Tap Dancing And Mind Shifting

Last night, I went back to my tap dancing class. You've never seen someone so happy to be tap dancing.

If you've been following the saga of my back injury, last we spoke I was on the road to recovery but needed to do some serious hip stretching while we were on our holiday in San Francisco. (If you want the background story, click on the label 'back pain' and you'll find the entries concerning it.)

I visited my physio last week extremely jet lagged, generally cranky and stiff from the 9-hour flight, but still, triumphantly, she said things looked good (gold star for me!). My hips are nearly stretched out and my tummy is stronger (from all the crunches) and now we just need to do a few more bum-toning exercises (who would reject that?).

But at the same time, I'm allowed – in fact, instructed – to get back into doing regular exercise to keep building up the right muscles. Of course, everything needs to be done in a controlled manner, and I need to do the physio exercises and stretches to make sure everything that is supposed to stays loose (like my lower back and hips) and everything that's supposed to stay strong, does (like my tummy and bum). But still, it's good.

Because I'm used to being disciplined in doing the exercises, I've been able to recover from my back injury quite quickly. Also, and this is important: I didn't need the same level of patience that recovering from a long, chronic injury requires. So if you've had back problems for a very long period of time, you have to remember this – if the problem has been stewing for a while, it's going to take a while to fix. But it's still worth doing as soon as possible, because procrastinating and leaving it for longer isn't going to help.

It's funny, because this back injury was located so quickly, and was acute instead of chronic, I'm able to see the recovery process in a totally different way than my very long saga with my neck/shoulders.

I used to view my physio exercises as something isolated from the rest of my life. And in a way, that was necessary for quite some time with my neck and shoulders. Everything was in pain and I had to stop all my other activity and focus on slowly coaxing my muscles out of their imbalanced state.

But I thought there was going to be a day where I just stopped doing the physio exercises and resumed regular life. Like there was going to be a switch that got flipped.

There will be a day where I don't need to do them every day; in fact, I was at that point with my neck and shoulders right before I hurt my back. But, I'm starting to view the physio work more as a tool than just an isolated process. For example, last night before I went to my tap class I could feel that my back was pretty stiff from sitting at my desk all day. So I went to the gym on the way to my class and stretched out my back using my stomach work, so I could go do some dancing. I think in the past I would have thought I had to do one or the other – and would have also in a way resented doing the floor work – but I'm finally understanding that the physio work needs to be viewed as a means to an end.

Don't get me wrong here, once you've done the main work, and your muscles are in the right balance, and you have the proper posture to remain pain free, there's not much that can swing things back the other way (a strong muscle stays strong, because it keeps working).

But the exercises are now more of a top up – a way of keeping everything running smoothly, like oil in your car engine. There will definitely be times where I don't really need to do them. And there will be other times when I'm stressed or have been working long hours or have added in some really new exercise that has stiffened things up and I will find them helpful.

I think in the past I've been so angry about what happened to me that I wanted the physio work to be something that eventually I could just cast off. But now I realize it's actually an incredible gift that I've got this tool. I've learned so much about the way my body is supposed to work that I can hopefully keep active well into my old age (if I make it there, let's not assume anything). I won't need a hip replacement or a knee replacement and I'll be able to walk and sit up tall.

I think I'm actually starting to feel lucky, instead of incredibly unlucky. Years ago when I thought I might never be able to type again, if you had told me I'd feel this way eventually, I just wouldn't have believed you.


  1. That's cool. When I was about halfway down this post (around bum-toning exercises) I had the thought "she's getting a pretty great body out of this." It's really interesting that a lot of the hurdles we put in front of us turn out to be the fastest, most effective way to get ourselves into something we wanted anyway. It's almost like our future selves traveled back in time and kicked the ladder out from under us when we weren't looking.

  2. It does seem like that sometimes. It's funny, I think of my body in very different terms these days -- I joke that I would never reject bum exercises -- but I now assess my body (most days) on the basis of is it working? and is it pain free? What happened to me makes me really appreciate even being able to do small things, like go to a tap class.


Back to Top