When Age Creeps Up On You

May 27, 2014

As I have been dragging my left leg around since last week, resembling the “The Creeper” from the movie, “Jeepers Creepers”, I have been reflecting on ALL the injuries I have endured over the last year. And I believe I have followed the trail to the source of my many trips to the doctor and to the radiology facility over the last year: The day I joined the gym.

I’m not making excuses, getting that gym membership was empowering, enlightening. It was a slap in the face to reality: I was out of shape, overweight and had no ‘oomph.’ As many of you know, I decided to make changes with my diet and health in April of 2012. What better way to get a kick start on changing my body shape than to make improvements with health and fitness. So I joined 24 Hour Fitness. Excercise, I assumed, would focus my mind (something other than ‘what can I eat?’ and the dreams of shedding weight was right there at my finger tips. I pounded away on the elliptical trainer for one year, 4 – 5 times a week. I lost 53 pounds and was thrilled to pieces. I cut out just about ALL food (yes, eating maybe 600-800 calories a day, if that) and with the exercising, the excess baggage melted away. After several months on the elliptical, I noticed I had some discomfort in my ankles and attributed it to exercising regularly. No pain, no gain, right? I had some low back pains as well and I recall at times my hips were sore, but I kept at it……..plodding away until my 3 miles were in during my one hour at the gym. Within 3 months of going to the gym, all of my high blood pressure medications were stopped. I haven’t needed them since. The cardio workouts I have been doing were- and are- doing the trick.

When I hit the anniversary mark of going to the gym for 365 days, and hitting my goal of losing 50 lbs., I walked in to the Zumba class. For those of you who don’t know what Zumba is: Zumba, is a high-energy aerobic workout that’s more like a dance party than an exercise routine. If you haven’t heard about it, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past couple of years. I had told myself early on, while hearing the loud music coming from the Zumba room, that “If I lose 50 pounds, I will drag my buns in there.” And I did. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know any of the steps. I didn’t know any of the music. But I fell in love with it. I could dance around, and not be judged because all of the people in the class were doing the same things as I was trying to accomplish. Dance like no one is watching is certainly my motto in this class. If people were watching…. I could not care any less. I burned off more calories in Zumba than I ever have doing other activites. Being graceful has never been my strong suit. I just don’t have and never will have, the agility and elegance of a prima ballerina. Or a belly dancer. I fall in between the lines of a dancing bear wearing clogs and a penguin trying to water ski. That’s on a good day.

And so, my odyssey began in April 2012. I not only worked out faithfully daily, but I also ate in one day what an infant consumes in one day, skipping breakfast and lunch. I know, I know……….WRONG………but I know my body and if I eat ‘sensibly’, as doctors say to do, what happens after six month, is that I may have lost 3 pounds. And become more disgusted than ever. I decided to do what works for me. After attending Zumba, I would come home so thirsty (even though I would suck down 20 oz of water during the class), and I would have a few pieces of watermelon. It was cool and refreshing and I enjoyed it. Then one day last June (after a month or so eating watermelon) I thought I was going to keel over in the class because I had the most severe, knife stabbing pains in my side. I’m not one to touch my toes but let me tell you, I was bent over like a wilting flower, with my fingers just a few inches from the floor. As I limped and squirmed out of the class, I knew I did something, and if not, then I had some medical issue about to erupt. Turns out I had diverticulitis. The doctor said she thought it was from nuts or seeds. Hmmm, the only seeds I consumed were from the watermelons I ingested daily. (Besides the slight soreness in my ankles from previous months, this was an eye opener: eating something healthy, jacked up my insides.) That was ONE MISERABLE experience and I don’t want to go through that again. During this time I noticed a lot of discomfort in my ankles, in both feet and bought ankle supports. I have been wearing these supports since last summer and quite honestly, all they do is give my tennis shoes a nice royal blue contrast. By fall, I was in pain once again. This time my lower back. I was in bed 3 weeks. Three long miserable, aching weeks. After CT scans, MRI’s, physical therapy and an ER visit, I found out I had degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis, arthritis of the spine, disk compressions in the lower lumbar region and to add more insult to injury, sciatic nerve damage showed up. I HATE taking pills of any kind – and I have a routine at night as it is and don’t enjoy adding more to the mix. Those three weeks in bed on oxycodone was the only sanity I had. When the pains in my spine and sciatic region (i.e. REAR END) finally made it’s way into the abyss of darkness, not entirely, I was AS back to ‘as normal’ as I was going to be. During all this time, my ankles were silently screaming to me and my knees locked up several times, I laid off the majority of the Zumba dance moves. I modified but it just didn’t seem to matter. Several months ago, I knew I did something to the left ankle but didn’t know what. I told my doctor at my February visit that I was sore……….my joints hurt, everywhere. She suggested losing some more weight (which I needed to do because after last fall’s month off from Zumba due to my body falling apart, I gained some weight back. And in December when my dad was hospitalized for five weeks, I didn’t go to class so I gained even more weight back).That happens when one eats out every, single night. Trust me on that fun fat fact! I should have gone into detail with my doctor as to WHERE these pains were in February, regarding my left foot, and letting her know it hadn’t been functioning correctly. I don’t bend it when I walk (like a troll strolling through the forest, just clomping along.) I just accept the pain…….. like I do with the MS pains. I learned to live with that baggage and try and ignore it, even though it’s there biting me in the backside daily.

I know I’m a middle aged woman, I know that because I know my birthdate. And it say’s so on my license. But my mind doesn’t see that. I still try and have fun, without feeling like the Crypt-Keeper, and generally end up having to lie down. How I enjoy moving and shaking my old bones to loud music with almost complete strangers, and I am almost 100% certain that my injuries are Zumba related. I truly believe it is a tendon problem, as in Achilles tendonitis. From what my wisdom is telling me, tendonitis is pain caused by injury and inflammation of a tendon, which is where a muscle attaches to bone. The most common types of Zumba-induced tendonitis affects the achilles tendon and posterior tibial tendon. When my knee froze up last week and I couldn’t bend it at all and writhed in pain like a chupacabra that had been hit by a semi tractor trailer on the highway (nice visual), I had no idea what was gong on. After having a week to reflect about pain, life and how I am no longer a spring chicken, I am leaning to the fact that my ankle injury is causing my knee problems. I have been favoring this left foot for close to a year and I think I am putting stress on the left knee. So when I bend and squat (which I avoid like the plague because of the immeasurable amounts of screaming I do inside my head), something’s gotta give. And I know what it is that’s GOTTA GIVE: my knee.

Call me crazy, but I think what I set out to do- feel healthier/lose weight has turned around and bitten me on the keister. I have laid off the classes for days at a time over the last year, only to resume with modifications and I still injure myself. And it’s more intense (pain wise) than before.

I will not give up my gym membership, even though I could use the extra $500. a year, because of the principle involved. It is my life line to what I thought was there to keep me fit. To keep me in a healthy state. The only state I have been in lately is injuries and pain and it’s hard to survive all this when one already has an underlying health condition. I know I need to take it easy, I know this. But it’s hard to face the fact that age is creeping up on me, when I have been trying to do everything in my power to stave it off.

If I ever get in to see the doctor regarding my ankle and knee, I will cling to hope that I’m not destined to a life alert button and a walker in the near future. This girl still wants to move around!

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