Level-Up: Part 23
Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.
This week brought physical activity back to the front of my mind. On Tuesday I built a flat pack bookcase and it frustrated me that it took my body and wonky balance two days to recover from it. I’ve managed to avoid what I call the shaken snowglobe feeling for a little while. It usually comes on when I’ve exerted my body particularly hard and my balance is so intensely off that it feels as though someone’s grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me, whatever I try to do. Even lying in bed it felt like I was being shaken.
I’ve concentrated on trying to teach myself how to walk again over activities involving extra physical strength, anything that puts strain on my neck, and having my head in awkward positions. Assembling a large piece of furniture seemed to require all three. The second bookcase, which is on back-order, will either need to be assembled with less abandon or grudgingly passed over to someone else to put together.
Being able to add a small amount of movement into my day and gradually improve upon the length of time I can walk with my walking stick but without needing anyone to grab on to has been invaluable. I’ve lost all of the three stone I put on during the period where I could hardly move at all. That’s without any change in diet, just by simply being able to move my body a touch more than I could for three years or so. When you go from someone who walked everywhere because they didn’t drive (I was learning at the time) and someone who went to the gym at least three times per week, it doesn’t take long for your body to change when you can only make it around your house by grabbing the walls in case you fall over.
I was never skinny. I never once wanted to be. I inherited my dad’s wide frame and liked it. I always strived for fitness and strength over size, and at the time this illness hit I was attending pilates once a week, going to the gym and doing a lot of fairly heavy weight work. I didn’t tell many people about it at the time, but I’d spent the couple of months before I became ill thinking about moving into more serious weight lifting. If I was good enough, maybe even do it competitively.
To say that I was devastated when it took no more than six weeks for the muscles in my arms to turn completely soft would be a massive understatement. I remember crying my eyes out at a video of Claudio Castagnoli (a professional wrestler now known as Cesaro) working out in the gym. It hurt so much that I had no prospect of getting back there. It’s hard to explain how much I miss hard exercise. It didn’t just make me feel in control of how my body looked, it was also my stress reliever. It felt incredible to put the cross-trainer up to its toughest setting and not stop for half an hour. Or to squish all my frustrations between a heavy chest fly. All I could do was sit back while all my hard work turned slack and mushy.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I can do to bring some tone and strength back to my upper body, and I’m hoping a personal trainer will be able to give me a hand. I may not be able to get back to where I was for a long time, but I can make a start. I actually weigh less now than I did at the point where I was first ill, but my body still looks and feels very different because it lacks upper body muscle. As we all know, muscle weighs more than fat. Pilates and yoga are the absolute best thing for toning muscle and as they’re so relaxing they’d kill two birds with one stone. But assembling the furniture this week has shown me that I’m not ready for having my head upside down and my neck at acute angles. Swimming brings up the same issue, and as heat makes me extra dizzy, I’m definitely not ready to be back in a gym environment alone.
My plan, once I’ve been given some guidance by a professional, is to introduce some gentle, repetitive, weighted movements to my day. I already have some hand weights. How much difference it’ll make is debatable and I’m trying not to set my expectations too high, because what I can manage definitely won’t take my arms back to where they were four years ago. How my body looks and feels has had to take something of a backseat while I’ve been coming to terms with living with the practical and emotional side of disability. But I have every intention of taking back everything my illness has stolen away. It’s just that some things may need more time, adjustments and alternatives than others. After all, you can’t really argue with falling over. Well, you can, but as I regularly find out, pointless arguments are always unwise.
I think the original video that made me cry has been taken down, but here’s another for the sake of being gratuitous.