The past year has been….challenging.
I can’t complain about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our lives. As I’ve said, we are safe in our home, getting along with each other and our cats and even enjoying the solitude on occasion.
But my health has suffered, not as much as if I’d contracted the disease, but age and arthritis had been slowly eroding my mobility and my general health. And it’s my fault. Before my self-isolation started in March 2020, I’d been quite active, going to the gym 3 times a week when I didn’t have temp assignments, walking a lot and just living my life out in the community. But that came to a screeching halt when COVID came to town.
Of course no one suspected that we’d be doing this for so long. I started sitting around the house, imagining that I’d be back at the gym in a matter of weeks. Which stretched into months, then a year. And my arthritic hip got worse, atrophying as I deprived it of exercise. I tried walking around the neighbourhood but it just wasn’t enough. Plus it hurt like hell. Pain is quite the disincentive, I’ve found. People who worry about the pain of a shot may avoid going to the dentist for years. So knowing that my hip was going to ache like crazy (even if I loaded up on pain meds before heading out) meant I was disinclined to put myself through it. I started walking shorter routes, skipping several days in a row, then giving up in the rains of autumn. When my doctor told me I qualified for a hip replacement I just gave up altogether, figuring I’d get back in shape when the hip was fixed and exercise was pain-free.
We probably know someone whose life was completely changed by an accident or a chronic disease. Someone who enjoyed getting out and about suddenly losing the ability and the desire to leave their home. I was worried that I could be like that, turning into an old woman, restricting myself to the life of the invalid. That my health would disintegrate while we waited for the vaccine, and freedom. It was a sobering thought.
I saw the hip surgeon for a consultation on November 5, and he said the magic words to stir me into making the first change. He told me that it was up to me, and no pressure, but if I felt like it I could lose some weight. It would make the operation easier for the doctors and recovery easier for me. I needed no other inspiration. I went straight home and weighed myself, preparatory to starting a weight-loss regime.
Yikes! I thought I had put on some pounds but I had never been so heavy. I immediately downloaded an app and started counting calories. I knew I had at least 6 months before the operation and hoped to lose about 40 lbs to get down to a more reasonable size. Just as an aside, I knew I was fat. It didn’t bother me, I think a Nana should be cuddly, I don’t care much about fashion, and I knew that losing weight would not bring me youth and beauty. Seemed like a lot of bother for not a lot of pay off. But the impending operation gave me a reason to do it.
The weight started coming off slowly (as of yesterday, 30 lbs) and I actually enjoy weighing everything and logging it on the app. I stayed true to my “food budget” except for two cheat days — Christmas Eve and New Years Eve — when I indulged. So the resulting weight loss was rewarding.
I realized that I must do something about getting some exercise or my muscle tone would enter Jabba the Hutt territory. My daughter had acquired a stationary bicycle and was kind enough to let me use it. But she works from home in the same room as the bike, so I had to Tetris in my workout when she didn’t need to be on a Zoom call. And she is very busy. (We are still avoiding spending any time together indoors until we’re all vaccinated.)
I popped onto the Interwebs and discovered a YouTube channel perfect for my needs. It’s a certified trainer — and her 79-year-old mother — demonstrating simple exercises I can do in my limited space. If anyone had hinted a few months ago that I’d be looking forward every day to doing 50 minutes of exercise I would have questioned their sanity. Even when I was going to the gym it was something I made myself do. But these exercises are divided into short modules — warm up, cardio, strength training, cool down, etc.. I just combine them to fit my needs and I know that if I feel like a change I can just swap out one or more of the modules. It still causes hip pain, but somehow having a voice telling me what to do is distracting enough that I just work through it, ignoring the twinges.
I know the phrase “it changed my life” tends to be overused. After all, every decision changes our lives in some way. But I’m very happy to have started these two projects. It’s hard to find satisfying activities during the pandemic that give us measurable results, so often we feel like we’re going backwards. I’m glad I have tangible outcomes I can celebrate.