I wrote the first part of this post at the end of January… The night my ankle really started hurting and a few days later on the night I found out I had stress fractured my ankle and came home from the doctor wearing a giant boot on my right foot. I still remember that night like it was yesterday! It’s been a while since we’ve talked about exercise and fitness, mainly due to the injury that prevented me from being my active self for most of this year. So I figured I’d let you read that draft, and then we can fast forward to now and where I’m at with the whole journey of getting back on track!
Exercise and fitness are my number one hobby and two of my biggest passions. I’ve always said that getting injured and not being able to work out is one of my biggest fears… The thought has always terrified me. Exercising is my me-time. It’s where I blow off the most steam. It’s where I can push and challenge myself and feel successful. It’s where I can sweat it all out and get my ass kicked when I need it. And as much as I sometimes dread it, it’s usually the very best part of my entire day.
So when I woke up to my right ankle kind of hurting a few Saturdays ago, I internally panicked (“Something is definitely not right!”) and then brushed it off. “It will be okay,” I thought. “I only do Pilates on Saturdays and that’s relatively easy on the ankles.” When it came time to put the ring around our ankles, I couldn’t because of the pain. I still kind of brushed it off, but I wore flat boots out on that Saturday night so I wouldn’t put stress on it from heels. We were out dancing until 2am that night, but hey — I was in flats. On Sunday, my plan was to go to Orange Theory fitness. But when my ankle was still feeling a bit off, I chose SoulCycle instead so there would be less impact. I sat in the back, too, so I wouldn’t feel bad about sitting down if something started hurting in class. Most everything felt fine at SoulCycle, except for a few jumps out of the saddle, so I kept on keeping on. I walked to and from the coffee shop on Monday to get work done and noticed that my ankle was definitely hurting more than it was the past two days, but I thought I was just over-reacting… I mean I could walk on it, couldn’t I?! Monday night rolled around and I was supposed to leave to go to Orange Theory, but I had a gut feeling that I should skip and rest my ankle. I bought a little compression sock at Walgreens and put it up on the couch to ice it and I don’t know if it’s because I was thinking about it, but it just started to feel worse. That’s when I realized that a few days of rest and missed workouts were nothing compared to major damage that could affect how I worked out for a really long time.
Little things add up to the big things, you know? And while I usually like to think of this in a good way, it’s pretty terrifying for me to think of it in this light. I rarely ever stretch on my own… I go to hot yoga once or twice a week and call it a day. I foam roll for, like, five minutes when I remember, which is like once or twice a week. I take baths in epsom salts a few times a week for my sore muscles, but that’s because I’m pretty sure I would live in a bathtub if I could. Simply put, I don’t take nearly enough time to recover for how much I exercise.
Fast forward… It’s Tuesday night now as I’m writing this while sobbing on my couch. My foot is in a big fucking boot and I’m pretty much couch ridden for the next two weeks at the very minimum.
That’s where the draft ended. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d actually be in that boot for ten weeks and would be in physical therapy for the next six months. I had called a physical therapist on that Tuesday morning, went in for an evaluation, and got a referral to a podiatrist. Luckily, my podiatrist got me in for an X-Ray that afternoon, but never in a million years did I think I would be leaving that office in a boot that night. And I couldn’t have ever fathomed all that was to come over the next six months!
The number one question I got when I had that boot on was “How did you do it?!” And quite simply, a stress fracture is a crack in your bone resulting from overuse. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, you guys. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my workout habits were erring on the side of unhealthy. And once I got through the six months of physical therapy, it was time for me to figure out what a healthy workout schedule looked like.
Before I got injured, my best friend was teaching fitness. So working out twice a day really didn’t seem that crazy, in my mind… She was sometimes teaching three classes a day! But I still remember telling my therapist about what my typical week looked like and the look on her face when I was trying to downplay it. “Well, they’re different workouts when I work out twice a day, so it’s really not that intense.” (As a bit of a side note, I had just started seeing her a week or two before I fractured my ankle because of all that was transpiring with my parent’s divorce and honestly, it was divine timing. Not being able to work out definitely took its toll on me mentally and I’m so grateful I already had her in my life once that happened!)
So yeah, I didn’t realize it at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20. I was doing the GD most, especially in December and January when I was going through a lot with my family. I wasn’t really in the mood to socialize or go out, so intense exercise was how I was coping with everything, which is how I ended up in the boot.
It sounds dramatic now, but getting the boot on felt like a death sentence. I remember thinking, “It’s the middle of the winter in Chicago, I work from home and will never be leaving the house, I can’t work out to blow off steam, and now I’ll be sitting on my couch for weeks on end getting fat. FABULOUS!” 🙄
(In retrospect, thank God it was the middle of winter when Chicago basically hibernates. And thank God I do work from home and didn’t have to commute with that damn boot. And honestly, I’m so thankful for every lesson I learned having gone through all of that!)
But after a few weeks had gone by without exercising and I hadn’t started gaining weight, I started to wonder what was happening to my body. Sure, I had definitely modified my eating and drinking habits, but I was certain that not working out was going to result in instant weight gain.
Once I got the boot off in early April, I had to take it *very* slow. Like, walking for more than a block was a treat for me! I got the boot off just a week or two before Coachella, and I remember my doctor and PTs stressing how I shouldn’t be jumping and needing to be VERY careful with all of the walking and dancing.
I got back from Coachella without any soreness, but had trips to London, Paris, and NYC on the horizon (lots of walking!) so I didn’t want to push the envelope and hinder my travels in any way. I was still going to physical therapy twice a week between trips and I felt like I was getting so much stronger and more confident! Since I’d given myself so much extra time off, I remember thinking I’d be able to graduate from PT and start working out again in no time.
The first time I did a workout other than Pilates was quite humbling. I took a Hi-Def class (hot yoga with weights meets boot camp) and it was an absolute disaster. You take the class without shoes on your yoga mat, but even though I had done jumping exercises in PT, this was a whole new experience. My ankle hurt pretty badly, I was scared shitless I had fucked something up again, and for days my entire left leg was SO sore from overcompensating. Thankfully nothing was wrong, but it was back to going to PT and taking it easy on the exercise front. A bummer would be an understatement!
There was more travel on the horizon, which was such a blessing to keep my mind off the fact that I *still* wasn’t back into a workout routine. By mid-June, I had taken 2-3 spin classes without any pain at all and finally graduated from physical therapy a few weeks later. Once I was ‘on my own’ so to speak, it was time for me to really re-evaluate a lot of the behaviors and habits I’d formed. Part of me yearned to jump back into my old ways, but I knew I never wanted to end up in that boot or pay for physical therapy ever again. Finding a healthy balance was necessary!
I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t travel at all in July so I could enjoy summertime in Chicago and that’s when I finally got the confidence to try to resume some sense of normality on the fitness front. I’m pretty sure I only worked out around six times towards the end of July, but it felt so good to regain a little bit of confidence in the classes that I’d been missing. (And as a side note, I now wear tennis shoes in those Hi-Def classes for extra stability… Don’t be afraid to listen to your body and modify where you need to! Sure, I may look like an idiot being the only person wearing shoes in a yoga class, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.)
Fast forward to now, and I’ve basically been out of town for the last two and half months (August, September, and the first half of October), so I really haven’t had the option to overdo it… at all. This Sunday night was the first time in about 12 weeks (since the end of July) that I sat down to map out my workouts for the week!
And to be totally honest, it’s been so bizarre to fall out of the habit of working out. I haven’t had a consistent month of being active in TEN MONTHS. Ten months! I mean, I could have had a baby in that time period. I’ve always been one to schedule workouts into my calendar before the week starts to hold myself accountable, but last week I had totally forgotten about working out. Since I was gone over the weekend and didn’t plan for the week, it just slipped my mind. So this week I’m getting back in the habit of exercising regularly and it’s only been two days, but it’s felt great so far!
Seeing how my body has and hasn’t changed throughout this process has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of this whole journey! I’m definitely not as toned as I once was, but my clothes still fit. My abs have totally disappeared and I don’t like what my mid-section now looks like in the mirror, but my stomach is still relatively flat. My ass and thighs are a whole lot more jiggly than they once were, but they still fit in my jeans. If you’ve ever heard the term “skinny fat,” that’s where I feel like I’m at right now. I don’t feel like I want to “lose weight” necessarily, but I want to tighten up the areas that have gotten a little too soft. (I actually stopped weighing myself a few years ago because it creates an unhealthy mindset for me, so I simply base this off of how I look in the mirror and how I feel in my clothes.)
When I’m at home, I eat a pretty healthy and balanced diet most of the time. We all have our ‘cheat meals,’ right? It’s all about balance! (Traveling, especially in Europe, is a whole different can of worms! I let #treatyoself go a little too far.) When I was overdoing it on the workouts, I was doing some form of (usually intense) cardio almost every day, with strength and toning classes added on top of that. So my new goal is to focus more of my time on strength and toning and peppering in some cardio along the way!
This is what I have in mind for the average week when I’m home in Chicago and not traveling…
Monday: Kick off the week with a sweaty spin class in the AM!
Tuesday: Low-impact toning class… Lagree (It’s a mega former machine similar to SLT in NYC!) A barre class could also count here.
Wednesday: Low-impact hot yoga class… C2 or HPF at Core Power Yoga
Thursday: Class that kicks my butt, but is more strength vs cardio.. Hi-Def @Studio Three, Sculpt @CPY, Boxing? (Been wanting to try forever!)
Friday: Another spin class to set the tone for the weekend! If I ever get back to running, Orange Theory or Barry’s could sub in for a spin class.
Saturday: Potentially pilates if I’m feeling up for it? I love Carrie’s class at Flex Pilates.
Another big part of my plan? Not just rest, but RECOVERY! It’s honestly just as important as your workout. Stretching, foam rolling, massage, baths, cryo therapy… It all makes such a difference in preventing injury. I learned a lot in my six months in physical therapy and I plan to put together a post before the end of the year with some of the different techniques! Stay tuned.
And much unlike before, I’m going to listen to my body and not going to beat myself up if I miss a workout. I think that’s truly the key to me having a balanced workout schedule!
As a little disclaimer… Please keep in mind this is just what I think is going to work out well for me, personally. I realize working out 5-6 times a week may sound like a lot to some, but that’s about half as much as I used to work out and much less intense. (I’m also single without kids so I’ve got more time on my hands than some might, too.) I truly enjoy working out and find that I’m my best self mentally when I’m in a regular workout routine. I think the fact that I work from home without any co-workers plays a huge part in this, too… Getting to a class is my time to get out of the house each day and carve out a little me-time from the workday!
I’d love to hear any of your stories about recovering from injuries, finding a healthy balance, squashing some unhealthy habits, or finding the motivation to get back to the gym! <3