Sunday, June 9, 2013

Getting in Shape to Get in Shape

Today is Sunday, June 9, 2013. 

I'm so out of shape that I'm going to need an exercise program to get in shape to start an exercise program...

This post on Facebook made me laugh, because it's true.  Those of us who have allowed ourselves to get out of shape have to get to a certain point before we can do enough exercise to benefit from it.  

When I move to South Dakota, I had just had pulmonary embolisms, one in each lung.  I could barely walk around in my mom's house, and when I went out for a walk, I could do only half a block before I had to turn around and go home, and that was with a walker for support.  I was always breathing very heavily after even that small bit of exercise. 

These days I'm doing much better walking, but I still don't walk miles and miles.  Rather than getting out of breath, my back, hips, knees and ankles hurt.  Walking is an especially good exercise for people without a lot of money, because other than a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes, you don't have to have any special clothing for it.  You just have to remember to dress for the weather, whatever it is that day.  For some people, walking is the exercise of choice for people who want to "get in shape" for even more challenging exercise, but for me it's been an activity that has been out of range for me for a long time.  Walking is not my "starting" exercise, it's my goal.

I used to do a lot of walking, because I didn't drive at all.  Not only did I not have a car, I didn't even have a driver's license until I was 50 years old.  When I was young, I walked miles and miles.  I remember deciding to walk home from work one evening when I was teaching English conversation in Tokyo, Japan.  That country is famously so safe at night that you can walk anywhere without being molested.  I remember that I had on high heels, and that I was listening to my SONY Walkman, walking in time to the dance club music that was so popular in the early 1980s.  My feet hurt a bit by the time I got home, but I wasn't limping or anything.  Still, I know I did a number on my back and the balls of my feet.  Only a few years later, I developed an incredibly painful ganglion cyst on the balls of my feet. Podiatry is not a recognized medical field in Japan, but I found a doctor who was married to an American lady, and who had studied in the United States.  He made me a pair of leather insoles, and the pain went away like magic, mainly because the insoles helped redistribute my weight on the bottom of my feet.  That was also when I started wearing low heels.   Although the ganglion cyst eventually went away, my joints took a beating with all the walking that I did, and my joints started to deteriorate pretty fast once I came back to the United States and promptly gained a great deal of weight.  When I came back to the U.S. I was maybe 120 pounds, tops.  At my heaviest I grew to over 250 pounds.  

In 2005, a study found that for each pound of body weight you lose, that's four pounds less pressure on your knees.  Since I have lost around 20 pounds, that's 80 pounds less pressure on my knees!  I feel better already, seriously, but I'd like to be able to walk farther without pain and to stand up and sit down gracefully, instead of struggling up and sitting down slowly. 

One thing that has helped me is water exercise, but not just any water exercise.  First of all, my body cannot stand chlorine.  No matter how well I shower and scrub with soap, there are always patches of chlorine burn somewhere on my body if I swim in a chlorinated pool more than once a week.  I have finally found a saline pool where they give classes, and not just any classes, but ones for "seniors" (over 50) who need low-impact and low-intensity exercise.  The instructor has us use these dense foam dumbbells that are weightless outside of the water, but work just like weights when submerged.  The weight-bearing exercises have been so good for my arms, especially.  The water exercise has not only strengthened my muscles, but my lungs, as well.  

In May there was a trial "high-ntensity but not high-impact" class.  Only a few joined, and the others wanted to quit over the summer and resume in the fall.  The class is challenging for me, but I feel it will strengthen me so that I can lose some more weight, and possibly feel like doing even more exercise.  For the summer, I will just try to be as regular as I can about the water exercise class, and I will hopefully be "in shape" enough that it will be a bit less challenging when it resumes after Labor Day.  :-)

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