Getting fit on the BigD can be a challenge, especially in the early days or after surgery or some kind of other medical or physical setback. But there’s only one way: slow and steady exercise, letting your body gradually build up condition.
It’s been about four months since I’ve been to the gym, and I started again yesterday. What a shock. Talk about the guy who gets sand kicked into his face. What a wimp. I strain with tiny, girlie-sized weights and pretend not to notice when tiny girls pick up the man-sized ones.
My muscles have faded away, and it will take a month or two to kick-start them again.
The reason is well-known to me: I had chronic, unrecognised transplant kidney rejection for about a year. It stopped working about 18 months ago. My nephrologist said there was no reason to take it out. It’s a big operation that may be unnecessary. Many failed transplant kidneys just quietly die off and give no trouble to their host. Right. Over the next year, I gradually became slower and weaker and vaguely unwell. I stopped running, then stopped going to the gym. I couldn’t raise the energy to perform. I felt lousy.
Readers of this blog know that I wanted it out, Out, OUT! But there weren’t enough symptoms to convince my nephrologist. At one stage he said, “Well you are getting older… ” I was deeply affronted. Me, old? Though my malaise had been going on for so long, there was a sliver of suspicion that maybe he could be right. But common sense prevailed. No one gets this old and slow in a year without help. In my case from a toxic kidney.
Eventually, the kidney did me a favour: it swelled up and became tender to touch. Symptoms! Time to remove it. I had the surgery the following week. I recovered remarkably well, but then got pneumonia and some heart problems. By the end of last month, I finally came home about 7 kilos lighter (most of it muscle if you ask me).
When the surgeon first saw the kidney, he thought it was diseased, but after tests, my nephrologist told me it was only “raging” rejection, nothing nasty. He said it “was interesting how a kidney in that condition over such a long period got past us.” Yes, interesting is one word, I thought.
One of the annoying things that came with being deconditioned is restless legs. I haven’t had that problem for years, but now that I’m unfit, jiggly legs attack every night. In my experience, the only real antidote is exercise: working my leg muscles until they are too tired to hassle me.
So I’ve been slowly getting back into shape. Initially that involved short walks around the bed. But gradually I advanced to around the block with Julie. One Sunday we walked around three blocks. I did well but needed a little sleep that afternoon. About two weeks ago I hired an exercise bike and I ride it until I am tired, or bored, or the TV show is over. Initially, I could only last about 10 minutes, but now, only two weeks later, I can last 30 to 45 minutes, no sweat. And my legs are already no so restless.
This week the gym: I have started gradually, with light weights and only two sets of each exercise. As I said at the outset, I’m nowhere near where I was, but I know I will improve quickly (coming from such a low starting point). I am sure I will be the Adonis I have previously known and loved within a few short months.
And the great thing is I am already starting to feel well again. Ready for anything (mostly).
So, if you are starting to feel better after your first few weeks on the BigD, or if you are recovering from some kind of setback, or if you just want to feel better, start exercising, no matter how gradually. It pays off, big time.