I feel good, like better than I’ve felt in a long time. This past week, I worked out four out of five days, and I’m not exhausted. This is huge. Let me explain.
I used to be an athlete. I practiced karate pretty seriously for about ten years. I also did a ton of physical activity in my leisure time. Basically, I was super-fit, or at least, I thought I was. One fall about 12 years ago, I got sick, and, at first, I thought it was no big deal. I did what I usually did, I ignored it, and kept going about my usual schedule, but then I didn’t get better. So, I stopped and rested, and then, when I felt better, I went back to my usual schedule, but then I got sick again. That pattern continued for the next several years. I couldn’t challenge myself, even the slightest bit, without getting sick. I had to quit all of my activities to remain well enough to keep going to my job.
So, a lot of bad stuff happened after that–psychologically, emotionally, and physically. I don’t want to get into all of the details, but basically, life sucked. No matter how many times I redoubled my efforts to finally win my health back, I failed. It was as if my body had turned into a bouquet of cut flowers. Every time I messed with it, it fell apart a little bit more. I lifted heavy weights and barely gained any muscle. I took up running and only ever made myself tired. I closely monitored everything I ate for a year. I literally weighed everything on a food scale and counted my nuts to make sure that I got optimal macros every single day. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on supplements.
And, yes, I went to doctors and all of that. It would take too long to get into the whole story. Just trust me when I say that I did all of the things that someone in my situation would reasonably do, plus some extras because I never stop at “reasonable.”
Anyway, things probably started getting better about 5 or 6 years ago, but I wasn’t back to my old self. I was able to go to a dance class about once a week and the gym once or twice a week. I had to keep my diet absolutely stellar and make sure I never pushed myself too hard.
Shortly after I moved to Japan, things took a turn for the worse. Again, I won’t go into detail, but I was in bad shape. I had to stop all activity and go into full rest mode. For the first time in my life, I went months without doing a workout of any kind. It took me about two years to start my recovery from that, which was about two years prior to today. I started with some gentle daily yoga, and I tried to stop being so harsh with myself. I made a real effort to eradicate negative self-talk and finally accepted that my body wasn’t going to be forced into anything.
I have an approach, and little by little, that approach has led me to lifestyle changes that do actually improve my health. I won’t go into detail because what works for me might not work for you. One of the big lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that most things aren’t under our control. Our culture likes to think it’s possible for a person to virtue herself out of illness. We can’t, and illness shaming doesn’t make anyone better.
Anyway, I believed the game was over. There was nothing I could do, and it was up to me to figure out how to live with that. A year ago, I started taking a beginner ballet class. The class I take is two hours long, and when I first started, I’d leave exhausted. I’d walk slowly back to the train and slump in the seat. All the next day, I’d barely leave my bed. I didn’t start the class to get fit. I was fighting to keep one small thing that I love. During those early tough classes, when I’d ask myself why I was there, I’d remind myself that it was my gift to myself. I didn’t have to be great at it, I just had to enjoy it, and so I did.
This week, I worked out on Monday and Tuesday. I took my ballet class on Thursday (after 11 straight weeks of consistent attendance–I missed one week because the class was canceled). In that class, I worked harder, performed better, and felt better than I ever have in a ballet class. My muscles were crazy sore afterward, but it was just muscle-pain, not that bone-deep exhaustion that tells me I’m about to be laid out for the next 24 hours. Today (Friday), I worked on my writing, did some housework, and then went for a run (I started running again about a month ago), and I feel fine enough to write this entry.
On a semi-related note, about two weeks ago, I started listening to a podcast called The Whole Dancer, and while she doesn’t say anything earth-shattering, her approach is one that speaks to me. It’s just nice to have that friendly reassurance.
Edited to add: Just because my own health is better, I’m not running around endangering the health of others. The dance school has strict protocols in place to prevent the spread of viruses. I wear a mask when I run and keep my distance from others (I always have. I like my space when I’m running). Not only am I surprised to see myself running consistently, I never imagined myself running in 50F degree weather while wearing a mask.