We have all heard how great exercise is.
Who hasn’t? And, no doubt, it is enormously helpful in life. No doubt! I mean, I can’t really claim that exercise is bad. I am just not the biggest fan of it.
Despite the hours of fitness videos I sat through during my adolescence — and a few to which I made meager attempts at following along — they have never brought me the same joy that they seemingly bring to the participants on the screen.
I am not sure if it is entirely Jane Fonda’s fault for looking so happy in that '80s workout video we all watched with disbelief as we were entering puberty. I remember staring at her exercise VHS tape in awe while she jumped around in her unbelievably secure leotard without breaking a sweat, wondering how on earth she could pull that off. I generally hate blaming other women, but just for this argument I am going to blame it on her.
News to Jane Fonda! Working out isn’t . . . working out.
Last year, I gave up video workouts and took up roller skating and green smoothies.
I was all in.
After five huge and successful pregnancies, I was done gestating and ready to start rebuilding muscle mass on my maternal body. I had a regular exercise routine and I (kind of) counted calories. Well, I noted that they were present, at least. For the most part.
I even roller skated a half-marathon (yes, it is a thing) next to roller derby teams and these really serious dudes on Rollerblades with matching uniforms. They were like the Navy SEALs of roller skating, I swear. I just stayed on the right and let them pass me while I sang to Aerosmith on my groovy iPad, taking my sweet time finishing the 13.1 miles, pushing up hills and coasting down the other side to take a break.
I was totally dedicated to this venture.
Nevertheless, I stuck with it — mostly because I was just waiting for something to happen. Something great! Something worth telling people about!
And something did happen!
My period happened. Or mis-happened. It was all messed up. Maybe this isn’t a big deal to some women, but for me, my uterus is about as involved in my day-to-day life as my liver. My uterus has been on time and on schedule ever since I was 12, and we have generally been on good terms with each other during our time together. Generally. I mean, she is a cruel mistress during ovulation. And menstruation. And sometimes in between. But we understand each other, and that is something.
When I was skating three miles a day for a few weeks, just back and forth up and down my little suburban street, it was too much for my hormones.
They revolted and gave me my period a week and a half early. This has never happened before.
I knew this was going to bite me in the ass on my next cycle . . . and boy did it.
I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday. Probably because it was so traumatizing. I was sitting on a chair in my living room talking with my dad, waiting for the BBQ grill to warm up. It was a pleasant summer Saturday and we were watching the kids play on their bikes in the backyard, when all of a sudden the bottoms of my feet went numb.
I started doing diagnostic checks for signs of a stroke, but I was fine. I thought that maybe I was dehydrated, so I had some water. Nope. That was fine too. Was I hungry? Was it low blood sugar? Were my feet falling off? Was I crazy? Was I dying?
Turns out, I was about to get my period. It was the cycle after I threw my period off with exercising for the first time, and my hormones “plummeted.” And the symptom was numbness in my feet.
According to John Hopkins Medical, this is called paresthesia: "an abnormal sensation, such as numbness, prickling, tingling, and/or heightened sensitivity . . . (that) may occur as symptoms of menopause.”
It wasn’t menopause.
I was just exercising.
My conclusion after a year of green smoothies, regular exercise, throwing my period off and having numb feet because my hormone levels plummeted?
I might still have a poochy belly and saddlebags on my hips, but I am a hell of a lot happier now than I was when I was trying to be someone else. Someone other than the wine-drinking, squishy, saucy barmaid I love so much.
Besides, I make corsets look good.