Growing up, I didn’t know that when my mom stopped going down to the basement it was because she couldn’t anymore. One day she told me and my brother that we had to start learning how to do our own laundry and that was it, we never questioned her reason. Mother had spoken, we were old enough to do it ourselves. It wasn’t until I moved away for college that I realized her true reasoning: she was avoiding staircases.
I lived on the second floor of a building with no elevator. This didn’t pose a problem for me or my brother, my dad didn’t even struggle, but my mom had the hardest time getting up the stairs. By the time she did, she had already made the decision that she wasn’t going to leave my apartment again until it was time to go home. My dad, brother, and I went out and toured my new city without mom. The reality struck me that she had been restricted for years by joint pain. She struggled with her weight her entire life and always had a hard time integrating exercise into her daily routine. She would comment on this more comfortably as she got older, blaming her age as the primary reason for her suffering, but in quiet moments she expressed how she wished she had taken better care of herself earlier on so that she could keep up with us now. She would tell me that she wished she could have been able to climb trees with me; hike and swim with me; even sit in the car or plane long enough to take a trip with me, but she was in too much pain.
I have two children of my own now, my mom is gone, but the lesson she instilled in me remains: I have to maintain a healthy lifestyle if I want to keep up with my kids as they get older. I don’t want to be watching my family from the sidelines. What a healthy lifestyle looks like has changed over the years. I used to think I needed a flat stomach or six-pack abs to be healthy and happy. I made working out my obsession and focused on little else. However, I was fairly young then and had the time and energy for that, things are not so easy for me now.
Last year, I found myself fighting my way to the top of staircases and running out of breath on simple walks with my husband. I saw it happening to me. The pain my mother lived with seemed to be creeping into my own body. It had been a couple of years since I had been to the gym, but I thought it couldn’t be that bad! I walked several miles a week still, even though it had once been everyday. I was careful about not eating out too much, my husband helped with this by preparing meals on days I wasn’t able to. Most importantly, I took the time to check in with myself and determine how I was feeling and what I needed on any given day.
I tried so many apps and gyms, personal trainers and accountability buddies over the years, but nothing seemed to keep me consistently on track. When Covid-19 hit the States, fitness became the last thing on my mind. We, like so many others, started work and school from home. Daily walks became less frequent as stress and responsibilities piled up around us, the burden of a pandemic was taking its toll on each member of our family.
While talking to a dear friend of mine, I came to realize that I hadn’t been doing any of the things that I used to love to do. Most of those things somehow incorporate physical activity, but I was avoiding them out of fear for mine and my family’s safety. My friend suggested another app to me that I said I would investigate further, despite my skepticism. I went home and did my due diligence, as promised, and ultimately decided I would give an app another shot. What made CoPilot worth a try was the fact that it wasn't just an app. I would receive one-on-one training while still being able to work out at home, or at my favorite park, or at a gym...should I ever find myself in one again. It seemed like a smart combination of approaches that had only proven to be temporarily successful by themselves. I downloaded the app three months into quarantine and never looked back.
The two things about having a personal trainer that I love and hate are the accountability and the pressure, respectively. It’s so helpful for me to have someone to guide me and let me know when I am and am not reaching my goals, but sometimes my social anxiety can get the best of me. This app allowed me the freedom to choose to work out where and how I felt comfortable — inside or outdoors, alone or with company — and tailored my workouts to fit my changing needs, as well as my daily shifting abilities and motivation. On days I felt back or knee pain, I let my trainer know and she adjusted my workout for me. If I had a day where I felt like I wasn’t being pushed enough all I had to do was send a message out and the next day she would have a challenge prepared.
I had to have my trainer make so many accommodations for me throughout my journey. I didn’t even realize how out of shape I had gotten. The first time I tried to do a push-up my elbows buckled under my weight. I remembered my mom trying to lift me as I got older, her elbow joints snapping as she attempted to extend her arms while bearing weight. She would have to put me down, just as I would have to lower myself to the ground and rest between each rep. This was what I felt for at least the first month of working out, the aches and pains of joints working rust out of their connections. I felt weak whenever I thought of my former self, but I didn’t focus on this. I pushed myself and my trainer pushed me and I started to feel strong again.
Feeling as though I had plateaued almost convinced me to give up on the service. I had a period of several weeks around the six-month mark where I felt like I couldn’t get in a good workout. I was still experiencing some pain, although not as extreme as what I was feeling the first month or two. I have an old back injury that was rearing its head at the same time as my knees flared up. These seemed to be holding me back in my workouts and I felt defeated. After resolving to give myself one more week to improve, I met with my trainer for what could be the last time. I explained to her that, despite her working with my injuries, I still felt as though they were limiting me and I was getting frustrated with myself. She listened patiently and offered to adjust my routine again, reminding me that these peaks and plateaus happen often and can be worked through.
I’m so glad I decided to stay that last week; I’ve been working with CoPilot for almost a year now and I feel confident that this is an approach that is going to stick. I walk with my husband and play tag with my children without feeling like I’m going to pass out. I can handle some unexpected heavy lifting without throwing my back out. I walk up and down stairs with the greatest of ease. I’ve even started biking again. I’m in less pain, which not only improves my level of physical activity, but also improves my mental health and mood. My family has noticed this and they are as grateful as I am for the change. What a joy and relief to be present with my children for all the moments my mom had to miss.