Photo by Tony Tran on Unsplash

It took about three weeks this time around. That’s probably because I am still wearing a huge boot (fractured toe, stay with me here) and a fractured middle finger of my left hand.

Along with my 22nd concussion, I really wasn’t much in the mood to start working out, notwithstanding the amount of pain I was in just trying to curl my fingers around a dumbbell. I’m used to fairly hefty weights. Anything heavier than a tenner or twelver hurt my left hand like hell. And so far, after nearly six weeks, I still can’t run or hike or ride. It may be a lot longer. Pinky toes take time.

BTW, the note above? The guilty piece of furniture (a long wooden bench, Queen Anne style, whose claw foot managed to damage my foot rather badly during a middle of the night pee run) is now on consignment. Banished for ever. Go break someone else’s toe, wouldja?

I’d finally arrived in Eugene. As it turns out, just in time for the worst fires ever. I’d had a horrible car wreck. Things were interesting. I managed to get my stuff moved into the house, and with that ebullience of the monumentally overly-optimistic, promised myself and others that the house would be all set up and finished by Halloween.

The Universe loves a good joke.

That’s a week away, and I am months upon months from any dream of completion. That means that all my fitness gear is still in the garage, because there’s no room in the house.

Photo by FLOUFFY on Unsplash

Grumpy pants.

I was talking to my buddy Rosennab this past week. She’s recently moved from Colorado back East, where oxygen and moisture are abundant. After struggling to run distances in the high dry air of the Rocky Mountain West, she is back thriving again. Nothing like moist oxygen for someone with asthma, especially if she loves to run.

Here is her story:

Living in High Altitude Took My Breath Away
I said a bittersweet goodbye to Colorado Springs last month after a four-year love-hate relationship. I am grateful for the time I got to play in the mountains with my family and hiking buddies…

Covid created a host of issues for many of us, particularly as it relates to self-care. Exercise being #1 for both Rosenna and me, as we are both well past fifty, and for many others, being booted out of the gym, having gyms go bankrupt, like mine did. Then folks started barking at runners and cyclists and shaming them for heading outside to do the one thing all of us really need to do, Covid or no Covid.

We need to move.

We did move, each of us to different coasts, changing communities, reference points, weather, everything. All our stuff in boxes, and the normal routines utterly destroyed.

Both of us went back to the gym, both of us about 5 am each day.

Why is this so important?

First, it’s an act of self-care, which Rosenna writes about with real power in this piece:

This Person Needs You The Most
Taking care of yourself is the greatest love you can show to others. Where love requires sacrifice and compromise of time, energy, and resources, it doesn’t require selflessness. Sacrificing…

In taking care of ourselves, the four major spheres are exercise, the right food, friends and purpose. Out of that, if you and I don’t move, it’s awfully hard to have much of anything else.

So when there are Big Changes, like a cross-country move, one of the very first things that she and I reinstated- and in my case as soon as injuries would allow- was a return to exercise.

Because, as many folks have found out under Covid, when you slow way down or quit altogether, all kinds of things happen. Most aren’t very good news, especially if that lazy break becomes the habit as opposed to just the rest day and then back to work.

Here’s why:

The 5 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Quit Working Out
Your body has something to say about your exercise hiatus.

It isn’t just that your blood pressure rises, your muscles shrink and your lung capacity drops. GAH! Those are bad enough. But wait, there’s more.

From the article:

Additionally, staying active may fight anxiety. Michael Otto, a psychologist and professor at Boston University, explains that exercise can mitigate anxiety by firing up your fight-or-flight response, the evolutionary trigger for adrenaline, sweat, and increased heart rate when faced with a challenge. When you stop exercising, your body forgets how to handle stress. Because you’ve allowed your natural fight-or-flight response to atrophy, you’re less likely to experience something tough — whether an interval workout or a stressful workplace relationship — in a positive way. Instead, you get anxious.

Rosenna and I had a laugh about how badly we’d needed to return to a regular routine. I get a serious case of the Grumpy Pants if I can’t move. And move a LOT.

Deposit photos

Again, from the article:

“Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise,” Otto said in an article for the American Psychological Society. “Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.” (author bolded)

It’s not just about the body beautiful. In fact, most of us will never have that. What we can have are more beautiful inner workings, including a happy heart, happy bones, happy lungs and a much better mood.

Grumpy comes of not taking care of ourselves. Nobody can do it for us, no pill stands in for better habits, and no ridiculous HGT shot is going to give you and me the shot in the arm that some kind of exercise can offer.

So while I still can’t go back to trail running just yet, I am utterly delighted to watch the power lines in my deltoids and biceps return from the hard work, and the spring in my step (okay, okay, my limp) return with each successive session at my gym. Masked, of course.

Covid makes self-care ever so much more important because the greater anxiety we feel, the less effectively our immune system functions, and the more likely we are to eat crap food. That sends the spiral downwards.

As we head into fall and winter, making time for movement, making time for us, taking care of our bodies all take on far greater importance. How we mind our muscles, lungs and our attitudes has a huge impact on how well we weather winter weather, and make it through the holidays both happy and healthy.

This year, I’ve had to reboot my exercise program five different times, whether because of a move, an accident or any number of other considerations. But I did it anyway, no matter how inconvenient.

It’s far, far more inconvenient to lose my health, and walk around in my Grumpy Pants all day every day.

If you’re feeling out of sorts, it might be time to head out of doors. A brisk walk might go a very long way towards turning the tide on a bad mood, and will do wonders for your body in the long run.

Photo by Norbert Buduczki on Unsplash