Getting Healthy Hurts like Hell

Coat rack I bought last year.

You know how it is. You want to get fit? You want to firm up your body, become recognizable to yourself again? Great! It will improve the quality of your life. You’ll sleep better, you’ll have more energy. Exercise is the best natural antidepressant there it, so you’ll feel more positive and less anxious. You’ll get all this good stuff in return for just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week. So why have you put it off for so long? That’s likely because of the brief period (weeks and weeks) of mild discomfort (blinding pain) you may experience (will have to endure) when you begin your new exercise routine.

Let’s face it, you’re not a girl anymore. You’re a middle-aged, pre-menopausal mass of physical wear and tear, still expecting it to be like it was when you were thirty. But thirty was fifteen years ago. Today, your elbow is sore from trying to open a pickle jar – two months ago. Your left knee pops and groans and threatens to give out whenever you walk up the stairs carrying something heavy (like a cell phone).

And your diet! You’ve eaten primarily crap for so long, your body doesn’t know how to process fresh vegetables when it gets them and protests by trying to tie its own duodenum in a knot or sending acid bubbling up your esophagus like one of those volcanoes kids make for the science fair in fourth grade.  Because while you really enjoy a salad (when it’s drowned in Ranch), you mostly enjoy carbs, refined sugar and artificial flavoring. So your doctor sends you for blood work because you have the energy of a wombat (which has a metabolism like molasses), and you are then instructed to immediately begin taking megadoses of vitamins C, D and iron. But even if you’re careful to take these after a meal as instructed, they will likely make you nauseous. Until your body gets used to getting what it needs. Which may be never.

So here you are – sore, tired and nauseous. Sounds like a good time to join a gym, right? That’s what my partner and I did. In an effort to slow an aging process that appears to have escalated alarmingly the last couple of years, my partner and I have embarked on a new fitness program. We went to our new gym the other day and tried a few of the machines. Nothing too extreme. Twenty minutes on a treadmill. Another twenty on a stair thingy. Two minutes playing with a crunch machine.  Just getting used to the place. Taking it easy. Then we came home and took the dogs on a long(ish) walk. I had to take 4 ibuprofen that night just to make the bed soft enough to sleep on. Because everything hurt – the knee, the elbow, abdominal muscles I didn’t know I had. My toes. My hair. (Yes, my hair. I ran my hand through it and it wimpered.)

It’s not that I’ve never been active. From my twenties to early thirties I jogged pretty regularly and went hiking almost every weekend. And it’s not that I can’t take a little discomfort. I used to go hiking for 8 hours in August in central Texas with nothing but a granola bar and a canteen of blood-warm water to sustain me. And I loved it. Now, if the temperature gets above 60 degrees, I break into a sweat.

I know that when you start working out after laying off for a while (or several years), it takes time to get past the pain, before you get to the good effects of exercise. When I was thirty, it might take a couple of weeks before I could run a couple of miles again. So I know that theoretically, the pain will go away. Even now that I’m not thirty anymore. And it does. As soon as I stop exercising. Or a couple of days after anyway. That’s the problem with a fitness routine, though. A couple of days later, if not sooner, you’re supposed to do all the stuff that caused the pain again. At my age, that seems vaguely masochistic.

My partner has a sister who is almost 10 years older than us and insanely fit. Just standing near her makes me feel like a three-toed sloth with a slow thyroid. She practically vibrates with energy. And the older she gets, it seems, the more she works out. The last time I saw her, she was averaging 3 hours a day riding her bike and lifting weights.  When she has an injury, she wraps it and keeping on trucking. My partner spoke to her last night and mentioned her discomfort after 3 consecutive days at the gym. Big sister offered this comfort:

“Well, you know what the US Marine Corps says. Pain is the sensation of weakness leaving your body.” I’m pretty sure that’s not true for me. The day after my second visit to the gym, I worked in the yard for several hours. That night, a whole legion of muscles that had been quietly trying to atrophy the last few years, protested painfully. Most notably my posterior. But I’m pretty sure the weakness wasn’t leaving my body. Actually, my body seemed quite content to lie motionless on my bed with an ice pack on one part and a heating pad on another for the last 3 or 4 hours of the day while my brain watched stupid TV and tried not to think about how exhausting, nauseating, and painful getting healthy really is.

Leave a comment


  1. wilma milon

     /  February 29, 2012

    What about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? (I don’t believe it eiher)

    • I almost used that one! It’s funny, the first time I heard that quote, it was in the movie, Conan the Barbarian. I love Arnold, but anybody who spends that much time lifting heavy things to earn the priveledge of having to have your clothes custon made, is a little nuts in my book. (And so was Nietzsche for that matter, wasn’t he?)

      I think I would have made a lousy marine.

  2. Your pain…it speaks to me and makes me giggle 😀 (code for yes I agree utterly and completely!)

  3. Hi. Loved your post so much, I’ve linked it to a post of my own. Here is the link:

  1. Top Ten Reasons not to Exercise/ Gym « nirupamaprv

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