I’ve always been an active person. I grew up dancing year-round, skiing during the winters, and hiking on weekends. Activity was part of my life, and I never really thought about it. But when all of those things stopped being quite as possible courtesy of a real job in a big city and adult responsibilities, I did what most people do: I joined a gym.
I fell in love with the ritual of waking up at 6 a.m. and taking my favorite class before the day’s demands rolled in. Soon, I was working out five days a week, and that quickly turned to six. Then seven. Then seven with a few days doing "doubles." And then my back started to hurt.
Being an incredibly type-A person, I worked through my pain. I didn’t want to be a failure! As I felt simple movements like squats, backbends, and twists becoming more difficult, I was determined to be stronger than my pain and pushed through. When it became hard to bend over and put on shoes, I’d pop two Advil and head out the door anyway.
That is, until I woke up collapsed on my bathroom floor at 3 a.m. on a cold March evening. To be honest, I’ve never felt more alone than in that moment.
I crawled back to bed, cried, and got a handle on the fact that I actually couldn't move. As soon as 6 a.m. hit—a reasonable time, I thought—I dipped into my Who Wants to Be a Millionaire lifeline and phoned a friend. Later that day, I was diagnosed with two herniated discs that were also degenerated. Meaning that, at the bold age of 28, I’d successfully eliminated the gooey liquid from two discs in my lower back—something that never goes back to normal.
And when I was told to be on bedrest for two weeks, I thought life as I knew it was over. I’d lose all my hard-earned muscle! I’d surely gain 30 pounds! And most of all, my identity would be gone. But contrary to all the stories my monkey mind told, the opposite came true. Here’s how my injury changed my relationship with fitness for the better: