A couple of months ago, I ran into the sliding glass door between my patio and my home. It was night and dark outside. For some reason, I thought the door was open, but it wasn't and I slammed into it pretty hard.
I rubbed my the area on my shoulder where it hit the door and assumed it would be fine the next day. But it wasn't. After doctor visits and x-rays, I learned that I had "shoulder impingement" which means I had squished some muscles and tendons. I also learned they weren't going to magically heal and go back to normal.
I'm now starting my third month of physical therapy, and while I've improved a lot, I keep being reminded that healing takes time. I appreciate the ultrasound, stretches and massage from the physical therapist. But I also have a home exercise program designed to help heal the muscles and rebuild my shoulder strength.
Do I faithfully do these exercises? NO. It seems that I know what to do, but just don't do it.
Why I don't do what I should
I've been thinking about why I don't follow my exercise assignments. Here's what I came up with:
• It hurts
• It takes time
• I can't see progress
But I also know that without regularly doing my exercises, I won't see the outcomes I want such as returning to tennis and other favorite activities. Right now, I'd like to be able to pour myself a cup of coffee without using both hands to lift the carafe.
Yesterday it hit me. This is just like losing weight. I go through similar struggles when my weight creeps up and I'm trying to push it back down. It's also true when I want to stay on a consistent path of maintaining my weight.
Lots of times, I don't do any exercise or drink my water. And I'd rather have my apple hidden in a piece of pie than eat it as a fresh fruit.
Again, I know what do to, I just don't do it! And the reasons why are almost identical to trying to heal my shoulder injury.
• It hurts. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. I'm frustrated that I can't eat ice cream and nachos and dessert every time I feel like it.
• It takes time. Sometimes it seems like 20 minutes of exercise takes two hours out of my day. And I can't figure out where to get time to plan meals or get to shop for fruit and other healthy foods. Besides that, unfortunately, cooking dinner takes a lot longer than ordering a pizza.
• I can't see progress. Even after what I thought was a perfect week, the scale doesn't move. (I know, if it upsets me, stay off the scale.) But whether we're healing an injury or losing weight, we want it fast. And it's so hard to be patient.
Time for a new plan
After getting chastised by my physical therapist, I decided I needed a better system. So here's how I've improved my compliance with the home exercise program.
1. Put up reminders.
I now have sticky notes in several places so I can't say I "forgot" to do my exercises. I made a poster (with large print) of the key exercises so I can read it from a distance while I'm working on them.
I remind myself to be gentle in the movements which actually prevents the exercises from causing as much discomfort. I also have to remember that without some hurt, the injury won't heal.
2. Plan it in.
Yes, it takes time to do those exercises, but so does watching talk shows on TV, checking Facebook and Instagram or other things I do that waste time in my day.
My new schedule is at 4pm every day, I do the exercise routine. I have also made sure to carve out time for shopping, meal prep and cooking. And I have to ignore the fact that cooking dinner takes a lot longer than ordering a pizza.
3. Be patient with results.
Healing and losing weight don't happen in a straight line. Some days we can see progress, and sometimes it seems that nothing is happening. That doesn't mean it's not working. With both of these areas, I need to trust the process and do what's required even if I can't see any changes this week.
It will be worth it
As I reflect on the outcomes I want (a healed shoulder, be at a healthy weight,) I realize it's critical that I keep going and do the work. So my new message to myself is:
I know what to do and I'm committed to doing it.