A few years ago at a particularly stressful point of my life, I had given up exercising altogether. I was in crisis mode. Morning exercise was impossible because I had to get to school early to get my workload done. The day was long and by the time I got home, I needed to make dinner and be present for my family. I worked through vacations and weekends as well to meet the requirements of this particular job. My health was my last concern. Don’t even get me started on how many packages of Donettes from the 7-Eleven I ate a week just to get through the days.
One day during this time of no exercise, I sat in a hard chair to watch my students’ presentations at the front of the class. When they finished, I tried to stand only to find that I had no feeling in my legs. In the twenty minutes of sitting, my circulation had totally failed.
I can’t move, I told my students. So if there is an emergency or something, please file out of the room in an orderly fashion without me.
Don’t worry. We’ll carry you, they said.
Finally I manually lifted my legs and got enough feeling in my muscles to move them. It was a weird little moment. A wake-up call.
I was always active before. I’ve always loved dancing, swimming, running, going to the gym, and taking long walks. After the paralyzed legs incident, I visited a friend in Los Angeles who suggested yoga. And also that I snap out of it, work is not that important. She’s a really really good friend.
One of the things I treasure most about my current job is the way I’m encouraged to take care of myself. I’m back to working out most mornings a week, including a membership at Got Muscle, an old-school muscle gym run by people who truly care about their clients. I love my exercise mornings.
My advice to myself: Remember the way it felt to be stuck in a chair. Remember how it felt to know that if a student needed me in that moment, I would have been unable to respond. If I am not healthy and strong and improving, then I am unreliable to myself and everybody else who depends upon me.
Set a workout schedule and keep it. Commit to getting stronger, more flexible, and fitter than ever in 2016.
What did you love to play or do as a kid? Were you into soccer, dancing, karate? Would it be possible to revisit those activities in a class or adult league? What are your best memories of physical activity as a young person?
What would a day look like if you took the best possible care of yourself from the moment you woke up until the moment you went to bed? When would you exercise and what would you do?
What limiting beliefs do you hold about yourself and your body? Were you ever told you were bad at sports, uncoordinated, or inflexible? What if you could do a marathon, walk ten miles in a day, or complete a dance class? What could happen if you weren’t too shy to join a gym?
What obstacles keep you from working out, if any? Write them down, then problem-solve for each so that you don’t end up stuck in a chair explaining to a room full of teenagers that you can’t move your stupid legs.