This week, two of my besties who have Fitbits agreed to complete the Valley Look challenge. Participants only have to reach 35, 800 steps to complete the challenge. In the past, I would have just about killed myself to be the first to complete the challenge. I would have ran the block or walked on my treadmill until I got all 35,800 steps. If I am being really honest, I would have probably tried to get all 35, 800 steps by the end of the first day of the challenge. Today, I just want to complete the darn thing. A year ago, I was not so complacent, and that bothers me.
I did not reach my fitness goals this year. At the beginning of 2017, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to maintain my exercise routine. Around the second week of January, I injured my ankle. I had taken the children to the playground and was standing on a curb, talking on the phone and watching the kiddos play. As I ended the call, I stepped backward off of the curb and landed in a pothole. It would not have been so bad, but I stood for a few seconds too long on the top of my twisted ankle. It hurt like nobody's business. I immediately fell into my car and held onto the steering wheel for dear life. Despite the excruciating pain I was in, I drove 20 minutes to pick my eldest daughter up from tutoring and then drove another 30 minutes home. It was a Mother Bear moment for sure because once I finally arrived home, I realized that I could not walk on my ankle. My husband met me at the door and helped me to our bed. To make a long story short, I didn't walk on my ankle for the next few days. I ended up on crutches and even after I could walk without the crutches, my ankle hurt so badly that I limped like a pimp for several months.
I guess I could have just used a cane.
I decided to browse through the last two years of my Fitbit data. In 2015 and 2016 I rode my bike with my kids and friends, ran or walked a few miles, lifted weights at the gym, swam or simply danced my heart out to my favorite tunes. For about two months in 2016, I joined a boot camp at a local YMCA. I enjoyed getting up at the crack of dawn, crushing HIIT workouts, sprinting up and down hills through Oklahoma city streets and parking lot steps. After each workout I felt stronger and experienced a surge of energy that lasted throughout my day. I had gotten myself into the best physical shape I had been in since graduating from the Army's basic training in 1997. I eventually dropped out of the YMCA boot camp due to a conflict in my schedule but, I continued to exercise consistently before my ankle injury.
So what happened? I'm not even going to lie, when I first hurt my ankle, I was scared to get back to exercising. Plenty of friends encouraged me to ride my bike, but I couldn't because when I pushed the bike peddle forward, I would put pressure on my ankle and it would hurt. I tried to just lift weights, but if I shifted the wrong way and put pressure in the wrong spot, and my ankle would hurt. It wasn't until after I prayed on my foot for a month during Ramadan, that I felt more confident in my ability to use my ankle. During Ramadan, Muslims pray additional prayers for 30 days. I didn't attend the masjid every night, but I prayed enough so that by the end of Ramadan I had sat on my ankle so much that it no longer hurt when I moved it. By this time, I got to a point where I craved that surge of energy that I got from working out, so I started back walking. I even started to run again but now it's December and I still have not gotten back into an actual exercise routine.
This could be an excuse, or maybe I needed my first semester back to school to get used to commuting an average of 10 hours a week. It's been a juggling act to balance my workload and my family responsibilities, but something has got to give. I've spent this semester focusing on our children's school work, and then stress eating to stay awake and get my own course work done. At the beginning of the semester, my department had an orientation about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while completing the five-year PhD program. That's easier said than done! Academically, this was a successful semester for me, but by the middle of the semester, I noticed my clothes began to feel like they had stayed in the dryer too long. My knees felt like a house weighed down by ice after a Baltimore ice blizzard.
About three weeks ago, I decided to go to the doctor to inquire about my back, hip and shoulder pain. My fears were confirmed when I stepped on the scale. The nurse slid the bars all the way over to the right. She lifted the bottom bar up and placed it down on the 200 pound marker. The scale was not centered so I told the nurse she could move that bottom bar back to the left. To the left...to the left. Surely I was not 200 hundred pounds. She listened, but I was quickly put in my place and had to face reality when she moved the slider over to reveal that I was only one pound shy. I felt like I had stepped into a boxing ring. I could hear the announcer shout, "Ladies and Gentleman, tonight we will witness the biggest internal fight in history...Hailing in from Baltimore, Maryland...Standing at 5'4, She's weighing in at 199 pounds!"
Like I said, I had begun to feel uncomfortable in my body. My stomach dips north and I can make the skin on my back smile. When I look in the mirror, I still see the beautiful black woman I know I am. Yet, when I pay attention to how my body feels, I relate to the discomfort Roxanne Gay writes about, in her book Hunger. Reading her book, made me a stronger believer in the importance of women determining their own health goals. What looks and feels good on one woman may not always work for another woman. Weighing in at 199 pounds is my rock bottom. It doesn't feel right. It's too much.
During a run last week, I thought back to an Instagram picture Laila Ali posted about two weeks ago. She looked like she had just finished a workout. Her body was toned. Her belly was flat, and her smile was beautiful. She looks amazing as always. In her caption, she mentioned that she didn't feel like working out that day, but did anyway. She added that she weighed 197 pounds. In her comment section, I posted, "I wish my 199 looked like your 197." But the truth is Laila is 5"9 and our bodies are different. We are different. Furthermore, there is no need for me to wish for anything.
Next month, if I live and it's Allah's will, I will be 40 years old. I have lived as a vegan, vegetarian and even ate raw for a year. I have participated in fitness programs and boot camps. That being said, I know what it takes to get myself back in shape. I have to make healthier food choices and replace the sweets I inhale when I am stressed with healthy alternatives. Eating right is only half the battle. The most challenging part is making time for myself. This is not an excuse, but a reality. Between work, school, four children and my husband, my hands are full. I've come to the conclusion that I have to put myself on my schedule.
My life is not going to slow down anytime soon. It's going to take a plan and consistency. This year I learned what can happen if I let an injury and lack of planning push me too far from my exercise routine. I say too far because, I did have to let my ankle heal, but I should have gotten back in Formation sooner. Tomorrow is the first day of 2018 and it's the perfect time for a reset. I reviewed my #2017bestnine photos on Instagram and they reflect the most important things in my life; Allah, family, and me setting, focusing on, and then crushing my personal goals.
With that being said, life is too precious to neglect my own health, due to an injury, family or personal obligations. I am in the process of writing out my fitness goals and getting back to a routine because I'm worth it! Let's support each other. You are worth it too! What are your fitness goals? How are you holding yourself accountable?