Exercising was 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.

September 29, 2009

By Tina Haupert
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.

Rehydrating with my husband after my first—and last—half-marathon.

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?