Just like a pill

I bought a recumbent exercise bike in a fit of panic a few years ago when I was prepping to go on Knitty Gritty. Cable television. In reruns for ever. Me and my generous body on tv for all to see. [Ironically, the episode has aired a total of 2 times, as far as I know. But I digress.]

I rode it for a while, and it soon became exactly what most of these devices become: a nagging reminder of  failure to stick with it. A clothing horse. An embarrassment.

Flash forward to me now, and I’m in a bit of a state. My body isn’t working well, and things are breaking down all over. I need to do something, but my choices are suddenly limited. I’d love to walk for exercise, but my plantar fasciitis has gotten so bad, nothing relieves the pain except Birkenstocks. [Yes, I’ve tried everything you’ll suggest. Trust me — Birks are my only solution until this heals.] Exercise walking in Birkenstocks is not ideal. My recently injured knee makes walking at all pretty uncomfortable at the moment. Must rest, doctor says. Oy.

So I’ll ride my outdoor bike, right? That won’t hurt my knee! Except my hands are a delicate issue [carpal tunnel and now I’ve got some fun tennis elbow as a result of favoring the hand that took so long to recover from a cortisone shot], so leaning forward on handlebars of a bike is not a good idea.

i ride something sort of like this almost every day. this surprises me.

Suddenly I remember the albatross in the basement. Chiropractor and Osteopath both give it the green light and I force myself. 22 minutes I decide is an appropriate amount. I put it on resistance level 2 (level 1 is nothing at all) and go. It’s hard. I stop multiple times. I do it.

Next day, I do it again. And again. And all of a sudden, I realize my Restless Leg Syndrome [I told you I was a mess] stops bothering me so much. I go for several days like this and then miss a day. That night, legs are jumping all over the place.

The penny drops. The recumbent bike is not an exercise bike. It’s not a weight-loss solution. It’s a pill. Taking this pill makes me feel better.

Suddenly, instead of finding reasons to avoid going near the albatross, I find myself planning my day around my 22 minute ride, followed by a well-earned shower. Two days ago, I barely made it through the 22 minutes. Yesterday, I pedalled like a madwoman with almost no breaks. Not sure what today’s ride will be like, but I’ll do it, which is all that counts.

My knee is healing and I’m walking more comfortably. My body is working better. I can’t believe it took me this long to stop resenting something that would make me feel better. I like feeling better.

My companion as I pedal is not knitting [my hands need resting when possible; see above]. Instead, I listen to really good audiobooks as another incentive to ride and excellent distraction. I can’t listen to them unless I’m pedalling. But that’s another post.

(186 Posts)

52 thoughts on “Just like a pill

  1. peanutga11ery1

    That is the best explanation for overcoming barriers to exercise I’ve heard. <3 I need to do that too. It hurts and is awful and makes me want to stop at first, but if I can see through the pain and fatigue (worse with autoimmune disease) things are So. Much. Better.

    I'm going to get on my elliptical right now. You rock!

  2. Jeanne

    Thank you for writing this. It has made me start thinking about my own exercise program – or lack thereof. Time to take that pill!

  3. Michaela

    If you get to feeling up to trying outdoor cycling again, there are bikes that don’t require you to lean forward on your hands. (Who thought that was a good idea for casual bikes, anyway?) I have an Electra Townie, which lets me set fully upright and set both feet flat on the ground. There are other models, too, just do a search for “crank forward bikes”.

  4. PrairiePoppins

    The thing we often forget is that we don’t need self-discipline when we have motivation.

    I used to be a reader. A sitter. Now I’m a runner. And I run without a lot of self-discipline because I’ve got oodles of motivation. I love the running now (who knew?!) and I love the results – like patience, energy, strength, confidence…

  5. Pamela

    Yeah Amy,

    I live with a husband who runs marathons for fun…I have never quite got that…my biggest albatross is my own sweet self and getting that self out the door. Your blog post has just given me a wonderful virtual kick in the butt….rock on!

  6. SuzanneG

    Way to go, Amy!
    You’re in it now; those endorphins are addictive, you know.
    The fasciitis is a problem but you’ve found a way ’round that one!

    You should be proud of yourself. What are you listenening to right now?

  7. Seanna Lea

    That’s excellent. I go in waves. I walk so much that walking isn’t like exercise unless I’m getting it in doses of more than 5 miles at a time, so I need to get back into other exercise. Maybe for me, too, the bike will be the way to go.

  8. Marianne

    So sorry about the plantar fasciatis (all the rest too)! That takes forever to heal and nothing helps except throwing out all the unsupportive shoes and keeping that ligament limber. I stopped sleeping with a tucked in sheet because it would point my toes while I slept, and I slept with my head at the foot of the bed so that I could prop my feel flat against the wall. Odd things we’ll do to feel better!

  9. Colleen

    That is terrific! I hate riding my bike indoors, but I get through it, too, with audio books!

    For walking, do you have birks with heel straps? That can help make the birk better for exercise. Also, the birk fisherman style sandal/shoes feel just like the birk sandals…I love mine. But that may or may not work for you.

    I have a recumbent exercise bike, but prefer to put my regular bike on a bike trainer. I don’t have hand issues riding it, because it’s a cruiser bike (Electra Townie), I don’t have to lean too far forwards to ride it, and even less when it’s on the trainer.

    When you graduate back to your bike outside, wear biking gloves, they help!

  10. Karen

    That’s wonderful Amy. It’s great when life actually encourages us to do something that’s good for us. So often it’s the opposite.

  11. Diane

    Did you know hand and foot pain is very common with Fibromyalgia? So is restless leg. Check out Fibromyalgia Network on FB for more info.

    But what I really wanted to ask is if you could make your blog available as a Kindle Blog from Amazon? That way I wouldn’t miss anything & you’d get 99 or $1.99 p/m per subscriber for more yarn. LOL

    1. Amy

      I had no idea Amazon was doing this with blogs. Am working on it now, and should have it done shortly. Thanks for the tip! (and will look into the fibromyalgia thing. I thought more things had to hurt before it was fm.)

      Thank you!

  12. Carol

    Our recumbent just returned from the shed this week and I’m back on it. But for me, my stretching DVD is the thing I have to do every day if I want to sleep without waking up and not being able to get comfortable because this or that or the other place hurts. Glad you found what works for you.

  13. LoriAngela

    I also have the foot thing (from overuse!) We’re looking for our own bike. I liked the one at the Y because I could read in the morning and not feel guilty.

  14. PattyC

    Your post and all of the comments showed me that I am not alone in my lack of desire to excerise. I keep looking at the old bike in the garage and think of how much fun it was to ride. We have great weather in fall and winter here in Colorado so I’m going to try out my riding skills. Thanks for the inspiration, I have a Wii fit for the snowy days.

  15. Robin F.

    For more help find a YMCA with a warmed pool for arthritis classes. My knee doctor sent me for PT in that pool and what a difference- the water supports your body so you can walk without knee pain!

  16. Patti S

    Wow, just got diagnosed with restless leg syndrome….I have the same type of recumbent bike clothes stand….hmmm this is very interesting if this would help me sleep better…..sounds like I need to remove the clothes and actually use it….good motivation!!

  17. Jenink

    Riding an exercise bike at home is the only regular exercise I have ever been able to tolerate- it is quick, weather & transport independent and I watch DVDs of TV programs I miss while I ride. I think you’ve hit on the right attitude- it just becomes part of your routine. Keep it up 🙂

  18. Mary Kay in Portland OR

    Amy,
    Best wishes on your bike riding, may it chase all your ills away.

    If you are unable to find a recumbent bike for those times when you are on the road, try the hotel’s pool. My acupuncturist has me walking in the pool because my knees don’t like walking otherwise. As Robin F. says above the heated water feels good, the resistance of walking against the water multiplies the benefit of just walking, and if your feet can stand it weight bearing exercise speeds up the loss of belly fat.
    Thanks for your post, I needed the encouragement to keep it up!!

  19. Keri

    Right there with you. Some days I believe that they must have used running as a medevil form of torture. Otherdays, I do great. We can vent together next week at the Purl. BTW – I love recummbents too. Whenever my ankle starts up, it’s what I use.

  20. Kelly

    I’m so glad you’ve found the right thing that works to help you feel better. It can be surprising, right? I’ve been trying to lose weight with food reduction for years and finally this summer stumbled upon a solution for me that’s easy, doable, and is getting slow but steady results. Once I’ve lost a bit more I’m hoping to climb aboard my own albatross in the basement and see if it’ll work, too.

    Congrats on feeling better!

  21. Karen

    For me it’s an elliptical that looks nice, gets the dust brushed off of it, but doesn’t get used. I like your’e idea. The “pill” does help if taken. I don’t skip the pharmaceuticals after all. I find time is the issue. Before work, after work,the time never feels right, exercise is a motivation issue!

  22. Meredith C.

    Amy- Isn’t it amazing? I’ve suffered from intensely stiff and painful shoulder and neck muscles for a decade. 6 months ago, I decided to lift weights- after reading about people with chronic pain having less with a weight program. And damned if it doesn’t work. I suffer far more when I don’t exercise. Ride on!

  23. drMolly

    Good on you & thanks for the reminder – I have many limitations, but when I start to feel sorry for myself and want to skip my small “pill” rituals of weights & walking my body suffers, so it’s a remarkable incentive to keep it up.

  24. Jessica

    Re: audiobooks. Have you checked to see if your local public library will let you download audio books onto your iPod? I was amazed to learn that ours does. Very convenient for when your plantar fascitis heals and you are able to go for walks again.

  25. Karen

    I too discovered the healing power of exercise through running. I started running with the goal to lose weight, but quickly found out that my mood improved, I slept better, and I just felt really good. Now I run to clear my head after a long day at work. I don’t do it to lose weight I just do it to feel better. That is what keeps my going.

  26. Linda A

    My empathy on your body issues. Once you’re feeling better, you might want to look at an Electra Townie bike for outdoor riding. Pedals are slightly forward, handlebars adjust so it’s a very upright, sitting position w/o pressure on your hands. I have many body issues (arthritic neck, hands, back, knee replacement), and find I can ride my Townie w/o problems.

  27. Lynn

    I’m glad you found a “pill” that would help. Mine is yoga. I plan my week around going to class. I have FM and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and it’s the only exercise that doesn’t make me feel worse. I’ve been going about twice a week for the past 5 years and can really tell a difference if I don’t go. Whether it’s motivation or negative feedback, it works.

  28. Maiken

    How wonderful for you. I know how inertia can set it. And the longer you let it take over the worse you feel. Congratulations on finding a way out!

  29. Marta

    Yay! I’ve come to a similar place and look forward to the treadmill whenever I can. I hope you continue to get enjoyment and relief!

  30. kittenknit

    Mine has been sitting in the corner untouched for the past 15 months. I decided that my CFS is better without exercise, though I know that’s not true for the long term.

    It’s stopped staring at me though.

  31. Sheila

    I need to say it…DANSKO’s. I know you didn’t want to hear it but I had to. (just in case you never tried them) And now I might just get on that bike!

  32. Kellie

    Ummm. Like Sheila, I know you don’t want to hear it and I hear you’ve already tried it, but shoes with a small heel fixed my plantar fasciitis. I wore Birks until I couldn’t stand looking at them and had foot pain for 2 solid years. Then I said, “Screw the Birks! I WANT..nay NEED… these cute shoes” And I wore them to work and about a month later I thought, “Hey feet! You feel goooood.” Try it. Let the cute shoes seduce you (as long as they are still supportive).

  33. Jen

    after i got back from travels last year – which of course made my plantar fasciitis rear it’s ugly head – i rode an exercise bike most days. you have my sympathy for all your aches and pains and my encouragement 🙂
    My own PF is still healing up and i totes agree about birkis!

  34. maggie

    I’m happy for you! I too rediscovered my “pill” – our treadmill. I force, cajole, coax myself- whatever it takes, to get on it and get ‘er done for 20 minutes a day going as fast as I can to burn 200 cals and cover 2 km. Some push ups, sit ups and foot and knee stretches afterwards and I must admit, I feel great!

  35. JohannaB

    Wow, Good for you, Amy.

    As an out-of-the-norm (older;rounder;chronic health issues) fitness instructor, I think fitness gets sold short by a lot of common promotional tactics, such as it being all about “losing weight” and “toning up”. Your post makes an amazing point it’s not all about 6-weeks-to-your-new-body (the unstated subtext being then you’re done and can quit) – it’s as important as healthy food and a vitmin-a-day.

    Good luck getting more well! Yay you.

  36. Becky

    Over the past year I’ve watched my mother’s body totally fall apart – culminating in a knee replacement surgery 3 weeks ago from which she is not recovering well.

    Over the past year I’ve also realized I do not want to head down the same path! So, me and my own creaky knees hit the treadmill every day. I do feel better – and when I’m not motivated, a quick phone call to check on my mom snaps me back to my new routine!

  37. RosemaryRiveter

    Your poor feets! (and knees/elbow/hands)

    The revelation that regular pilates would not magically give me weight-loss and the ability to hike 10-mile hikes…but it would stop my hips from getting constant sciatica twinges and protect my back for my beloved tribal bellydance classes made a huge difference in my life.

    Exercise is amazing medicine, and somehow it doesn’t taste so bitter when I’m doing it for ME to enjoy my life pain free. It’s a very bitter pill when it’s only because I’m supposed to be doing it, and hoping to lose weight to fit an arbitrary ideal.

  38. Beth Root

    I can so relate to your foot and other problems, and good for you on getting back on the bike! I have found that almost anything you do in the water is good, walking, ‘running’ in the deep end, even just treading water. Keep it up – you really will feel better for it.

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