Here I am, back at Green Mountain at Fox Run, which has truly become my home away from home over the past four and a half years. I could go on and on about how wonderful and transformative the program is, how knowledgeable and compassionate the staff all are, the delicious meals and the beautiful surroundings, and maybe I will in another post. But today I want to focus on one aspect of the Green Mountain experience that I most appreciate, which is the empowering attitude of always finding a way to deal with (and get around) impediments.
One of the main reasons I came here in the first place, in September 2005, was that the program literature promised a safe environment in which women with physical challenges could learn how to become active without hurting themselves. This was essential for me, given my old knee injury and frequent tendonitis in my foot, not to mention my asthma. I figured I could try out all kinds of physical activity and find ones that I didn't hate too much, at the very least, and learn to do them without injuring myself further.
I was a total tomboy as a child, and all through college remained quite physically active despite not being the fastest runner. I was great at softball (having spent my childhood playing catch in the backyard), could swish baskets on demand, rode my bike all over the place, and do just about any other sport involving good hand-eye coordination. Yes, I was overweight, but I was strong and loved moving. Then when I was in England I was following a public footpath home from a Slimming Club meeting (just another example of diets being bad for your health!) and ended up going over a wall that was twice as far down on the other side, landing in a deserted monastery garden and tearing the cartilage in my left knee. Back then no one even said the words "physical therapy," so I was left with a chronically weak joint that would get reinjured just about every time I played tennis or ran across the street or even landed funny on that leg. Ten years later I developed asthma, and that really put an end to my active life as I had known it.
By the time I arrived at Green Mountain, in addition to living pretty much entirely in my head (as dealing with my body was no fun at all), I had also become afraid to move, especially if it involved raising a foot off the floor. Walking was manageable, but dancing was out of the question, and going up and down stairs was the bane of my life.
What I discovered when I started the program here was that being physically active is the closest thing to a magic bullet for all sorts of issues, not just weight management, and that there is always a way to exercise all the muscles of the body, including the heart (ie, aerobic activity), even if you are orthopedically or medically challenged. I also learned that while being active may be hard, at first, if it hurts that means you aren't doing the activity correctly or are doing too much of it.
LynnAnn Covell, who was fitness director at that time and currently manages the lifestyle coaching program here, is one of the most inspirational people I have ever encountered, and one of the first things she said to my class of Green Mountain newbies was that if Plan A didn't work for us, she would come up with Plan B, and if that still didn't work, she would come up with plans C through Z, until she found a way for each of us to exercise comfortably and in a way that would allow us to become more fit and more comfortable in ourselves. And I've learned that she was telling the truth. If you can't do quad lifts on the floor, you can do them standing up or in a chair or on a fitball or in bed or in the pool. If you can't walk, you can swim or bounce on a fitball or ride a bike. If you can't dance on your feet, you can dance sitting in a chair or on a fitball and feel the joy in moving with the music.
This approach works for other aspects of life as well. If you can't meditate on your own, you can listen to a recording of affirmations, or do some guided imagery, or a walking meditation or simply take a mindful walk in a beautiful place. If you can't bear the thought of giving up eating in front of the television you can eat a meal there and set a timer to tell you when food needs to go back to the kitchen so you don't end up eating mindlessly for hours. If you can't make a healthy lunch every day you can cook a whole bunch of things on the weekend or buy prepared foods that fit into how you want to eat or bring a stock of such foods into your work environment or figure out how to make healthier restaurant choices. There is no one perfect answer, and searching for it can get in the way of finding a functional solution.
The trick to making this work is not letting disappointment and frustration at being unable to carry out Plan A get in the way of recognizing plan B and beyond.
A hui hou.