If You Can't Do This, Do That

By Debbie Koenig

“I’m drawing a blank,” I giggled uncomfortably.

My therapist had challenged me to name some ways I could maintain the exercise routine I’d worked out with my son, even though I’ve hurt my knee and can barely walk.

How can I get him over to the track, four long, limping blocks away, and then entice him to spend a half-hour going in circles while I just watch? Given his reluctance to exercise in general, this struck me as impossible. Without me participating, he’d never keep going. And I couldn’t think of a way to participate.

She smiled gently, in that way that lets me know I’m about to feel really stupid, and said, “Maybe you need to look at this from another angle. If the goal is to maintain the routine, then focus on moving, period. Show him that an injury to one part of your body doesn’t keep you from using the rest.”

“But if I can’t walk, how can I move?”

“You do something that doesn’t use your knee. Make it a competition. Can he finish one lap faster than you can do 20 crunches and 20 push-ups?”

Yup, I felt stupid. I’ve fixated on cardio as a synonym for exercise, so much so that I’ve been ignoring the many other ways I can work out. For the last three weeks, as my knee has gotten progressively worse (I’m seeing an orthopedist next week), I’ve been moving less and less, which means junior has, too. I’ve adjusted my eating so I’m not gaining, but I feel pretty crummy these days. And guilty that I’m setting such a poor example for junior.

So here’s the new plan:

We’re doing something physical for 30 minutes a day. For him that might mean laps at the track, riding his scooter or bike, doing jumping jacks, dancing, or bouncing on our mini-trampoline. Meanwhile I’ll be doing crunches and other abs exercises, stretches, hand weights, and calisthenics on the outdoor equipment next to the track. And of course, if he wants to join me in any of these options, that’ll work too.

Our only goal is to keep moving. To reinforce the habit we’re building together. To not give in to excuses.

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