Getting Going

The last couple of months have been rough on everyone. While Lauren recovered at lower altitude due to her asthma, I was juggling work and the kids as a single parent–eventually giving up on work for a couple of weeks.

Moreover, here in the mountains, as the snow melts, the outdoors are basically just cold and muddy. Limited time. Crummy weather. It was a perfect storm to stop being active and getting outdoors. And it took a toll.

These last two months were personally a couple of the roughest months I’ve experienced mentally and emotionally, and I had my left leg amputated. Some situational things like the weather have improved lately, and I’m working on others.

In general, I invest a lot of effort in reading about and managing my ability to focus. I’ve read dozens of books and research papers about how our brains work and tried almost everything reasonable that they recommend. There’s really not much left about my workspace or workflow for me to optimize.

When I can’t concentrate, I naturally start trying to figure out how to correct it. But this time, nothing worked. And the less I was able to concentrate, the worse it got. The only other time in my life that was close to this were the years around my amputation. But that was different.

With my leg injury, I was physically exhausted and frequently drowsy from pain killers even though I was incredibly cautious about using them. It was less an issue with my ability to think and more an issue with my body just not having anything left in the tank.

Prior to amputation, when my ankle was fused, I figured out that I could ride a bike without too much pain. So I took up mountain biking and was able to get outside and move. It didn’t have the intensity of basketball, but it changed everything. Within a week, Lauren noticed a big difference.

This time around, it happened without noticing, but for two months, I’ve been less active than I was when dealing with my leg issues. With my leg recovery, I at least had regular physical therapy to get me out of the house and moving. It was difficult, but I never really stopped moving.

The last two months, short of teaching our youngest to ride a bike, I’ve been completely inactive. Ski season was cut short, and then mud season came along. I didn’t really notice because I was so anxious about not getting any work done and just making it through each day. And the weather was just crummy enough to not draw us outside most days.

Recently, more on a whim, I started doing short low-intensity workouts of less than 30 minutes and forcing myself to go on a short walk of 15-30 minutes in the afternoon when my attention started waning. Within a day, I felt improvement.

Through all of this, I had blinders on. When we’re stressed or anxious, it’s not easy to be logical about what we need. Even though I knew that getting outdoors and getting some movement would help, my head was too deep in the weeds. I was treading water.

A little movement won’t be the solution for everyone, but it can make a difference for many. And while the amount or intensity of movement will vary, even a 15-minute walk can often do the trick. (There’s plenty of science backing that up.) Of course, you know your body best. I just can’t help but wonder if we could all use a little reminder from time-to-time. I know I could have.