Welcoming the Change
Recently, my car was rear-ended. My kids were fine, fortunately, but my car ended up with some damage and I suffered from whiplash.
As soon as I drove home from the accident, I started to feel tension and pain in my shoulders and back. The doctor’s advice was easy: take two Motrin three times a day for five days, after a couple of days, use heat and then start gentle neck stretches.
Oh and no gym for 10 days.
I mean, I get it. I was in pain. My head had jerked forward and backwards pretty roughly. I definitely was in no rush to get back, especially the day after the accident when I felt like… well like I’d been hit by a car.
But 10 days! That seemed excessive. I’ve made so much progress in terms of strength in the last year. What if 10 days off set me back? Plus, the gym is a mental and emotional outlet for me as well. What was going to happen to my patience level if I didn’t have that hour to myself every day? Still, I didn’t want to push it and hurt myself further.
So I waited (and waited and waited). That 10 day period was definitely a challenge for me, and yet it brought some positive changes to our weekly routine.
My girls love to play at home. They’re perfectly happy playing with dolls or their kitchen set and often complain when I rush them out of the house to make one of my workout classes. They also love to go on excursions to the pet store (aka free zoo!) or to spend a long time at the library.
So the unintended consequence of my gym break was that we slowed down. We had more time at home to play. When we did go out, it was only after they were clearly getting antsy at home. We went to story time at the library and music class with my mom group. These aren’t new activities but again, we weren’t rushing like crazy from place to place.
The benefit of this was more opportunities to spend relaxing time together as a family. At the library, rather than rushing into the end of story time, grabbing books and running out, we spent an hour reading one book after another together. We discovered a new series (yay for Fancy Nancy!) that we’re now reading non-stop and spent time with our beloved children’s librarian who is retiring this summer.
Had I not had my accident, I doubt we would have done any of that. I would have reserved the books we wanted online and tried to zip in when I was running other errands on my own.
On the weekend, when my husband was home, we all went grocery shopping together, something we rarely do. Usually I take both girls to the gym and my husband takes the older one food shopping when we get home while I stay with my younger daughter who needs an earlier nap. It was nice to do something mundane together as a whole family. Just walking around the store was a fun experience.
The Fourth of July holiday fell into this time period and since my husband took off the two days after, we had plenty of time as a family. We celebrated a family birthday, introduced the girls to a couple of our favorite movies and enjoyed watching them play while we rested at home.
The following week, when I was cleared to return to the gym, I was aware that I would need to build back up to my previous level of fitness. I eased back in with a gentle yoga class.
What a humbling experience. I’m no yoga expert. I can’t do headstands or hold complicated poses for long periods, but usually when a teacher demonstrates how to go deeper with a position, I’m able to do that. After the injury, my practice was very limited as I tentatively moved through positions, concerned about further pain or discomfort.
I did a lot of reading about whiplash. Essentially, it is characterized by stiffness and tension in the neck muscles and around the spine. Some people experience chronic pain and discomfort after being diagnosed. My research indicated that moving your body again once the doctor gives permission is key to recovery.
Yoga was a great starting point for returning to my fitness regime. Moving through even the most basic poses helped my muscles to unwind gently. In the following days, I stuck to walking on a treadmill at first, then moved on to using the elliptical and finally incorporated light weights and a Zumba class.
After a week of gentle, restorative exercise, I felt way more like myself and ready to tackle my harder classes.
When recovering from an injury, it’s important to listen to your doctor’s advice to prevent further issues. Then it’s key that you listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel good, dial it back. If you take a class, tell your teacher at the start why you might not be performing at your usual intensity.
Both my boot camp and spin teachers were very understanding. They told me to modify as needed and checked in with me throughout the class to make sure I was feeling okay.
This advice also works for beginning a new fitness routine. If you’ve decided to make exercise a part of your daily life but you’re new to working out, take it easy at first. You’ll build up strength over time and avoid injury.
I was really dreading 10 days without exercise. I’ve become so accustomed to pushing my body regularly and gaining mental clarity and an emotional outlet through my workouts that it was very difficult to let go of the routine.
However, within a couple of days, I realized that it was nice to take a step back and focus more on quality time with my children.
I really thought my patience would suffer, but during those 10 days, I focused on implementing more mindfulness practices, which helped keep everyone calm (as did having my husband home for a long stretch).
Now that I’m back in the swing of my fitness routine, I appreciate having that outlet again. And yet, I’m also taking notes of what worked well during my time off. I’m making sure I try to give the girls plenty of unstructured time to play at home without pushing them out the door. I’m also working in long stretches at the library and time to catch up with friends.
Summer gets so busy that if nothing else, this injury taught me the importance of slowing down and reconnecting.