I Went One Step Too Far in Pursuit of My Fitness Goals

I Went One Step Too Far in Pursuit of My Fitness Goals

I’m often my own worst enemy. Last year, I decided to add some variety to my usual cardio workout. When I started a cardiac rehabilitation program to manage my postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), the goal was to gradually progress from exercising on a semi-recumbent cycle to upright workouts on a treadmill or elliptical machine.

I had reached that goal and was exercising faithfully as prescribed five days a week. But while sweating it out on the elliptical, I began to envy those climbing their way to toned muscles on the StairMaster next to me.

My own worst enemy

Perched up high, tackling rotating steps, I imagined them looking down at everyone else, thinking, “Is that all you’ve got?” It didn’t matter to me that I had a history of knee problems stretching back to my teenage years. Or that it was already a struggle to get through workouts on an elliptical and inclined treadmill, which was better for my knees and joints. I wanted to be at the top of that fitness mountain, climbing my way to ripped glutes, quads, and calves. 

Curiosity killed the cat

So, I started digging the hole that I find myself in now by not leaving well enough alone. I began asking the chiseled gods and goddesses of fitness what it felt like on Mount Olympus (or the StairMaster, as it’s known to mere mortals) when they descended next to my boring workout on the elliptical. They told me that I would burn more calories and reach my target heart rate quicker on the StairMaster. I was sold. Bad knees and all, I decided to give it a try. And it was glorious, being up above the rest of the gym powering through those cascading stairs. Then came the morning after.

Paying the price

While walking up the steps at home, one of my knees buckled without warning. In the following days, my left or right knee would suddenly give out on the stairs — these incidents were accompanied by pain. After a trip to the doctor and an MRI of both knees, I discovered the cost of being too aggressive in my workouts — something my cardiologist had warned me about in the past. I had meniscal tears in both knees. 

Back to square one

My exercise routine derailed more than a year ago by my overzealousness had helped me with the management of POTS and pain. Most of us with sarcoidosis live with severe chronic pain, despite the use of pain-relieving medications, according to a 2017 survey reported by Sarcoidosis News.

After numerous setbacks, I am taking another crack at physical therapy to try to get back on track with exercise. When I do eventually return to the gym, I won’t be going near the StairMaster. 

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Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.
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Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.

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