With weight lifting and Yoga as my main source of exercise now, the weeks took on a different kind of rhythm. My scheduled time with JB for weightlifting was on Monday and Wednesday evenings, so by Thursday I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Yoga was on Thursday evenings, where I could stretch out tired, sore muscles and reinforce breathing techniques. The weekends were much-needed recovery time with my “blue ice-pack thing.” It all felt different and I desperately missed Pilates Princess Land, but I knew I was doing the right thing for my body and breathing with these changes—and it was what I could afford.
As weeks turned into months, I noticed some startling progress. I was doing faithfully my low abdominal diaphragmatic breathing exercises CK had given me and told me to make a part of my life. I noticed, though, that when I would come home from Yoga and do these exercises, I would get dramatically better times than earlier in the day. It was remarkable the difference Yoga made in my breathing. I began to listen and focus more intently on my practice, particularly my breathing. It was also a tremendous stress relief. Taking care of my MIL had become very taxing—I have often wondered how I would have handled this caregiving had I not been on this path of healing. I am certain my health would have failed. It was wonderful to be able to go once a week and “meet myself on the mat” as they say in Yoga and have ninety minutes just for me.
If Yoga was calming and peaceful, then I’d have to say that weightlifting was the opposite. With sweat pouring off me and mind dulling rap music blaring, I would spend an hour twice a week doing lifts I never thought I could do. The gym was filthy and stinky and I hated it…but it was how I could afford a personal trainer. [JB has since opened her own gym which is lovely and clean and freakishly reminds me of Princess Pilates Land and I’m so happy! And goodbye to the awful rap music] Other trainers worked out of this gym and sometimes their clientele were not people you’d want to plop down on a weight bench after…but, again, it was how I could do this.
What the gym lacked in ambiance, JB made up for in knowledge and kindness and enthusiasm. She designed workouts specifically to develop my core and upper body muscles, all to enhance breathing. She would work with me on my breathing, helping me on difficult reps. JB kept close track on my weight and measurements, always with encouragement on progress made. Where Yoga was a happy-feel-good sort of exercise [though enormously challenging at the same time] where you could, literally, go into Child’s Pose for the entire practice and no one would question you . . . perhaps lovingly pat your back and rub some essential oils on your feet, weightlifting, on the other hand, was a little scary. I would often arrive at my sessions with JB early and sit in the parking lot wondering if I could do the workout ahead of me. But I always did and JB always helped me. I could look at a weight and think “I can’t lift that” and then I would lift it . . . like, forty times! This simple, yet powerful lesson began to transfer into my person life.
With caregiving becoming increasingly demanding, I was able to draw on the confidence that came from lifting. When a situation in my life became so hard I didn’t think I could handle it, I would remember all the times in the gym that I lifted something I thought impossible to lift, and I found the inner strength to figure the situation out. This sequence happened over and over and over again. My body was responding well to the lifting, but my mind and soul were gaining equal amounts of strength. I had a funny experience where all this came together at once.
I needed to buy several cases of water bottles from Costco for a family gathering we were hosting. When I was sick this was a particularly difficult task for me. I hated it! I couldn’t lift the things and was always completely out of breath by the time I got them in my car. When it fell to me to get them for this family gathering, my first reaction was dread. But then a little voice in my head reminded me it might be a little different now. As I approached the stacks of water at Costco, pushing my awkward-flatbed-dolly-thing because I needed more than I could fit in a normal cart, that dread came back. When I went to lift a case, though, I had the weird sensation you have when you lift a gallon of milk you think is full, but to your surprise is only half full. I almost slammed the thing into my face it felt so light to me. I set it on the dolly and then stood there, looking around, wondering if anyone had seen what I just accomplished, laughing out loud I was so happy! Then I chucked several more on my flatbed-dolly-thing, wheeled them all through Costco and got them all loaded in my car without breaking a sweat . . . or having to catch my breath. It was awesome.
I’m sharing a picture of me doing squat lifts. In this picture, I’m lifting ninety-six pounds and I did three reps of fifteen, forty-five total. I was so proud of this lift—I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. I know many people can do much more, but for me it felt miraculous. I had made it through some difficult changes in my healing process and was squaring my shoulders to some extremely difficult challenges in my personal life—and I couldn’t wait to tell BR [my pulmonologist . . . you know, the one with the Steps of Doom!. I had a checkup with her soon.
To be continued...