Exercising was an integral part of my weight loss, but it's even more important in my current weight-maintenance phase. So you can imagine how I felt when I learned I might have to stay away from the gym. I've been dealing with an exercise-related injury since early May. It's been stressful and frustrating, and I've struggled with how to stay in shape.
Growing up, I played soccer, tennis, basketball, and track, but I never got injured. Basically, my body was invincible. I stopped playing team sports when I entered college, so I started running to relieve stress from my rigorous academic schedule. Running became a form of exercise that I could count on, and for the next decade, I ran two to four times every week. Most of my runs were 3 to 4 miles and I never ran more than 5 or 6 miles at a time.
When I rang in the New Year last January, I decided to set a few health goals for myself for the upcoming year—like running a half-marathon. I found a training program online, started following it, and ran my little heart out. I did a few short runs during the week and a long run on the weekend. I was running between 20–25 miles per week, which was much more than my usual weekly mileage, so it was just a matter of time before I felt pain in my left hip. But I was more than halfway through my training program and the half-marathon was just a few weeks away, so what did I do? I took a short break, but then kept running. Because I hadn't dealt with injuries in the past, I figured my body would eventually adapt to the strain that continuous exercise caused it. Plus, I was so close to my goal, I just had to do it!
In May, I ran through 13.1 miles of pain and completed my first (and last) half-marathon in two hours. I pushed myself hard, which ultimately caused further damage to my hip. Months later, I still ask myself, Was it worth it? Absolutely! Mission accomplished! But I learned a very valuable lesson: My body isn't invincible anymore.
After the race, the pain in my hip couldn't be ignored, and I knew it was finally time to take a step back and rest. I attended physical therapy twice a week to help loosen my IT Band and strengthen my hip. It's getting stronger, but I still have a lot of work to do before I can run again.
Running was my go-to form of exercise for more than a decade and, once I committed myself to a healthy diet, it helped me reach—and maintain—my Feel Great Weight. I feared that without it, the weight would start to creep back on, and soon I'd be back in my fat jeans. So I started looking for other ways to incorporate exercise into my weekly routine, like biking, Pilates, yoga, and various exercise classes offered at my gym. I particularly like strength training classes—Body Pump is my favorite—because they challenge me but don't strain my hip.
After two months of changing up my workouts, I was surprised to discover that my physical fitness did not wane much. Instead, I became much stronger than I expected—and I'm definitely looking more toned. Running may have been my go-to exercise, but experimenting with new forms has made me more toned and lean. And hopefully, when I am able to start running again, this newly developed strength will help my speed and endurance.
While I might not be able to run a marathon in my lifetime, I'm happy knowing that I can still play tennis with my husband, ski with my friends, and join a pick-up soccer game. The half-marathon that I ran last spring will probably will be my last long-distance race, but I've learned that I need to listen to my body and take care of myself. In the end, pain-free exercise is well worth it to me.
What is your go-to form of exercise?