Krissie wanted me to come back and talk about moving. I’ve been thinking a lot about it anyway. Moving. It’s easy to do when you’re healthy, when you’re young, when you’re fit and slim and all those things.
But what if—like many of us here—you aren’t?
So this happened: remember that post when I talked about crying after Zumba class? That was the first Big Moment. Then we went to England for CR’s mum’s funeral. In January. It was soggy and wet and cold and my bones ached the entire time. I had what I’ve now come to think of as an “episode” like some Victorian novelist—my whole body aflame with arthritic pain, but especially my knees. I had to go to bed for two days when we got home and burrow into the covers.
And moment #3—I discovered I have given myself an allergy to NSAIDS. When I stopped taking them, I realized how much my knees hurt.
Like, all the time. I gave up Zumba and limited gardening and took any downhill hiking off the menu and it was still not enough. A day with my granddaughter could leave me in agony. If I did two long walks in a row, I’d pay the price.
One thing and another and another, and I finally called the surgeon and asked if we could talk about options. By which I meant I was ready to listen to him talk to me about replacements. He did the x-rays, sat down with me and said, “You lasted a lot longer than I thought you would.”
Even I could see that the bones are resting right on top of each other, bristling with spurs and things, all the stuff that makes knees hurt. So I’m doing it. Both knees, one at a time, August and January, so you can send love and healing if you wouldn’t mind.
In the meantime, I need to stay strong and healthy. I get very cranky when I don’t get enough exercise, but how do you do that with all those limitations? That’s almost exactly what Krissie was asking the other day, and it’s an important question. How do we move when it hurts or we’re old or fat or whatever? What can we do to keep ourselves going?
We start with a goal, as with anything else. I have two goals: #1-to keep the muscles in my legs and especially around my knees as strong and healthy as possible; and #2- to avoid gaining any weight. If I can lose a little, that’s fine, but not adding is the most important thing.
So how do I do that? My usual plan is to walk a lot, but there are a couple of issues with that right now. My dog is 12 and he suddenly can’t walk the full hour every morning. I have to alternate, one day an hour, the next 30 minutes, the next just 15. Often, I’ll let him rest completely the next day. He loves to go, but he gets exhausted.
Giving this consideration to my dog allowed me to wonder if I could offer it to my body as well. I have a longing for exercise, and it’s good for me, but what if I changed the way I think about exercise? For years, I’ve pushed hard—Zumba and Nia and hard, long hikes, and hundred mile treks and intense weight-lifting three times a week and all those other things.
But lately, it’s just not that much fun. Remember when I cried after Zumba? I haven’t gone back since. I mean, even I know that’s a sign I need to stop. I tried some yoga classes, but although I found a teacher who is in his sixties and not that flexible, it’s actually hard for me to move in and out of a sun salutation fast enough to keep up with the class. I’ve come to feel nervous about trusting the stability of my right knee, especially, too, so I took that off the menu, too.
So what’s left? Garden season this year has been a test of respecting my limits. I can putter as much as I like, but if I’m going to do any serious gardening, like digging or planting or weeding, it has to be strictly limited to once a week. Strictly. And even so, I’ll know I did it.
I’m still walking. Not 10,000 steps every day. Some weeks, it’s much less because I’ve done something else like the garden or had the girl over to chase around. That’s also an acceptance point—that it’s okay to let go of a goal that worked before but isn’t working now.
The thing I’ve added is tai chi and qi gong every Saturday. It’s an excellent practice, and reminds me that I don’t have to punish my body to exercise and move it. It seems so slow and easy, but every Sunday, I am aware of all the muscles I moved.
The thing about tai chi is that it is particularly great for arthritis sufferers, especially the warm-up, which moves every joint in the body, precisely because those slow movements are designed to open the frozen places and get chi moving through them. Moving, unfreezing. I highly recommend it if you have a local studio. In my class, there are people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.
The final thing I’m doing is swimming. Nothing huge, nothing demanding. I just go and swim for a half hour, easy laps, different strokes, until I feel like getting out.
All those things meet my goals without punishing my body for not being able to keep up. I hope they’ll keep me healthy and strong through the surgeries and recoveries. Speaking frankly, I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it, but I trust the results will be worth it. In a year or so, maybe I’ll be back to long hikes, or least some ordinary ones. Maybe I’ll be able to walk and garden on the same day, and hey—I’d love to dance again someday. We’ll see.
Do you have to work around a limitation in your moving? If you could set an easy goal for working around it, what might that be? What have you been doing in terms of moving your body?