If you've been following me on social media over the last 9 years, you know something about my early morning fitness routine, my injuries, and my recovery.
When you finally find a practice that makes you feel good on every level, it's easy to get up and do it, daily. For me, it means pushing the boundaries so hard that I eventually break. Not the smartest thing in the world, I realize, but I'm an adrenaline junkie and I just love to feel good physically, mentally and emotionally.
For years, Mysore ashtanga yoga was what I loved and still love. I dream of the day I can get back into it fully. For now my practice is much abbreviated, having endured injuries to my right knee, left hip and left shoulder. For a few months leading up to each injury, I was backing off a bit, feeling discomfort in my joints and muscles. Yet, on the days I felt good, I'd be right back at it, pushing harder than ever. This is the thing about an injury. It gives you fair warning... multiple times! It's up to you to take notice and proceed with care.
Six days a week, my routine started at 4:30 AM, waking up slowly. By 5:30 AM or 6 AM, I was on the mat for 2 hours, pushing through some challenging asanas (postures). Slow and steady, but precise and deep... pretzel twists! After 6 solid years, the last one somewhat excruciating, my body gave out. The knee, the hip, and finally the one that did me in, my shoulder. I could no longer push through the pain. I had to simply get off the mat entirely and give my body the rest if screamed for.
For two years, I focused on my breathing and meditation. Occasionally, I would test the waters on my mat, but there was no use. I couldn't lift my shoulder. My diet didn't change, still vegetarian, no processed foods, loading up on vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Somehow, no matter how little I ate, I started gaining weight and put on a good 15 pounds. Depression and irritability set in. I had no outlet, and my favorite jeans didn't fit anymore.
Fast forward to just 6 months ago. I could feel no more pain. I had full range of motion in my shoulder, and both hip and knee felt as good as new. I called up my sensei with whom I had studied almost 10 years ago. One phone call and I was back in the dojo studying aikido once again. My return to this martial art has been a blessing, allowing the centering I need and want. But, while I love it, it doesn't work my body the way the acrobatic practice of Ashtanga does. Burning calories is essential to one's health and the only way to do that is with a good cardio workout.
Thinking back to some 15 years ago, I remembered loving spinning from the first class I ever took. Yet, the idea of going to a gym after experiencing both aikido and ashtanga in a zen environment, isn't very appealing. My motivation? Getting in shape, because it makes me that much happier and full of energy, which I need to get through my busy schedule. The trick to staying fit is to pick something you love, because if you do, chances are you will stick with it. Post injury, an activity that gets you out of bed easily becomes crucial. Spinning happens to be a fantastic cardio workout.
In the last almost 2 months, I have been spinning 5 to 6 days a week. The results are incredible. I am down 10 pounds, with 5 more to go. When you see results like that, it's hard not to notice and want more. Results will inevitably encourage you to get up and go each day. I love spinning as much as I did the first time around, and it is helping me rebuild muscle around injured and weakened joints. For a hyper flexible person like myself, strengthening and conditioning the body is an important part of staying fit, and hopefully injury-free.
There was a time when I thought there was nothing better than ashtanga yoga. It kicked my butt, challenging me with every posture. I still practice ashtanga, but in a different way. What it taught me was to never give up, to focus, and remain steady. Aikido, though a martial art, does the same. Spinning plays a specific role, kicking up my metabolism, while burning fat and increasing my energy level.
The moral of the story is, don't ignore your body when it is telling you to slow down. Listen hard, and avoid injuries at all cost. So if you're like me and like to push, good luck to you. It's hard to back off, but harder to get back on track. Pick 2 to 3 activities and customize your daily workout, giving yourself 1 to 2 days of recovery time, weekly.
Last but not least, your body self-regulates. It tells you exactly what it needs at any given time. That goes with eating cues too. When you work out regularly, you tend to eat much less, though perhaps more often and at regular intervals. Listen deeply!
So don't give up and rush out to buy a new wardrobe. Instead kick it into high gear with some fun activities, eat reasonably, loading up on vegetables and fruit, and slip back into your favorite jeans.