Time on the Treadmill Teaches Me to Trust Myself
I go to the gym because I know it’s good for me to stay active and to get some physical exercise. Recently, I found out that it also helps me trust myself to take charge of my own well-being.
I was fortunate to have participated in three rounds of pulmonary rehabilitation, with each round involving meeting twice a week for 13 weeks. After completing the course, it’s recommended that patients continue with the program exercises by joining a gym. I did that after my first round, and I couldn’t have made a better choice.
The gym I attend allows me to bring my supplemental oxygen tank to work out with, so I’m comfortable and safe doing what I love.
On this day, I used a new tank, so I was ready for a good workout. When I got to the gym, I set up my treadmill, put in my earbuds, and found some tunes on my Spotify account. But when I turned on my oxygen, I realized that no air was coming through the nasal cannula. Instead, the air was escaping from the top of the tank where the plastic key and regulator sit. I made some adjustments and tried again. Same result.
At this point, I was getting somewhat nervous. The thought of not having any oxygen made me feel trapped. I still had my portable tank in my car, but I knew walking through the gym and out to my car could get a little dicey for me. I removed the regulator that attaches to the tank and checked to make sure the rings were in place. I reassembled everything and turned on the air. I felt it escape again.
OK. Time to slow down and focus on what I was doing. I removed the regulator again and checked my steps. I turned on the air, and it seemed to be working correctly. Success! I adjusted the flow meter setting and started my workout. I started out slow, and then gradually increased my pace. I have a pulse oximeter that I use to make sure my oxygen levels and heart rate are good.
While I was walking and adjusting my level of activity, my oxygen saturation fell to about 76%. When I hit that mark, I slowed my walking and decreased the intensity level. I wasn’t feeling dizzy or breathless, I just knew I had to slow down and get myself back on track.
Once I hit 25 minutes, I started the cooldown process, which involves going at a much slower pace with zero intensity. Once I finished, I checked my oxygen levels and I was hovering between 89 and 91% oxygen saturation. I picked up my oxygen tank to turn it off and looked at the meter on the regulator. It read zero! I knew I couldn’t have used the whole tank in one session. A full tank will usually last me over a week. My flow meter was still set, and when I turned the key at the top of the tank, the air started escaping again.
This told me that during my session on the treadmill, I was either not using any supplemental oxygen at all, or I was using very, very little. I think it was the latter. I realized in that moment that there was no way I would have been able to have gotten that far in my workout without oxygen if it hadn’t been for the pulmonary rehab. The endurance activities and breathing techniques made a huge difference in my performance.
When I arrived home, I checked my tank again. Sure enough, when I turned the tank on, the air started escaping. It was kind of scary to realize how much I had done on my own.
I remember telling my pulmonologist once that the more I move around, the better I feel.
In 2020, our movements were restricted out of fear and for our safety. This year, I was able to regain some sense of normalcy. The end of the year has reminded me how far I’ve come, and how much I’m able to do, and I’ll use those lessons as we begin 2022. I have a great chance of getting some parts of my life back, and I’m trusting myself to do that.
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