My first doctor-sanctioned workout in three months was a 5K. It was not my brightest or best idea, but it was for a great cause, so my friend Sunnie and I signed up with just a week to spare.
Back in December, I had my fourth doctor appointment in the span of two weeks, and I was finally getting some answers. The good news — what was ailing me was actually nothing serious. A virus causing a temporary disorder with a three month lifespan. Its main job was to mess with my equilibrium and gift me with daily vertigo.
“No working out for the next two months. Drive as little as possible. Do you Uber?” my doctor muttered, checking things off on my chart, one of them likely being “mildly whiny.” I opened my mouth to paint a picture of me holding a car seat and two booster seats, waiting for my Uber XL to fetch me and my children, but decided against it.
“If you’re not all better in two months,” he continued, “come back and see me. It’s not something you can push through, so just relax for two months. Some days you’ll feel a lot better and some days you’ll feel a lot worse.”
And so for November, December, and January, I canceled any trip that required I get on a train, I drove less, and I avoided the gym. The latter was most wildly frustrating, as I felt gains I made over 2016 were annihilated by three months of couch-sitting and holiday eating.
“But working out makes me feel good mentally, too,” I whined again, this time to my primary care physician.
“Be gentle with yourself. You’re getting better,” she replied. “You can go back to working out in February, and it won’t be like starting all over again.”
My vegan spouse has been up most mornings and out the door for 6am two mile runs. He screenshots his time on his phone and texts me, and I’ve felt equal amounts of wonder and envy. One morning in January, I decided I was feeling well enough to make a workout happen. I pulled an old sports bra out from my drawer. The one I washed on hot too many times and was mostly threadbare and no longer true to size. It had felt a little tight prior to my sedentary three months; now it felt oppressive. But I was compelled to go to the gym and my noon class started soon, so I threw a t-shirt on over it and headed out the door.
I bent over to do push-ups near the end of the class, and started feeling dizzy, so I begged off, waited until the dizziness passed, and drove myself home.
“I went to the gym today and my workout clothes were too tight,” I regaled a friend via text later. “I had to undress and get in the shower, but the thought of pulling this super-tight sports bra over my head was overwhelming. So I took a pair of kitchen scissors and I cut my sports bra off me.”
“What!!” she texted back. “Man, fuck it. Just buy the size up. When I think about how much time I spend hating my rolly bits, I feel sad for my body.”
I laughed at her rapid-fire texts and realized she was right. I was irritated at the hiatus, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I was being kind of mean to myself.
So I bought a new sports bra — may that old Athleta one rest in peace — and ran an ambitious three miles, half of it uphill. Thankfully (thankfully? wow, I sound like a terrible friend), Sunnie had taken some time off running, so we huffed and puffed together, making our worst time yet, but we finished and celebrated with buffalo wings.
Still, it’ll surely take me more than one hobbly 5k to get back to where I feel my best. And while I’m devoted to my “buy fewer things” mantra, I also need to wear normal human clothes and not live in sweatpants. So I ordered Everlane turtleneck in my “just-buy-the-size-up” size, which quickly became my new favorite shirt. (Related: I’ve ordered several things from the brand, and I’ve loved it all, save for one silk blouse which I returned.) It’s black and a little Steve Jobs-y, but it’s stretchy and soft. It’s appropriate for work or weekends or meetings at the girls’ school. It is simultaneously a chameleon and a workhorse.
And the size up is fine! It looks fine! I look fine! I’d show you, but trying to selfie a fitted shirt ends up looking like a mildly salacious chest shot, so I’m passing altogether.
I guess what I’m trying to say is — instead of all of us beating ourselves up when the resolution slips a little or there’s a setback — we set a new goal and buy a turtleneck or a pair of pants or whatever to tide us over in the meantime. Otherwise it’s just self-loathing and we do too many cool things with our lives to succumb to miserable cayenne and lemon master cleanses to shed a couple pounds.
Also: get you a friend who shouts in moderation over text. I find that kind of love effective.