Sunday, June 15, 2014

Walking is awesome

Fitness update: I can walk!! 

After about three months of shuffling that sent electric shocks through my spinal chord and pins and needles down my butt and thighs, that made the muscles in my lower back spasm on four separate occasions, two of which landed me in the ER, I can now finally (FINALLY!) walk again with almost no pain and it feels like I've been given a gift that I hope to never again take for granted: the ability to get around on my own two feet. 

Walking is good for you, and, even more so than running, it's the most natural thing a human can do. We're not meant to sit around all day at computers, and walking is good not just for toning our muscles and keeping our cardiovascular systems tuned up, it's also good for us psychologically and neurologically

For almost three months I couldn't walk more than a block without being in so much pain I had to lie down and take narcotics and muscle relaxants. For the first month I couldn't even walk down the stairs in my house and across the street without searing pain that made me nauseous and caused my heart rate to soar. For the first week or so I couldn't walk. Period. I recall the numbness and weakness in my legs, not to mention the inhumane amount of agony in my lower back that was so bad I couldn't support my body weight on my feet, and had to not just crawl, but pull myself along on my belly, like soldiers do in the army when they're squirming under barbed wire. And that was just to get down the hall to the toilet. I had to use a bucket beside my bed a couple of times in the first week after I slipped and fell on my tailbone because I didn't have the strength or the will to try to get to the bathroom to pee. If I'd had a dog in that condition I wouldn't have thought twice about having her put down.

Not being able to walk is the worst. Not knowing how long it's going to be before you can walk again (at least normally, and without pain) is scary as hell. I can't even imagine what it's like to be injured so badly that you know, definitively, that you're never going to walk again. I never had to use a wheelchair (other than while I was in the hospital) but I have deep respect now, and infinitely more empathy, for those who do. 

And now that in the last week or so I've discovered I've been able to incrementally increase my walking distances, I am so incredibly grateful for this, and to the medical people and my friends and family for their support in the last four months. 

A few weeks ago I forced myself to walk two blocks. A few days later I walked five. Then eight. Then I walked for half an hour, then 45 minutes a couple of days ago, and today I walked for an hour – strolling through the park, enjoying the sunshine. And it hardly hurt at all.

I think the silver lining to any injury is that we inevitably become more aware of how fragile we are in some ways, and yet, how incredibly resilient we are in others – both physically and psychologically. The human body's ability to heal itself is incredibly awesome, especially when the will is there. 

So I'm going to walk and keep on walking, and I'm going to keep on with the physio exercises, and start up the Convict Conditioning again soon. I can still only do 10 consecutive knee push-ups, but that'll just take time and persistence. 

Yesterday, more to my surprise than anyone else's, I actually managed to almost complete a 5.7 route at Flatrock, where I'd gone just to sit with my book and watch my friends do some rock climbing. But I was convinced to give it a try – and feeling jealous, after having been pretty big into climbing until last summer – I did it. I can tell my fitness level is nowhere near what it was before I was injured in February, (and I also had to pop a handful of pills and lie down after I attempted the route), but I can also tell that it won't be too long before I'm back to my old self again. And I will make it to the top of that rock. 
The journey, if looked at straight on, may seem like a meaningless, endless circle, but shift your gaze just slightly, and you'll see that it's actually a spiral you're on, moving ever upward. 

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