Okay, not really.
It’s only that I looked up the intro for “The Bionic Woman” (which isn’t nearly as fun as the intro to “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Rip off.), and Level 6 is what a person needed in the fictional world of Jaime Sommers to know how they modified her and how much it cost the government.
The rebuild I’m undergoing isn’t quite as high-tech or dramatic and bionic prosthetics, but it’s something. When I last posted, I’d just experienced my first visit with a physical therapist, Jamie, for attempting to minimize the gap in my abdominal muscles I’ve been tolerating for 10 years. I say “minimize” instead of “close” here because I’m told that it simply does not close again without surgery, as the connective tissue is actually torn between my abdominal muscles on either side. Allow me to explain how, with Jamie’s help, I am restoring and rebuilding my body at its foundation.
First things first. My initial visit was supremely validating. Jamie measured my separation at my belly button, as well as above and below. She told me that most women (who have diastasis recti) experience a football-shaped split (think: popped zipper) that’s limited to the area right around the navel. In my case, I am split all the way up to my ribs! Jamie said, “It’s no wonder you have low back pain. You have ‘nothing’ up front that’s stabilizing your hips.” This news made me feel better because I’ve always kind of wondered if I’ve just been acting like a big baby about ‘I can’t do [yoga, biking, sit-ups, planks, etc.] because I have this condition….’ Also, it explained why I keep having low back issues, on and off. That is: it’s not all my fault.
Because I was still experiencing limited mobility due to the vacation back thing (it took a whole week from when I started the steroid for me to be without pain!) at my first appointment, she set me up with just one small task/exercise, which was to engage my lower abdominal muscles while lying on my back with my knees bent. (I called this “my squeezies,” on my to-do list, twice a day.) It took concentration – and guidance from her – to even figure out how to do that at first. It seems I started out with this gap and this weakness in my middle, and my body’s other muscles took over and compensated for so many years that my body “forgot” how its supposed to function naturally.
Like my abs had amnesia. And fugue. We had to formally reintroduce ourselves.
I have had three appointments since then, and I’ve mastered the “squeezies” and added seven other daily exercises, which are geared to both close my ab gap and help strengthen and stabilize my lower back. As far as coordinating the movements required of my body, the exercises get easier every time I do them. But they are WORK! This is good. This is exciting. I am actually sore for the first time in ages since I’ve been unable to workout routinely all year. (The downside: Even though I do most of them while lying on the floor, they are just hard enough that I sweat a little. And since I need to do them – for now – two times a day, I have several costume changes and/or showers a day. )
Last Wednesday, I asked Jamie if I could try to go for a run, since I finally had no back pain. She asked me to hold off until this week when she’d have me get on her treadmill to ensure that I could properly run. That is, we wanted to verify that I could run while holding my core in and otherwise using good form. I had the opportunity to treadmill at my Monday appointment, and Jamie gave me the green light to run! For now, I am to run for only five minutes at a time (I can do walk/run intervals), to stick to a flat surface, and to concentrate on getting my core to hold itself in. For the past five years, I’ve been reliant on my hydration belt, cranked tight (thank you, space program, for Velcro) around my waist to keep me from feeling like my guts are about to fall out. No more!
Yesterday, I went for my first run like this. For one, I’ve run so little this year that five minutes is not quite a challenge, but I definitely kept a close eye on my watch because I looked forward to switching to my walk break each time. It also required a good bit of physical and mental effort to make sure that I was engaging my core, swinging my arms carefully front-to-back (no crossing over!), and pushing off the ground, as instructed.
The running felt very strange. Like the normal proper way of doing it was rather foreign to me. This first outing would also have been pretty dispiriting, in that I had intended to train and run for at least one half marathon this year (I had to sell my bib for my favorite race that took place the first Saturday in June), and now I can only run for five minutes at a time – and sloooowly at that. But I managed to reframe the circumstances to something encouraging. Specifically: It’s a bummer that I have had this setback. However, what this is forcing me to do is strengthen weak areas and teach my body the proper mechanics of running and other movement. Not only will my current efforts assist me in avoiding future injuries, aches, pains, and setbacks, I expect that if I keep at it and adopt a reasonable training plan, I will likely – eventually – become a faster runner than I used to be because I will be moving more efficiently.
So this is how I am rebuilding my foundation. I am training and strengthening my core and back with targeted exercises and I am re-teaching my body how it is supposed to move while I run (and while I do everything else – sitting, standing, walking, carrying things, even getting out of bed!).
In related news, Jamie recommended that I switch to a cross-body purse, especially since I carry around a good bit of stuff all the time, as the mom of smaller kids. The cross-body bags I owned were either too small or lacked sufficent pockets for me to keep my items in order. I need to divide to conquer! Pens are in this pocket, lip balm in that one, phone and keys in exterior pocket (ALWAYS!)…. Or I just can’t find what I need when I need it. Basically, I had a legitimate excuse to shop!
So after over an hour of research on Amazon, I became the proud new owner of this beauty.
My criteria were: cross-body, cheap, durable, and pockety. (NOTE: You cannot use “pockety” as a filter criterion in Amazon. Which is why I had to look through a lot of bag images to find a winner.) In addition to the obvious pockets on the front, there are wee pockets on either side of the bag (they’re holding Eos lip balm and reading glasses, in case you’re wondering). And there is a Velcro (yay, again!) pocket that goes across the entire backside of the bag, which I didn’t even know about until it arrived! (It’s keeping a small note book for me to write PT notes, as well as the photocopied images of the exercises Jamie is giving me.) A handy little bonus!
That’s all for now. It’s actually time for me to change into a sports bra and something comfy and head out to my next PT appointment!