I ignored exercise for years, until, as is always the way, the need for it hit me in an unpleasant way. After a month in hospital and an unpleasant operation I was told to go home and rest and recover, ‘Oh and by the way, don’t forget to exercise that leg’.
When you feel fragile, as you do after a month in hospital, it’s not easy to even think about exercise. I had worked with physiotherapists, but at home it was very very easy to just do the rest part and forget everything else. Weeks passed and I began to feel better, I stretched the leg, but was quite unable to go for walks, so I started to look for something that would be low impact but would let me ‘stretch my legs’.
Then reality took over. As soon as I was able to move around, life was back to normal and although I knew I had to do it if I were to make a full recovery, I no longer had the time. Exercise was just too time consuming.
Then came the day, six months after my operation when I had a check up to see how the healing process was going. My leg is, and always will be badly scarred, but what frightened me was the surgeons comment that if I didn’t move the leg I would have problems. So from that point it became a question not of whether, but how to take the exercise and when.
One obvious choice was in the time I would normally spend relaxing and watching TV, but I was trying to be realistic. Even with my health at stake, it seemed unlikely I would want to rush out into cold rainy evenings for a quick jog around the town.
‘No no!’, the doctor said. ‘Not jogging, too high impact, what about a nice walk?’
Our first thought was that we would have to get a treadmill, but fortunately my husband had heard of elliptical trainers. At first I thought this must be some sort of fitness instructor with an unusual shape, or possibly shoes for running in the snow, but it turned out be a rather nice machine which, despite being stationary, allows you to go through the motions of walking or running, but indoors where it’s nice and warm. Since there’s no huge pressure on the joints the exercise is regarded as ‘low impact’, but still gets everything moving like it should. Most machines have several levels of resistance, so the beast could apparently be tamed for someone like me.
The idea of the elliptical trainer was developed by a man called Larry Miller who studied films of his daughter running alongside a car and then built a machine to duplicate the motion of her legs. His aim was to produce a device which would exercise the body without putting too much strain on the joints. Unlike a treadmill there are handlebars on an elliptical trainer which provide a workout for the upper body, so in terms of time spent exercising, it’s pretty efficient.
Of course the machine has all the bells, whistles and read-outs you would expect and it’s not too large; but the very best thing about the elliptical trainer is something fairly trivial. It’s quiet. Am I worried about annoying my neighbors? No, though I expect I would be if I lived in an apartment. For me the low noise of the elliptical trainer is ideal because it means I don’t have to find the time to use it – I just make better use of the time I’ve already allocated to watching TV. All the exercise I need, but without falling behind on 24 or Lost. And that makes sense to me.