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Old 07-24-2013, 03:42 PM   #1
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Default Recognizing Limitations Is Not Failure

Thereís a phrase that I see from time to time that I personally find jarring. ďAnyone can walk.Ē I usually see this in the context of people starting out on weight loss efforts and seeking advice on how to start exercising. While I certainly agree that with a lot of people, ďJust start walking,Ē actually is good advice, for some of us, it is not. In my own weight loss efforts, Iíve found that most people I speak with about my mobility issues are understanding and supportive. However, every once in a while, I come across someone with the attitude that my physical limitations are all in my head and all I have to do is push through the pain, walk it off and everything will be fine and dandy! One person in particular even opined that I could eventually start jogging and running if ďyou really want to and put in the effort.Ē

Ugh. No. Iíve seen the x-rays of my ankles, feet and knees, thank you very much. The fast track for me to end up in the hospital having major reconstruction surgeries (that have a high possibility of failing) is to engage in high impact activity.

It seems to me that there is a societally inculcated mindset that if you believe you can do something, you can do it, regardless of your physical limitations and that recognizing and reacting to those limitations is a failure of character. To be honest, Iíve had that attitude with myself. Iíve often felt that acknowledging my physical, or even psychological, problems is an admission of weakness and a prelude to failure. The reality is that attitude has caused me to damage myself over and over and over again. The real failure is that when Iíve excoriated myself for even thinking about slowing down or stopping an activity because of pain and/or instability, when Iíve pushed through the pain, toughed it out, or kept going, Iíve ended up in worse shape than I would have been if Iíd just slowed down or stopped. That is the real failure. The damage Iíve done to my feet, ankle and knees wonít ever heal. It can be ameliorated, it can be slowed, in the case of my knees, they can be replaced, but the damage is something that Iíll always have to live with. I will always have pain. I will always have instability. Not acknowledging that, not working with that, not treating myself gently and carefully will only make it worse. Not to mention, damage to my feet and ankles builds upon itself. The damage there is structural so when I push too hard, the bones in my feet and ankles collapse and disintegrate a little more. That stuff isnít healed by rest and ice and pain meds. That damage, once done, is permanent.

I know that this has been a recurring theme in my blogs. Itís a near constant struggle for me to balance between being overly cautious (read that sedentary) and pushing myself too hard physically. I understand intellectually that acknowledging my limitations isnít failure. It is, in fact, the smartest thing I can do! Yet, it feels so wrong sometimes. It feels like Iím being lazy or that Iíve given up. It feels like failure. But I just have to keep telling myself, and the occasional other person, that no, not everyone can walk. Not everyone can jog. Not everyone can run.

Not everyone can lose 80 pounds with those limitations.

But I did.

And I can do more, a whole lot more, that doesnít involve walking or jogging or running.

So whenever I hear that phrase, ďAnyone can <fill in the blank>,Ē and that <blank> is something I canít do? Yeah, so what? I can still kick the donkeyís backside in a whole lot of other ways.
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:19 PM   #2
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This has been a reoccurring struggle for me as well. It's hard to find the balance between challenging yourself and overdoing to the point of self-injury.

I have multiple pain and mobility issues, but the fibromyalgia and autoimmune issues are the most challenging, because both affect my abilities to different degrees at different times, so what is easy today, might be impossible tomorrow or next week.

Friends and family don't get it, and I can't blame them, because I don't really get it either (even now 10 years after diagnosis). I mean, I get it rationally. My doctors told me that it would be a life-long struggle with trial and error and learning my soft and hard limits - whether and when I could push myself.

Emotionally though, and on a gut level, it's hard to grasp that not only can I not compare my abilities to other people, I can't compare myself to the "old me," or often even to "yesterday me." All I can do is make an educated guess, do the best I can, paying attention for signs of trouble, and accepting the consequences when I misjudge.

I've gotten better at judging, I'm not as likely to land myself onto days and days of bedrest, but I still make mistakes and end up with rebond flares, but the effects are less severe and not as long-lasting, but I've worked really hard (just very slowly, and very gradually) to make it this far.
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Old 07-24-2013, 06:48 PM   #3
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My SIL is about my current size, but her excess weight gives her severe knee problems. I'm thankful every single day that my feet and especially my knees somehow got through my weighing 360 pounds for several years unscathed. I still don't know how I got through that and am amazed that I was able to start jogging when I got down to 225 pounds without any pain.

I can sympathize with taking it easy and knowing your limits. I struggled with asthma for several years, and when pushing yourself can make you end up in the ER, it's simply not worth it. Yet I had people believing that I was lazy, especially when my lungs and overall health got so bad I couldn't even walk from one end of the room to the other without collapsing.

Some things we can push through with baby steps, other things we can not. If you know pushing yourself is causing permanent damage or a potential trip to the hospital, it makes sense not to do it. Sometimes we do have to take it easy, sometimes we do have to baby ourselves and/or find alternatives. I had several people tell me I should continue jogging once I got pregnant (I started at the beginning of this year with baby steps), but after having a miscarriage last year I decided it was best to find something much lower in impact. I suppose that could make me appear lazy (it definitely feels that way at times) but I'm doing what feels best for my body.

And perhaps that's the key right there? To do what feels best for your body. Everyone has different needs and circumstances, right? It all goes back to that old adage about how one shouldn't compare themselves to others. I remember getting annoyed at someone's 3FC post from several years back, barking out how important it is to physically push yourself beyond your limits, including a statement like "if I can do it, anyone can do it," and demanding to know what your excuse is this time. Um, some people do have physical limitations that aren't all in their head . . . and I'm going at my own pace, thank you very much.

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Old 07-25-2013, 12:05 PM   #4
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Default re:

Why is it even anyone's business how much or what kind of exercises we do?

If you're not my doctor or my significant other, then you have no place judging what I do with my body.

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Old 07-26-2013, 08:10 PM   #5
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I think knowing your own limitations is smart. Then you don't waste a lot of time and effort on something that isn't going to work anyway. You also don't beat yourself up over not being able to "keep up" with anyone. Do what feels right for you and you'll always be right.
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