For a person who had paid scant attention to fitness, food intake, fatness or not throughout most of my life, this past year has been confronting. In the year that I turned a ‘significant’ age, I found myself struck down by a black grief, but on top of that, a string of injuries.
The loss of my father hit right on my birthday week, while I was away celebrating in New York. On return to real life a few months later, after the blackness slowly lifted, I found myself dealing with a progression of injuries which opened the door onto a life of limited mobility. The horror!
First, there was the leg injury, sustained after my excited attempt at two five kilometre runs. So pleased was I after my first run, that I headed out again the next week, solo, inspired by my newfound love of running. Shelve that idea. The pain in my lower leg became acute, the leg swelled full of fluid, and before I knew it I had a suspected DVT requiring an ultrasound. The injury is still an undiagnosed generalised tendon issue that has lasted more than 6 months.
Then came the lower back. Having braced myself against a deep, body hacking cough, I suddenly found myself unable to stand up. The next few weeks were a blur of MRIs, doctor appointments, physio sessions, and slow walks around the neighbourhood. I had slipped a disc, which was impacting a nerve, which meant I had other ‘issues’ to manage on top of the back pain. ‘Urgency’ is one way of putting it. This led to internal investigations, discoveries of other issues, a brain scan, and an operation under general anaesthetic. As I prepared to go under, I looked at the gum trees out the operating theatre windows and saw the birds in their branches. I hoped it wasn’t the last thing I’d ever see, knowing that was being unduly melodramatic. The anaesthetist spoke to me of my first boyfriend as he slipped the needle in. Disconcerting.
There were days with the back injury when I could barely get out of bed, days when it took me twenty minutes to get up from the couch, then weeks of being unable to put on socks or shoes or do the normal things like go shopping or cook meals for the family. So, some small bonuses, true.
After the physiotherapist appointments, there was the podiatrist to see, for, wait for it, orthotics. Not very sexy, but oh so comfortable. And thankfully, I can still wear my boots, for short periods at least.
Seeing over the abyss into a life of injuries and limited mobility was truly scary. As I hobbled back to some form of pain-free movement, I decided I had to address the strength and fitness issue.
First off, the attempts at Pilates, pump, and pavement pounding, bringing on another round of injuries. Then, somehow: enter, the personal trainer.
My Personal Trainer snuck up on me, as a free appointment at the gym. I thought she would be running me through a routine, on how to use the gym machines, but it quickly became clear that she was selling her services. Sceptical, at first, I considered what she offered: strength and fitness training specifically addressing my needs; dietary advice; encouragement; free meet-ups, and wait for it: before and after photos! I listened as she told me ‘it’s not your actual weight that is important to measure, but the amount of muscle to fat ratio, which affects the shape of your body.’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to become strong to the point where my muscles were getting bigger (how will I fit into those old dresses and jeans I need to wear again?) but I decided that I could give her sessions a go for a month or two. On a limited budget, that means I am seeing her just once a fortnight, instead of her recommended twice a week. (Twice a week! How could I ever afford that?)
So, I have been out walking long walks again, running in bursts, going back to pump classes, keeping a food diary for a week, and managing the next round of jnjuries. Within a week of starting, I had another inexplicable foot injury. I could not weight bear, walk or do exercise. After my second PT session, where I surprised myself with my strength and capacity, I coughed and put my neck out. Wincing, I went in to night shift at work, where I rubbed in Voltaren gel and breathed in the fumes of failure.
But hey, I’m back out there today, walking by the sea in high winds. Sheltering from the rain in a cafe while I take comfort in words. It may be two steps forward and three steps back, but as they said of a certain superhero: We can rebuild (her).