Use It Or Lose It

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My cross-trainer that hasn’t been used in way to long.

As the years pass I’ve continued to say, “I don’t want to be a ‘rockin’ chair granny.’” But it appears that unless I get my ass in gear, that’s exactly what I’m going to be.

Over the last year, I have used every possible excuse to slowly let my exercise routine go by the wayside. It began to happen over a year ago when my FitBit died. I had been walking well over 10,000 steps a day but not enjoying it. I was dizzy and exhausted after my treks, and developed aches and pains. It was suggested that I was overdoing it. So when the slave-driver I wore constantly on my wrist quit, I decided to just bury it. Besides I was in the thick of writing my book, and time to sit in front of my computer being creative was at a premium.

Last year, when the going got really tough and I was in the midst of beginning to market my upcoming memoir, my then four to five 30 minute walks a week turned to two or maybe three. I continued to go to my yoga class and worked weekly with my pilates coach. All of that seemed to be enough. But I was still tired most of the time. And frankly it was just easier to sit at my desk and do what I had to do. I was constantly behind and stressed by that.

After my book launch in September, I crashed and spent most of my time resting and beginning to find my way back to a more relaxed life. Sitting and doing the daily crossword puzzle, reading, or napping took a lot of my time. When I did go for a walk the aches and pains returned. I knew that I needed to get back into taking short walks on a daily basis, but my lack of energy told me that yoga and pilates were enough. I started getting stiffer and stiffer. And I got depressed.

Then January came. A new year. Time to get into gear again. I promised myself I would take at least 30 minutes a day to stretch and begin walking for short periods of time. I didn’t keep my promise and my sad self gotten even sadder. As the last week in January approached I got angry with myself. I beat myself up and made promises every day that tomorrow would be the day I’d start taking care of myself again.

One morning I was so sick of myself that I went for a neighborhood walk and was out for thirty minutes. I loved it and felt so good afterwards. The next day I was out for a little longer and the next day and the next. My depression was going away. But suddenly the knee that I’d been favoring for months got swollen and I was in tremendous pain. Yikes! What had I done?

I hadn’t started out slowly. I was pushing myself too hard. I am an overachiever, if you haven’t noticed. And I wasn’t stretching enough. My muscles weren’t happy and I was creating my own disaster. I visited my doctor, and I’ll start seeing a physical therapist to begin the work of getting back in shape. I need to be sensible and careful as I return to healthy activity levels. It is possible to do that, but it takes more than a promise. It takes not being lazy and simply doing some work everyday.

Here is as interesting article I found in the Washington Post, last week that has inspired me to get rid of the occasional thought that maybe I’m just getting too old to exercise.

Do you have a regular exercise routine that you stick with? Have you ever taken time off from it and found yourself stiff, with aches and pains? And even depressed?


  1. I feel your pain, Joan! I had a cycling accident 19 months ago that caused me to significantly scale back my exercise. What I didn’t realize was that by babying an injured hip and not getting the proper help, I was setting myself up for an unstable gait and continued pain. I’m now working with a physical therapist once a week, and I’m thrilled with the progress I’m making. We are never too old to be in the best shape possible!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Good for you, Candace. I’m hoping to do the same here. No, we’re never too old. I hope your progress continues.

  2. I still love my Walk at Home videos with Leslie Sansone. It’s easy to go downstairs in the morning, pop one in and walk briskly with some addition aerobic moves for 30-40 minutes. I’ve fallen away from that practice badly, and desperately need to get back to it. I’m easing into routines and catching up from all those weeks “on vacation” in Florida. I keep telling myself my winter clothes seem to have shrunk while they were hanging here alone in the closet, but I know the real story!! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Your welcome, Becca. That word “vacation” does it every time for me. Every time I get ready to go, I promise I’ll do a lot of walking when I’m away. Hah!

  3. My routine at home includes Pilates and PowerPump with weights. Now I’m cleaning out another house, sorting and re-cycling, going up/down long flights of stairs. It bothers me that I can’t warm the seat of my writing chair, but this is my life for now and I’ll accept it. Nothing breeds discontent more than resisting what IS. Right?

    • Joan Rough says:

      Marian, Yes, resistance to what is so unsettling. It does sound like those stairs are helping you keep in shape. While your otherwise engaged, remember that when you are away from your writing chair things are still cooking!

  4. Joan — I’m a restorative yoga, dog walking, bicyclist. If I didn’t do those things consistently, I’d be the size of a blimp because I’m also a foodie!

    • Joan Rough says:

      I just started doing restorative yoga last month and I love it. I may give up my gentle yoga class for that, but I love them both. So I’ll stay with both for now. Yes, I’m feeling rather blimey myself and had slowing been adding sugar back into my diet, but it’s about to be axed. I’m a foodie just like you!

  5. Martha Graham-Waldon says:

    I hear you, Joan! I had back surgery in late November and had to give up my beloved Jazzercise classes that were not only a good workout but a great way to connect with other active women! If it weren’t for walking my little dog, I ‘d be a total couch potatoe by now! And walking in the rain has its own challenges! In another two weeks once my doctor signs off on it, hopefully I’ll be back to jazzing. Good luck to developing your exercise routine too!

  6. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks for stopping by Martha. Dog walking is one of my favorite activities, but I also like to take walks by myself. I don’t take the dogs then because they need to check out every blade of grass along the way and the walk becomes a lazy stroll.

    I hope the doc signs off on your surgery and you’ll soon be Jazzercising again.

  7. You are so right, Joan! I have had to give up Zumba classes due to health issues but I try to do something each day–walk or use the exercise bike to keep moving. It’s so easy to get lazy (speaking for myself) but I know how important activity is to our wellness and health. Onward!

  8. Joan Rough says:

    Oh, I can be lazy too, Kathy. But at his point it isn’t paying off. Went to my first PT appointment this morning and already it’s feeling better!

  9. I run into this issue every year about this time. Walking in snow and ice isn’t inviting. I do it anyway, but reluctantly and find reasons to skip. Trying to focus more on stretching, but for me the main thing I need is strength. Until 2011 when I stopped practicing as a women’s health and personal trainer, I helped many women turn around a bad knee with the gentlest of squatting routines, beginning with a chair squat with perfect form. Here’s to persistence. You inspired me to get on my boots and snow pants and brave the wind on my hill.