Barbara Kay has put a new bounce in her step during the COVD-19 pandemic with the use of a rebounder. Photo by Barbara Kay

Barbara Kay: Putting a bounce in your step

With some trepidation, I mounted my new rebounder. What if I got motion sickness?
It’s summer. A lightening of the mood is in order. Today I aim to put a bounce in my older readers’ steps.

Oldies like to send each other compilations of “morning smiles.” I received a pandemic-themed list yesterday that included: “My goal for 2020 was to lose 10 pounds. Only 14 more to go.” Ouch. Misery loves company, but company cannot eliminate one’s misery.

Barbara Kay: Putting a bounce in your step Back to video Clearly, a sign to me that more exercise was needed. Trouble is, I can’t walk more than an hour without various oldie aches and pains kicking in, and there are plenty of days when I don’t walk at all (this Jewish princess doesn’t do rain, sleet or temperature extremes). Gyms were of course verboten during COVID. But I stopped going to gyms anyway once I started to feel like the portrait in the attic surrounded by a throng of Dorian Grays.

Clearly, a sign to me that more exercise was needed

I mulled the prospect of an exercise machine. Treadmill? Stationary bike? Been there, done that. Boring. And it would have to be squished into a basement room with no natural light.

I consulted my friend Judy, my peer in years but, unlike me, superfit. She listened thoughtfully to my confession of self-loathing. You might consider a rebounder, she said, a fancy word for a personal trampoline (no backflips). At my age? Yes, Judy firmly assured me; rebounders have safety bars.

I looked at videos of oldies gently jogging on their rebounders. I scrutinized their faces, but detected no trace of fear. I can do that, I said to myself. The ads promised all manner of benefits. One site proclaimed, “Rebounder workouts burn the recommended calories of ACSM standard in 2/3rds the time while perceived to be 10 per cent less strenuous than equivalent running.” Aside from cardio, rebounding is apparently very good for the lymphatic system, to the point that it is often referred to as a “lympherciser.”

More On This Topic Barbara Kay: The complicated truth about transwomen in women’s prisons Barbara Kay: Transgender weightlifter may expose the unfairness of trans athletes in Tokyo But lymph, shmymph. They had me at “less strenuous.” I bought a fairly high-end brand, because the cheaper ones have metal springs, which not only squeak, but don’t have the “give” that the upscale elastic cords offer. It’s clean-lined, and so esthetically pleasing that I placed it, newly christened a “sculpture,” between the front hall and the living room.

And now I come to the real reason for this column.

For more than 30 years, I have suffered from chronic lower back pain. It is garden-variety “idiopathic” pain (what doctors say when they are baffled, and there’s nothing they can do about it). At first it was acute and debilitating. I had some bad years, during which I tried every form of therapy available, both mainstream (physio, osteo) and alternative (acupuncture, Rolfing). Nothing worked. Luckily, I found an excellent trainer, who helped me build up my core by careful increments so that the acute pain evolved into a lower-grade chronic pain, the kind you can get used to, but are always aware of.

But cardio exercise is a problem for me. I don’t like swimming. I’m afraid to ride a bike in the city. And anything involving impact is out of the question — jogging, of course, but even walking takes a toll after an hour if I forget to take Tylenol beforehand. So the promise of not low, but actual zero impact was the rebounder’s tantalizing trump card.

Zero impact was the rebounder’s tantalizing trump card

With some trepidation (what if I got motion sick?), I mounted my new rebounder. I bounced, very gently at first. Then a little higher and a little more vigorously. Raised heart rate and endorphins, no motion sickness. I bounced and bounced and bounced. Then I got off. Then I felt something very strange. Let me rephrase that. I was aware of a strange lack of feeling. In my lower back, where for decades there never, ever has been a complete absence of pain, there was a complete absence of pain. l stood and waited for the pain. But nothing. I cooled down and waited. No pain.

OK, this is weird, sez I to self. Am I the only person this has ever happened to? If not, why do they go on about the lymphatic system, when they could be promoting back pain relief? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I am open to any theory (unless yours is that “chronic pain is psychological,” in which case you can kindly naff off.)

What I do know is that I have been bouncing every day for many weeks, about a half hour every day. There is still stiffness in my lower back when I wake up, but no pain. I seem, in my old age, to have accidentally rediscovered what I thought was forever fled: a bearable lightness of being.

And yes, I have lost a few pounds. But it’s such an affirmative start to the day, I would keep bouncing even if I hadn’t.

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