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Monday, April 19, 2021

Trail Of Recovery

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Finding a routine, giving yourself a break essential

Fifty percent. I have never been so excited to see a score like that on a test in all my life.

Let me explain. This was no ordinary English test or algebra quiz, where it took a 93 percent or better to make me happy back in high school: This was an echocardiogram. A normal result is anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent, according to Dr. Google.

It was my first one since visiting the ER back on Christmas Day. I have to admit, I was more than a bit anxious about it, too. I knew this one would be better than the one in December. That one in the hospital was Bad. But would this one be good enough?

I have passed so many visible benchmarks along the way. I can see the number on the scale. I can count the notches on my belt. I know how baggy my jeans have become. All of those things pointed toward a positive test result. That wasn’t good enough, though. I was trepidatious and eager at the same time as they hooked up those sensors and probing around on my chest.

Suddenly, my mind was focused on all the challenges of the past three months. All those times I drove by Wendy’s and dreamed of a double with cheese. The Valentine’s Day candy. Cake. The times I told family and friends that my salad with lemon juice for dressing was just as good as the ribeye steak and bread they were enjoying.

The days I just didn’t want to go for a walk, much less run.

Those were my thoughts as I laid there on that exam table. The struggle, my friends, is real.

At the start of the year, healthy living was not only fresh and new, it was urgent. I could be genuinely enthusiastic about raw veggies and hummus. A walk around the neighborhood was an accomplishment. And it was working, too. Pounds were dripping off. Of course, the medicine didn’t hurt, either.

As with everything in life, the shiny and new wore off. The thought of another night of grilled chicken and salad became deflating. I started sneaking in some tastier snacks. I remember the first hamburger I ate after being released from the hospital. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

I figured that as long as I kept watching the quantity of my calories in and out, I would be OK. I could stop worrying so much about the quality of the calories I was consuming. And I was still checking my blood sugar. As long I wasn’t eating boxes of Oreos and Twinkies, I would be good, right?

Wrong. I remember the first time my weight went up two consecutive days. I nearly went into a panic. This couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t go back to the way things had been. I had worked too hard, sacrificed too much.

That’s when it really sank in that the battle is waged in the mind before it’s ever fought over the dinner plate. And I was going to win this war.

That’s when I learned the value of a routine and the power of giving yourself some grace. I reminded myself that in order to get stronger, you have to lift heavier weights. You have to keep challenging yourself to do more, But weightlifters also need their rest days. It’s in the rest that the muscles actually repair themselves and grow bigger and stronger. So it was OK if I had an off day here and there. I just couldn’t let one off day become two, or three, or a week. Or a month.

It was time to up my game. It was time to think differently.

I have always fancied myself a creative type. I always thought that meant I was supposed to fly by the seat of my pants. I convinced myself that life was one big improv class, and I could make it up as it came to me. I could write when I wanted, eat when I felt hungry and work out when motivation struck. Truth is, there was always something unsettled inside me when I actually lived that way.

I am learning to embrace the notion of a routine. It’s not something rigid and unmalleable. It’s not putting yourself in a jail cell and throwing away the key. It’s more like observing stakes driven into the sand on the beach and understanding you are free to move around within those boundaries.

Walking is important to me. I want to get up early and start my day with a good walk. But if I don’t, all is not lost. I can walk later in the day. Because I have made walking the important thing, not walking at 4:30 every morning, my day is not ruined if I sleep through the alarm clock.

Because that’s going to happen. And that’s where the grace comes in. Even if I don’t get a walk in one day, I am learning to forgive myself and strengthen my resolve to get a walk in the next day.

One of the keys is being content without growing complacent. Beating complacency goes back to the weightlifting analogy and setting bigger goals. I am about 20 pounds away from my original weight-loss goal. I already want to lose 10 more. And I have picked out a 5K race in which to participate. So I am not just walking; I am running again.

When you see me out and about, ask me how it’s going. That will keep me on my toes. And I will ask you how you’re doing pursuing your goals. Together, we can accomplish more than we thought possible.

And check back here from time to time for more updates from my recovery trail.

Editor’s Note: Scott “Scooter” Anderson is a regular contributor to 318 Forum magazine. This is part of a series of articles about his recovery from a health scare. Read his previous installments in the Health and Fitness section at 318forum.com.

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