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In the Balance

October 8, 2013

Fat HealthMy Boring-Ass Life

In my experience, there are two things that really suck about having an autoimmune disease.

The first is having to learn to slow down. I’m a classic Type A personality who doesn’t do down time well unless it’s planned and temporary. Every time I’d clear my calendar, I’d start looking for new ways to fill it. It’s so hard to say no to things I want to do. Admitting the reasons why are even harder. Sorry, I’d be too tired. Sorry, my legs are already hurting. Sorry, I don’t want to spend the next two days in the bathroom.

The second is that I never know what my immune system will attack next. One of its recent targets was my vestibular system, which controls balance. I hate when the room decides to jump 45 degrees to the left without me. I hate approaching my front door dead sober and appearing like I’m drunk. I really hate waking up at home and feeling like I’m at sea. This last one is particularly crappy because I love the sea. Cruising was my favorite form of vacation and one of my hobbies was volunteering as a crewman on a safety boat. These days, I’m more of a hazard onboard than an asset. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way, with my coxswain screaming at me to secure a tow line and me feeling like I was going to go overboard with each swell.

I hate having to accept limits. Losing that part of my life was a huge blow. I tried taking on a classroom role, but it’s just not the same. Plus the travel time was exhausting. I see myself as a Balanceproblem solver. New diagnoses and treatments often start out as a list of can’t-do’s that eventually get adapted into longer lists of can-do’s. My doctor says it’ll take 18 months for my body to recover, and that’s a lot of unplanned down time. How can I get my balance back?

After watching many episodes of Dance Moms, I got the brilliant idea that a beginner’s ballet class would be a good way to go. I figured having a barre to grab would be pretty safe. That ended up being much easier said than done. Many of the dance studios around me offered adult Zumba classes. A few offered hip-hop with an emphasis on advanced. While I’ve got nothing against either style, they’re not for me. For one thing, I suck at remembering choreography. I’m the one who turns left when the rest of the class turns right. I was also having doubts that I wouldn’t be busting out of my leotard and I’m the sort of person who averages one wearing of a pair of tights before getting a rip or a run in them. A lack of local ballet ended up being a blessing in disguise because I learned that some of my co-workers were taking ice skating classes.

Surprisingly, the cost of skating school was lower than the cost of the dance studios and it comes with a lot more practice sessions. Riskier? You betcha. I do love a challenge and I had one ace up my sleeve: I used to skate in my teens and part of college. Also, no leotard, tights, or buns. What did I have to lose besides my dignity? My ego. It’s hard going from feeling like this…

… to feeling like this…

I haven’t fallen yet (*knocks on wood*).

In non-cartoon form, I used to skate at this level…

… and now I’m here

Still, it’s fun. There’s something really silly about marching around and then grabbing your knees. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much. One of the things I didn’t like about skating as a teen was a lack of people my age. I was in classes with people half my height and weight, whose mothers would scream at me if we collided. We’re all roughly the same size in my current class and none of their mothers think they have an Olympic career that would be dashed by a run-in with me.

As a fat skater, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do some equipment shout-outs because I think that’s one of the hardest things about being fat and exercising. I have a real complex with falling, which I’ve alleviated with kneepads. I found these from Nike that had the biggest circumference out of the ones I looked at. That said, there’s a niche market to be exploited because I’m at the upper end of the range. Thin hosiery is a must-have to avoid blisters. Because of my penchant for runs, I get the cheap queen-size knee highs out of the plastic eggs. Gloves are another must-have to prevent ice burn from the falling down I don’t want to be doing. As far as actual garb, I like a pant I can move in and something warm on top. I love the cargo sweat pants from OneStopPlus and the yoga pants from Lane Bryant, but not at full price.

Lastly, a bonus clip of Snoopy at Rockefeller Center because Charles Schulz does an amazing job of animating skaters.

Also, I’d love to know where Snoopy’s hat came from.

Gingeroid Sig

6 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    October 8, 2013 11:50 am

    I used to roller skate, and I loved it. I would love to be able to roller skate again, but spinal stenosis (with a pinched nerve) just doesn’t allow for that. 😦
    I totally understand not being able to do things because of physical difficulties (been there done that, still doing it). I just find ways to adapt so I can do what I have to do, and then figure out if I have enough “spoons” left over to do what I want to do. Sometimes, I let the have-to-do stuff go so I can do the want-to-do stuff. I’m becoming an expert at playing catch-up with to-do stuff.

    • gingeroid permalink
      October 8, 2013 7:47 pm

      I am forever running out of spoons. I’m beginning to think I have a hole in my silverware tray 🙂 Grocery runs are usually the first thing to get dropped, followed by social activities. I’ve adopted a system of alternating between roasting a chicken and turning it into soup for cheap, easy food that’s always around and ready to go. I also employ a housekeeper, which definitely frees up the spoons for the wants.

  2. Nicole permalink
    October 8, 2013 4:50 pm

    Great post and makes me think again about ice skating as winter draws closer! I’ve been dying to get back on ice skates but have been a little scared about finding a decent skate to support me. Any recommendations?

    • gingeroid permalink
      October 8, 2013 8:18 pm

      I’ve used Riedell and Jackson boots with no complaints. If you live somewhere with a large skating population, you could shop used sporting goods stores like Play It Again Sports to keep the cost down. Just be sure to try the fit before you purchase and make sure they’re not too broken down. If the boots are bent to the side (i.e. not upright), don’t buy them. Also, if you’re calling stores for prices, be sure to find out if that is for the boot only or a boot and blade. I remember thinking I found a great deal until we went to the shop and the salesman asked, “Did you want blades with that?”

      Because everybody’s feet are different, it’s best to get fitted by somebody who knows what they’re doing if possible. Sometimes it’s not because there are no skate shops nearby or the people in the local pro-shop are all about hockey. In that case, I was really impressed with the amount of information at Kinzie’s Closet. Here is a good starting page with troubleshooting tips and boot suggestions for your level. You don’t want to buy too much boot because they’ll be too stiff and a pain to skate in, but you don’t want to buy too little boot because it’s not supportive. Larger people are advised to look at recommendations a bit above where they’re at for the extra stiffness. They also had brand information and a measuring guide. Size charts for all the manufacturers were there as well. Don’t buy based on your street shoe size. I wear a 7.5 medium shoe and a 6 wide skate.

  3. October 8, 2013 5:12 pm

    If you don’t mind me asking, actually, I guess I should say, if you don’t mind answering, what autoimmune disease do you have?

    I’m not pushing Zumba in any way shape or form for anyone who isn’t interested, but for the very first time, I recently saw a Zumba class that more large women than small women and for the first time considered trying outside of the confines of my home.

    In the not to distant past, I took up tap dancing for the first time with a tap board and a DVD and loved doing that, but recent balance issues have prevented me from pursuing it lately. Hopefully, I’ll pick it up again.

    Vesta, I LOVED roller skating too, but I never cared for roller blading, also never cared for ice skating, but that’s why it’s great there are so many different options for activities for people. We don’t all have to like the same stuff.

    • gingeroid permalink
      October 8, 2013 8:28 pm

      I’ve got lots of autoimmunes in my family tree and it’s unclear which ones I did get and which ones I didn’t. My endocrinologist’s secondary specialty is autoimmune disorders and he does an amazing job of anticipating what my immune system is up to based on the symptoms without having to traumatize me with crazy amounts of bloodwork once he completed the first work-up. There were so many tubes taken from me that the phlebotomist ran out of room on her tray! As of the last visit, Hashimoto’s and adrenal insufficiency have been confirmed, pernicious anemia is strongly suspected, and celiac disease and lupus have been ruled out.

      On my last several Princess cruises, Zumba was offered on their ships and there were a variety of bodies participating in the classes. I’ve never participated because I suck at doing any sort of coordinated formation movement. When we learned The Hustle, I was always starting on the wrong foot and turning the wrong way when I could remember the steps. Totally not my thing, but give it a go if it’s yours.

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