Wait, Was that a Heart Attack?

As I’ve mentioned, I have lost my momentum to work out and eat healthy in the last year, resulting in a loss of my strong and lovely Warrior Dash muscles. All my best efforts to gain motivation were in vain: every day I told my trainer that I’d be there the next day for boot camp and every “next day” I spent too long on the couch with my coffee, thinking, “Tomorrow I’ll definitely start up again. After all, tomorrow is another day.” (Gone with the Wind is my favorite book, sorry.)


Why didn’t I realize at the time that my muscles were beautiful, even if I didn’t have the perfect body that I wanted? Oh my gosh, I just had a deep thought: What if someday I look back on the body I have NOW, and wonder why I didn’t appreciate it? That’s it, from now on, I appreciate, love and respect my body. Lecture over.

I finally made a clean break with my gym and my trainer (I felt like I was breaking up with her even though I love her and she has helped me in so many ways! It was just time to move on. It was me and not her, and I totally love you, Jen, and would recommend you to anyone!) and joined another gym (feeling like a traitor) with a different high-intensity class. It’s only half-an-hour long, but I was told it would “kick my ass.” I took a demo and it did indeed kick my ass but I made it through (and wasn’t even sore the next day! Ha!). So today was my first “real” class in which I was signed up and part of the group, hoping to make a good impression or at least not make a fool of myself.

Have you ever heard of a push-up where you have one hand on the floor and one hand on one of those step-benches, and then you do the push-up and “pop” up, switch hands in the air, and land the opposite hand on the bench and floor? It’s like you’re jumping with your arms instead of your legs. Go ahead, try it. It’s torture, right? (I know, Angel, you probably do this 40 times a day before breakfast and another 20 after just for good measure.) Also, there was jumping as high as we could holding a weight over our heads, as many times as we could, followed by jumping as far as we could in this direction and then that direction, then jumping over this and around that (why so much jumping? does she think we’re freaking kangaroos), and squat squat lunge lunge ad infinitum… And very soon, like within three and a half minutes: I. Couldn’t. Breathe.

I know what it’s like to feel out of breath and out of shape. I know that there are times when I just can’t do one more rep and have to take a short break (otherwise know as “collapse flat-out on the floor”) until I can breathe again. But this was weird. I couldn’t take in enough oxygen. My chest was tight. I bent over, gulping for air, and the air didn’t come. I don’t panic easily, and rarely worry about my health, but I have to tell you, I started to freak out. So I sat down on my bench and, nonchalantly, tried not to die.

My new trainer, Marissa, came over to me, all kangaroo-lilke and encouraging, and, “Just have some water and take a break. You can do this. It really kills everyone their first couple of classes.” And I’m all sloth-like and, “This is something else. I can’t breathe. This is wrong. If I die, please refund my membership fees to my family,” and I grabbed my towel and “paperwork” and left. (Side note re the paperwork: because it was the first class, she was having us write down the number of reps we completed for each “track,” and then hold onto them until the last class so we could compare and see our progress, and while I’m writing down twos and threes, I glance surreptitiously at my neighbor’s sheet and he’s writing down, like 107. Well, maybe 20. I don’t think that was because of my breathing issues, either.)

To get to the point (because I know my mother is reading this and feeling very anxious right about now), I went to the doctor to make sure I was just out of shape and not actually in the process of dropping dead. Fortunately, all is good (yes, Mom, chest xray and EKG all normal). But why couldn’t I breathe? Was the class really THAT hard? Well, yes it was. But it also turns out I have asthma. Who knew? My lungs were not working at full capacity. So I get to have a couple of inhalers, and start monitoring my — I think it was called my peak oxygen? — and, oh joy!, I get to continue my new masochistic exercise class. Hopefully others in the class were too miserable themselves to notice me when I fled in panic.

You know what the worst part of it was (besides fear of death)? I went straight to urgent care from my class and not only did I smell and was dripping sweat from the ends of my new short haircut but my clothes were wet all the way through and I had to sit there while several different people felt me up, dressed and undressed me, got up close in my face (too close to my armpits for comfort), etc. I kept apologizing and thinking that I was glad they didn’t know that I had actually only completed 17 MINUTES OF EXERCISE! 

  I also feel like a terrible mother. My kids both have asthma, and on occasion they have told me they’ve had to stop exercising in PE or at baseball practice or during a track meet (a total of one miserable season for Lizzie) because they couldn’t breathe. And I’ve always said to them, in a lecturing tone of voice, that because they don’t exercise much, they don’t know what it feels like to get out of breath. I said that it is NORMAL to fight for breath when you’re tired from exercising hard. Basically, I told them in a not-so-subtle way that they were being lazy. I figured they just wanted to get out class or practice. They have both given me identical looks of betrayal when I’ve said those things, telling me that, “I know the difference between being out of breath and not being able to breathe, Mom,” (the emphasis on the word “mom” somehow adding a subtext that said, “even though you’re my so-called mother, you obviously don’t care if I live or die.”). News flash, Jen: Now I know that there really IS a difference between being out of breath and not being able to breathe. And it sucks. And it’s scary.

Should I apologize or pretend those conversations never happened and deny everything in 20 years when they tell me about the resentments they’ve uncovered in therapy?

Later: I explained the situation separately to my kids and told them I was sorry, and that I had treated them disrespectfully. Their responses?

Michael (13): “Thanks, Mom. I appreciate your apology. To be honest, your attitude really did upset me because it was kind of condescending. I’m happy that you understand now, but, you know, I’m sorry you’re dealing with asthma.” (Yes, he really said that, word for word. He’s joining the debate team next semester and he’ll be awesome, because with his language and the way his brain works through problems, he can talk anyone into anything. His response was really sweet, but I think under all his kind words, he was mostly just relieved that when I said, “Hey, bud, I need to talk to you,” it wasn’t because he was in trouble and I was about to take his Xbox away.)

Lizzie (15): “You have asthma? Weird.” A pause, and then, accusingly, “Now you know how it feels. And you thought I was faking.” Another pause. “I forgive you, though.”

Love those kids.

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