Today, on our nation’s birthday, I do not have to go to work. I appreciate my day is full of free choices. Every day, we make choices to move forward or to move backwards. Nothing ever stays the same. I choose today, to make choices that help me move forward.
I started my day choosing to wake up to my favorite alarm clock app. (It wakes me up when I am in my lighter sleep cycle in the 30 minutes prior to my goal wake up time. This makes wake up significantly much easier for me (as I am NOT traditionally a morning person).) Then, I threw on my workout gear & headed to the basement, my home gym. As I grabbed my water bottle, put on my heart rate monitor & started my music, I was already in such a good mood! I was awake to do something good for me and I have the ability to move my body. What a gift!
After warming up my muscles, I started lifting weights and enjoyed the quiet in the rest of the house while I was able to focus on my body and my health. I had time to notice how much easier some of the sets were, how my muscles were ever so slightly more defined; my mind felt clear and optimistic about the day and I thought of the many patients in the past few weeks who had talked to me about their health. Specifically, I thought of the patients who mentioned joint pain during their office visit. There were 3 groups of responses to joint pain.
Some patients stated they had joint pains and stated they could not exercise and were very limited in their lives because of it. Often, they had been told they had arthritis or some other joint issue that would never be fully better or would require an invasive intervention to “improve it.” They had somehow been convinced that it was never going to get any better. They were focused on the pain & had become a victim to the pain. Often, they would ask for a “band-aid”- like pain medication. They had given up on getting better, they just wanted to mask the pain, even if it meant creating new problems like constipation, nausea, dependence on medications, drowsiness, etc. Unintentionally, they were moving backwards, getting “worse.”
Several patients had joint pains and they were grateful that because they were doing some form of movement/exercise, it was not getting worse. They were grateful they COULD still move. They wanted to learn what else they could do. They wanted their list of choices to move forward. They were focused on staying independent and working towards higher quality function from their bodies. They came for guidance & were eager to comply. If they were given a home exercise program, they would do it. If they were sent for physical therapy, they would do it. If they were sent to see a specialist, they would do it. They knew they could make choices that could help them. They listened to their bodies and trusted they could make themselves better if they were given the right plan.
The third group of patients had joint pains and found that by choosing exercise (including yoga, home exercises, physical therapy, individual workout programs, working with a trainer, etc.), they had healed themselves or improved their pains. They felt grateful and powerful. They wanted to know what choices they could make, what they could do, to continue to stay healthy- how to improve their bodies even more. They were empowered and living life to their fullest.
As I moved onto my interval training, I considered it interesting that in my practice, these three different kinds of responses to joint pains were not correlated to the amount or duration of the pain. They were all about attitude and faith (or loss of faith) in their bodies. And of course, it’s about seeing they have choices and choosing to move forward, or backwards, every day.
As I increased and decreased the intensity of my interval training workout, I wondered how each of my patients would respond to the questions: Do you trust your body to take care of you? Do you listen to your body, understand the cues and respond appropriately? If not, do you just need to help learning? Do you believe your body knows how to repair itself and get better? Do you allow your body to recover, improve or heal by providing it what it needs- proper nourishment (what we put into our bodies), relaxation (such as meditation, journaling, emotional intimacy with another person(s)) and circulation of fluids (movement)? If not, do you want to learn what you don’t know?
If my patients have taught me anything, I have learned that we can make choices that move us forward or that cause us to slip backwards. I like forward movement better. I want that for my patients. My patients come to me because they know that, and they want help in seeing and making the choices to move forward.
In my practice, I show my patients their choices (if they do not already know them) and help them to see which ones will most likely allow them to move forward. I spend time teaching them ways to best nourish their bodies with nutrition and medication, if necessary. I have relaxation training sessions and I counsel on ways to safely circulate fluids and move our bodies. I try to give my patients more ways they can choose to move forward.
As I cooled down and stretched, I appreciated that we all have choices. We live in a country that cherishes our freedom to make choices and we have lots to choose from. Every day, we make choices about our health. We have the bodies we were given. Some were luckier than others. But we all can choose what to do with it at any moment. We can choose to trust our body will do the best that it can for us, if we give it what it asks for and needs. We have the freedom to choose every day. As a physician, I recommend making choices that move you forward.