Monday, August 8, 2011

T-20: Getting My Body Back

First photo today, I forgot to take my camera to the pool with me or back in after I'd showered and dressed. I was too preoccupied with the great deals I was about to get at CVS.

Second confession...It's rather weird for me to be using the expression I have up there in the title. I haven't been anything resembling thin since 7th grade. So that's not at all what I mean, although it's the common usage.

I broke my ankle in January 2006 and had a bad fall around October 2007. Between the two injuries, my body just hasn't been the same since. I've been in pain nearly everyday for 5 1/2 years, though the intensity varies.

I'd lived most of my adult life in San Francisco or New York and walked miles everyday without thinking much about it. It was just built into my day or I'd take a walk to clear my head or ponder or stretch my legs after dinner. I've really missed my walks. They were a big part of who I am, or who I was.

Before the fall in 2007, I was starting to get my body back. It was the strength and stamina I missed more than anything -- the kinds of things you take for granted when every part of your body works fine. That summer and fall, I felt strong again. After doing aquatic therapy for about 6 weeks, I felt miraculously better. I could walk several blocks, though not quite as well as before and I certainly paid for it at night. Pain shot up my legs and I was a hunched mess when I wasn't laying flat on my back with my feet elevated. But still, I could walk for several blocks again, which was a step in the right direction.

For almost a year now, I've been doing the exercises I learned in aquatic therapy, with varying repetitions, in tandem with deep end aqua aerobics and some swimming. In the water, I feel graceful, even if I don't look it. It feels fantastic and most nights I don't want to leave. When I was away for a few weeks, I was able to walk all over Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco -- cities I know well and love. I was so thankful I could take full advantage of the trip.

After less than two months in the water, I was able to do something I hadn't been able to do for years. When I got back home and returned to aqua aerobics, I woke up the next day with that burn in my abs I hadn't felt since doing sit ups for those Presidential Fitness tests in high school. It's good to remind myself of that, because being in the water is so supportive and flowing that it doesn't feel like work, or a workout, it feels like play. I need to remind myself, sometimes, to work, to push harder.

Tonight in the pool, I really pushed myself. I'd plateaued in my progress. The water is so gentle, it's easy to do. In particular, tonight I spent a good 10 minutes jogging up and down the pool, as fast as I could. I usually just jog in place on my solo workouts. In class, we jog up and down the pool 2-3 times and I am inexplicably slow, so I tend to skip it on my own. But not tonight, I was zooming all around. I was actually out of bbreath, which doesn't generally happen during aqua aerobics (I'm leaving the typo, so appropriate).

Near the end, a woman sidled over to me on a noodle. I'd been avoiding the area she was in, first because her kids were belly-flopping and splashing and later because her husband did the same, making enormous splashes and waves that threw off my jogging. So I was already dubious.

"I used to tread water, too, but now I peddle on the noodle, like on a bike, and it's a much better workout."

"I'm not treading water."

She looked at me like I was clearly treading water and in some sort of denial.

"Oh really?"

"I'm doing scissors," I said, still all breathy and listing exercises I still needed to cross off for the night.

"Oh, I couldn't do that without a noodle."

"I can," I said, scissor kicking with breast stroke arms to the deep end.

I really don't understand conversations like this. It feels the same as when men come up to tell me I'm not smiling or to ask why I'm in a bad mood (because, apparently, I'm the first woman they ever met who had anything on her mind).

It's not like I asked for advice. If someone strikes up a conversation with me and they mention having an injury, I'll recommend the deep end aqua aerobics class because they can do it as gently or intensively as they are able to, since the water takes weight off the injury and also provides resistance. But I don't go up to people and tell them I know a much better way for them to work out than what they're doing. Who am I to assume they are clueless about their body, their abilities and where they are right now?

And what if I was treading water? If I was treading water and that got me out of breath, that's all the workout I need at that stage. A little less than a year ago, I started doing the physical therapy exercises in the shallow end, then cycling up and down the pool on a noodle, then aqua aerobics on a noodle, then treading water and finally realizing I didn't need the noodle for aqua aerobics, swimming or anything. It's a process and even now, I need to remind myself to push further.

As I realized walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral many years ago, just because we appear to be walking right next to someone, we can't tell where they are along the path.

Third confession...I just realized that Justin Timberlake and I are, briefly, both in our 30s. That doesn't seem right at all. Why, I remember when he was just a young whipper snapper...

1 comment:

  1. Aquatic therapy is not something I have explored personally, but the experiences you shared got me intrigued. Maybe this is the push I need to try it myself.

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