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Below is a post I wrote on my personal blog back in May:

Those who are a part of my personal life know that in November 2010, after 8 months of increasingly intense pain and gradual loss of use of my left arm, I had spine surgery.  I had an ACDF on my C6 vertebrae, to be exact, as a result of having a herniated C6 disc.  The films showed what should have looked like an egg shape (looking down into the vertebrae) instead looked like an animal had taken a huge bite out of an egg.  I also had two bulging discs in the same area.  After trying everything else under the sun, surgery was inevitable.  The doctor told me that post-op it would take up to 6 months to regain full nerve use in my left arm and that it would take up to a year to regain full muscle control and strength in both arms.

Those who know me also know that I have always been an active person.  I have a Bachelor of Science in Sports Fitness, but even before college, I could be found in my room after work, right before bed, faithfully doing calisthenics each and every night.  I have always loved a good workout.

To say that the past year has been hard work is an understatement.  For several years before my surgery, I had chronic issues with my neck and shoulder girdle always “slipping out”.  I would take time off from working out only to start again and hurt myself again.  Because of this cycle and taking it “easy” to avoid injury, combined with having kids and getting lax about my nutrition, I had gained about 30 pounds.  I hid it very well because I gain weight proportionately….all over at the same time!  The downside:  always tired, lacked zeal for life, felt uncomfortable in clothes, felt guilty about eating things that were no good for me, eating them more because “what was the point?”, etc.

But post-surgery, I had to work with a physical therapist several times a week.  He encouraged me to keep doing my homework.  He helped me believe that I could regain my former strength.  I graduated physical therapy 6 months early.  The surgeon bluntly told me that I must continue to “move it or lose it”.  I have degenerative spine disease and my “homework” is not done just because physical therapy is. If I want to walk upright with a strong back and have full use of my limbs, then I must keep my back strong and healthy. I must exercise.  I must drink lots of water (spine needs lots of water!) and stay away from caffeine (chocolate, I love you!)  I am in the fight for my life.  This has nothing to do with size.  This has nothing to do with magazines, fashion, what my friend looks like, needing validation from anyone else.  Do I want to be strong and healthy as I age?  Then I must move.

Because I was scared of hurting myself still (just a little), I started working with the trainer at my husband’s work, where they have a state-of-the-art fitness center (I know! It used to be my job!).  “Sarge” took me beyond just regaining my “former strength”.  He pushed me beyond the limitations I had set for myself.  He showed me just exactly what my new and improved spine could take and survive to tell about it.  For 6 months he put me through the paces and I am eternally grateful.

Some of my friends have seen the side benefit of my surgeon’s “command” and Sarge’s merciless pushing:  I have changed my body composition.  I am in the best shape of my life.  I am running at least 12 miles per week (I had sworn off all forms of running my entire life…and look at me now!) and doing HIIT workouts on my alternate days that I am not even sure college-aged me could have done!  And the best part for me?  I am doing all of this with an internal motivation to be the best me I can be!  It’s not about anyone else……this is the fight for my life and no one else can fight it for me.

Many of those same friends have asked me, “How are you doing it?”  I homeschool, I co-lead a large ministry at church, I take care of my home, I am a busy girl!  YOU MAKE THE TIME!  No excuses.  Just do it.  Nike said it best. Below is a workout site that I recommend.  I suggest taking the moves they show in one workout and doing them with a HIIT (high intensity interval training) structure.  What does that mean?  Take each move, do it for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds, go to the next move.  I have an interval timer app on my phone that I use.  You need one!  If you are a beginner, do the series (5-8 moves) two times through.  If you are more advanced, kick it up a notch by doing it at least 3 times through and using weights, etc.

My personal workout looks like this on my HIIT days:  10 minutes of high intensity rowing on my rowing machine, 22-24 minutes of HIIT circuit (depending on how many moves I have in the circuit total), followed by 50 sec work/10 sec rest circuit of 3 ab exercises repeated 3 times (9 minutes total), then I cool down with 10 minutes of moderate rowing, stretch.  ***IF I have a super busy day and am crunched for time, I don’t SKIP it, I adjust it!  I may only do 5 minutes of rowing for warm up and cool down, and do the circuit two times, skipping the extra abs, which takes my usual workout of an hour down to 22 minutes — but because of the HIIT style, I am still burning major calories and not just skipping a day to feel great!***

The girls at Tone It Up incorporate a lot of ab work into their circuit, so you don’t need to add in the extra 9 minutes of abs.  🙂

Thanks for listening to my story.  I share it because I want folks to know that sometimes our biggest obstacle is not a “condition”, but ourselves.  Just do it.  If you have a condition, find someone that can help you…..but don’t give up on the beautiful motion of life.

Here is the link for some great circuits by Tone It Up (through Self magazine) to get you started:

8 Easy Toning Moves: self.com.

Be blessed, Jai

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