Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm This Kind of Athlete

Ages ago, my long-suffering life coach suggested that my weight and my fitness level would improve when I truly loved myself. Yeah, well, I thought. If I wait for that to happen, I'll die a fat, miserable, unhealthy old wreck of a human. Must.... muscle...through.

Clearly, that didn't happen. Perhaps too many other things in my life were requiring my muscle. Perhaps in subtle and un-subtle ways I had been told I wasn't good enough -and to own my complicity in that game, I am quite willing to go there with the slightest suggestion that it might be true. No one needs to work very hard to convince me of my unworthiness.

In spite of what I took to be my self-evident unworthiness, I set myself the gentle tasks of getting back to yoga and rock climbing in this fall semester. All I had to do was climb once a week and do yoga twice a week -and not beat myself up for not doing more. These are fitness (and wellness) activities that I love. They're not "working out," somehow. They aren't play, exactly, and sometimes these activities can be very hard indeed. But nor are they tedious, and for some reason I can get past the thought that people are looking at me as though I don't deserve to be there.

The visible results have not been stellar. True is true, and I still look like a fat person. And yet... my body is responding. I've talked before about how my hands are waking up, and no longer need to be iced after climbing. I can knit for hours -assuming I had hours in the schedule, which almost never happens. My flexibility isn't what it used to be, but it's way better than it was three months ago. And it's teaching me something important to have to work for it. Even my knees are better. They are still fragile and cause me tears. Yet, the other day, I forgot that I "couldn't" get into hero's pose and just did it. Of course, getting out of the posture made me cry, literally. But forgetting that there is an impairment is a huge change in self-concept.

So where do I go from here?

I don't want to climb Mt. Everest. It's probably cold, and I would have to carry my own luggage. (Or get a sherpa to do it, which is equally repugnant to me.) I don't want to be a body builder. In fact, I would prefer not to do strength training at all, but I don't think I'll get that wish. I don't want to play any sport that involves a ball. Ever. Ice climbing is a big fat "no".

"Maybes" include running. I've tried before, and failed, but something in me won't let it go. Kayaking is a maybe. There is much there that makes me feel inadequate, but I think it can be overcome.

Definites are long- and short-distance cycling, climbing, and yoga. I would love to be able to participate in a three-day walk for a good cause. Swimming is a yes, because scuba and snorkeling are definitely on my "someday" list.

I have no interest in being competitive or best or strongest or fastest. Feh. I'm not that kind of athlete. But now that I've watched my body begin to awaken from its long sleep, I know what kind of athlete I am.

I can do amazing things, on my terms. I can make progress as slowly as I want to, or not at all if I don't want to. I'm 51 years old and I climb rocks and bike and swim and do yoga. Today I'm going to the pool, wearing my appallingly-sized Speedo. It'll be psychologically hard, but I deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Besides, once I'm in the water, no one can really see how big I am.

I'm that kind of athlete -the kind with low standards and big dreams.

1 comment:

Sophie_vf said...

I can relate to just about every paragraph in your post, Andrea. I feel like I'm constantly recovering and restarting and re-establishing balance after injury or illness. But what's the alternative? I'm with you - we keep moving on, and find joy in whatever we find ourselves moving to.