Entropy is frustrating.
I am thrilled with my new physical therapist. (Long waiting list to see her, for good reason.) At our first meeting, we had a grim laugh over the fact that when I was younger, dancing and jogging and lifting weights:
- It took me 8 months of steady work to get "in shape"
- It took only 3 weeks of stopping (doing nothing much) to slide "out" of shape
We believe that now, at age 58, it'll take even longer. And yet that is the entropy-fighting situation I'm facing, if I want to reduce my pain and fully experience what is left of my life. The alternatives are worse.
I have subscribed to the Nerd Fitness emails for many years (thank you Kate King for pointing them out) and paid for its academy and yoga program when they became available. Even though I don't primarily identify as a nerd (or geek), its realistic one-change-at-a-time approach makes sense to me. Trainer Staci Arduino's strength training journey (part 1) (part 2) is inspiring, and I appreciate the way founder Steve Kamb defends Staci against internet trolls who say they prefer her "before" pictures while supporting everyone's right to live fully in their own body.
But I didn't dive into their exercise program until this summer, when I heard from a friend's knee surgeon that exercise would not make our osteoarthritis any worse than it is. (We need to do things to reduce the inflammation but that's orthogonal to exercise.) So I dove into Nerd Fitness Bodyweight Level 1 faithfully for one month. And here's what happened:
- For the first two weeks I felt amazing. The effect on my mood and my energy was noticeable, far beyond the simple "I am doing something for myself" effect, although that was great too.
- By the third week, my body and brain had at least somewhat adjusted to the exercise, and instead of getting high from it, I became cranky when I postponed it even a few hours (to the end of the day).
- In the fifth week, my "good knee" went out (meaning that I was unable to walk on that leg). It had only done this once before in 58 years and I was terrified. Plus I was completely un-used to deploying my cane on that side of my body … actually that aspect was somewhat comical …
I tried to tune and cut back the exercises, and on the Friday night at the end of the fifth week I tossed and turned: if my knee kept doing this I would have to tell my wife that I couldn't attend the Labor Day music festival with her … I'd break it to her when I woke up … except that she woke me up with the news that our apartment building was on fire. All the people and animals got out safely, through a coincidence that I have chosen to regard as a miracle, but recovering from the fire added a huge chunk of extra work to the projects we already had on hand. Speaking of which: renters' insurance!
Fast forward to the present: the physical therapist says that my good knee was probably simply exhausted. She also says that I'm actually a level below where the Nerd Fitness programs start. Except that due to decades of compensating for my weaker knee I can lay my hands flat on the floor with straight legs and so there are a few exercises, like the "inchworm", where I can show that off. "Your planks are not bad, either."
On the sad side, I have extreme difficulty lifting either foot off the floor. (All my current favorite physical activities, including roller skating and water walking, don't require much in this area.) It's going to take lots of work to overcome mental blocks and physical entropy to get "up" to the Nerd Fitness starter level, balancing on one leg for five seconds (with good form).
So we've modified the starter level Nerd Fitness exercises so that they are customized to push me personally, and I'll do more cardio in the water (I was already doing some), and also by the way I need to slow everything down and stop using my back to "help" the other areas that are weaker. I'll do this new set of exercises for awhile and report back.
I will still use the amazing community support features and some of the recipes at Nerd Fitness. The workouts and the leveling-up system (which remind me of SuperBetter, which I still like, ah, better) are now all free to use, and the inspirational emails have always been free to anyone who wants to level up their life.