I’m stuck at the intersection and crossroads of a lot of things when it comes to my health.
I fight with my body. Right now I’m not entirely disabled, but I’m not actually able-bodied either; I’ve a herniated disc in my C5-C6 that’s causing lots of muscle tension and general pain, and while I’m currently working with a pain management clinic to try to find a solution, it severely limits the options I have when working out, especially with weight training and resistance exercise. I’m also asthmatic, which limits my cardio options: I can run at slow and medium paces for a good distance, but I can’t really sprint. I have arthritis in my toes/feet and in my spine, which means I have to be very cautious with high-impact exercise (anything from running to high-intensity repetitive cardio like jumping jacks). I have recurring tendonitis flares all over my body as a result of a generally shit immune system and weak joints, so I often get sidelined for a week or four on NSAIDs. I have a chronic vitamin deficiency – my body can’t/doesn’t absorb and retain certain vitamins, meaning I have to take up to 17000% of the recommended daily value just to function properly – which can leave me feeling exhausted, listless, drained and depressed. I have recurring insomnia that just strikes at random times and ensures I never sleep more than 2-3 hours without a wakeup call. I’ve a bum ankle, a bad back, a shit shoulder. I’m generally a mess. I have to be careful.
I fight with consistency. I work a full-time job and go to grad school part-time on top of it; I’ve a lot of other commitments and hobbies, and no partner to lean on. I’m constantly exhausted and in pain (see first paragraph), and generally lazy on top of that. I often struggle to get a training program going that will be consistent enough to actually help me.
I fight with direction. I do a lot of research on health, fitness, workout efficiency — and then I find that there are a lot of things I’m not able-bodied enough to do. HIIT is the most efficient way to blast fat and calories? Well, that’s cool, except that I can’t sprint without triggering an asthma attack. Lifting heavy is the most efficient way to build muscle and thus keep fat off for good? Cool, except that I can’t lift heavy without busting up my own arthritis, let alone that herniated disc. Much of the time, I’m simply trying to “go to the gym” – it’s hard to come up with a structured plan when so many things have to be taken off the table.
What have I done in the past?
My focus for the past few years was as a runner: I’m part of a relay team which has completed the Akron Marathon relay three years running. I’ve also done one half marathon (2:10:56 finishing time) and a couple 5Ks (28:10 being my PR). I consider myself a middling-decent runner: I’m not fast, but I’m not slow either. However, my asthma and arthritis have always interfered in my training, and with all of my recent injuries and illnesses, I’ve temporarily retired.
I’ve done weight machine circuits; I’ve done dumbbells and barbells and freeweight workouts. I’ve worked in the past with The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROL4W). I’ve followed BodyRock. I’ve practiced yoga on and off for years.
For the past few months, I’ve been focusing on swimming. (I was a state-level distance swimmer back in high school, so while I’m nowhere near that level of fitness, I still remember much of the mechanics and form and would say I’m actually a fairly good swimmer for my age and fitness level.) I’ve joined a gym with a pool and am concentrating on 30-60 minute workouts from swimplan.com for most of my cardio.
What am I doing now?
My focus right now is on developing a consistent workout plan I can stick to long enough to see results without further injury or pain.
- Schedule: I’m focusing on working out every other day at the moment. It’s simple enough to stick to, and the rest day in-between every workout should help me listen to my body and my injuries.
- Theme: I’m going into my training pretending that I’m training for a triathlon. Right now I’m nowhere near the physical health needed to complete a triathlon, but I’m designing workouts with that in mind, for variety and fun: swimming, running, and biking, with weight training and yoga sprinkled into the mix.
- Cycle: Right now I’m trying to create a good four-workout plan I can cycle through on my every-other-day schedule, to cover all the bases without straining myself. My general plan is:
- W1: long swim, 45-60 min, focus on endurance
- W2: warmup, dumbbell weights (upper body), bike 20-30 min
- W3: warmup, weights (legs), swim 30-40 min
- W4: warmup, weights (abs, bodyweight, balance), run 20-30 min
Eventually I want to extend this cycle to include one day of heavy weight work with no cardio and one day of yoga, but I need to establish the schedule first, get to a good maintenance fitness point, and maybe get some answers about my neck/back/shoulders.
- Goal: I don’t need to “lose weight” or “get skinny” — what I want is to build muscle and reduce fat while avoiding injury and pain. I understand that it’s difficult to simultaneously build muscle and lose fat, especially without severe diet control, so my overall goal is to get healthier and look a little bit better without hurting myself.