I vant to PAHMP. ME. AHP.
August 2, 2012 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I vant to PAHMP. ME. AHP.

While I was in the Army, I fell about six feet from a vehicle flat on my back. Because of this, I've been in pretty much constant pain since then and have gained about 80 pounds. Right now I'm pushing 300. I hate this.

A couple years ago I started going to a gym, doing cardio and some weights, and lost about 30 pounds. I went at it too hard and fast, though, and I burned myself out on the extra pain that I just couldn't cope with then gained all the weight back and then some. I don't want to burn out again.

Right now I'm working up ideas for stuff I can do physically, then slowly ease into them. For instance, with weight training I wouldn't be able to do something like a squat, but could do leg presses as my back is braced on the bench. Same idea for arm shoulder exercises, as long as the bench is supporting most of the weight.

(Un)fortunately I've got nothing but time, being unemployed and on disability. Yay?

I've got three groups going now: stretching, cardio, and weights.

1. Stretching

Part of my problem is that I've been a lump in front of a computer for several years now, and it's not doing my back any favors. I've supposed to have been doing normal stretching, but that's one of the things I'd just given up on out of despair and the extra pain.

Under this I'm lumping stuff like yoga and tai chi. I figure a regular yoga class would cover basic stretches, and also the extra flexibility motions that yoga goes into. Pilates was another option I haven't looked into yet. I want to work on core strength, also, so my back is better able to support me in general.

2. Cardio

The last time I was doing well on a recumbent bike, and had worked up to an hour at pretty high resistance. I'll do this again. Swimming is another option, as my doctor has said being in the water will take strain off my back. I vaguely know the basic strokes, but haven't swum for about 15 years. Any suggestions on which strokes to try?

3. Weights

Part of the goal here is to make me look like less of a lump. I'm not overly concerned about a number in how much I weigh (obviously less than now), but rather how I feel and how I look. My legs look fine, but I've got chicken arms slumpy shoulders from losing all the muscle I used to have. I want to focus on my upper body so my proportions don't look as out of whack as they do now, and also that it would be fairly easy to work into because of the stability issues I mentioned above.

Thanks for any ideas, thoughts, or suggestions on what to add!
posted by Evilspork to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Kettlebells are the best thing ever IMO. There's no sudden jerking, it's all about maintaining a smooth motion with a large weight.
although your injury may limit their usability.

Your diet should also be a significant consideration too.
posted by Packed Lunch at 6:10 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I strongly encourage working with a physical therapist for at least a few sessions so you can start off knowing where your true physical limits are (the ones that will re/injure you) and where you should start. If you're seeing a doctor, I bet s/he'd help you find a way to get a few sessions. A good trainer at your gym may have a PT background, too, so that's another place to look for personal guidance.

That said, I'm all about lifting weights, even given previous bouts of rotator cuff pain, sciatica, and post-pregnancy joint changes--all things you'd think would be easily aggravated by lifting, but haven't been*. I did work with a PT exactly as I suggested above. And I find that even if I don't lose weight, I rapidly look a lot better with muscle definition. My posture, attitude, and stamina also improve, so there's a fast positive feedback loop that keeps me going to the gym.

I think with your condition and with weights in general, the important things are to start slow, emphasize good form, start with your core, and work opposing muscle groups so you don't overtrain in one direction and put yourself at risk for injury in the other direction. I've used kettlebells, but given your description of your condition, they're not where I would start.

For swimming, you could start with treading water for 10 minutes, alternating one minute with flutter kick (change the position of your arms, including up over your head, to do more work); and the next minute with a frog/breaststroke kick and figure eight hands. This will accomplish some supported core work. Then, because you want to work core and upper body, you could try regular front crawl with a pull-buoy between your legs. That will push more work to your abs/core and arms.

As for stretching, tai chi would get my vote over yoga with your back issues and need for core work. I think the type/amount of yoga you'd need would be more aggressive, whereas the tai chi might subtly but more immediately improve your core.

* I'm using Lou Schuler's "The New Rules of Lifting." He has a few books, including one specifically aimed at core and back strength. Good luck!
posted by cocoagirl at 6:47 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Concentrate a lot on your diet. Your extra weight is not helping your back, so I think you ought to make your diet the number one priority. I love yoga, and it does wonders for my upper back and shoulders. I'd start off slow, taking a class, where you can get the proper adjustments. Let the instructor know what your limitations are. DO NOT feel like you have to do a pose because the rest of the class is. There's no shame in holding back. Everyone was once a new student too, so don't be intimidated by what they can do and you can't. You may get there one day, but it's okay if you don't.

Once you've got a regular yoga practice in, you'll probably notice you're just naturally eating better. You get more attuned with your body, so you're less likely feed it garbage. Slowly start doing weights. Get a personal trainer initially, to help guide you.

Unless you love it, I don't know how much cardio you need right away - walk as much as you can. Take the stairs whenever it is less than three flights. There are some flow classes in yoga - you might want to start adding those in once you're getting the hang of it and becoming fitter.

Accept this as a new lifestyle. Accept that it will take some time to achieve results. I found this video inspiring, maybe you will too.

Good luck. It sounds like you had success before, I'm sure you can do it again,
posted by backwards guitar at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned this in the post, but I've been working on my diet for quite a while now and it's pretty good and maintainable. I've just never been able to lose weight without being active, but when I can be, it melts right off.
posted by Evilspork at 7:58 PM on August 2, 2012

yoga motivation?
posted by skrozidile at 8:50 PM on August 2, 2012

I injured my back a couple of years ago to the point that it really affected my exercise and I gained weight. Which, of course, put more strain on my back.

And a few people with chronic back pain told me to do this, which worked: make sure you take a long walk every day. Which sounds so basic and silly, but even if you take some Pilates (which I also highly recommend) or lift some weights, your back might still feel a little tight afterwards. If I walk even 30 minutes a day my whole lower back and hip area feels looser. I have to make sure I'm walking with good posture, but something about the gentle motion simultaneously exercises and stretches that whole area.

I also worked with a physical therapist, which was recommended elsewhere in thread, and I'd agree that it was very helpful. Plus my therapist used an awesome electroshock machine that sent zaps right into the painful muscle and made it twitch and then relax and felt super good. Obviously, YMMV, my point is more that the physical therapist may have super special machines and other magical things they can do.

Good luck!
posted by lillygog at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2012

I don't know which strokes, but I think swimming sounds like a GREAT idea. You can even do water aerobics and such if lap swimming isn't your groove. You could try taking a few private adult lessons if you're concerned about form or "knowing" the strokes, but in general I think swimming is good for you even if you're not doing it "right".
posted by blue_bicycle at 11:57 AM on August 3, 2012

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