Tag Archives: healing

Inconvenient Lessons Are the Best Lessons

Dreaming is a luxury of the able, I sometimes find. Those able to afford it, those able to do it.

Injury and adversity flips my switch from thriving to surviving, and I find all dreams and desires vanish as a matter of necessity. All that matters is this day, this challenge, and overcoming it. After that, maybe then dreams.

This leg injury of the past week has been an interesting life-lesson for me. A Steff-lesson too, in that I’ve learned a bit about myself.

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I don’t think I’ve ever realized before now just how drastic that flip of my switch is. I go from imagining my future to having this rather dogged what-needs-to-happen one-foot-in-front-of-the-other modus operandi on basic survival. I’ve barely even thought about “Life Abroad” this week.

(Psst, you know I started a new blog, “Full Nomad,” for my travels, right? Start here.)

And it has only been nine days for me with the knee/meniscus issue, but it’s like a spotlight on why I had no “dreams” for so long when I was living in Vancouver.

I was just trying to survive, man.

I got out at the right time. Any longer and I think I might’ve crippled myself emotionally. It just wasn’t the right place for me anymore. That may sound dramatic to some, but I really don’t care. I don’t like to think of who I might’ve become had I kept ignoring the signs of what was wrong in my life.

No one should ignore what’s going wrong in their lives, though. That’s the trick of existence. There’s a certain amount we have to abide, because life isn’t a happy-happy sunshine club every day, but there’s a point where ignoring lack of contentment starts to eat at who we are. I was long past that.

Once I got to Victoria, I realized that this wasn’t my “place” either. I do love it here. I love Vancouver too. It’s just that there’s something missing for me. That “something” is likely not anything specific, but instead the excitement of travel and the drinking-in of every culture on the planet, an alternate existence I thought I’d live in my 20s and it never happened.

But this week, I stopped thinking about all that. I just wanted to be here, to enjoy this place. Victoria is gobsmackingly gorgeous as spring blooms, and I want to be a part of it.

Funnily, it’s because I was injured three times in a row last summer and worked so much during it all that I made the decision to stay until my 42nd birthday this September. One final summer in the Queen’s beloved Victoria.

Ironic then that on what we in Vancouver & Victoria have always jokingly considered the start of spring, February 21st, that I should suffer this knee injury.

Oddly, though, it’s healing faster and better than any knee injury I’ve ever had. It’s just inconvenient long enough to teach me — or remind me — about perseverance, restraint, gratitude, and dreaming.

I feel a lot of gratitude today. I’ve been pretty much walking without any support for a couple days. I last really used my crutch on Friday night. If I go for a walk tomorrow, it’ll be with a cane. I’ll be in a knee brace for a few weeks until I’m confident my knee is fully healed, but I’m so optimistic that I can get fully past this before April, leaving me nearly 6 months to get in better condition for Life Abroad.

Today’s dream involves thinking about the travel bike I’ll buy for my trip and where it might just take me once I’m in Europe. I like the idea of spending part of Spring in France, living in the countryside where I have to cycle 3 to 5km into town for a morning croissant and to buy baguette for my dinner with cheese and charcuterie and wine. Nice slow ambling over rolling hills, lavender wafting in an early morning breeze.

Nothing in this world feels as free as cycling down a new road in a new place in the sunshine with a breeze and not a care in the world. Nothing. To do that abroad, in places I’ve always dreamed of seeing, that will be a huge ingredient in the success of my travels.

To make that happen, now another gear must shift — writing for dollahs. To work, Cinderelly. To work.

Riding the Wave: Back at It

It’s been a day filled with plumbing excitement. I returned home last evening to find some other tenant’s mystery filth backed up in my bathroom sink.

18 hours later, it’s as good as new, and was even cleaned by the handyman. A year ago, I’d be waiting for a couple days or more, since, hey, bathroom sinks aren’t as important as kitchen sinks, and they didn’t rate the same service by my slack-ass jerk of a former landlord.

In little things like how my building is maintained, my life has changed from night to day in a year.

Sure, I need little things yet… like, you know, friends. But I know me and I’ll get ’em. And I’ll get ’em when I’m feeling better about myself than I have been before now, and I’ll net better quality people, because that’s what happens when you’re in a better place in both your life and your mind. It’s always about quality for me.

Who I am *right now* is much, much closer to the person I’ve been trying to get back to for quite some time.

My health’s improving on every level. I think know I bottomed out with the move here, but that was after what had been the most difficult year of my life. So, naturally, one has a little nuclear fall-out dealio with that.

But if this is how much everything has improved since July 1, then I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

September 1st is my six-month anniversary of becoming a Victorian in this fine town, and the first four months were rife with a great deal of pain and injuries. I had a whole lot of painkillers for three-plus months there, people. Now I take maybe a pill a week. That’s, you know, improvement — or great restraint! But, no, it’s improvement. I just don’t need it because I’m just “regular sore” now and I’m woman enough to handle it.

I’ve gone from, in the third week of April, barely getting through a 5km bike ride without back twinges to being able to cycle 35km/130 minutes in an evening and just being ass-draggin’ wasted-tired, not crippled.

I’m trying to be active daily, usually walking 5 kilometres or cycling 10 kilometres, or more, a combination of both, every day. I’m using my balance ball chair for watching TV most days (but took the back off, because that’s just counterintuitive!) for an hour or more, I’ve phased in some weightlifting.

Now I’ve discovered I’ve healed my badly injured-and-then-reinjured-in-a-biking-accident shoulder on my own mostly, and I’ve gone from being unable to do a side plank AT ALL in the last three years to being able to do one for more than 30 seconds yesterday.

I’m only now returning to the level I was at in late 2009 in what I am able to do, but I’ve gained weight.

Now I’m past the “painful incapable stage” where I couldn’t DO anything, but I’m in the Oh-Fuck-I-Hurt stiff-ass sore-everywhere phase one gets into after they’ve started firing on all exercise gears. At least I’ve worked up to this stage slowly, so it’s only the first day or two of trying something new where it hurts. Today is residual pain from rediscovering planks and push-ups, but it’s not “something’s wrong” pain or over-inflamed, so I know it’s all good.

Shortly, I expect to actually enjoy working out without being apprehensive about what The Day After will bring, and I see myself being pumped about lifting weights and doing plyometrics.

Diet? I’m conjuring a plan to increase my meat and vegetables, and cut out carbs but I’m not too optimistic there yet, and I think this is the week I get serious. No more chocolate and other treats, no more fucking around with monster portions.

There gets to be a point where you’re working too hard to keep blowing out your diet. Like that time I cycled 35 kilometres from out of town to home, for more than two hours of cardio, then ate a whole commercial small pizza with a bottle of wine? Yeah. Talk about oxymoronic. But it was delicious and well-earned. Just… you know. Didn’t change anything, and I coulda.

I know people panic about getting everything right all at once, and I know it’s awesome result-wise when you do, but I’m just not that person. I can’t make radical changes all at once.

The moving-to-a-new-city thing was radical enough for one season. Yet, I’ll be phasing in new changes weekly. Little things here and there. Like, I’m considering going cold turkey on butter/margarine for a month. If I do it now, I can have it back for my birthday… Ooh.

So this is where I’m at, people. I’m working a lot. Exercising a lot. Changing my mind and body, if not yet the diet. Sort of figuring out where the hell I’m headed, but liking the view as I go.

It’s pretty much a deeply personal time as I kind of clue into a lot of things. But it’s a good time. Now and then, I’ll share some with you.

Hope you’re doing well too.

Breathe, Grasshopper.

I tend to see patterns in life, from time to time.

These days, there are a few things cropping up here and there, all through my rehab, and it’s starting to echo in other aspects of life, but I’ll spare you the excess drama there.

One is the idea of ending the crazy by focusing on the moment. Another is that of breathing deeply and purposefully.

They both sound pretty basic.

“Think about now? Okay. Got it. Breathe slowly? Uh-huh. Got that. Rocked it. Moving on.”

But, um, you’d be wrong.

Some say 75% of adults are breathing incorrectly. If your shoulders move when you breathe, you’re doing it wrong. Your diaphragm hits belly-level, so your gut should fill and expand rather balloon-like, I’m told. If not, yer doin’ it wrong.

Photo I took in Vancouver's Olympic Village. Unknown girl: breathing/being.

And being grounded in the moment? Well, for example, can you tell me exactly what your body is doing right this second? What do you really feel? If you’re not sure about it, that’s a no. That’s what being fully in the moment means. It’s about knowing what’s truly going on around you, what your body is doing, and more. It’s hard to attain, ‘cos we’re so interminably distracted by the go-go-go of life.

Part of why I’m changing things up by leaving for a smaller city is I’m just so lost from any given moment. I’m incomprehensibly distracted. It wasn’t bad enough that I had the constant drone of both traffic and airport traffic surrounding my neighbourhood and my work, but now my apartment pipes and my refrigerator both do nightly practice of imitating Wookie death-rattles.

Add to that the constant-whiny buses and the roaring-fast traffic encircling my work and home, and it’s amazing I can finish sentences, let alone blog or write longer works. Focus is hard when you’re constantly on Pedestrian DefCon 3 and you’re not built for it, like sissy-pants Me.

But I digress.

So, I have this new chiropractor who’s all Zen-Master-Geek-Lord about back health, which is to say he’s weirdly good in a “Dude, that’s too easy!” kinda way.

I have this new theory that, like doctors over-prescribe medications, docs like chiropractors can over-adjust patients just because we’re under the guise that we’re broken and need fixing. My new chiro will only make the adjustment if he thinks I’m restricted. If he’s not, he won’t do anything.

He has me breathing for homework. Everyone else has been all “Gimme 20 push-ups” or whatever, usually involving extreme effort, all of which has gotten me only 70% of the way I want to be, after 9+ months of back-rehab stupid, and a second such serious injury in three years.

Zen-Master-Geek-Lord, however, has me pursuing breathing exercises, followed by simple advice. Like after I asked him “But what abdominal muscles should I be contracting when I walk?” Zen-Master-Geek-Lord replied with “Never mind. That gets confusing. You tell people that, they start thinking too much, and counter-intuitive stuff happens.  Just walk one inch taller. That’s all.”

So, I have, and it seems to be helping. And it sounds STUPID that I should require such SIMPLE advice, but this is how we get injured.

We get injured because we UnLearn basic nature. Our human nature is, breathe deep by expanding your belly. One day, you get hurt, or sick, or something, and you start breathing differently.

It takes an average of 21 days to learn a new condition. Ergo, it takes 20 days to unlearn one. I don’t know when I stopped breathing right, but I’m betting it was long, long ago. What else don’t I do anymore? I’d like to find out.

I’ve unlearned a lot of good things in all areas, and I want to change that. I’m looking forward to attaining Change: 360. Life full of learning and unlearning for a while. Sounds fun to me.

Life’s stressful as I head to the new-world days, but it’s been stressful for ages, for all the wrong reasons, and now it’s because I’m embarking on newness. That’s awesome.

But when I’m stressed and tired: I forget to breathe. And when life went in the toilet with my injury earlier this year, my bad breathing probably got worse. Breathing deeply doesn’t feel stellar with serious back injury.

Lately, I’ve had three different health professionals remind me to breathe, and more asthma issues more often. It’s funny I should be told now that part of my injury is that I’ve stopped breathing correctly and it’s resulted in muscles around my diaphragm weakening, causing my chronic back issues in the lumbar region, and that the asthma’s likely more behavioural than biological.

And knowing that just breathing correctly is fixing my back, when exercising daily wasn’t, is kind of bizarre and Twilight-Zone-ish.

I breathe more in the summer. It's not hard, here.

All this is affirming for me that it’s the simplest things often have the most profound pay-off, or consequence, in our day-to-day, and also that neglecting fundamentals can have rippling effects. Affirmation comes in another form, too, in that the idea of moving away just to knock a whole lot of speed and stress off my day might be the right plan… especially if I wanna focus on the moment and take the time to breathe on a constant basis.

I’m very, very excited about the year to come. I don’t mind taking the opportunity to ground myself, take some breaths, and save my energy for humans instead of for mundane things like endless work commutes.

It’s good that I’m seeing patterns. The above may or may not compute for you, but it resonates loudly for me. It’s the “seeing things” mode I need to achieve before I can find my will to write, and write often. Hallway vision, as they say, has been AWOL for a good long time. To unlock the “Be a Writer” Badge might be a little inconvenient time-management-wise before my move, but it’d do my soul a world of good.

I guess that’s why I’m learning to stop and breathe. Maybe writing needs me to pause a whole lot more to get through the crap of daily life and find the marrow.

Next week becomes both about being still and moving forward. Taking breaks, but starting to pack. Balance, grasshopper. Breathe.

2012, you’re looking good. Can’t wait. Om. [takes a deep breath]

A Journally Thing: Of Clean Houses and Sore Backs

So, things are in new places and places are in new things. Whoa. Feeling a little Seuss-y there for a moment.

Mornin’, kids.

I had me a long weekend, and it was good. I’ve had so many weekends of trying to get somewhere new around my home, and it’s never really worked, despite getting the place reasonably organized. Every week, boom, another cleaning disaster unfolds.

Recently, I’d written about cleaning a cupboard with an approach of “from where does the mess begin?” Then I wondered, why can’t I do that with my home?

So, on a complete whim, Saturday, I got up, moved a couple things, and then I had reoriented my whole living room, with greater space for workout and a cleaner path through my place, with less clutter.

I sat down with my wine Saturday night and kept looking around the apartment, all “Oooh.” I still wasn’t done and I made some changes Sunday, but my space feels lighter to me now.

My continuing progression of self is going well this fall.

Massive edit here. I wrote about 5 paragraphs explaining how I was an emotional Ugly Cry Mess for a week last week, partly due to PMS, but mostly, I think, due to a rib being out of place in my back. The same spot is considered by Chinese medicine to be a meridian for our Chi, which is life energy, and the flipside, over the heart area, is considered an acupressure/acupuncture point for happiness. I had the rib fixed by my chiro Friday, right after getting my “more happier button” reset, as my acupuncture doctor says, and I haven’t come close to being emotional or sad since.

It’s funny how the body works.

So, when we’re “out of alignment,” we really are.

It’s been months that I’ve been recuperating from this stupid injury, so I wonder what that does to the headspace.

Well, my mood’s been fucking great since Friday.

I’ve been keeping to myself, doing the things I’ve longed to do, and finally have gotten my space up to speed. I like what I’ve done this weekend. On top of that, I’ve had 8-10 hours a night of sleep for three nights — which is on par with being a religious experience after the restless September I had and the months of sporadic sleep preceding that.

Friday was sort of my hitting-bottom of my back injury. No, the back’s not BAD these days, but it’s not what I’d hoped it’d be. Hell, I thought I’d be over this shit by June, but it’s turning into 2/3rds of a year in a couple weeks. That’s a long time for things to be awry.

The trouble with an injury like the back is not just that it puts you in severe pain for weeks on end — about seven excruciating weeks for me, and three months of low-grade pain after that — but how much it incapacitates you in the long run.

I’ve been running at 50-75% capacity for months now. I have to STOP when I hear things in my body saying “this is too much.” Whether I’m cleaning, out with friends, whatever. When your back says stop, you better fucking listen.

These days, though, it says stop less frequently. By making the choice to spend most weekends at home slowly getting my life back on track, and recuperating as needed, I’ve done exactly what I’d hoped to do.

I’m also starting with a new physiotherapist this week.

People don’t get how much of a financial burden it is to get injured. If you can’t work 100%, and you’re constantly putting out money on care, and you’re occasionally taking the easy route with takeout or delivery because SOMETHING has to give, well, it’s a pretty draining existence financially. I’ve been in that boat immediately after about seven months of unemployment. It’s like that Simply Red song, Money’s Too Tight To Mention. Every back appointment is another $50-100. And you wonder why I have no life.

So, my money goes out on my back, constantly. Literally a few thousand this year. So, finally there’s room for a new physiotherapy routine, which will be wonderful. That starts this Friday. I’m very excited. If it doesn’t work, there’s another I want to try.

It’s that I’m finally able to work a little more that I can do a little more for myself. So, it’s a good thing.

I wish I’d journalled on the pain throughout my injury, though. There were some dark, dark days from March to May this year.

It’s amazing how resilient we can be. Sometimes no one else really knows. But we do. I’m trying to remember now those black fucking days, so I can contrast this casual feeling of liking my living room as my coffee cup hits bottom and buttery sunlight streams through the curtain cracks.

THIS moment, this, right here — this is something I’ve not enjoyed often in the last year… simple contentment within a moment. Not stressed, scared, or panicked. Just… casual.

They call back injuries “invisible” because no one really sees it. They think you’re moody or depressed because there’s a weary look in the eye, bags under them, and a constantly strained face. What they don’t know is that it’s because you can’t sleep more than two or three hours at a time, if that, and you’re never comfortable enough for that edginess to soften.

Back injuries aren’t an inconvenience — they become a way of life.

So, my way of life is still compromised, but it’s improving to the point where I have actual moments of feeling human again. That’s nice.

Everything solved? No. Over the money struggles? Nah. Smooth sailing ahead? Likely not.

And that’s okay. Because at least there’s the possibility of awesome.

And Then There Was Change

So, I love cycling.

In 2008, I blew out my back after losing about 60 pounds on my bike. I’ve always thought it was that I was stretching wrong and destabilizing my back. That’s what I thought caused the injury.

Despite all the things I’ve tried to do to improve my back, all the rehab and everything else, it’s never really been right again. I live with kind of a constant fear that something will compromise me, or I’ll fall and get hurt. Just a constant awareness something’s not right.

For some reason, I never thought about my bike seat being the problem. I mean, how could that be? It was an expensive supposedly-ergonomic bike saddle intended for intermediate cyclists — I splurged $60 on that motherfucker, you know. It was recommended to me! It had rave reviews online.

Last weekend, I took my bike into my chiropractor’s office*, and he examined the set-up, looked at me, and then said he thought I should switch to a wider seat.

So, that was a lightbulb moment. I already had been shown what just changing my seat’s angle by 3-5 degrees could do to take strain off my back. “I’ve changed everything else in my life,” I thought. “Why the hell not give it a try?”

I cycled again that afternoon on my old saddle, and it was a wonderful sunny ride, but the next day the pain set in, and it progressed for a few days while I stayed off my bike and really, really, really paid attention to how the pain developed and changed.

I realized how tender my tailbone was, how strained my sides were, and started thinking, “You know what? It DOES seem like it could be the seat.” It seemed like maybe my hips were sagging down and excess pressure was pushing my tailbone up, which made sense if the saddle was a little too narrow for my ample hips.

Then I considered the nature of repetitive strain injuries, how we see things slowly deteriorate but because it’s nothing clear-cut we often don’t specifically know the cause, and then it just compounds until we’re fucked. I think that’s what my back injury has been. A repetitive strain injury. A bit of suckage adding up every time I did the thing I love to do — cycling.

Thursday, I got the seat.

Yesterday, I installed it. I checked out all the “how should a bike seat be installed” docs I could find online, busted out my level, made sure I got my seat horizontal.

Sick, I rode to a nearby walk-in clinic to get seen by a doc, since it’d be less time and effort for getting groceries and prescriptions filled after the appointment than fucking around with bus routes.

During my ride, I realized I had broken my nice wide seat a few months before I began cycling to lose weight in 2008, and that the seat I “splurged” on as a replacement has been the only thing that’s remained constant in my life, in all that time. This had never occurred to me. It’s the missing piece in the puzzle. The possible implications were adding up pretty quickly.

This morning, after only a 7km, 30-minute leisurely ride, my lower back feels more stable, less pained, and stronger than it has in months.

It would be absolutely incredible if, after the thousands of dollars, endless hours, countless tears, and never-ending frustrations of a 3-year ongoing back problem is ultimately resolved by the purchase of a $20 bike seat and a free iPhone “level” app.

And it will be the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life.

I’m just not yet sure what the lesson is. But today I have more hope about my back injury than I’ve had in three years. It’s overwhelmingly awesome to think I may have finally found the cause.

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to beating this cold this week and seeing what develops with cycling. I love riding my bike and it’s been absolutely heart-breaking to endure so much frustration for so long.

But if it’s resolved? Oh, lord, the gratitude I’ll have. Without a doubt, living with a chronic injury has been one of the greatest character-defining, life-teaching experiences I’ve had. I won’t be bitter for a minute that I could have resolved it cheaper, sooner. That’s the way life fucking goes, man. Sometimes the lessons that should’ve been the easiest but became the hardest are the ones that define us the most.

I have literally spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this injury. I’ve lost so much income — I can’t even count that high.

If it’s all going to end and be fixed by a $20 seat, I’ll have no choice but to laugh my goddamned (now well-supported) ass off. It’s so hysterically ironic that I can’t even express it.

I’m laughing as I type, actually. What can you do, man? Life’s really a funny joke on us sometimes.

If we learn from it, then it’s not for nothin’. So, we’ll see how this goes.

Thank god I have a great sense of humour. I needed a good laugh, even if an ironic one.

*My chiropractor is a guy who’s just getting his practice off the ground on Vancouver’s West Side. Dr. Bryson Chow practices Active Release Technique, a method that is preferred by many athletes. It posits the belief that healthy muscles lead to strong skeletons, so instead of forcing bones into place like most traditional chiros do, ART practitioners like Bryson instead work on breaking the muscle memory and helping retrain your muscles so they don’t keep pulling the bones out of alignment. I wasn’t healing at all until I made the switch to ART, but Bryson is the first doc to suggest my seat might be a problem. If you have any kind of repetitive strain or injuries that traditional folks aren’t helping you get past (like Frozen Shoulder Syndrome), consider an ART chiro. A few friends have found it similarly life-changing.

Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

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October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.