This week, I finally got to my goal of three sets of twelve push-ups. It seems fitting, as this month marks the second anniversary of my commitment to exercise. I got to eight push-ups about six months ago, but just wasn’t able to increase the number without losing my form—until I finally could!
I started exercising six months after I transformed my relationship with food. I had lost weight pretty quickly and become increasingly weak—to the point where it was difficult for me to go up one step, even when I was hanging on to the bannister. I was afraid of becoming completely disabled, and that fear seemed to be the underlying driver for my decision. At least, that’s what I thought. Looking back, though, I already had a hard-wired decision in my brain: “I won’t exercise.” I believed that I couldn’t exercise and I knew that I hated exercise. My attitudes and beliefs had created a seemingly insurmountable wall to changing my behavior.
So fear was the emotional driver, but it changed my belief to “I have to” and my attitude to the amazing and powerful “I will.” That “I will” changed everything; it crumbled that wall to sand.
I have learned a great deal about exercise in these past two years. I have learned that you start slowly, finding the point where you are able to do something, but you have to work at it. I learned the importance of good form. If the only way I could do something was to maneuver my body in some odd way, or use accessory muscles to help the muscles I was trying to work, then I wasn’t ready to do that—yet. I have a checklist in my head: body aligned, shoulders relaxed, hold in my core, back straight, and head up.
I have learned that it helps me to exercise the same time every day. I like the morning because I am doing something good for myself first. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. I suspect, for people who like to sleep in, morning exercise would fall prey to: “I’m really tired this morning; I just need ten more minutes of sleep.” I, on the other hand, am something of a procrastinator, so waiting until later in the day could well fall victim to “I’ll get to exercise after I do this…and then that.”
I have learned that it is good to mix it up. I alternate between exercise that really gets my heart pumping and strengthening. I have twelve different routine exercises for my core, my legs and my upper body. I divide those up every other day and do three sets of twelve repetitions, all interspersed with the elliptical, my basement buddy.
I have learned that whatever my starting point is, I can progress beyond it. When I started push-ups, I did them against the wall, then against our kitchen island. From there I used a table and after that I was finally low enough that I could start doing them from the fourth step. My twelve-rep push-ups had a lot of growing up to do!
I learned that you don’t need fancy equipment. Knee bends can be sitting and standing from a straight-backed chair. Keep your back straight, your core tight, and sit slowly, engaging your quads and controlling your descent. Soup cans will serve as weights, stairs are good to strengthen your quads (slow) and get your heart going (fast.)
Mostly, though, I learned that if I did the exercises right, I could get strong and I could significantly reduce my arthritis pain. I learned that I could exercise, and that it would help me not just physically, but emotionally as well.
I learned the power of “I will.”