Physical Therapy is Hard

10325771_10152178862025945_3803660742779114138_n[1]If you’ve ever done physical therapy, this won’t come as a surprise to you.

I’ve been in PT for about four weeks now trying to address the issues with my knees.  It’s going well, but it’s painful.  I’m working to strengthen my hips, legs and knees in order to help my knees maintain their alignment and also alleviate the pain associated with the loss of cushioning and cartilage.

My first active session with my therapist was both embarrassing and torturous.

First, she put me through a series of hip and leg exercises that were expected and not all that different from working out with my trainer.  It felt like a workout, but that was good.  Afterwards, she “stretched me out.”  This is where it gets embarrassing.

Like this, except laying on or your back with a therapist looming over you.

Like this, except laying on your back with a therapist looming over you.

She had me lay diagonally across a therapy table, and positioned my legs so that one foot was braced on her shoulder, and the other was bent as far back as possible under the table.  She leaned into me so that my knee was almost touching my shoulder, and she used her body to stretch my other leg back under the table, stretching my quad and hip flexor.  Outside the context of a PT room, this would have looked like some serious girl on girl action.  I was so embarrassed by the positioning, and we were not alone in the room, I had to stare at the ceiling.  I could not look her in the face while we were in this ridiculous position.

Then, with my leg jacked up to my shoulder, she digs her forearm into the top of my other thigh and says, “Your hips are so tight.  Your quads and hamstrings are strong, but your hips are really tight and weak.”

Gasping through the pain of her shredding my muscle with her tiny arms of steel, I said, “No way!  My hips aren’t weak!  My hips are bangin’!”

Just kidding.  I didn’t say that, and my hips aren’t bangin’.  Well, at least not in that way.  My hips are awesome in a good-Midwestern-stock-breeding-hips sort of way.  I actually had a doctor tell me once that I was “good Midwestern stock.”  I probably should have been offended by that at the time.

Anyway, this freaky, painful stretching escapade lasted for several minutes and then she moved me into the same position with the other leg.  At one point I had to put my arm over my face and turn away because I refused to allow anyone in that room to see how much pain I was in.  I kept chanting to myself quietly, “Don’t cry in public, don’t cry in public.   Only candy-ass, wussie girls cry in public!”  The next morning as I was getting dressed, I noticed multiple bruises all over the tops of both my thighs.

I don't know this guy.  It's a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

I don’t know this guy. It’s a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

This physical torture has continued for four long weeks.  The stretching has gotten better and less painful, although there is one dude also receiving therapy who seems to enjoy watching my stretching sessions with more enthusiasm than I’m comfortable with. I’m pretty certain he’s a pervert and probably getting off on the visual.  I secretly hope the therapist gives him an extra dig with her elbow when she’s manipulating his muscles.

I wish I could say that I’ve noticed a significant difference between the knee shots and therapy, but so far, it’s mostly the same.  Pain, grinding, and more pain.  My therapist admitted to me that some people don’t experience any pain relief from the shots.  That’s disheartening considering that I only need one more shot to complete the course of my treatment.

So yeah, physical therapy is not for sissies.

I can never un-see that!

The other day I was at the gym, minding my own business.  I was on one of the cycles, just finishing my cardio workout. In my peripheral vision I see this man walking toward me, and he stands directly in front of my cycle, which is positioned along a carpeted walkway.

I recognize him.  I saw him a few days ago.  I was lifting weights and noticed that he was looking in my general direction.  I didn’t think he was watching me at the time but maybe I was wrong about that.  He’s tall, in his late forties.  A big guy.  Not handsome, but not unattractive.  Average.

I can tell he’s staring at me and he’s standing three feet away from my bike.  I’m trying to keep my gaze on the display screen.  Pretending I don’t know he’s staring.  It makes me uncomfortable.

He slowly raises his shirt to reveal a hairy, sweaty chest.  He begins to dry himself off with a towel while continuing to stare at me.

What the fuck!?

I look to the left, then to the right.  Am I being punked?  Is this for real?  Who does this?

Then he turns around, lifts his shirt again, and dries his back while looking over his shoulder at me.  His back is hairy and sticky with sweat.  I almost threw up a little in my mouth.  I don’t usually have an issue with hairy chests, but this is not sexy.  This is not okay.  Why is this happening?  I feel as though I have been visually assaulted!

Then, and I swear to God I’m not making this up, he hikes his leg up on a piece of exercise equipment, sticks out his ass, and then looks over his shoulder to stare at me again.  It was like something Will Ferrell would do in an SNL skit.  I was speechless.  I had no words.  I couldn’t even laugh because his behavior was so ridiculous.

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No one jumped out with a camera.  No one started laughing.  Am I being hit on?  Is this how old dudes try and pick up women at the gym?  No wonder so many people prefer to be single these days!

I can never un-see that!  Ever!  It makes me want to scrub my eyeballs with bleach and a wire brush!

I quickly jumped off the bike and headed to the locker room.  When I got home I told Dan about it.  He laughed and laughed.  I said, “I don’t know if I was supposed to be flattered or insulted, but I’m leaning toward insulted.”

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Help me feel better about this people….what’s your worst gym story?

A Conversation with my Vivofit.

I’m forty-five minutes into an hour workout with my trainer, Carrie.

I’m dripping in sweat and about to go into another super-set of exercises.  I casually glance down at my Vivofit.  It’s the fitness band I wear that tracks my activity levels.  If there’s an extended red line across the top of the display screen then that indicates you’ve been inactive for to long and need to step it up.  As I look at the band, the red line is blazing across the display because it doesn’t count anything but a full stride of movement, walking or running.

So I say, “Look at this Carrie!  The red line is mocking me!  It says, move your ass fat girl, you’ve been stationary too long!”

Carrie is quietly laughing at my outrage.

So I look at the Vivofit on my wrist and say, “Fuck you Vivofit!  You don’t count the 100+ lunges I’ve done today, or the eighty squats I did with weights!  You don’t count the rowing machine, or the fact that I bench pressed 45 fucking pounds!  Screw you and your red line of ridicule and judgment!”

Carrie is still laughing.  And then she says, “That could make a good blog post.”

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You’re number one, Vivofit!

Wanda Says…I can do anything for a count of ten!

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is that in my attempt to increase my levels of physical fitness, I walked over 12,000 steps yesterday.  The bad news is that I’m pretty sure my knees and ankles are now plotting to murder me in my sleep.

I’ve been plugging along with my diet and exercise routine with somewhat slow but still fairly decent results.  The first week with my trainer I gained two pounds which she assured me was normal.  Then I lost the two pounds and gained them back when my bestie came into town for the weekend.  Apparently drinking gallons of wine and eating out two meals a day is not exactly healthy or good for my diet.  Whatever.

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Even though I’m not shedding pounds quickly, and I accept the fact that this is my fault and directly related to my weekend activities, I am getting stronger.   I can feel it in my arms and legs.  And I notice the difference in what I can do in my workouts.

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My trainer, Carrie, is amazing.  I actually look forward to working out with her.  Can you believe that?  I look forward to an hour of physical punishment twice a week.  I describe it as punishment because after the workout I feel like I need to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the day.  The other day I came home from the gym and went into my son’s room to play with him.  I laid down on his bed and passed out for over an hour.  I slept in his bed in the middle of the day while he played around me.  That one hour with Carrie is so exhausting, and my whole body has been continuously sore for weeks.  My armpits are even sore.  I actually feel like someone punched me in the armpit, repeatedly.  Who knew that was possible?  But during the workout I don’t feel exhausted.  I just feel strong and curious to see what I can do.  I never watch the clock, either.  When I workout with her I never feel like I have to check and see how much time is left before I can be done.

exercise-would-be-so-much-more-rewarding-if-calories-screamed-in-agony-as-you-burned-them-f568c[1]Prior to our workout, I do a quick warm up on the treadmill in a small, woman’s only section of the gym.  This room has mirrors on every wall, so while I’m on the treadmill I can see my body from every angle.  This has proved to be very motivating for me.  By the time I’m done with that warm up and join Carrie in the larger section of the gym I am mentally prepared for her to put me through my paces.  Seeing my body from every angle while I walk on that treadmill reinforces why I’m there.  I told Carrie about this and then said to her, “I don’t care what you ask me to do as long as you help me get rid of my second ass.  I only need one, and this bitch has been free-loading on my backside for long enough.”

She also pushes me in ways that I would never think to push myself.  I’ve learned to not even look at the amount of weight she hands me.  My first workout I thought she was crazy when she handed me ten pound dumbbells.  Now, I just trust that she knows what she’s doing and she wouldn’t give it to me if she thought I couldn’t really do it.  It is hard.  I have to fight through the exercises and I’ve learned what people mean when they talk about the mental aspect of pushing through physical barriers.  I mentally chant to myself during difficult exercises, which is almost every exercise she asks me to do.  I quietly tell myself, over and over, “I can do anything for a count of ten.”  Of course, it’s actually three sets of ten, but in that moment I just need to get through ten.   I focus on that and it helps me to wrap my head around what I am pushing my body to do.

My first week I could only plank for twenty seconds.  My whole body vibrates with the effort necessary to hold the position.  At week four I can do fifty seconds.  I hate that fifty seconds.  Carries says, “Close your eyes, breathe and go to your happy place.”  Instead, I close my eyes and repeatedly think, “I can do anything for fifty seconds.”

And I can.

Wanda Says…Drop and give me twenty!

workout with trainerToday, I had my very first session with a personal trainer.

I was nervous about it.  My stomach was in knots all morning imagining the horrific exercises she would make me do.  I imagined her yelling at me and telling me to get my fat ass on the ground and give her twenty.  Twenty of what, I wasn’t sure, just twenty of something hard, and grueling, and painful.

And of course my insecurities about working out in a gym had me worked up about many different, ridiculous scenarios.  I imagined being the only out of shape, non-muscular woman in the room, among sweaty, adrenaline high gym rats who look down on us lesser mortals for being out of shape and having imperfect bodies.  I realize this is ridiculous.  But that’s how insecurities get the best of us, by mind-fucking you into believe that sort of nonsense.

I arrived a half hour early for my appointment.  I have a thing about being late.  I couldn’t help but notice how busy the gym was at 10am on a Tuesday morning.  Like, so busy, there were almost no parking spaces in the HUGE parking lot.  Doesn’t anyone go to work anymore?   After putting my gym bag in my locker (it only had my purse in it but I brought it anyway because carrying a gym bag might make me look like I belong there.  GI JaneYou know, I was trying to blend in with the natives!) I found a seat in the waiting area where I was told to meet her.  I had only spoken with her once on the phone and although she seemed nice I was still bracing myself for GI Jane to come charging at me in the lobby.  I killed the next twenty minutes by trying to look busy reading emails on my phone.  (I’d already read all my emails, but I was pretending to read them again.  I know, insecurity makes me do stupid shit).

And then, there she was….and she was….pretty normal.  She was nice and friendly and made me feel very comfortable.  I’m guessing she’s in her early 50’s, but I could only surmise that based on the natural lines in her face.  Her body was rock solid and there were no typical tell-tale signs of physical aging outside of her face that I could see that would allow me to say for sure how old she was.  Except when she was writing down my information, she asked for my age and when I told her I was forty, she said, “Oh, you’re just a baby!”  LOL!  If she thinks I’m a baby at forty, she’s got to be at least ten years older than me, right?  Oh, and I want to look that good at fifty!

Anyway, she put me through a fitness assessment and after talking for awhile about my metabolism and my multiple failed diet and workout routines, she determined that weight lifting was what we should focus on.  She felt that was the best way to amp up my metabolism and get everything firing on all cylinders again.  She said I could focus on cardio on my own, but she would work with me specifically on weight training.

So we began to work out, and she warned me that she would challenge me a bit because she wanted to see what I could really do.  And I was like, “Sure, let’s take this girl out for a test drive and see what I can do!”

In times like these, I really need to remember that I’m not as much of a badass as I’d like to think I am, but she had me feeling comfortable and confident and like I could do anything.

And then she handed me ten and twelve pound sets of weights.

WTF????!!!!!!!

woman with weightsWhen I work out at home, I never use more than five pound weights, and after a few reps, I can really feel my muscles working.  She wants me to use ten and twelve pounds?  Is she out of her mind?  Oh, okay.  Here’s where the crazy kicks in.  Here’s where she turns into a sadist and starts screaming, “No pain, no gain!”

Except, she didn’t, and I could do it.  I could and did lift that much weight over various exercises and sets.  Who knew?  Who knew I could successfully lift that much weight with the right guidance and form?  I certainly didn’t!  There was only one exercise she had to modify for me and that was toward the end of our workout.  She wanted me to lunge up on a platform box, but my legs were jelly at that point and crumpled under me on my first attempt.  And I didn’t have time to be insecure about myself while working out among real athletes because she had me so focused on what we were doing, I was barely aware of anyone else in the gym.

It was great.  She was great, and I have to admit, I’m a little bit excited about going back.  I’m excited for the possibilities.  I’m excited for the realization that I am stronger than my fears.  You would think that at the age of forty I would be past that sort of thing.  Past being a victim to the ‘what ifs’ and doubts that complicate something as simple as going to a gym to workout.  But insecurity is an asshole, and I just have to keep reminding myself not to listen it.

Of course, even after my great workout with a great trainer, and after realizing my own potential in this foreign land of exercise machines and athletes, reality decided I need a quick slap to the face.  As I was walking out, a woman stepped into my path to walk in front of me.  And it was impossible not to notice her bouncy butt-cheeks hanging out of her skin tight panty shorts.

(Insert gusty sigh and eye roll here).

Wanda Says…I lost my mind, and joined a gym.

I did it.

Today, I did what I swore for years I would never do.

Today, I bought a gym membership.  And signed a contract.  For one year.  And paid money (or a small piece of my soul) to have several sessions with a personal trainer.

Whhhhhaaaaatttttt??????????

I know.  I must be out of my fucking mind.

This vector is proof that I'm not wrong in my opinion of this.

This vector is proof that I’m not wrong in my opinion of this.

I hate gyms.  I’ve always hated gyms and the culture of organized fitness clubs.  I find the atmosphere in these places to be very intimidating, shallow, competitive and judgey. I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts, but I will say it again….it does not motivate me or make me feel good to work out next to a person wearing panty shorts and a sports bra.  Or a guy who looks like He-Man on steroids and refuses to put on a shirt.

While I can appreciate the hard work it takes to maintain that level of physical fitness, and I can admit to a small amount of envy for my own lack of mental strength and stick-to-it-ness in achieving my own fitness goals, it’s more the flaunting of flesh and show-boating that turns me off.  It’s the fact that the gym is as much of a meat market and pick up joint as any trendy Hollywood club.  It’s the cancerous feeling that screams if you don’t look like this, something is wrong with you and not the culture these attitudes create.  (And for the record, I have several really fit, attractive friends who work out in gyms regularly and they admit this environment is also a turn off for them as well, so I’m not just making this shit up, folks).

Anyway, although I prefer to work out at home, that hasn’t been working out too well for me.  It’s too easy for me to find a thousand excuses to put it off because I have so many other things that need to get done.  I don’t have any real accountability, and I’m sick of feeling like a big, fat cow.  I’ve been holding onto this baby weight for too long and its aging me.  I feel it in the slowness of my steps and the daily fatigue that is not commensurate with my activity levels.

So at my husband’s suggestion, off to the gym we went.  We took both kids and had an appointment to take a tour.  Dan chose an upscale, popular gym in our area that has several amenities he thought would appeal to me.  Amenities that make this gym feel more like a resort than just a fitness club.  There’s a restaurant/café and day spa on the premises in addition to the pools, basketball courts, group exercise rooms, daycare, and equipment areas.  There is also a women’s only workout room, which Dan thought I would really like.

This is NOT allowed.

This is NOT allowed.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the gym.  There were a lot of middle age to older people working out and most of the clientele were dressed in appropriate workout gear.  And it turns out that this gym has rules with regard to how you’re allowed to dress in the public areas of the club.  There was a whole list of ‘gym etiquette’ rules the sales rep gave us to review that had my head spinning and challenging all my preconceptions about what this gym experience would entail.  (Most of you probably already knew many gyms did that, but I’m the ignorant one because I’ve refused to step foot in a fitness club for years).

I began to feel hopeful that maybe this could work.  Maybe I could actually join a gym and not feel like Martha Dump-Truck working out in my baggy t-shirt and sweats.  Maybe there would be real people working out next to me, and not caricatures of Ken and Barbie, and I would feel supported in my efforts to lose weight and be healthy instead of judged and laughed at for being the only person in the room who doesn’t have a clue how to use a spin cycle.

We also met with the personal training director, and he was incredibly attentive and considerate toward my concerns with working out with a trainer.  I admitted that I need someone with experience to help me set up a fitness plan and check in with me every month so I can keep moving in the right direction. I need someone to push me and kick my ass a little. But I adamantly explained that I had no interest in working out with a 25 year old that had never had kids and had no personal experience with how the body changes in middle age after having children.  Again, he totally understood and said he had a few trainers he thought would work really well for me.

I was shocked!  I couldn’t believe that this could be so simple.  That I can have a trainer who is a middle-aged woman with kids, and understands how the body changes after advanced maternal age pregnancy, and I don’t have to work out next to Adam Ab-Crusher is more than I could have hoped for!

Until……I toured the women’s locker room.  Sigh.

I guess it was too much to expect that everything would be perfect.  The locker room was as nice and well-appointed as any locker room at a high end spa.  It was clean, beautifully decorated with a state of the art steam room, sauna, private whirlpool in the room for women only and curtained changing areas to protect your modesty, if you care about that sort of thing.  What I found shocking on this part of the tour was how many women didn’t care about that.  Their modesty, that is.

naked towel ladyTo quote my friend Stacia, who is intimately familiar with gym locker rooms, the atmosphere is very “YWCA circa 1964.”  All the younger women were decently covered with towels or their clothing.  However, most of the older women were strolling around naked from head to toe, with the only towel they had wrapped around their head.  Bryn was with me on the tour and she got quite an eyeful.  To her credit, she kept her composure and didn’t say anything to reveal how embarrassed she was.  It was a lot of National Geographic style boobies and gray pubes on display for everyone to see.  Now, I was raised to appreciate my body and not be ashamed of it, but I was also raised to have a sense of modesty in the presence of others.  These women had no problem being stark naked in front of complete strangers!  While I could never do that, no matter how good I looked, I would still kill for that kind of confidence!

So, the upside to all this is that I don’t have to work out next to someone wearing panty shorts and a sports bra, and I get to have a trainer who will understand my body and how to help me change it.  The downside is that I have to share a locker room with naked grannies who like to rock what they’ve got.

LOL!  Wish me luck!

Wanda Says…Pilates is hard.

fitness at 40I’ve always wanted to try Pilates, but honestly, what little I’ve seen of it really intimidates me.  I’ve never seen curvaceous women or people who need to lose weight doing Pilates.  It’s always super sculpted women with flat and tight everything rocking those moves like it’s no big deal.  It’s always left me with the impression that Pilates is one of those workouts you tackle after you’re in great shape, not when you’re trying to get into shape.

My neighbor and good friend recently suggested I attend a Pilates class with her.  I wanted to go but I was afraid, not fully knowing what to expect, that I would make a complete ass out of myself.  I am one of those curvaceous women you never see doing Pilates.  Plus, even when you use a workout mat, when you have big boobs, laying face down on the floor and smashing the girls into an unforgiving surface is not something to look forward too.  So, just to try it out in the privacy of my own home first, I got a beginners Pilates DVD so I could do a few of the workouts and really see for myself what it was all about.  Let me stress, the workout I got was for beginners.

Holy workout hell!

It doesn’t look hard at first, until you try to balance on your tailbone with your arms and legs fully extended in the air. Or balance on your side and hip and lift your legs and shoulders off the ground using only your stomach muscles. That’s when shit gets real.

The core basics workout was insane.  I realize my core needs work, but I couldn’t get my body to do half of what the instructor was doing.  My muscles just wouldn’t respond to my brain’s command to lift my legs and my upper body off the floor at the same time, and every exercise was a variation of this move.  Additionally, my lower back and tailbone are sensitive to pressure, so there is no way I can properly balance on my tailbone without experiencing pain.  Even now, over an hour after finishing the workout my neck, shoulders and tailbone are still pulsing with discomfort.  I’m sure I was doing it wrong….but you have to have abs of fucking steel to do these moves.  In fact, hold on…I need to get an Advil.

Maybe if I found a class that stressed it was for beginners it would be better, but for now I’m going to go find a heating pad and raid my husband’s medicine cabinet for some Bengay and call it a day.

Pilates=Epic Fail.