Baby steps onto the elevator, baby steps into the elevator…

In the spirit of taking small achieveable steps, have a relevant clip from one of my favorite movies, What About Bob?:

In the great black hole of fitness and health the last few months, on top of irregular exercise, I have not been tracking my food. Some days were nonetheless great eating wise –eat when hungry, stop when full, focus on getting enough fruits and vegetables. But other days were NOT great, and I ate “too much” (to discomfort), or didn’t eat when hungry (“too busy”) or managed only a single fruit during the day (my morning breakfast apple).

Also, almost a month ago, I took off my fitbit. I felt bad about the constant reminder that I wasn’t doing “enough” (which, of course, was completely self-attributed based on guilt; the fitbit is neutral and can’t make value judgements).

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A walk

I realized something today: my job is really hard, but not for the reason I initially would have expected (hard work, challenging, heavy caseload; though it is all those things too).

I am an introvert. (INFJ if you’re into Myers Briggs.) Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean I dislike people (I like people a lot! I love a great conversation. Although I can be pretty awkward at parties…), or even that I don’t want to spend time with them. It just means that spending time alone restores my energy, whereas spending time with people exhausts my energy. It’s opposite for extroverts.

As a speech language pathologist, I make my living by spending time with people. Lots of people. Constantly. If I’m not with a patient I’m consulting with the PT or OT. Or nurses. Or doctors. Or dietitians. Or kitchen staff. Its a neat job, always interesting, but for an introvert, inherently exhausting. I talk about hating the insane commute, and I do, but really the exhausting part is less the commute and more the job itself, simply because I am an introvert and people make me tired.

Today was a light day and I headed home early. Even with the commute I was home before 5. It felt pretty amazing. After I got home I took an hourlong walk in the sunshine. I’m about to go do some ankle exercises and maybe some squats if I feel up to it after the ankle stuff. Maybe TMI but my digestive system has been pretty unhappy today and the walk sorted that out. There are so many benefits to physical activity beyond reshaping bodies and weight loss. I feel GOOD and I will sleep well tonight. And all I did was take a walk.

On ankles

1. Something is better than nothing.
2. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

With that in mind, this weekend I started an ankle rehab program-just a couple different exercises. It’s early days but starting small was, it turned out, the clever option because by the evening my ankle was pretty sore–just from using it in ways I never have to. And today after work, I added in body weight squats. The whole thing took about 15 minutes. There’s room for added complexity but still plenty of progress over the next few weeks. And it’s what I tell OTHER people all the time: do what you can because doing something is better than nothing.

It’s not a 5k, or 10x50lb goblet squats, but it’s SOMETHING, and I feel good about it. Here’s what I did:
1. Toe walks/heel walks/side of foot walks on grass: 10 sets each of 10 steps forward+10 steps backward.
2. 2×10 1-leg standing calf raises transitioning to…standing calf dips? I don’t have a name for the second part of this.
3. bent-leg calf stretch against the wall x20 seconds–great for ankle ROM
4. Kneeling–great for ankle ROM

5×10 body weight squats. My glutes will be sore tomorrow because it’s been awhile since I squatted.

If I can fit this in just 1 more work day, I’m set till this weekend, when maybe I can add in another ankle exercise and another bodyweight exercise, and build slowly to half an hour. I am hoping so hard for a manageable week at work.

already a change of plan!

Adaptability is an important skill, right? I feel like the last few months have been a test of my adaptability. I’m still here, so I guess I’m doing okay in the adaptability arena?

Backstory: a year and a half ago I broke my right ankle very badly. I had to have surgery and now my right lower leg and ankle are covered in plates and pins (the X-ray is pretty weird-looking). At the time, I had about 2 1/2 months of physical therapy, but I discontinued for a couple reasons — I was a grad student with a pretty small income and PT is expensive, and I started my crazy series of moves across the country for internships and finally to move in with the BF — not a lot of time to find new PTs in each place and start a PT program only to move again. My leg was in good enough shape to walk on so I decided it was okay. I was cleared by a doctor to return to normal activities “as tolerated”. I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail (which led to overuse soreness) and I started lifting weights and running.

But my ankle still isn’t 100%, which I know for a few reasons: 1. Overuse pain (overnight backpacking). 2. Decreased range of motion. 3. It affects my ability to distribute weight evenly while lifting weights — my left thigh (the one with the ankle) is 1 full inch bigger than my right thigh, which says a lot about muscle usage and muscle growth.

I am an SLP and I work in skilled nursing. By default my closest colleagues are an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. Earlier this week during a rare lull at work, I asked the PT for a quick consult about my ankle. I figured, given that I’m at a crossroads in my exercise program anyway, now would be a good time to get an opinion from a PT about what I should and shouldn’t be doing on my ankle. The verdict:

<strong>”Listen to yourself. You get overuse pain. Your thighs aren’t acquiring muscle mass evenly. Your ankle is telling you it’s not ready for heavy weight-bearing exercises and high-impact cardio.”</strong> Le sigh.

The PT (who is an amazing PT and a great colleague) recommended a very different kind of exercise program than I’ve been doing: bicycling (for ROM), yoga (for ROM and strength), toe-walking and heel-walking on soft/unstable surfaces like grass (for balance and strength), step-ups (progressing to box jumps), weighted ankle flexion/extension/rotation, body-weight wall squats. Day hikes are fine (yay!) but overnight backpacking is not (boo). No heavy lifting. No running on streets (a little trail running is okay but it should not be the cornerstone of my training program).

Of course I am hugely grateful for the free consult. But I have to be honest: yoga and bicycling are not terribly appealing. I don’t even own a bike. This is all so different from what I’ve been doing exercise-wise over the past year that frankly I’m feeling a little lost.

So for the moment, I’m just letting this info sink in. It’s not completely antithetical from what I talked about in my last blog post – there definitely needs to be a body-weight strength component to my exercise. But I also need to fit in yoga, and some plyometrics type stuff, and figure out the bicycle situation.

So that’s where I’m at. Trying to be positive: I want my ankle to be at its best so I *can* go back to doing my preferred activities as safely as possible. But… it would just be really nice if the world would stop with the curveballs just for a little while so I could have a break from all the adaptability. Because it’s exhausting.