Monday, March 25, 2013

At the Gym

The good news is, I have more sensation in my leg.  This enables me to find and engage those pesky adductors and abductors and hamstrings and quads as I progress from throwing my leg forward to the beginning imitations of an actual step.  That step ought to include a deeper fold in my hip than I'm capable of right now, and several more degrees of flexion and extension, and space between my ribcage and my iliac crest.... but I fear I am venturing farther into too much information, especially for those of you who are reading this over your morning coffee.

The bad news is, I have more sensation in my leg.  This enables me to notice the grating of my arthritic hip bones and reconstructions as the tendons and ligaments and muscles announce their presence with authority. It's a cacophony of clicks and creaks and squeaks.... not all of them from the hip.  I admit to hollering aloud, to groaning, even to the occasional Oh, dear God.  I'm not sure why I thought that this discomfort would have disappeared by now, but I did.

What a surprise to find that there's just as much ouchiness roaming around; how odd to realize that only the location varies.  I comfort myself with the thought that if new parts are hurting the old parts must be working pretty well.  As one part grows stronger, another part can step up, front and center, to demand my attention.

That is the body I took to the gym this morning.

It was hard to force myself to go inside.  The sun was shining, the temperatures were in the 70's, the air smelled clear and crisp. It's a good thing that the drive over takes only two minutes and passes nary a distraction.... except Christina's park... which would involve more movement than I was planning.  I got there, parked, and stretched myself over a partially deflated but still gigantic plastic ball.  There was a time when thinking about lying on my belly made me cringe.  This morning, I was able to tilt my achy pelvis up and down, to raise my legs straight out behind me, to get onto and off the ball without crashing to the ground.

It's the little things that make me happy, that keep me going, that reinforce the entire endeavor.  Those rear leg lifts were small bonus points on the scorecard of my recovery.  I have to remember to take note when they show up.

The more I use them, the more my muscles respond when I need them. I remind myself of this as I lumber from one piece of equipment to the other, from the mats to the calf raise.  I place the pin in the lightest setting and settle myself on the balls of my feet.  Closing my eyes, listening to Bobby Blue Bland croon the blues, I concentrate on keeping my hips level as my heels go up and down and down and up and up up down down, as my hips try to follow them, to take the pressure off my awakened coral reef of balls and sockets.  That's what it feels like - hard, bony protuberances rubbing up against one another.  It's only natural that my body would want to protect itself  What's unnatural, what must be learned, over and over again, is that maintaining space between those places will, ultimately, lead to healing.

I just wish it weren't so all encompassing, so never ending, so always there.

And that's what I was thinking when I opened my eyes after my first set and looked to my left.  There, next to the dip bar, was the 30-something with the prosthetic lower leg. No, I'm not going for the cheap and easy way out here.... look at him/look at me/get a grip, girl.... because I see him in the gym whenever I'm there and he's always working hard and reminding me, by his very presence, that perseverance is crucial and possible.  No, this morning he took it one step more.

This morning I saw him looping a chain through three, forty-five-pound-plates.  He attached that chain to a weight belt around his waist and did three sets of dips, lowering and raising himself from right-angles to upright by moving his arms.  The rest of his body stayed still.  It looked like this guy, only with two more plates and one less leg.
I've never approached him before, but this could not go unremarked.  I strode over as confidently as I could manage on my screaming lower extremity, introduced myself and my back-story, mentioned how he'd been an on-going inspiration, and then wondered just exactly what I was to think when he strapped himself into all that weight -- did he really want me to believe that I could do something just as outrageous?  

We laughed, we shared rehab-encouraging-words, we went back to work. I may not be up to 135 pounds dangling from my waist, but I did do an extra set, added some extra weight, thought of those three plates hanging down, clanging against the metal prosthesis while his arms went up and down, perfect form in each repetition.  I thought of him as I swam for half an hour, back and forth, using those glutes and the tiny little muscles that connect my torso to my legs, listening to them protesting but drowning the outcry with that conversation... that young man.... that inspiration.

If he can do it, and smile, what is my problem?

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