Updated: Feb 15
I've heard from many clients, "I used to be able to do x, and I can't anymore!" I've even said it myself following health issues, but it's a fact of life that as we age or deal with health issues, the activities that our bodies tolerate changes. If we focus only on the glory days or what we've lost, we'll probably end up depressed and sedentary. My advice is to focus on what you can do!
For the last 18+ months, I've been dealing with the unpredictable symptoms of mold toxicity. I've had horrible vertigo that lasted for days and left me parked on the couch most of the time. I've had countless days that I experienced tremors and muscle weakness in my legs, feet, arms and hands, which made it difficult to walk or hold anything steady. When possible, I utilized a cane to help me move around the house because I was afraid my legs would give out on me. It's absolutely true that on my worst days, exercise was the farthest thing from my mind and I was feeling really depressed. My thinking was constantly focused on what I used to be able to do, especially the fairly simple activities of daily living like cooking, cleaning and taking care of my dogs.
On days I was feeling even a little bit better, I tried doing a few exercises, but struggled. Rather than thinking like a trainer, I was thinking like just regular Sydney. I tried doing my favorite kind of exercise with the TRX and really struggled because the tremors in both my arms and legs were not only distracting but also made me feel like my legs wouldn't support me. Disheartened, I gave up and returned to veg on the couch.
Days later, my trainer brain kicked in as I thought about all of my clients who use wheelchairs. They are certainly able to exercise without standing, so I could too. With renewed excitement at the prospect of doing a few exercises, I headed down to the gym. I grabbed all the equipment I thought I could use and put it in one place so I wouldn't have to get up multiple times. I tried sitting on my stability ball, but once again felt my legs tremble. This time, I didn't give up, I just moved the ball out of the way and sat on the mat on the floor. I used a door anchor to hook up my resistance bands and I proceeded to row, curl, press, pull and rotate through a series of exercises. I was tired at the end of it, but felt energized and heartened. I continued to work out out this way on days my legs didn't seem up to supporting me, and attempted some standing exercises on days they felt up to the task.
This experience was an important one for me because it helped me to think outside the box, drastically improved my emotional outlook, and reminded me that it didn't matter what exercises used to work for me, what mattered was what exercises I could utilize now.
I've heard so many people say, "I can't work with a personal trainer, I'm not in good enough shape." When I remind them that there is no minimum fitness requirement to work with a trainer, the truth comes out in their response: "I'm ashamed that I 'let myself go' and want to get in better shape before I let someone else see me work out." I completely understand that point of view because I've been there myself. Wouldn't it be better though to work with a trainer during the rebuilding phase of your training to make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly and with good form so you are less likely to get hurt and therefore discouraged?
Any good trainer will meet you where you are in your fitness journey. They will write appropriate workouts for you to build strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility and balance in a progressive way to ensure that you don't get hurt along the way. You'll enjoy success instead of discouragement. Remember, small gains lead to big gains over time. No matter what shape you're in, you can exercise and get stronger.