My Archnemesis…

MaskLike every superhero worth her weight in carbs, I have an archnemesis.

Please allow me to introduce you to her.


I was never an athletic kid, at least not in the traditional sense. I played kickball and ran around with other kids, but never played a team sport. When it came time to stand against a wall, waiting to be picked for something sporty, I was almost always the last one chosen. Everyone knew that I wasn’t good at kicking or throwing or running or… caring about sports.

I have zero hand-eye coordination - less than zero if that’s possible. Recognizing that at an early age made it much easier not to be disappointed at not winning an award for MVP or freezing my ass off during fall soccer season. (The fact that I was the tiniest kid in every class did not inspire confidence that I could play well, either.) But I did find something “athletic” that I loved.

Classical ballet. Like, hardcore classical ballet. I may not have been a runner, but by the time I hit the age of ten, my legs were toned and muscular from hours of pliés and pirouettes. The course I followed involved yearly examinations by stern-looking British women and men judging the turn of my ankle and the curve of my arm. I spent a lot of time dancing and looked forward to doing it for as long as I could. I dreamed of heading to London and perhaps pursuing the life of a prima ballerina. (Remember how tiny I was? Last paragraph? Primas are tiny.)

The year I turned twelve was monumental for me. Monumental suckage. Not only was I diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but it was also discovered that I had caused a horizontal fracture in one of my lower vertebrae and shift in my spine, rendering me unable to dance at all. (By “discover”, I mean one day out of nowhere, I had to be carried, screaming in pain, to the car and into the ER.) Weeks of physical therapy strengthened the muscles in my back, but when I bellied up to the bar and went on pointe on the first day back, I knew it was over. Pain washed over me and my mother untied my pink ribbons and slid my Bloch shoes off my feet.  Throwing those shoes away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I knew that exercise was important. That golden triangle of insulin, diet, and exercise was drummed into my head from the start at Joslin. So, I tried other types of exercise to see if I could make a pretty triangle - or even a obtuse one.

  • I tried running. Got the right shoes and everything. Did the stretches. Took my time. Slow jogging. And…Shin splints. More physical therapy and ice and warm packs.
  • I tried other types of dance that didn’t need a rigid posture. Contemporary. Jazz. Modern. And…Back pain. Flexeril.
  • Swimming. I was fat and ashamed of my body, but I stuffed myself into a bathing suit and got in the water to do laps. And…Swimmer’s ear and the closing of the pool I used to “guests of the hotel only” from the health club that I paid to use said pool.
  • Biking. It was how I lost the weight the first time. Three speed bike and a lot of determination. And…Then back pain.
  • Dressage. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I loved riding. The doctor refused to write me another prescription for Flexeril after the third bottle. He told me to find a new sport.

It’s no shocker that I had a discectomy for a huge ruptured disc in 2005. We had hoped it would at least allow me to enjoy some sort of athletic endeavor after the surgery, but instead, it’s made any attempt to do much more than walk almost impossible. (Yes, I’ve tried pilates, yoga, blah blah blah.) Now that I’ve got a toddler who won’t sit in her stroller anymore, it’s impossible.

I am so out of shape (although you’d never know it from looking at me) that I’m out of breath and my heart pounds after a few minutes of exertion. (I had an EKG in December and I’m fine, with minimal risk for a heart attack. I have had low blood pressure episodes for about twenty years and when my heart starts to race, I keep thinking I’m going to faint.) Even cutting my basal rate or adding extra carbs does crazy things to my blood sugars hours after getting a long walk in.

I’m scared of exercise.

My archnemesis.

I need to conquer her to stay healthy, but I don’t even know where to begin. I need to find some activity that I can love as much as classical ballet. (I already have a really cool cape, so I can check that off my list. Needing a Justice League kind of answer. Any suggestions?)





  1. xxlovelylizxx

    That made me so sad to read. i wish you were able to still dance. I don’t have any suggestions but I will offer tons of support. I wish you luck in finding something that is not only healthy for you, but also, something you can fall in love with. :)

  2. StephenS

    I know that anything I suggest would be the wrong thing ( I would’ve mentioned swimming before I read that part). So I’ll leave you with three quick thoughts:
    1. The word “ergonomic” comes to mind
    2. Do as much as you can, even if it doesn’t seem like a lot. Doing something is a lot.
    3. Don’t discount how hard you’re working your body just to be comfortable in the first place right now. You’re probably already working harder than you think.

    Thanks for letting me leave two comments in one day…

  3. seejendance

    I’d suggest ballroom of course, but the whole rigid posture thing pretty much wipes that possibility off the map. My old partner had to stop dancing completely because of back pain.

    What about hiking?

    • theperfectd

      Have I mentioned how much I’m not into “The Great Outdoors”? I went to summer camp, hiked and camped when I was younger, but my idea of roughing it now is no room service. Hate bugs. But it’s an option…

  4. Shara

    I know biking has been nixed, but what about spinning? It’s a different position than outdoor biking and is a fantastic workout, plus you can start/stop as needed and adjust settings to your comfort level.

    If not, I’m afraid your only option is water aerobics. If the little old ladies at the YMCA can do it, I’m sure it would be ok for you ;) Probably not ok for your dignity, but life is full of trade-offs :)

  5. Scott K. Johnson

    Dude, exercise is such a tough thing for everyone, even without diabetes. Throw diabetes into the mix and it’s even harder. Throw a chronic back issue in there, and, well… it leaves me drawing a complete blank. I’m sorry. Maybe you can find a different pool once Labean gets a bit older? Oh! And like Stephen said - don’t discount the exercise of parenting! That’s some hard work, yo!

  6. momof2t1s

    commented on the FB post with tia chi but I think you said you tried it. Im still sad about your dancing. I think I also joked about more sex and you reminded me that the hubs in out of town so I guess thats off the table (and any other place it once was). Wish I had more suggestions. When I used it (and hope to use it again) I really enjoyed my elliptical. Not that you want to be making huge (both in size and cost) purchases before a move. It didn’t aggravate my shins or planters at all - unlike running or even walking on pavement does. good luck and keep looking. plus - I agree with Scott - parenting burns more calories than we can imagine - if it didn’t Id be the size of a small country.

  7. fifteenwaitfifteen

    I. hear. you. I would agree that exercise is my archnemesis as well, for some similar and some different reasons. I hate sweating. I hate the time it takes for me to shower and deal with wet hair if I go swimming. I have bad feet and a bad hip. I actually love walking and hiking in the great outdoors, but my feet explode in pain from plantar faciitis the more I am on them. I also have a toddler, and thank goodness she is keeping me on my toes and she is at least helping me not to gain 5 billion pounds. I have an exercise bike that I REALLY need to use more often. Finding the time and energy to do so - there’s the rub.

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