It doesn't take long before the creaks and cranks set in. I cannot WAIT to get active again. Here's why.
On November 18th I had rotator cuff surgery. It's pretty brutal but I had a great surgeon. Two weeks later I was already back at the gym, and my PT told me I was fully five weeks ahead of schedule in terms of my range of motion. I agreed to keep it calm so as not to create an issue with the tissues, which were still healing.
Bad news. I had one very bad night on my couch. I was sleeping with my sling and bolster on as instructed. All I can figure is that the support pillow got tangled with the bolster, which has Velcro, and somehow I ended up in a Gordian knot. I woke up to extreme pain in said shoulder.
Long story short, apparently I tore out the anchor. It's ugly. It took a while for us to sort out what we think happened. I get an ultrasound today and from there we figure out a fix.
That said, my PT and doctor put the kibosh on everything, including walking. Walking utilizes the arms in ways that many of us don't realize. I can't swing my arms, which irritates the tissues, and all the one-armed workouts were also irritating the rhomboids on my left shoulder. I got grounded.
It's temporary, as are most issues like this. However, here's what has happened to my body in the two weeks since I have been told not to do any exercise at all:
- I got creaky right away. All of a sudden, my normally smooth-working knees got cranky, and getting up and down to do simple tasks was crunchy and awkward. It felt- and is very much like- trying to ride your bike when your tire chains desperately need oiling. That's what movement does: it ensures the production and circulation of the body's WD-3, synovial fluid.
- My whole body feels heavy, achy and sore. It feels like it's asking for rest, when it's really asking for work. I know the difference. People misinterpret the signals as being tired. Nope. My body is shrieking at me to get my tush out to work out.
- It isn't just the flexibility. The muscles on my unused arm immediately deflated, and suddenly I had puddles of wrinkles at my elbow where the nice big bicep had shrunk seemingly overnight. I am shrinking overnight. We all do, at any age, when we stop moving.
- Endurance is seeping away like air out of a guest mattress. It's not noticeable until you ask for something. I'm still doing my elliptical in the morning but it's not the same. I can feel the difference when I ask simple things of my body.
Is this universal?
Yup. Please see:
From the article:
“Aerobic and endurance fitness reduce a lot faster than muscle mass—it’s the performance factor that is reduced the fastest,” says Weiss. Physiologically, the changes are stark, too. Weiss says: Stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart to the body) reduces, the size of mitochondria (the power plants within a cell, linked to fitness health) reduce by almost 50 percent, heart rate increases, cardiac output reduces, and your VO2 max—or the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use (a gold standard of physical fitness) decreases about one percent a day.
So let's extrapolate a sec. If you and I aren't active as kids, the body reads this as retreating from life not from age or infirmity, but just retreating from life, period, and adjusts accordingly. Dementia begins in our thirties and we scoot it along at speed with sedentary habits and poor food choices.
We can age virtually overnight from lousy diets, which is very well-researched, with sugar as the prime offender and all kinds of other chemicals and the processing process itself as factors. Please read Metabolical by Dr. Robert Lustig, among many others calling out Big Food, Big Health and Big Pharma in cooperation with Big Agro and Big Government. Arm yourself.
It is a war for your health and you and I have to fight for it.
But hey, don't believe me. If your body feels old, cranky, decrepit, creaky and desperate for rest you DON'T need, that's feedback. Your body is crying out for decent fuel and to be worked. It is not likely asking for more rest. Do the research. You'll find the same things I did.
Even for those who still believe in RICE, which has been roundly debunked by the doctor who created the Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation, doctors are saying that now we need to move and can the ice. Ice can both interfere with the healing and damage the tissues. To that:
My VA doctor still tells me to RICE. She's wrong. So are millions of other health providers, which is a classic oxymoron. They are all too often pill shills and panacea peddlers for Big Pharma. Do your own research.
The research tells me that if I keep up this hiatus I will lose more. However, the silver lining, like the hair at my temples, is that my body remembers being potent and strong. Muscle memory is our best friend, like a long lost buddy whom we invited back over to stick around for life.
Now for the good news. IF you exercise regularly, a hiatus is just that: a hiatus. Here's what the experts say about how long it might take to recapture your mojo:
From the article:
If you’re restarting your strength-training routine after a hiatus, start with lighter weights or fewer reps (if doing bodyweight exercises) than you’re used to. Increase the weight gradually to give your tendons time to regain their elasticity.
See, you don’t simply lose strength in your muscles when you take an extended break from lifting; you also lose elasticity in your tendons (these attach muscle to bone), Kast says. When your tendons are elastic, they’re better able to produce and absorb force during high-impact movements, such as sprints, plyometrics and heavy weight training.
According to Jazrawi, some patients go right back to lifting heavy weights while their tendons are still stiff: “That’s where they run the risk of tearing or breaking,” he says. So, whatever you do, don’t try to pick up where you left off. (author bolded)
If you have never ever exercised, there is still good news. At any point in your body's journey, the choice to focus on better foods and more movement will pay off immediately.
If you give up fast food:
If you cut out ultraprocessed foods:
And what about starting exercise for the very first time?
In other words, it's all good. But it doesn't come without tradeoffs.
To get something, I have to give up something. It's like making room in a crowded closet: want that new dress? Leggo that one. You never wear it anyway.
We do not get to eat the cake and look like a fitness pro. We do not get to couch potato our way through life, and have six pack abs unless the gods of genetics gave us a set.
We can, and I will regain, wonderful health. I am itching to get back to it. However, healing comes first. My body is well aware at the cellular level of my intentions. It's just throwing hints at me every day that I am dodging the work, even as my poor shoulder struggles to heal itself with a pulled out anchor.
Once that is fixed, and I take more time to heal that new wound, I'll be back to work. I can't wait, either. I turn 69 in January, and the demand is even greater at this age.
I can't speak for you but I get itchy when I can't work out. That's good news. I hope you get that itch to take care of your body too, if that's been elusive for you. No better time than right now.
That might just be the best gift ever, holiday season or not.