In a world where nothing is in my control and living with a head that constantly tells me I’m not doing enough, exercising every day makes me feel like I’ve checked a box.
Last year, my mom fell and broke her hip. During the surgery, she had a mild heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. Since that fall, she’s become wheelchair bound and has started showing the signs of early dementia. She’s now in assisted living, being bathed by caretakers. On the other hand, my father has a girlfriend, writes screenplays, teaches kids to read, swims, and delivers food to the elderly (even though he is the elderly). My parents are the same age: 81.
What could cause such a difference in their physical states?
Exercise. My dad always exercised while mom was very sedentary.
The Dreaded E-Word
I know, the dreaded “E” word. I take after my mom in this area: I’ve never been an athlete, I pretended I was sick for most high school P.E. classes, and I’m extraordinarily uncoordinated. I hate group classes and I loathe tight name-brand exercise gear. Gyms scare the shit out of me and I have no idea what I’m doing.
But two years after my break up, I was still considerably underweight and what little muscle I’d had was long gone. I could pass in clothes as modelesque but naked I could have been a dummy for an osteology class. (“And here, students, you can see the sternum and entire rib cage…”) I was eating, but stress (about work, life, my mom) kept me from putting on any real weight.
And then boom. Out of the blue, I’m contacted by Doug Bopst to ask if I’d like to be interviewed for his new book, The Heart of Recovery, coming out March 12th. Sure, I lied. What does Doug happen to do? He’s a fucking trainer! Doug kicked opioids and lost 50 pounds in jail through—you know it—exercise.
“When we stop using drugs, we have to replace them with healthy coping mechanisms,” Doug says. “Fitness is a great tool and should be a staple in everyone’s recovery.”
He took pity on me and started training me via Skype (he’s in Maryland and I’m in LA). He also sent me a list of foods I should eat. Sometimes deliveries randomly showed up at my door. Over the next year my living room became littered with resistance bands, a stability ball, dumbbells, a yoga mat. I was living in a mini 24-Hour Fitness but with a cat.
At the beginning, I complained. A lot. He ignored me. I constantly wanted to skip days (and we were only training three times a week) because I was “tired” or “depressed.”
“I train machines, not wussies,” he’d say, knowing it would motivate me.
“Fuck you!” I’d text back. “See you at 5!”
It’s almost a year later and now I insist we train everyday…
Find out how Amy is doing now, almost a year after starting her exercise training, in the original article Exercise: Making Amends to Your Body at The Fix.