I recently turned into a slug. I simply did not have the energy to go to the gym and exercise, because, well, as far as I was concerned, the world had turned into liquid cement, and I was having one heck of a time just crawling through it. The very thought of moving faster than a snail’s pace was exhausting.
Besides, I reasoned, exercise sucked so much time out of my day, that I just didn’t have the hours to spare. Counting how long it would take to get to the gym and back left me in a cold sweat: My day would be practically over by the time I’d return!
I considered going for short bike rides, but the very idea of maneuvering my bike out of the house made me want to crawl back under the covers. Truth be told, I had to fight inertia just to walk down the damn stairs, open the front door, and step outside in my jammies.
Even the thought of dancing for 20 minutes in my living room made me groan. Oh yeah, and slouch in the position that a physical therapist once informed me is the root of all evil. And here I am dispensing advice on (gulp!) dancing with pain.
Essentially, I’ve been living the vicious cycle that Paula Kamen refers to as “driving through life with the parking brake on”:
The pain sucks my energy, making everything take 90 billion times as long as it should, leaving me working from the time I wake up until 2:00 a.m. — at which point I collapse on the couch and watch reruns of Heidi Klum castigating earnest Project Runway contestants. (Given her penchant for psychological abuse, how disturbing is it that she’s German?)
That in turn causes me to crawl into bed at some ungodly hour that is just wrong, wrong, wrong for my body, effectively bringing on insomnia — following which I half-sleep until close to noon. I then wake up exhausted, panicking about how I am utterly, hopelessly behind already, and hating myself for having already failed.
All this before having slipped my little pinky toe out of the toasty down comforter (Did I mention it’s hypoallergenic? How is it that goose feathers are hypoallergenic?) and onto the cold tiled floor.
Yesterday was a high point of my distress. Convinced that my health must have taken a nose dive and that I would hobble around like an 80-year-old for the rest of my life, I called (who else?) Mom. “I just have no energy,” I cried.
As always, she advised that I drink coffee. Usually I’m delighted by the reminder that, hurrah!, there is a cure for my lethargy. An imaginary whiff of the espresso machine in action is enough to propel me out of bed and into my kitchen.
This time, however, I glumly informed my mom that, alas, the caffeine magic had worn off. Even gulping two cups in the morning couldn’t get me going anymore.
“You’ve been through this before,” she said. I vehemently denied it. “Yes you have,” she insisted. “Remember when you had chronic fatigue? When you’d exercise, the fatigue would go away.”
Here’s the thing about chronic pain: When I’m in it, the rest of the world ceases to exist. My entire reality becomes the here & now. Not the hipster, urban Buddhist here & now, replete with designer meditation pillows, mind you, but the my-life-sucks-please-pass-the-gun, I-am-consumed-by-suffering here & now.
Fortunately, I have my mom to drag me through chronic pain boot camp whenever I call to inform her that my life is over.
- Have you had coffee? No.
- Have you eaten? No.
- Have you taken a hot shower? No.
- Have you exercised? No.
“Hang up the phone, get the hell out of bed, and don’t call me back until you’re done!” she chirps.
So I finally went to the gym today. I tried to make all kinds of excuses to myself to sneak out of it, mind you, but my mom had said something that stuck in my head and propelled me forward: I have to “take” exercise the way she takes her diabetes meds. Non-negotiable.
Gold star for me: I hauled my sorry ass to the gym (extra points because it was pouring rain) and worked on the elliptical trainer, the rowing machine, the treadmill, weight machines, and free weights — for a total of two hours.
I was careful to stay within my safety zone while pushing past my comfort zone, drowning out my grumbling-body soundtrack with reminders that the more I exercise, the better I feel.
Lo and behold, I had energy today. I felt awake, spunky, and vibrantly alive. Oh what a difference a day makes.