I went back to the gym for the first time in over six months on Tuesday. I'm sure it wasn't the smartest way to dive back in, but I decided to try my beloved Bodyjam class. Yes, the one with all the fab twists, turns, jumps and deep knee grooving to a funky hip hop beat. Go big, or go home with a broken knee, I always say.
But how could I not? I was so passionate about it, and for over two years, the sessions that I looked so forward to three times a week - that had me pushing my over-40 body to the limit - kept me feeling great about myself, and more importantly, kept my mind relatively stress-free.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.
The last class I had attended was about six days after my Dad's diagnosis. My knees were intact, and Dad's prognosis, although not wonderful (being an upside of 18 months), was at least something to strive for. I hit the routine hard, throwing my body into the ferocity of Kanye's "Stronger", somehow trying to will the strength to my Dad to fight...or more likely willing myself to find the strength to deal with the enormity of it all. I remember working through it in tears.
Less than four weeks later, he was gone and my will limped in unison with my bum knee.
Aside from the fact that I couldn't physically get much from the gym until my leg got strong enough, there was a big part of me that was reluctant... or even afraid to go back to the gym. Routine, what was that anymore? How could life go on just as it was before, when the world I knew, and especially my mother's world, was shattered?
I suspect this is what made me drag my heels to the physiotherapist - and made it even more difficult to start with my regular classes again.
So here I was this week, tackling Bodyjam Release 49. The same class at the same time, with many of the same friends ('Hey, Karen, where've you been? It's been a long time...') ... but it was not the same. The instructor was new; the routine was new; and my confidence not exactly at a high. Especially when the instructor told me to watch for the advanced options she would be throwing out there, to make sure I wouldn't push myself too far.
Damn, I used to love to jump, twirl, spin, samba... all that fun advanced stuff! This would be more torturous than I thought!
In the end, it turned out not to be too bad, and I managed to complete the class feeling just sweaty enough, with no twisted limbs to show for it. Which was a bonus. It was difficult to hold back, and it certainly wasn't the old me out there on the gym floor.
So it was done. No more excuses. I intend to get back into my regular exercise cycle again (which will have to include some core strengthening workouts).
As I drove home from class, I was stopped at the railway tracks. Unexpectedly, as I'd never had to wait for a train at this time before, not once in the past two years of regular Tuesday night classes. I watched each car pass in front of me, in rhythmic tandem with the piano riffs of Coldplay's "Clocks" playing on the radio.
And I thought of Dad, and how I missed him, how I wished he was still with us ... but also about the inevitability of time, how life must still move forward, and how he'd want me to continue to move forward. Remembering the profound words that my daughter had said to me, just hours earlier when talking about her grandfather...
"Just pretend that he's still here, Mommy, when you get sad. It will make you feel better."
While pretending the odd time isn't quite the same as reality, it'll allow me to take more concrete steps toward the future. I did feel better.
After the last car of the train went by, and the railway crossing arms lifted, I took my foot off the brake.
And headed home.