October 17, 2015 - complete third half-marathon
December 18, 2015 - 5:56 pm - complete hour-long cross-training workout at the gym
December 18, 2015 - 11 pm - fall hard on ceramic tile in my kitchen
December 19, 2015 - diagnosed with broken fibula
January 6, 2016 - surgery to put plate and five screws
February 11, 2016 - surgeon clears me to start transitioning to weight-bearing on injured leg
February 12, 2016 - start physical therapy
March 7, 2016 - cleared to use nonimpact cardio machines other than stationary bike
March 11, 2016 - today
As I spent countless hours this winter lying in my recliner with my leg propped up on three pillows and wrapped in ice, I discovered A&E's Fit to Fat to Fit show. I have never watched The Biggest Loser, because I don't like the format very much. I never miss an episode of Fit to Fat to Fit, though, because I need to watch those personal trainers who gained hella weight return to the gym. I myself am returning to the gym, and it's hard.
I started working out when I was in high school and developing a pretty gnarly eating disorder. I've had to break the mental connection between calories in/calories out because if I do that I have a tendency to both overexercise and overeat. The brass ring that's so hard to catch is figuring out how to exercise the right amount without always tying it to weight loss.
For all of my adult life, I've been terrified of breaking a leg because it renders exercise almost impossible. I always assumed I would blow up like a blimp if I couldn't exercise. And that didn't happen. I did gain probably five to eight pounds, but it's hard to tell if that's because of the broken leg or because of winter. I do usually gain weight in winter and lose it in the spring, like a lot of people. Still, five to eight is a manageable amount and I know it will come off. I have gained and lost the same five to eight pounds over and over during my adulthood. What I haven't done is come back from immobility.
The least amount of exercise I've had since I was seventeen until I broke my leg: three times a week. Somehow, through all the business trips and vacations and illnesses and with the lone exception of the first six weeks after childbirth, I've worked out hard. And, I haven't not exercised this time -- I did floor barre and arm weights every weekday and crutched around as much as I could on the weekends. But that's not the same. I didn't break a sweat really until I started stationary biking when I could put weight on my injured leg.
According to my physical therapist, I'm still likely six weeks away from running.
And then once I can run, how far will I be able to make it? Not far.
I remember the first time I decided to run a half marathon. I could only run three miles. Every time I ran, I added a block.
I don't want to go through this again.
I don't want to fight back from nothing.
I've spent all winter making the tiniest incremental progress and it is so slow.
And so I love Fit to Fat to Fit, because the trainers who gain stupid weight in four months have that moment when they get back in the gym or out on the sandy beach and they're trying to run and it's so not happening. Then at the end of the show, there they are, looking more hard-bodied than I ever will (I have no intention of becoming a personal trainer, for one thing, and I'm at least ten years older than anyone who has been featured, for another). I don't want to be hard-bodied, but I want to get back to being able to run for an hour straight.
Right now, that seems impossible in my darkest hours and so far away in my lightest.
The one thing I can cling to is the memory of my husband saying, "Stop looking at them and comparing one to the other," when he caught me sniffing back tears as I studied my left calf and ankle and my right. My left calf looks like a runner's calf. My right calf, four weeks ago, looked like an uncooked piece of chicken. Zero definition, puffy, slack. Today, my right calf doesn't look like my left calf, but it no longer makes me reach for a crockpot.
I can do this, I know I can do this, but if watching twentysomething personal trainers grit their teeth and jiggle their new belly fat and try to hold a plank makes me feel better, then dammit, pass the remote. I won't apologize.
And I signed up for a 10k in September, six months from now.