In the days before that session, I'd pointedly ignored the stiffening of joints, the tightening of muscles, the attention-demanding clamour of my fascia, because I was so enjoying the rare chance to spend time with the California visitors -- I mean, wouldn't you?!
But Friday morning, keen though I was to get back into the fitness groove, I was stiff, awkward, and somehow ill-seated in my body as we walked into my trainer, Jenna's, studio. She's so encouraging, and we found so much that I could do -- I did bench presses! First time ever! -- that I was able to loosen up, gain some mobility, and feel much more hopeful about picking up the reins of physical activity.
Between the distance from her studio door to our car, however, the stiffening resumed, and by the time we got home, I was hearing a very loud, very clear message from my body. It's a message I heard two or three weeks before we left on our trip, and which I ignored, pushing through a very ill-advised, distance-increasing run. Since then, I've worked on stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and . . . well, you know. It's taking much longer to recover than I've experienced before, and yesterday the stiffness was accompanied by a deep fatigue.
So yeah, I listened. A hot bath, some reading on the couch, some reading on the terrace, a little lunch, and then a Two Hour Nap! Some more reading, a cup of tea, then some catch-up with Madam Secretary, followed by dinner (fish tacos) on a tray in front of an episode of House of Cards. Bed at 9:30 and a glorious sleep right through until 5:30 (so at least I might be over the jetlag).
Writing this on Saturday morning, taking stock, feeling grateful for the full night's sleep but aware that my every cell still harboured considerable fatigue, and looking forward to a calendar studded with wonderful visits with out-of-town friends, dates that couldn't be rescheduled and that I refuse to surrender, I had to admit a few things: One, that I'm very lucky to be retired, able to tire myself right out through my leisure activities. As important as I might find my fitness regime or my post-career attempt to recover a social life, neither of these pursuits is tied to my ability to pay the rent or buy groceries or keep my children safe. I'm ever so fortunate to be able to slow down or modify my approach, even to stop completely and hibernate for a few days.
And Admission/Insight Number Two: I don't need to feel guilty about that Luck. Or rather, it isn't useful to feel guilty about it. It makes much more sense to deploy it wisely and productively.
And Three, and perhaps most significant, certainly most useful: no matter how I've tired myself out, I'm still Tired to the point of risking my health, and Self-Care is in order.
So on Saturday, after writing my way to this realisation (which, I get it, was probably obvious to you immediately), Pater and I plotted together about how we could get to the opening of a Group Art Show a friend has paintings in, and how we might also participate in an Artwalk of the galleries in that neighbourhood. It's about three kilometres from us, and we debated taking the car, but I knew I'd be impatient with the challenges of finding parking, and I was feeling impatient to move a bit (and in disbelief that I'd even be considering a three-kilometre walk a challenge!) We agreed that we'd walk -- but at my pace, not his -- and that if I felt the urge to whimper, we would take a cab or bus home.
We also decided to stop for lunch as soon as we were in the neighbourhood, allowing me to get off my feet for a while -- if you're ever in the South Granville neighbourhood, I recommend The Stable House, an intimate bistro/wine bar with a well-honed menu, many healthy but delicious choices, and friendly, efficient service.
Happily recharged, we then wandered toward my friend's show, stopping at a few galleries along the way. To be honest, if I'd been feeling stronger we would have spent more time looking at the exciting range of local art on view, and we would have socialised more as well. But I could feel myself fading, and I wasn't willing to delay recovery even further. As it was, the walk home was probably just a bit more than I should have done, but once back on my couch with a cup of tea, it was All Coddling for the rest of the afternoon, followed by an early bedtime.
Sunday, still fatigued even after a good night's sleep, Dance Class Duty (accompanying a happy Four-Year-Old to her dance class--best job ever!) and a walk to the post office for stamps was the limit of my activity. Again, an afternoon nap, and then last night I slept from 9:30 to 6 this morning. . . .
If you're still reading, thanks for your patience -- I know the account is perhaps too detail-heavy, and really, my tale of woe is a tale of privilege: Retired Woman gets Very Tired after travelling in Europe for Three Weeks. But I think it's worth sharing because so many of us are trying to re-calibrate after busy careers, trying to find the balance between things we Have to Do and things we Want to Do, trying to discern what physical decline is inevitable and what can be staved off by judicious physical training. And for those of us unused to such wallops of fatigue, the unfamiliarity can lead to a potentially dangerous denial. Many of us are used, as I have been, to pushing through and carrying on, and, honestly, I'm more than a bit shocked to find that, four, five days later, my body is still not allowing me to walk easily.
Today, an ex-colleague, a friend from my old life, is visiting the city and asked if we could meet up. Despite my current fatigue levels, I'm just not willing to say "No," even knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be busy with a friend from France. Instead, I've suggested we have coffee, then a walk in the botanical gardens nearby, followed by lunch (all so that I can get a nice mix of walking and sitting -- I suspect that the too-much-sitting of travel that played a role in upsetting my legs and back so much) -- and I've said that I need to be home by 2, although I may not have said that what I need to be home for is a nap ;-)
After these busy three days, life eases up a little, and I'm hoping that my energy and strength will begin creeping back. I have so much I want to do! My trainer is fairly confident that I may get back to running eventually, although we're pretty clear that it's off the books for now (and please, I know that many of you are convinced that running is always a bad idea, especially at a certain age, but I've done considerable reading and thinking around the topic, and there's ample evidence in favour of running -- I'd prefer not to debate it here). Her approach is to focus on the many things my body can still do, and we're working on strength-training at the moment. More cycling and, possibly, a switch to swimming, are on the agenda, and overall, I'm feeling impatient but relatively optimistic that I will be moving more very soon.
Thanks for hanging in, if you've made it to the bottom of this page. I promise -- more photos next post (oh, I have photos -- have you seen Slovenia? ;-)