That’s what You Get for Exercising

Emergency Sling Demonstration (AMM 721) National Museum of Health and Medicine

I was on a Zoom call on Thursday when someone noticed that I was wearing a sling. I explained that I had bicep surgery and she said something along the lines of “that’s what you get for exercising.” I politely (but firmly responded) that I had overdone it at some point which is probably how I got injured, but that I would take exercising regularly over sitting on the couch any day as a strategy for healthy living.

It amazes me the “excuses” people come up with for not taking better care of themselves. Can you imagine someone having accidentally burned the dinner they were preparing at home and then declaring, “that is why I always get fast food?” (Actually, I can.) Ruining a meal is bound to happen once in a while; we either misread a recipe or get distracted and forget that something is on the stove top or in the oven, etc. Most of us just chalk it up to a learning experience and figure out what to make instead. The alternative–eating out all the time (even pre-Covid-19)–is simply not healthy or sustainable.

The same is true with exercising. It is true that those who workout/run/bike do get the occasional injury, and that many of us more susceptible as we age. Even so, the alternative of becoming sedentary is not an acceptable option. Sports injuries are usually repairable. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other maladies associated with a sedentary lifestyle are much more difficult to correct. As we live longer, it is all the more important to not only have quantity of life, but quality of life as well.

A large part of my “business” as a personal trainer is working with older adults. These are often those who are most afraid of injury, and rightly so. My clients understand, however, that being active (cardio, resistance, and mobility training) is a recipe for more energy and greater independence. Being able to keep up with grandchildren, hiking the Galapagos Islands, and staying in their own homes are “what they get for exercising.”

Looking at my should in a sling, one could correctly state: “that’s what you get for exercising,” but that misses the point. The fact that I am 57 and am able to run, bike, hike, and pretty much engage in whatever physical activities I desire (once I am recovered from my surgery) is also “what I get for exercising.” I’ll take my calculated risks knowing that in the long run the payoff is worth it.

Claim your self-care

Hourglass

When my mother passed away, one of the best pieces of advice I got was “take care of yourself; this will be harder than you think.” Best. Advice. Ever. I have subsequently shared it with so many during difficult times.

This is why I find it puzzling when clients and others make excuses for not coming to work out because of everything going on in their lives. “So-and-so is ill.” “I’ve got big projects at work.” “I’ve got too many obligations with my kids/friends, spouse….”

You may recall my second blog post where I spoke about one of the most important parts of my philosophy; remember that little speech that they make before your flight takes off?

Put your air mask on first and THEN assist those around you. In other words, unless you take care of yourself, you cannot possibly be of help to others. Somehow, we get this on an airplane, but in “real life” we find a million excuses.

During difficult times in my life (divorce, job loss, illness) I made sure to always prioritize taking care of myself–not just going to the gym, but also eating right, getting rest and treating myself to the occasional massage or other treat. Why? Because when I do these things it energizes me. If I don’t, a day goes by, two, three…a week, two…. I let things slide. I don’t exercise or eat right. Next thing I know, I’m feeling fatigued, wiped out, cranky and certainly less-than-helpful.

When the going gets tough, we need to claim our self-care. It is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Those around us–especially those that depend on us–must understand that when our compassion “gas tank” get empty, we need to make sure to refill it.

It sounds somewhat oxymoronic, but when things seem the most harried and pressured is exactly when we need to take care of ourselves. As my friend told me, it will be harder than we think…but the alternative will ultimately be even worse.