Five weeks of recovery. One week left until the words ALL CLEAR appear on my phone’s calendar. Words that symbolize the return to regular life. Words that represent my victorious return to a life of fitness.
Except of course that after six weeks off from any real exercise, my body is not ready for a victorious return. My brain is getting there, slowly. But my body needs a plan. It needs steps to make sure that my return to fitness is one that lasts for the LONG HAUL.
So I am coming up with a plan. A plan that will ease me back into starting to exercise after recovering from surgery. A five step plan.
Step 1. Set Realistic Expectations.
I would LOVE to feel proud and exhilarated after a great run or fabulous bike ride on one of my favorite trails. So instead of attempting to ease into one of my favorite spots, I am going to consider getting back to my old workout haunts as my reward. In a month. Yes, you read correctly. I am giving myself one month. That is not to say I am not going to push myself. but I know that I need to work up to running three miles. And I want to do it well. Because after three miles? Come more miles.
Step 2. Create Habits.
After this long hiatus, I know that I need to retrain not just my muscles, but my mind to get up early in the morning to exercise or find time to squeeze in a workout in the evening if the day got away from me. My brain needs to be taught again, that despite the excuses that might line the path to getting things done, it is worth it in the long run.
Step 3. Formulate a Training Plan.
A real plan. Not just a “lets see what I can do today” plan. It needs to be systematic, well thought out, consistent, and purposeful.
The good news about formulating a plan is that there are MANY resources out there for every possible running distance, triathlon, or other endurance event. One of my favorite new finds is Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line- and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. Granted. I am biased. I think the world of Sarah and Dimity. For good reason. After reading their first book Run Like a Mother, I grew to love their quick witted conversational style, their authenticity, and their very real passion for running. Their latest book was exactly what I needed right now. They reminded me of the fact that no matter how many marathons, half marathons, or triathlons that I have competed in the past, as Dimity says, “…there are no savings accounts in running.” If we want to make our goal a long term one, we need to train, responsibly, with a clear purpose and goals that lie just beyond what is comfortable. The book is an easy to read mix of personal stories by every day mother runners AND novice and experienced training plans for all types of distances from 5k to marathon.
My one month plan is to start walking on the treadmill, building up to add short bursts of running, leading eventually to longer bursts. There will be rest days. Three to four days during the first week, building to six days per week by the fourth week. I am still thinking about what my long term goal is…so my training plan you might say is still a work in progress.
Step 4: Find Motivating Workouts
I am lucky to have a workout room in my house, with a treadmill, a bicycle trainer, free weights, and a television and DVD player. Plus, in our family room we have both a Wii and an xBox. I have been setting shows to DVR so that I have PLENTY of things to watch while on the treadmill, and I am excited to finally get to use my Physique 57 barre style workout DVDs. The first month is going to be about building my base, slowly and safely.
Step 5: Be Patient. Be Flexible. Be Determined
I have NEVER started at what feels like ground zero before. Or maybe I have. Presumably after my bone marrow transplant, in 1998, I started from scratch. But that was a LONG time ago. I am heavier now, and older. I need to be mentally strong enough to push myself and ignore the voices of doubt, but smart enough to listen to my body when it has had enough.