Exercise as a requirement


Machines need maintenance to work properly and for a long time, right? I realized my body was pretty much the same – the hard way.

After almost two years dedicating all my time and energy to work, my body started sending me warning signs.

One night I woke up with a numb arm. I didn’t pay too much attention, but you know when you feel that needle tingling sensation and you know it’s about to go away? I didn’t feel it. It was a strange numbness and at 8am I was at my doctor. The guy said: “It may be carpal tunnel or just stress, are you under a lot of pressure” – Of course not, I had it all under control (or so I thought) – “If you are still in pain tomorrow, come back and we’ll take an x-ray or brain scan”. – What!???! Oh yeah, I feel a lot more relieved now that I know it can be some brain stuff.

I went home, unconvinced and developed the skill of typing with my left hand for the rest of the day. Thank goodness it really was Friday and I didn’t have to work that weekend, so I could rest. By the end of day, the pain started to go away and next day I was fine.

About 4 months later, one of my legs started to hurt. This was no big deal, I’m used to it since I was a child. My mom called them “growing pains” even though I’ve been suffering them forever and not growing any taller since 1993. It’s a strange pain, like cramps which force me to keep my leg moving. But this time was different, the pain extended also to my other leg and intensified. That’s when hell broke loose. I had to keep moving, walking, couldn’t sit, and – of course – couldn’t sleep.

After 2 days of extreme pain, I went to my doctor (the guy must have a mansion in heaven at this point). He checked my vertebral spine: “Must be stress or something muscular”. – Again the stress wild card. He gave me pills to relieve the pain, but they didn’t work, not a little bit. 5 days of sleep deprivation later I called my physiotherapist almost in tears. She confirmed, my doctor was right in the end. My back muscles contract because of stress compressing the leg nerves, and they were contracted big time. After the session with the physiotherapist, I didn’t feel any pain, it was amazing, and felt asleep shortly after she left. 2 hours later I woke up and the pain was back, but it was more manageable. This was one week before my summer holidays so I was “lucky” as I had time to recover.

Last November I got the leg pain again and called my physiotherapist straight away. She really opened my eyes and I finally understood that I had to do something. Since then, I have been working out regularly to keep the machine up and running. I still get the leg pains, but not so frequently and I feel a lot better and have more energy. Yes, I have sacrificed some of the “free” time I dedicated to work, tried to be more efficient, skip meetings unless really necessary. Stop worrying about stuff I can’t control. I won’t lie, I will still skip my workout when there is a work peak, but it’s an exception, not the rule. Or I’ll sacrifice time for other things and still try to squeeze it in.

I feel a lot better and very proud, I’m doing something for myself: I’m taking care of my health. And I realized it’s a requirement to do everything else in life.

Foto: Celestine Chua (Flickr)