Jun 25, 2006

The Memory of an Elephant

I have not exercised for almost a year now. Last summer, I had severe adrenal exhaustion and could no longer exercise, let alone even function! Shortly afterward, I had a foot injury called plantar fasciitis, which got so bad that there were days I would have to crawl because my feet hurt too much. In my research, I found that this can often be permanent. Between those two, I have not been able to exercise for almost a year, and so have gained a few ounces (OK, maybe more than a few!). I thank God that my adrenals are greatly improved now, and I was able to find some exercises that greatly improved the pain in my feet, but they still hurt and I cannot even walk one mile at an exercise pace.

I have been quite reluctant to even try aerobic exercise of any kind because I was afraid it would make my feet worse (which is unthinkable) and, from experience, I know that over-exertion one day can cause an adrenal relapse for many days. But I knew I desperately needed to do something, especially after a one-hour tour I took last week that left me totally exhausted.

Before I continue, I should give you a little background. Beginning in high school (many, many years ago!), I was in extremely good condition, lifting weights, walking 8-10 miles daily, jumping on the rebounder 30-60 minutes daily, and being on a volleyball or track team. After school, I joined the Army and continued working very hard physically and working out daily. After leaving the Army, I continued some sort of aerobics at least one hour daily, and was never afraid of good, hard, physical labor. I could work 18-20 hours a day, if need be, doing hard labor, and not take a break (sometimes I would get so caught up in what I was doing, I would forget to take a break!). In other words, for many years, I have been physically strong and healthy.

Until I got sick several years ago. I was able to recover after almost a year, but I have never been quite as strong. I did continue to exercise every day and work hard, however, until last summer, when it felt like my body just quit. My batteries ran dry and I just couldn't recharge them.

Fast forward to this week. I thought to myself, "I wonder what would happen if I tried some Tae-Bo?" I didn't have anything pressing for the next week, so I was willing to take a risk.

Did you know our bodies have a fantastic memory system? This can either be good news or bad news, depending on your past health, but your body remembers everything that has ever happened to it. For instance, if you are a mother who has been pregnant more than once, you may understand this well. For the first baby, it may take several months before you show, before you need maternity clothes. You may get back into your regular clothes, after the birth, quite quickly. However, when you get pregnant the 2nd time, and thereafter, your body says, "Aha! I remember doing this before!" And it quickly goes into pregnancy mode, you find yourself wearing maternity clothes much earlier on, and it takes a while longer to get your figure back after the birth.

Our bodies also remember lots of other things, too: the most we ever weighed, and the least we ever weighed (as adults); the healthiest we've ever been, and the sickest we've ever been; the strongest we've ever been, and the weakest we've ever been; etc. If you haven't been on a bicycle for a few years, you don't forget how to ride it, do you? You may wobble a bit at first, but you soon find your sense of balance again. You don't have to learn how to balance all over again, because your body remembers.

So, I decided to experiment with Tae-Bo this week. I hadn't done anything but sit on the couch for a year, so I thought I would just try 10 minutes the first day. I actually was able to do 15 minutes, after stretching my feet real well so there would be less risk of injury. From my research regarding plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tendons and ligaments in the back of the calf and bottom of the feet), I read that it can take up to several hours after doing something to irritate the tendons and ligaments before you may feel the pain, so I gingerly waited all day for the pain to come. No pain.

I held my breath.

And the next day, I had enough energy to try again - the full 30 minute workout this time, and I could have gone even longer! I was pumped now! I had energy all day long!

Next day: no pain in my feet, no sore muscles, lots of energy! My body remembered doing this Tae-Bo workout time after time after time, and it very quickly went right back into the groove!

One more day of a full work-out and for the first time in almost a year, my feet are totally pain-free! I have lots of energy already, I am psyched up to work at getting in shape again (which will be easier for me than for someone who has never been in good shape to begin with), and I lost 1.2 pounds in 3 days! I don't know if my feet are ever going to hurt again, or if I will ever have adrenal problems again - I very well may - but I do know that I am on the right track again, and my body is anxious to get back to where it should be! I will keep in mind, though, that if I ever get lax, my body will be just as quick to revert to couch-potato status, since it remembers that extreme as well.

I don't know about the memory of an elephant, but I praise God for making our bodies with an incredible memory system.

1 comment:

Mark Epstein said...

Even over 50 my muscles "remember," I just wish they wouldn't "forget" so quickly!