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The Exercise Challenge

September 1, 2017

The Exercise Challenge

By Naomi E. Goodhart

It started with a conversation with my sister the Friday before the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday.

She wanted to challenge me to do more exercise, to which I replied, “more than nothing?” I said I’d accept her challenge only if it were based on my goals, since she’s so much more physically fit than I am. She can hop on a bike and go for a 20-mile ride, no big deal. I’ve been walking with a cane for over eight years and living with chronic pain 24/7 for longer than that, including neuropathy in my feet (numbness).

I’ve tried exercising many, many times over the years. It got interrupted, usually because the pain was too much and I couldn’t work through it. For a while I did stretching in the morning before I went to work. When the job ended at the beginning of 2015, so did the stretching.

Something felt different this time. Maybe it was my own frustration of letting life get in the way. The intention to start something and not getting back to it, like joining a gym and not going. I signed up at a local recreation center last Spring with the intention of using their pool. I purchased all the needed accoutrements – pool cap, goggles and nose plugs. I kept telling myself that their broken elevator was the reason I didn’t go – even though the pool is on the first floor!

I’ve had eight surgeries on my left knee, including two knee replacements. Every time I had knee surgery there was physical therapy. I joined a gym for the first time last summer when they had a special for people over 60 -- $99 for a year. That seemed like a worthwhile investment, particularly if I didn’t go.

My first goal was to build up strength and stamina. I knew I was in bad shape when I noticed I couldn’t push an empty shopping cart to the grocery store without a lot of pain in my shoulders. This caused me to slump over and lean on the handle of the cart just to move it. I knew this was not a good scenario.

My sister suggested using an app which would help me keep track of what I ate and how much I exercised, so I could keep track of my calories. I brought paper to the gym to write down which machines I was using, how many repetitions (reps), etc. The first day of exercise I burned 285 calories in 30 minutes. I made a mental note that I had to figure out a way to work out longer, particularly because the number of calories to burn one pound is 3,500. I watched videos and did a lot of reading about how to use the machines at the gym, proper form, machine settings, etc. to gain more knowledge.

I was determined to find a way to make it work this time around. After three days of trying out different machines, and pairing those together which worked opposite muscles, I typed up a list of the sequence of the machines I wanted to use so I could check off each one as I used it and to transfer the information to the app. Six months later, I’m burning 600-1,000 calories at the gym. The deal I made with myself is that I have to work out a minimum of one hour.

My current routine includes a recumbent stationary bicycle, stretching, then a circuit of six weight machines that ends with more stretching. Generally, I do each machine for 30 reps (10 reps, three times). I make sure to notice my breath as I do each rep to make sure I’m taking a breath at the right time before the pushing or pulling motion.

I can easily do that circuit of machines two times. That takes about an hour.  Depending on how my body is feeling, I will do another circuit. Ideally, I would like to do this circuit four times, three days a week.

One of my favorite machines is the Arc Trainer.
My research indicated that it’s great for people with back, hip and knee issues because you’re in a gliding motion and not putting stress on those areas. It took me about four months to build up enough strength in my legs to use it. It was very difficult to do in the beginning, maybe 1-2 minutes at a time. I’ve slowly built up my endurance. Now I can do 15 minutes and am working my way up to 25 minutes. I like to do it at the end of each circuit to give my legs a workout, since the other machines focus on my upper body.  I also read that it burns the most calories of all the other machines at the gym, so I knew that was the right way to go.

I noticed a couple of months ago that the bounce in my step has returned. I haven’t had that bounce in 30 years! I also have strength and stamina again! It doesn’t hurt to push my shopping cart. In fact, most of my chronic pain has disappeared. I’ve “looked” for it, but haven’t found it. I’ve decided I don’t need to look for it anymore because it’s just not there!

I would welcome your comments and questions about my journey at

I currently serve on the Caring Collaborative Council and am also a Neighborhood Group Leader.

Important Note:  I had medical clearance from my doctor before starting this program.

The Caring Times September 2017