Last weekend I went to a two-day dance festival which took place on a stadium parking lot. I danced for several hours both days, which meant I was jumping up and down and pounding on the pavement. I knew this could not be good for my legs but I was having a great time and loving the music.
The following day I was ready to get back to my favorite exercise class which involves a lot of cardio and intense leg and arm work with kettle bells. Even though I probably burned thousands of calories during the weekend from dancing, I did not feel too sore so I decided to still go. The class was very challenging, and included exercises such as wide lunges while holding heavy kettle bells in both arms, along with several squats, jumping jacks and mountain climbers. It was an awesome, hard class at the time and I felt no real pain during the hour.
The next day I woke up and felt like I could not move my left leg. The top of the leg was throbbing in pain, and I could barely walk. I slowly limped to work and decided to cancel my scheduled fitness class that night. I tried to go to sleep early but the pain was too intense to even consider sleeping. I could not get myself in bed because lifting my leg was not an option. I sat on my couch for the night, in and out of sleep, crying every time I woke up.
I had to call out of work the next day because I slept for about two hours total, could not walk and figured it was time to see a doctor. I arrived at the hospital and told the nurse why I was there. I told her about the music festival and she immediately said I over-exercised and that I am just sore. I got kind of annoyed that she immediately assumed that I was sore and not actually injured. I told her that I exercise all of the time and have never felt this much pain. The doctor eventually took X-rays, tried rotating my legs in all kinds of directions and came to a conclusion: I pulled my hip muscle from over-activity and would not be allowed to exercise for one week. If I still felt pain after a week, I would need to start physical therapy.
I have to admit that I did freak out for a moment about having to take a week off of working out. What would I do with myself after work? What if I go home and eat everything? I will probably gain five pounds in a week! Am I going to get fired from the studio where I teach indoor cycling since I need a substitute after just being hired a few weeks ago? What if I am still in pain after a week?
I soon realized I was being silly. I am so lucky that this injury was not more serious. I am lucky that I did not break a bone or tear a muscle. I am lucky the doctor did not tell me I would have to take several months off of exercise.
I ended up using my week off from the gym as a time to see friends after work. I tend to turn down happy hour (well, sometimes) because of my scheduled workouts. I also used the week as a time to focus on eating healthier throughout the day instead of using exercise as an excuse to eat cupcakes. Sometimes if I see pizza sitting out at work and I know I have a spin class planned that night, I tell myself it is okay to eat the pizza. It is never good to use exercise as an excuse to eat unhealthy, so I practiced self-control and found myself eating more salads. I found a substitute for my spin class without any trouble, and enjoyed the weekend relaxing on the beach instead.
A week later and my hip and leg feels almost back to normal. I am back at my favorite exercise class and extremely happy to be able to sweat again. I am thankful that this was a minor injury and enjoyed my week off from the gym relaxing at home and with friends. Next time I dance for two days straight, I will not attempt to return to the gym the next day. There is such thing as over-exercising, even when you do not feel sore. Listen to your body, and give it rest when necessary.