Exercise is not for me unless we’re in a pool

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As part of my healing process after a mastectomy, I enrolled in an organized post-cancer program that was highly recommended by my surgeon. Committing to three days per week for 12 weeks was a big deal for me, but it is something I feel is necessary to fully recover. 

There are three specific areas addressed during the course of the program: nutrition, emotional well- being, and physical exercise. I have managed two out of three pretty well, but the exercise has been challenging for me.

Because I truly do not enjoy exercise, and despite my countless attempts to change my attitude, I find it ranks right up there with childbirth, turnip greens, and root canals on my “things I hate” list. I have managed, despite my initial reluctance, to develop an enjoyment for water classes designed for others like me, but during COVID and following my surgery, I had to stop for a while, and I can tell a significant difference in how I feel and move.

The first couple of exercise classes for the program I joined went pretty well. Stretching, warming up, and gentle movements proved to be acceptable. My body accepted this beginner program with minimal rebellion. However, as the class has advanced, I find myself lagging in compliance with the others.  

The first clue that things might become challenging for me was week two when we were asked to “grab a mat and get on the floor.” I respectfully declined, knowing full well that if I could even manage to get down on the floor, there would be no getting back into an upright position, and watching me attempt that feat would not be pretty to observe. I opted to remain seated or standing and modify my moves.

My exercise attire consisted of stretched out yoga pants and an old T-shirt. I quickly observed the form fitting exercise tights and tank tops worn by others and bought myself a pair of those pants that looked so cute, complete with a matching water bottle. I can attest to the fact that someone of my body build standing next to a much smaller sized person is not a good advertisement for workout clothing, and the amount of spandex in mine is considerably more stressed than theirs. I have a fear that one day my tights might explode, injuring throngs of people in the aftermath.

We advanced to utilizing weights, and they varied in size from one pound to 10 pounds. I determined in my mind that it would be prudent to begin with the smallest and work my way up. That was three weeks ago, and I am still clinging to my 16 ouncers. No need to overdo my lazy muscles.  

“Feeling the burn” for me equates to an overcooked grilled cheese sandwich rather than body parts.  Interspersed with the routine, there are yoga moves. Not being a part of that community puts me at a distinct disadvantage. When they first did “child’s pose,” I did not know whether to suck my thumb or hold up one finger to be excused to go potty until I observed the class all lying face down with their knees tucked beneath them on the mats. This is not possible seated in a chair, I soon discovered.

Last week, the instructor asked me if I knew “Sandy Campbell” and wondering where we were going with this conversation, I told her I did not know her. She then clarified that she was asking if I knew the “standing camel” pose. I quickly learned what it was, elbows up behind my back, and seriously doubted if Sandy Campbell had anything to do with this move.

Now we are learning to use weight machines. Feeling like a bodybuilder, of course I would be the only one to choose the “bunny slope” beginner route. Rather than adding more weight resistance, I opt for the least amount. Trying to aim for five pounds soon but no aspirations to become a female version of Charles Atlas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Lou Ferrigno (aka “The Hulk”).

Post graduation plans from the program include me digging out my chlorine faded swimsuit and heading for the comfort and safety of the exercise pool once more where no one can see my inadequacies in the water.

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