My health has settled down a bit lately – still in remission from kidney disease, manageable medications with minimal side effects, still working on clearing my lungs of the last of the blood clots that are holding on for dear life. Most days, life is good and I almost forget that I have a chronic illness that will never be cured. But there is this one reminder that, by stark contrast, shows me daily how my fitness has suffered in light of these struggles. I can’t run a mile anymore, let alone thirteen of them. Hell, it’s hard to walk briskly for long periods of time right now. It is frustrating to look back on where I was – running Ragnars and half marathons and averaging twenty miles a week – and compare it with where I am now.
I know everything is relative. I do. I acknowledge every day that I get to live is a day I may not have had at one point and I’m happy. But that’s on a very basic level rooted in survival. I’m talking about the stuff of living.
How did I get here? On a viscous cycle of cause and effect. I survived the pulmonary embolism because I was a runner and had excellent lung and cardiac capacity. But once I couldn’t run, I lost that all very quickly. Now that I’m in remission, I’m carrying around extra weight – both from the water retention associated with kidneys that don’t work all that perfectly and the lack of running I’ve been capable of for the past year. Because I haven’t been able to run, my cardio and lung capacity has dwindled to where I can barely walk a quarter mile quickly before I’m sucking wind and my chest and lungs hurt from the blood clots.
Not going to lie, this cycle has had me frustrated and down the past few months. Which does not help motivate me to change anything about it.
This week I decided it was time to stop living in the past and lamenting all that I’ve lost in the fitness aspect of my life. Sure I have to start from the beginning as if none of the hard work I put in to get where I was at the peak of my game ever happened, but that’s not the end of the world. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. There are different hurdles this time around. I have two kids who are active with extra curricular activities, my job is insane, I’m writing like never before and I’m older (and have a kidney disease) with dwindling energy and endurance. I could wallow at how hard all that makes it to work out on a consistent basis or I can get creative.
Today showed me the possibilities of the creative path with several baby steps toward new habits. I still practice yoga twice a week – most weeks – and I’ve committed to challenging myself more to get out of my comfort zone. I am still sore from my practice two days ago so that has proven a positive step. At work, where I used to work out religiously for an hour in the afternoons, I barely have time for a lunch break that doesn’t involve grabbing food and snarfing it down at my desk while I multitask sometimes multiple meetings. Today my counterpart and I ended up having a meeting on the treadmills. It wasn’t planned that way, but we decided to go for a quick break and ended up brainstorming issues while we walked. In the end, it was a meeting rather than a break and I still got to be active. She pushed me to staying on the treadmill for twenty minutes – her minimum. From now on, I’ll suggest a treadmill meeting any time possible. After work, Baby Sister had her tennis lesson where, instead of sitting on the grass with her BFF’s mom chatting for an hour, we both brought our rackets and played tennis in an adjoining court. Both of us used to play but hadn’t held a racket for years – almost twenty for me. We sucked but by the end of the hour we were successfully returning. She played competitively, me recreationally. She got her skills back quickly – including a serve. Mine will take some time but my body is remembering how it feels to play and how fun it was.
I felt energized and fulfilled at the end of the day. It hadn’t taken any effort to increase my activity level almost double (as measured by my fitness tracker in the form of daily steps). The momentum of taking small steps toward a goal, however lofty, should not be taken for granted.