"You're still pretty impressive."
I turned around to see one of my favorite smiling faces, standing near the stationary bikes. I had just finished a hill workout (read: walk) on the treadmill, and I was getting my purse out of a cube locker.
"Thanks. I'm slowing down a bit," I told him. "Just gotta keep moving."
"Exactly," he said.
As I walked down to the locker room on Thursday, I mentally kicked myself for not fully accepting the compliment. The gentleman was being nice – and supportive. It was the same thing that he had done on several occasions over the past few months as I've opted for the treadmill over the roads for safety. The other times, I know, I had been more accepting and grateful.
The difference was how I felt about my workout. On Thursday, I walked. The other days I had ran. On Thursday, though grateful that my piriformis syndrome had improved, I was not satisfied that I was walking. I did not feel proud of my 40 minutes on the belt.
When I was running, I felt challenged. I felt accomplished. And, to be frank, I felt smug. It was easy to take a compliment from that gentleman after a run because I felt like I earned it. Maybe, even, I felt like I deserved it.
The 30 days since my piriformis got angry and screamed at me have been challenging and humbling. I had gone from a bad ass mother runner to someone struggling to walk to someone who feels OK but not 100 percent. I have felt so many emotions – excruciating pain, hope, despair, fear, relief.
Most of all, I felt disappointment.
When it came to this pregnancy, I had some high expectations. I came into it in good shape and determined to set my own (doctor-approved) rules for running. I wasn't going to cut back because it was expected nor was I going to slow down until my body put on the brakes.
It was an approach that helped me achieve things for which I could be proud: running my second fastest half marathon and another sub-2 four weeks later; running a sub-9 pace at the Gingerbread Pursuit; and maintaining what I considered to be respectable mileage until that fateful run.
However, the success also allowed me to be far too driven by the numbers – something I would not advise to anyone whose body is loaned out to the whims of a growing fetus. I had gotten to the point where I not only thought it would be nice to run the day I gave birth but I expected it. Not only that, I think there was a part of me that thought I should because I needed to prove something – to myself and others.
A stupid notion. Insanely stupid.
And so as I take stock and look ahead to how I'll spend the next five or so weeks, I know that one of the most important things I will need to do is redefine how I view my fitness. I can't quantify by miles ran or paces hit.
But I can qualify it.
I can move with intention. "Shopping is my cardio," the wise Carrie Bradshaw quipped. And though I'd love to call a trip to Kohl's a workout, it's not – even if I let pretty things distract me while lugging around a slow cooker. I can set aside time to walk, cycle or lift heavy(ish) things for the purpose of raising my heart rate, improving my mood and dripping some sweat.
I can move with purpose. This sentiment is one that hit home when I did Silver Sneakers training. Many of the exercises that are incorporated into a Silver Sneakers session are designed to improve the ability to perform activities of daily life, such as putting on sweaters, reaching for something in a cabinet and buttoning a shirt. These folks aren't exercising for a ripped body, bragging rights or ego. They are doing it to live a better life.
I can – and will – do exercises that will help my piriformis and, as such, strengthen my hips for labor. Bicep curls will get me used to lifting a carseat. (How can a 6-pound baby feel like 60 pounds? Put him in a car seat!) I will give myself bonus points, not the brownie kind, for forgetting to change weight for arms during barbell and getting in some extra training. Woodchops are great mimic for the motion of picking up a baby out of the crib and putting him on your shoulder. However, there's no simulator for spit up.
I can move free of judgment. The gentleman at the Y didn't care that I wasn't running, and 98 percent of the general population does not think less of me for doing low-impact exercise. And if there are people on the interwebs who don't think I'm doing enough, that I'm enough (a lifelong fear), then it's because of the ridiculous expectations that have been established by the disordered beat Ms. Jones mentality. (Sadly, I wonder if I'm a contributor.) I am going to do the best thing I can – be me – and be accepting.