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How I Avoid the Comparison Trap When Doing Pulmonary Rehab at the Gym

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It is just as well I have long since gotten past being self-conscious about my limitations, otherwise my program of do-it-yourself pulmonary rehab would have been seriously short-lived. Somewhat to my surprise, age and ability are irrelevant at my gym, where there are as many 80-year-olds regularly exercising as there are 18-year-olds.

What has any of this to do with self-consciousness? I hear you ask. The answer is absolutely everything. Initially, at least, many of those visiting the gym might feel slightly inadequate if they paid too much attention to the handful of fit, would-be Mr. Universes. Imagine then how an average 41-year-old male — never mind one with a fragile ego — would cope with being out-run, out-peddled, and out-lifted by slightly-built teenagers and the elderly. Outwardly, I am that average 41-year-old male. Inwardly, however, I have the lungs of an emphysemic 800-year-old.

You might say the allowances and adjustments have had to be made. No two days are the same. Some days are more of a struggle than others. This is, of course, all relative: it’s the same for everyone. What I’ve learned is that just as every outwardly healthy-looking individual isn’t necessarily fighting-fit, just because someone is short and slender doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t strong.

Something else I’ve learned is that no one really pays very much attention to anyone other than themselves at all — that is, unless they have a gym buddy or buddies. The only person I am measuring myself against is me. Every time I visit, I try to do a little more than I did the time before.

It really doesn’t matter how little I could do to begin with, or how slow progress is. All that matters is that I do it, I persist and I progress, however slowly.

When exercising or under exertion I still get out of breath, and occasionally short of breath, and sometimes I start to panic. I can’t say with any certainty I’ve become less breathless or less panicky, but I’m reasonably sure I am managing it better. And that, as much as anything else, is precisely the point of pulmonary rehabilitation.

Thinkstock photo via Antonio_Diaz

Originally published: August 1, 2017
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