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The Unexhausted Needs of the Body
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My body, both at rest and in motion, has many unexhausted needs. And, truth be told, I’ve ignored these for far too long. I am at the point, on the precipice, ranging the bluffs of mortality as I approach my fifty-third birthday later this month. A single misstep, an unsure plant of my right foot on the wrong part of the path, and I shall be faced with morbidity, mortality — with death.

I’ve not been the best steward of this temple. Fifteen years ago, I gained weight due to a persistent bout of depression and a longish stint on heavy-duty psychiatric meds. I was eligible through my employer for a reduced-fee membership at a local gym. As part of that facility’s orientation, I was offered a complimentary personal trainer package. I decided to give it a shot.

My trainer was a former professional football conditioning coach whose turf toe had necessitated amputation of several toes, thereby cutting his career short. Despite my lackluster assessment and my expressed preferences for low-impact activities, he got me started on a program of burpees and weights, squat jumps and intricate footwork. I was often winded and always sore that day after a session.

Then one evening, after a long day at the office, he put me on a spin bike to “warm up” and proceeded to coach me to stand and pedal furiously…until my quadriceps seized. I fell, scraping my legs on the apparatus, twisting an ankle, hitting the mat with a sickening thud. I knew I was seriously hurt. But I didn’t want to, in my trainer’s parlance, “wimp out,” so I hobbled through a shortened routine and somehow managed to drive myself home on sheer adrenaline.

The next day, I couldn’t lift my legs without screaming pain in my thighs. I took a hot shower, swallowed a few ibuprofen, slipped into some non-constricting clothing, and got myself to work. Everyone who saw me attempt to perambulate that morning told me to get myself to a doctor. By early afternoon, I couldn’t even tolerate sitting. I called my boyfriend to fetch and ferry me to urgent care. There, I was diagnosed with muscle failure and given a prescription for vicodin.

It took me three weeks to recover physically from that spill. I still mentally wrestle with the fear and resistance the experience instilled in me. Sure, I do resort to threadbare excuses for not exercising: “I don’t have time.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t feel well.” But underlying each and every objection is the sharp and excruciating memory of pushing past my body’s boundaries.

I know I need to move in order to shed the excess pounds I’ve piled on in the intervening years. I know I am curtailing my lifespan by falling into the obsese column on the BMI chart. I am just starting not to be able to do things I legitimately want to do for myself because of physical limitations. And there’s this realization, as well: My body has so much more life left to offer me. I owe it to myself and my maker to exhaust my body’s needs.


Courageous piece! Sounds like you are already exhausted! Wondering if there is a gentler way to listen to where it is your body actually wants to go.

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