I think it is obvious that I am vain, but at least I am passionate about being vain. Obsessing about my weight is my hobby, and nothing has given me more material to work with than my post-partum body. So, when my mother-in-law offered to watch the baby while I napped, I took the opportunity to forgo sleep and head out for my first jog in 5 months. Yes, yes…it was a stupid idea, but hindsight and all that.
Ever since I joined a soccer team when I was ten I have never stopped exercising. The endorphin rush is like an alcohol buzz, and I crave it after a few days of inactivity. Throughout my college years I would run laps around university track to clear my head instead of sleeping. In the winter. In Canada. Instead of going out on a Friday night I would swim laps. When I am angry, depressed, happy or bored, I head to the gym (or I eat). Never have I gone more than a month without disciplined exercise, and certainly I have never spent more than a month on bedrest, hardly moving at all. Other pregnant friends would mention to me their exploits running, climbing mountains, or even walking down the street, and I would burn with humiliation and anger from my couch-prison.
At no point when I set out to run yesterday did it enter my head that perhaps after all those weeks of laying around like a house cat I may have lost some important muscle tone…or whole groups of muscles all together. I assumed that I would spring back like I do every year when I first venture out for an outdoor run. Usually my lungs scream at the cold air and my knees adjust to the shock of running on pavement instead of a treadmill, but after about 10 minutes everything is fine and the body snaps back into its usual routine.
Not so. Now I know what it feels like to be someone who never runs. Now I understand why Huzzybee complains bitterly, clutching his chest like a mime and wheezing on the rare occasions that he has come running with me. Now I understand why those people hate running – because if you don’t do it for 5 months, it feels like the worst sort of cruelty you can put your body through. Old injuries that I had completely forgotten about revisited me – the knee that I had dislocated three times suddenly wobbled in and out of its socket. My athletically-induced asthma, that I had finally gotten a handle on, clamped my airway shut. The sideways vertebra in my neck crunched with every step. Worse than that, I realized that I lacked strength in places like my back and arms, so even the act of holding myself vertical seemed like work. I felt the odd sensation of my stomach flab flopping around underneath my shirt, and my thighs rubbed together creating an uncomfortable amount of friction and what sounded like a deafening scraping noise with each labored step.
I want my pre-pregnancy body back so badly that I can hardly stand it. Being out of shape is uncomfortable. When I walk it takes my bottom a few minutes to jiggle along after me. My arms have thickened so that I can’t fit into my shirt sleeves any longer. I have a muffin top. Aside from all that, it is just harder to do anything right now – kneeling and sitting on the floor with my baby is a chore. Lifting the stroller out of the trunk of my car makes me grunt, and even holding the baby wears me out. I know that I’ll never be able to fit into some of my jeans again and I have made peace with that – but when my little boy starts running around in another 18 months I want to be able to keep up with him, and I sure as hell can’t outrun a toddler right now.