As I pick up the 10 lb weight, something deep inside me pings alarm. I ignore it. I am already so damn responsible and cautious, I barely manage to lift weights at all. I can do a few bicep curls today.
Feet shoulder width apart, spine straight, shoulders down – I switch the weight from my left hand to my right. The weight feels heavier than normal, dancing along the edge of too much. I notice it and pause, considering. Did I sleep well last night? Yes. Did I overdo it yesterday? No. Am I deeply tired? That one knocks around in my head for a bit as I check in with my body. No, I’m feeling fine. Not ultra energetic, but not exhausted.
Huh. My hesitation doesn’t make any logical sense. There is no reason for lifting to be too much today. In fact, the 10 lb weight has been easy recently. I’ve been meaning to move up to 12 lbs.
I relax into my stance, pull my elbow near my body, and curl the weight up using my bicep. This first repetition feels as difficult as my tenth rep usually does. I hear a small “no” from my body. I ignore it, and lift a second time. Quickly, tension fills my shoulder and I have to focus to force my bicep to lift the weight. By the third rep, I feel the tension spidering out from my shoulder, up my neck, and pooling at the base of my skull. A warning.
I don’t want to stop. I’m tired of having to do every little thing slowly and carefully. Instead, I lift a fourth time. The tension at the base of my skull flows upward. It feels like my head is being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket as the tension crawls up the back of my head, flows over and around my crown, and reaches a point above my eyebrows. Where it aches.
I sigh. I know that feeling. I’ve lived with it for years now. I hate it. I feel the visual clarity of the day wane and my mental ability being blunted. The brightness of the colors in the room are less noticeable, the detail of the couch fabric fades into fuzzy oneness. Headache. Dammit. Headache.
I drop the weight in defeat. I guess I’m not lifting today.
I’ve been lifting weights for about two months now. This past March was the first time since my mTBI, the first time in five years that I’ve had extra energy for it. I was so excited this spring, with crazy spring energy vibrating in me and my continuing improvement suddenly making new things possible.
I figured I’d start conservatively. I’d do upper body one day, lower body the second, and rest on the third. I’m not in a rush.
The reality of that schedule quickly degenerated. I was less than a week in when I had to take a few days off. No particular reason. I just wasn’t up for it that day. Or the next. Or the next. And when I did have energy again, I didn’t have enough to do bicep curls, the chest press, tricep lifts, one-arm rows and what I call wings. Or the squats and roman dead lifts and bridges and lunges that I had planned for the day after. It was just too much.
So now, I try to do two exercises a day. Generally one upper body, one lower. And still – and still – with such a light schedule, there are days when it is too much. Not for any reason, no. Just because. For some reason I don’t understand. Is it because the moon is full that I can’t do this today? Or because I had orange juice with dinner yesterday? Or because I dreamed of selling kindling last night? Or maybe none of those things. That’s what is so frustrating. Maybe none of those things.
So no lifting today. And maybe none tomorrow. And maybe none the day after. I take a deep breath, and let it go. I roll my shoulders, trying to ease some of the tension there. I’ll just drive myself crazy if I start having expectations, start setting goals I can’t control if I reach. So, I go soft focus. Got to remember the soft focus. There isn’t space in my world for wanting things to be different than what they are. There isn’t space for goals and expectations and wants. I am a responsible, savvy steward of my body, my mind. I don’t borrow from tomorrow to pay for stubbornness or pride today.
At least not usually.
Putting my arms out, I twist back and forth, trying to relax. I stretch my arm over my head and bend sideways. Then the other side. Just casually, not pushing, but trying to give my body a chance to loosen up. No luck. Still a headache, tension in my neck.
I proceed to my PT-designated exercises – one designed to relax my shoulders, one to relax my hips. They help some, but not enough. I still have a headache. I might have this headache for the rest of the day.
Usually, anyway. As I start to prep my breakfast, I notice my mental clarity improving. Not as good as it was before I did too much, but not as cloudy as directly after I lifted. That’s new. Usually I kiss my mental sharpness away for the entire day when I do too much.
I find myself smiling gently. Cool. I am improving. I shake the other thoughts and feelings out of my mind, and focus on my story. I’m doing well; very well. Things are so much better than they were even a year ago. And what a blessing – a wonderful blessing – to be able to actually start deliberately building my strength again, rather than just making it through each day. How exciting for me, to be improving myself. If not every day, then every week. How different a reality than most of the last five years, when I have had to do less and less, tear my dreams and desires down, and focus on just getting through the day.
Yes, I much prefer to be on the building side of things. Building again, myself and my world. I am becoming stronger. My world is becoming larger. Thank you, Goddess, for the gift of my life and my healing.