If you ever happen to be strolling down a walking path in Maine and come across a limping, weeping, zombie Darth Vader, don’t be alarmed — it’s just me.
It all started a few years ago when my podiatrist pointed to the tiny stress fracture on my X-ray and said, “See this? When your foot comes down on the pavement, it cracks, just like a pretzel.”
“Okay. I guess that’s not good?” I asked.
“But I was only walking.”
“So what you’re saying is…I can’t walk anymore?”
“Oh, no. You can walk. But…well, pretend my fingers are your toes,” she pressed her hand onto the table and made a loud cracking noise.
“Tell you what,” she peered over her glasses at me. “Just keep walking using this orthotic insert and we’ll see what happens.”
“What will happen?”
“Oh, nothing, if it doesn’t work, we’ll just cut open your ankle here…” she tapped her finger on my ankle and made a zipping noise, “…yank your tendon up…” she blew a raspberry, “insert it through the opening in your bones here…” she made a series of popping noises, “and wrap it around there so it’s tighter and more stable,” she clicked her tongue. “No biggie!”
So my loose tendon and I went for a long walk to mull over the doc’s advice.
Like probably most of you, I’ve had a love-hate (fine, all-hate) relationship with exercise. Throughout the years I’ve tried aerobics classes, swimming, running, jogging, slogging, creeping, tripping, limping, stumbling. I’ve biked, hiked, rollerbladed, rollerskated, break danced, ‘Sweated to the Oldies’…walked slowly while texting and/or guzzling iced capps topped with whipped cream.
No matter what program I try, I’ve never been able to stick with it for very long. Maybe because after 10 minutes of sweating, huffing and puffing I think to myself, “Dear God, why?! Why am I doing this? It’s pure torture! Oh god! I’m dying here! It hurts! Oh, how it hurts! My legs burn, my lungs are on fire, my heart’s gonna explode!…is this any way to spend my time when I could be sitting on a couch eating nachos? Oh, gawd, make it stop! Please make it stop!”
Once you start hitting midlife though, you notice a few things. Big things. People die. Friends, relatives, that guy in the obituaries that was the same age as you. When you hit forty this death thing starts to get real, in your face and up in your grill. An unsettling feeling begins to dawn on you as you look nervously around the room. You scratch your head and think, Hey, wait just a minute…. What on earth is happening here?! That won’t happen to me though. Death. Ha! Right? Right, God? Huh? Death? Fffft. Not me! Never me! Right?
So I’ve been exercising pretty religiously since New Year’s Day when I made the resolution to not die. I went out and bought a brand new elliptical. Since January, I’ve made sure to get on that torture device every other day and work out until either 45 minutes have passed or I’ve passed out.
On my days off, I do yoga, go for walks and lift weights. I know. Crazy. My mom doesn’t get it. She calls me up and leaves messages on the phone: “Darla? Darla! Are you there?! Are you working out again?! Jeezum Crow! What is it with you and the working out all the time! It’s like you’re obsessed with it or something! Always with the working out and the thing! GAWD! Jeez!” [click]
Back when I was younger, I used to workout for some pretty shallow reasons: either to lose weight so I’d look good or to lose weight so I’d look good. Now? Please! I’m afraid that saggy, wrinkled ship has sailed off across the cellulite ocean. But is my heart going to give out in 10 years? Will I have a stroke? Will I live a long life and be around for my kids and grandkids? That’s what concerns me.
Death is a great motivator.
My dad died of a massive heart attack brought on by atherosclerosis (he was a smoker) at the age of 53. Fifty-three. Whenever I think maybe I shouldn’t bother with exercise, that pesky voice in the back of my mind whispers, psst..hey you! Yeah, you with the donut. Just a friendly reminder…you only have 11 more years to live if you die at the same age as your dad. Just something to think about. Carry on.
My mother had congestive heart failure, quintuple bypass surgery and a mitral valve prolapse at the age of 69. Both my parents had severe heart disease. Yeah, the odds for this chick ain’t lookin’ too good. Reminds me of the scene in Big Bang Theory where Leonard asks Howard, “Does your family have a history of heart disease?” Howard: “My family is the history of heart disease. There’s a cave painting in France of one of my ancestors doing this:” (mimes a heart attack)
You add all of this up and what does it equal? Me– running from death.
It’s working so far.
Let’s hope he isn’t wearing Sauconys.
If you exercise, what motivates you? What exercise program works for you? Let me know because I’ve only been at this for eight months and I don’t want to quit now.
Every step I took was sheer agony. I slowly shuffled across the living room floor, hunched over like Quasimodo, dragging my achy body for what seemed like miles. The pain was cruel, severe and blinding; it ripped through my calf muscles and tore up my thighs, shredding every pathetic fiber to bits in its wake.
I just had to make it. I can do this! Just take it one step at a time. If only I could somehow slide across the floor, the excrutiating jolts of pain might deaden slightly so I could catch my breath. Step, shuffle, slide. Step. (moan) Shuffle. (moan louder) Sliiiiide. Almost. (ugh) There.
Whew! I was there! I had made it to the couch. The sweet haven of soft pillows beckoned. Oh thank you, God! I wiped my brow and sighed.
Then I had to sit down.
This proved to be a bit more tricky. So I began the process, oh so gingerly. I gripped the edge of the coffee table and began to lower my body ever so sloooooowly. The constant ache from my thighs suddenly shot up to my butt, activating pain receptors I never knew existed. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I held my breath, closing my eyes and moaning again. I willed myself through the raw agony of a wall of pain.
“Ooh! Gah! AHHH!” I was startled by the pathetic sounds I heard escaping my lips as I hovered mere inches above the couch cushion. I clenched my jaw and lowered myself some more. Just a little bit…more… Then…touchdown!
Ah!!! Yes!!! There!!!
I was sitting down on the couch! Hallelujah! I gasped for air. I had made it! I panted, grinning gleefully. See, nothing to it, really. No biggie. Now I could relax and watch a little TV while I waited for the Advil to finally kick in. I glanced around for the remote.
It was clear across the room sitting on the TV stand.
I began to weep.
“Honey?” my husband’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. “Are you OK?”
“Oh yeah!” my voice shook through clenched teeth. “I’m fine! Just peachy! Never better!”
How could I admit what I had done? That I had purposefully inflicted such pain? How could I confess to him that I had willingly done this to myself, and will now be forced to suffer the consequences? How could I tell him the stark truth?
I had broken my ass.
Now you might be thinking, how could this be, Darla? How could this happen to you? You broke your ass? You mean, your actual ass? Is that even possible?
Well, my butt muscles and I are all here to say, yes, it is quite possible.
How? I will sum it up with two words: Jillian Michaels.
It all started when Santa left me her latest ’30 Day Shred’ DVD in my stocking. At first I thought it was some cruel joke. Sure, I’ve complained many times about my thunder thighs to my husband. And, okay, so I am currently working on a PhD thesis entitled: ‘Infinitely Expanding Thighs and Their Relativity to Consuming Copious Amounts of Chocolate’
But Jillian Michaels? What the hell does she know?
According to her DVD cover, she promises ‘three complete 20 minute workouts which progress from level of intensity’ and ‘in no time you’ll achieve a lean, shredded body.’ Psssbht. Shredded? Mmkay. In no time? Sure. I’m game. Sign me up, Jilly! How hard can this be?
I put on my yoga pants (who am I kidding, I was already wearing them as I’ve gained so much weight since Halloween, I live in them now). I cleared out the living room of all dangerous furniture, and sent the kids and hubby outside to freeze. It was ‘go time’, baby. I was going to shred these thighs to oblivion through sheer willpower, blood, sweat and (mostly) tears.
I should probably point out at this time that I am not athletic. I am not coordinated. I am not ‘in shape’. However, I am a klutz. And, according to my chiropractor, I am also pretty lopsided, what with one leg being almost two inches shorter than the other. All of this translates to: Not a good exercizer. But my thighs were crying out for help. So I pressed on with Jillian. If anyone could help them, she could.
So I was chugging along, five minutes into the warmup. I felt the heat rising on my neck. I felt the sweat pouring. I felt my heart racing and bordering on exploding inside my chest. At one point I thought the blood vessel on my forehead was throbbing in time to the music. I ignored it. Jillian said this would take no time at all, didn’t she? Why is every second an eternity then, huh, Jillian? I huffed and puffed and then, I did the unthinkable.
I am about to tell you something extremely important to your health and well-being. Pay close attention. This may be the single most valuable piece of information you will ever come across in your entire life.
Never, ever, under any circumstances:
Do a squat.
Especially three sets of 20. In rapid succession. Holding 5 pound dumbbells.
Just turn the TV off and walk away. Unless you want to be like me. Still in agony three days later. Three days! Of course, if you desire the feeling of near-constant pain in your thighs and butt area and you also have plenty of money to burn through a dozen bottles of Advil and three tubes of Ben Gay, then by all means! Do a squat! I dare you!
I, for one, am quite happy with my thunder thighs.
Until next week, when the pain subsides and I try it again.