Although I am generally more active and willing to be outside in the summer months, I often gain weight when it’s warm outside. Every day, I wear the stretchiest, loosest, most breathable clothing I own. While I walk more places, it’s typically to a patio upon which to dine and drink al fresco for hours. By the time cool August nights roll around and I’m donning my jeans, I notice they’re a little more snug than they were in the spring.
Combine this with an increasing number on the scale and a recent vacation during which I ate and drank my way across the port towns of southern New England, I’ve been pushing myself hard to exercise this week. I made my valiant and sweaty return to the gym on Monday, stunned at how much of the strength I’d lost in a mere week away. Tuesday I rested (and ate pizza nachos) but I returned yesterday.
Tonight, I was a little tired, but figured I should push myself to do one more fitness class this week. I’d missed the start of a short class by mere moments, so I waited around for the 45 minute (and more challenging) class to begin. The warmup began with some squats. My muscles were tired, but I felt fine. We did a few downward facing dogs and cobra poses to get loose. Sometime between the slowed-down burpees and the mountain climbers, I felt a stabbing pain in my knee.
I stopped with the mountain climbers and stood up, kicking my leg forward a bit. It felt fine. Then the warmup progressed to a slow jog, during which every footfall on my right side sent additional rockets of pain into the middle of my knee.
The chipper, bubbly co-instructor who’d been forced to buddy up with me as part of the warmup due to the odd number of people in the class cheerfully told me to do only what I could do. Which, I quickly understood, was nothing. I started flashing back to elementary school gym class in which I always felt slower than all of the other kids. I slunk away from the class, embarrassed to be the slightly overweight woman heading out of the gym before the class even really started because I’d hurt myself. I’m not lazy or out of shape, I wanted to say. This actually hurts. I have to quit; I don’t want to.
Logically, I know it doesn’t take a big dramatic trauma to hurt oneself; I think the whole reason my knee’s been hurting on and off for a couple of years is because I caught my heel in a brick one snowy New Year’s Eve on the town, twisted it, and kept running on it after. But as I sit here, oft-used ice pack on my sore knee, I’m terrified I’ve caused it actual damage that will sideline me for weeks or months. Over the years, exercise has become an important part of my mental health regimen as well as the more measurable results of a lower weight and blood pressure. Running or hitting a bag keeps me from snapping at every single rude person I encounter in day-to-day urban life. I sleep better. And, quite frankly, the world is full of delicious things to eat, and I’ll have to skip a lot of them if I can’t exercise.
So, if you need me, I’ll be sitting on the couch, trying not to stress-eat an entire bag of tortilla chips, and ordering jeans the next size up.