe out. I look forward to my almost-daily walks with my husband and our strengthening relationship-- we're not so consumed with pushing ourselves and each other ( it's tough to converse under those situations), but are relaxing and enjoying deep discussions as we walk together.

My body is responding in delightfully unexpected ways. I am leaner than I've been in a long time, even with the significant decrease in intense activity. Fewer things on my "to-do" list makes for less stress. My appetite hasn't been negatively affected. No increased cravings or loss of dietary discipline. My mood is consistent and not dependent on whether or not I got my workout in for the day. I haven't lost any significant strength or endurance.

My point is this-- something is always better than nothing. And often-times, something is better than more of something. Move your body. Don't worry about how long and how much. Just move. And then move a bit more. Don't be afraid to take it to high intensity a couple times a week, (whatever high-intensity means to you), but no need to work that hard every day. Trust your body. Love your body. It will reward you for your efforts.

I have no idea what the future brings. What I do know is that I will never take for granted the ability to simply move ever again. I am loving my new mindset and my new schedule. Wishing the same for you. 

And now it's time to take a walk with my furry friends!

Something is ALWAYS better than nothing!

Something is ALWAYS better than nothing!

xoxo, Stephenie

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