I’d like to sugarcoat this fact, but I can’t: I’ve gained 10 pounds in the last year. (Perhaps, sugarcoating is the problem). I have many excuses and reasons, some of which are lame and fixable while others represent genuine obstacles. After all, a jaunt to the gym is rather pointless if it results in my inability to walk well for days due to crippling back pain. I do not, however, want to end up where I was years ago: pushing my BMI toward obese and unhappy with how I looked and felt. I didn’t work that hard all those years ago to lose 30 pounds just to gain them all back because I’ve had a rough year.
In the spirit of trying to rectify this slip backwards, I want to lay out what I think my main culprits are and try to set realistic goals to manage them.
1. I don’t have a routine.
When I was teaching, I’d get up almost every morning and do a workout at home before driving off to school. On weekends, I’d take the time for a longer workout, a run, a long hike, or a bicycle trip. I wasn’t perfect, but I was pretty darn good. Since moving to Lawrence, however, I have struggled to find a routine that works for me. Our rental was too small to work out in, and Lee needed the car too early for me to make it back from a predawn workout at the gym. Although I tried biking to the gym and to the pool before work, it was cumbersome and impractical, which meant that I didn’t do it. I have tried to work out over the lunch hour at work, but I had to budget an hour and a half either by bus or walking. It has been enjoyable neither to eat lunch at 11 so I can work out at noon nor to rush back red-faced and barely make that 1:00 meeting. Moreover, since KU classes have ended for the semester, the bus is no longer an option. Although a twenty minute walk across campus under the late spring sunshine is incredibly pleasant, I won’t exercise if I have to trudge through a deluge or wilt under a fierce August sun. Exercise has to be convenient and easily fit into my routine and lifestyle, or it won’t become a habit.
My solution to not having a routine is simple now that we’re homeowners! The house has enough space for me to exercise at home; I always enjoyed workout videos on youtube. Another perk: no more grunting, obnoxious men in the weight room! No more awkward lunch workouts! It’ll be a tough transition to getting up early in the morning to exercise again, but it will definitely be worth in the long run if I feel both strong and healthy.
2. My back hurts. Chronically.
It is incredibly difficult to work out when simple tasks like grocery shopping and walking your dog leave you with increased pain. I love high energy workouts, like kickboxing, and I absolutely loathe swimming. I have to be very careful when I exercise to push myself but not cause a flare up in my level of back pain. This is obviously very difficult to balance. For example, yesterday I exercised to a video I used to love and made several modifications to it to reduce the intensity; this morning, I did a stretch routine this morning. Today, I’m in significantly more pain than I was in yesterday before exercising. What’s a girl to do? I need to have a strong back so I can be healthy, but exercising my back causes more pain. Ugh!
I honestly do not know how well I will deal with this problem, but I know that I need to try. Lee has suggested we try the DDP yoga series, and I was interested when I read all the reviews from people who also have struggled with back pain. It can’t hurt to try them. (Okay, technically it can, but I mean figuratively here!) I also am going to try to scour youtube for ways to modify my old favorites, like the Real Fit TV channel, and identify other videos that would help me to become stronger while still appeasing the demands of my tyrannically cranky back. With how much pain I’ve been in—and some of the major flare ups came after attempting to work out—it is both beyond terrifying and yet absolutely necessary that I find some way to deal with it so I can exercise. Not being able to walk is scary.
3. I’m a stress eater (with a predisposition to having a sweet tooth under normal circumstances).
In the last year, I gave up something I loved, teaching Latin, taken kiddos to Italy (which the husband and I agree to never do again), hiked 300 miles, moved, started a new job with what feels like insurmountable deadlines (and the overtime to meet them), gotten married, lost a tiny house dream, lost my dog, and bought a house. While there is certainly good in the last year, there’s been a fair amount of stress and change and loss in a short amount of time. To top that off, I’ve been in varying degrees of daily pain since August. Sometimes it’s dull, and sometimes it’s intense, but regardless of its level, the pain casts a dark pallor over everything that I do. So, I have eaten more chocolate, more cheese, more cake—a brownie here, four double chocolate peanut butter cookies there—had seconds and the occasional thirds, and drank a few more glasses of wine than I normally do, all of which means that I am still stressed but now I am also stressed about having gained ten pounds.
I have some manageable aspirations to get back on track with my eating. For starters, I will go back to tracking what I eat on the My Fitness Pal—it’s an excellent tool that I’ve used before with success. I just have to add it back into my daily routine. Additionally, to coincide with reducing our grocery budget, I am limiting my alcohol to no more than two drinks a week; it helps to be able to combine a fiscal goal with a health one. I am less certain, though, how to cope with the root of my problem: my stress level. Many of my traditional comforts and avenues to deal with high stress have been curtailed due to back pain. I also feel as if I have been slammed from one fiasco to the next such that I do not feel like I have had sufficient time and space to decompress and release those fiascoes. In the upcoming weeks, I intend to take some time to take care of me so I can regroup and release the past year’s tension that I’ve been carrying around with me. A real vacation would help, so long as it doesn’t end abruptly with either (1) a major back flare up and an encounter with wild boars (yay, honeymoon!) or (2) a tearful and unexpected goodbye to my dog. I am increasingly hopeful, each day, to receive our permit to Glacier National Park because I know that a little breathing room and the promise of a week in the remote mountains would do much to alleviate that temptation to polish off another cookie or three.
I hope very much that I can be more mindful going forward about dealing with these three culprits and that I can enact positive changes to my life to recapture the good routines I used to have. I am quite anxious about doing so with the back pain hovering over me, but I know that I can’t just sit around and do nothing since I can’t really sit anyway due to that silly back of mine! My goal is to move in the right direction. I want to feel strong and confident again!