Thought I’d post a quick update on my mini-triathlon quest. There’s good news. Progress is now detectable. The trainer who adopted me at the YMCA is terrific, enthusiastic, and more importantly has learned to scale back her ambitions where I’m concerned. Her early training schedule with six days of alternating weights, running, bicycling, swimming, and stretching with a seventh of optional hiking has been revamped to three days of weights and running.
And I’m consistently hitting two of them! To the outside observer that may not sound like much…and the trained athlete of bygone days in my head would emphatically agree…but to the shell shocked depressive inside who’s spent the last six years floundering between seclusion and creeping paralysis, two days of successful sports training is definitely cause for celebration!
Honestly, I’m a little breathless at my biggest achievement to date…I haven’t quit. It hasn’t been easy. This whole thing has felt a lot like sailing along a treacherous coastline littered with underwater rocks. Each time I start to pick up speed, working out two or three times in a row on schedule, I think Aha! NOW I’ve got it. Now I can unfurl the sails and really fly! Then I hear that damn thud and scraping on my internal hull and suddenly, for the rest of the day, I can’t even leave the house.
Which means I have to keep starting all over again and it’s frustrating. Early on these frequent stumbles really scared me because I thought if they kept up, they’d eventually make me stop. But two months into the whole thing now and my confidence is starting to build. I wonder if this is what it’s like for an athlete who suffers a big injury and has to learn how to perform all over again with a new and different body. Only in my case, the injury was to my mind. Everything I used to take for granted…simple emotional discipline, mental focus, and freedom from chronic fear and occasional panic…is kaput, so I’m having to learn a whole different set of mental skills and strengths to compensate for it.
It feels good though, even if it’s producing some additional anxiety. The hardest thing by far is making myself go to the gym. You may not know this but gyms are very social places. Lots of active, purposeful, energetic people all striding and pumping and pulling on complicated, noisy, bewildering equipment. It’s like a ten freeway interchange with heavy traffic flows and well-orchestrated on and off ramps. Everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing and then here I am, an outed hermit dressed in frumpy, old activewear, newly sucked out of my hole and doing my best not to trip and fall off the treadmill (yes…I’ve done it once so far) or hold up the line of nice but impatient people waiting to work on the weight machine I’m currently tangled in.
So much for dignity. But in spite of everything I’m actually starting to feel individual muscles once in a while instead of the more generalized trembling and collapse I started out with, and the length of time I can run without walking is definitely growing. I even tried my hand at running on the track yesterday, instead of the treadmill, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t trip, run into anybody, or attract undue attention with all the extraordinary bouncing going on around my chest, hips, and behind. (The complex physics involved with fat on a jogging person is really something to experience firsthand, let me tell you.) I’m still trying to get a handle on the whole fashion element involved and have yet to figure out how all these women are wearing what amounts to tights with no…I repeat no…visible signs of underwear. Surreptitious observation in the locker room has only revealed one thong so far, so something else must be going on. The anthropologist in me is intrigued.
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you’ve got an extra ten minutes, here’s an ESPN awards video telling the stories of two, physically-disabled athletes who have been changing the world. Jim MacLaren, who endured two catastrophic accidents that successively stripped him of his athletic gifts, but who went on to make his miracles anyway, died in August last year. But his inspiring legacy continues to grow through extraordinary disabled athletes like Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboa of Ghana. Seriously, if you want something that both puts life in perspective and inspires you to keep hoping, watch this.
Because sometimes just not quitting is the most amazing miracle of all.
copyright Dia Osborn 2011