I am the type of gal who needs exercise in order to stay fit.  I can diet until I am barely eating anything, but won’t actually lose the weight until I am physically challenging myself.  I can’t just randomly work out either, I have to tackle a program full on in order to see results.  Several years ago now, when I decided I was tired of carrying around the extra weight from my pregnancies, I took charge of my exercise routine.  I started out slow, as any good potential athlete should do, and worked my way into more intense workouts.  For a long time I got the best results from Crossfit (http://www.crossfit.com/).  I not only looked good, but I felt strong and secure while following their regimen.  It was about this time that I discovered ballet, and fell in love.  I had a problem melding Crossfit and ballet.  I ended up burning out my knees through the repetitive action I was experiencing.  I tried moderating my Crossfit routine to make it work with my ballet, but ballet became so physically demanding that I had to cut out Crossfit altogether.  I don’t regret that decision, because ballet works every part of my body – I just don’t have the size of the muscles I did when I was doing Crossfit.  My legs are stronger and I am more graceful in my movements.

Being the type of person I am, though, I didn’t like sitting around twiddling my thumbs on the off days.  Last summer I decided to add cycling to my life.  I am long time cyclist, as a child I would get on my bike and go for rides and not return until I was hungry.  When I was in high school I would bike everywhere – to the dentist, to work, and on other days just for the pure joy of it.  I started doing trails when I was in college and kept up with my cycling until I started having children.  I never was a competitive cyclist, at least the pure definition of it.  I loved just doing it, but I also loved winning – so if I went out with friends you would never see me as trailing behind the pack.  Last summer though, when I dusted off my bike, I was amazed at the exhilaration I felt.  I now live out in the country and the scenery is spectacular.  As the summer progressed, I was able to do nearly 200 miles in a week – on top of my ballet.  It was wonderful, and I loved every minute of it.

My youngest

One day, last August, my children and I were in the backyard enjoying a perfect summer day.  My children and some of the neighbors children were in the pool laughing, splashing – having a good time.  My youngest decided to act out.  He got out of the pool, yelling at the rest of the kids, storming up to the house.  He was not allowed in the house when the rest of us were outside, and yet that is exactly where he headed.  It didn’t help that he was dripping wet, knowing full well our rule was to dry off at least partially before entering the house.   I went up to stop him before he could open the back door, which resulted in our having a heated conversation on the deck.  My youngest was defiant, but I was not going to back down.  I had him by the hand to lead him back to the yard, when I slipped on the bubbles solution my children had spilled on the top of the deck steps.  I pushed my little guy backwards as my feet flew out from underneath me.  I landed hard on the top step and proceeded to bounce and roll my way to the grass below.  Time slowed to a crawl as the intense pain swept over me.  My right leg was completely numb.  I was in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the steps as my youngest stood up crying, pointing a finger at me, and yelling “You pushed me!”  I was unable to speak, in so much pain tears couldn’t even form in my eyes.  I was desperately trying for coherency as I could hear the rest of children still oblivious to my pain and playing in the pool.  Eventually I cried out hoarsely for my oldest, who came running over.  I’m sure I shocked him, I really was not of those people who just laid on the grass for no reason.  I was unable to stand up, as my leg was still decently numb.

Picture taken two whole weeks after I fell

I ended up with a nasty bruise, swelling, and pain for months.  I tried fruitlessly several times to get back on my bike to do at least a few miles, but the pain was too great.  I was advised to let it heal, but I hated the inactivity.  I did go back to ballet after a few weeks, but I had to gingerly perform my plies.  I eventually had some x-rays done because of the pain, but nothing was broken.  I threw myself back into ballet, but I realize now that was a mistake.  Just as the swelling was starting to go down, I had a particularly grueling class one night.  It was terribly hot out, our studio is not air-conditioned.  My ballet teacher believes that the heat helps to increase flexibility.  We were doing floor stretches and I was pushing myself hard to increase my flexibility when my left hamstring hit its limit.  I felt a snap, overwhelming pain, and it was all I could do to move.  I was effectively out for the count.  I still don’t know how severe I had injured my hamstring, I’m not huge on doctors, but I know it has caused me grief this entire time.

I lost all flexibility.  I couldn’t even touch my toes.  Cycling was now completely out, and ballet was mind over matter.  To add insult to injury, this is about the time my Dad died – so I was now emotionally injured as well as physically.  I spent the entire autumn slowly recovering, gaining weight, and feeling at a loss.  I continued to dance, doing the best I could, my leg movements a mere fraction of what they were before.  I kept thinking my hamstring would heal, and it did… very slowly.  Sometime mid-winter I was frustrated and ready to move on, injure free.  I started doing research and working my leg slightly different to see if I could gain some what I had lost.  A friend of mine suggested a compression brace for my hamstring, and that made a HUGE difference.  My flexibility is slowly returning.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I picked up cycling again, my hamstring only complaining on the hills.  It gives me something to concentrate on, rather than the actual hill itself, so it is all good.   I am building my miles again, so much so that I am purchasing a road bike.  Up until now I have done all my cycling on my trusty MTB.  I tested a road bike the other day and I can hardly wait to bring her home and show her the sights.

This is me before I rode my bike today

What I have learned through all this is perseverance.  There are always going to be things you cannot change in your life.  You have to learn how to overcome them, even if it means finding a new path.  You cannot allow something to stop you, no matter what.  Life is too short — if you know something makes you happy, you can almost always find someway to enjoy it.  It may take time, it might not happen tomorrow, or even next year.  Nevertheless, it won’t happen at all if you don’t try.  I still have twinges of pain (both emotionally and physically) but I cannot let it define me.  I am cognizant of my shortcomings and work with them, rather than stop altogether.  It makes me happy, it makes me satisfied, and overall it gives me joy.  I urge you today to look at something in your life you love that you have set aside and see if you can’t make it happen.  You won’t regret it.