August sucks. There aren’t any holidays, the comforting summer buzz of the cicadas has died down, the grocery stores are down to the last mealy dregs of my favorite fruits (nectarines and cherries), and for the much of the month the temperature is around 100 degrees. While summer is my favorite time of year, I’m usually not sad to see this particular month come to a close.

The end of August marks the beginning of scarves and knee-high boots, pumpkin-flavored everything, and apple scented candles. The end of August also means I have less than two months left to train for my black belt test.

Every time I think about it my stomach does a little involuntary flip, but I’m not as worried as I was when I tested from white belt four levels up to green belt during my first few months of training. I’ve known everything I need to perform for the black belt test for several months now thanks to my own hard work and the guidance of very patient and thorough instructors. I’m much stronger and have more stamina than I did during my white belt days. My jumps are higher, my shoulders and legs have gotten bulkier, and I’ve brought a new joyful aggression to my sparring. Despite my lingering hamstring injury I’ve been able to bring my A game to the dojang as much as I can and have supplemented my workouts with my usual swimming, yoga, and Pilates. I’d like to think I’ve gained a little bit of the emotional maturity a black belt needs since I first donned my dobok…some days anyway.

As for nutrition, I kind of let my diet go by the wayside, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Due to family visits, my birthday, work events, my discovery of Jif To Go mini peanut butter packs, etc., I’ve had the good fortune to indulge in some delicious although not very nutritious food over the summer. I did get back to my veggies/brown rice/boiled eggs/green juice regimen during August (uh, for the most part) and have been completely off alcohol since March, but I haven’t been as strict as I have been in the past. I’m a bit of a hedonistic hippie: I’ll wash down a cheeseburger with kombucha and not blink an eye about it. And of course chocolate is still happening. Oh is chocolate ever happening.

I’ve had body image and eating problems since I was a teenager so the fact that I gave myself a pass to eat pimento cheese and cookies without judgment or regret is an improvement in my book. I may be a little heavier (as in, closer to 120 pounds than 110 pounds), but I’m happier. During a deep tissue massage to help ease my hamstring pain the massage therapist told me she could tell my muscles were “very strong.” That made me feel prouder than being told I’m pretty or thin. Besides, I’m always one stomach virus away from Grandmaster telling me I look “too skinny” anyway.

I finally sought out help from a sports medicine doctor for my injured right hamstring. Turns out it’s not a pulled muscle but rather a suspected labral tear in the hip—meaning the little ring of cartilage where the femur attaches to the acetabulum (socket) in the pelvis is torn–not a good thing. He also detected some calcification and impingement syndrome in the right hip…the old problem that began about seven or eight years ago and is most noticeable by sharp pain in the front of the hip. Next week I will see the very same physical therapist who helped me with severe pain in my right hip all those years ago (and what may very well be contributing to things currently screwing up on the backside of that leg).

It’s frustrating not only because of the pain and discomfort, but also because it impedes my performance in taekwondo class when I’m so close to testing for my black belt. This is a not-so-rare problem in athletes that if serious enough requires surgery. So leading a healthy active lifestyle for all these years is now keeping me from being as active as I want to be. Ugh, really? The upside is that I’ve gotten more experience coaching and holding kicking pads for other students so I can give my leg a rest—I swear we need a separate class on how to do that. I’ve learned to listen to my body and be more patient with myself. I have faith in my PT and my doctor to help me heal. And besides, every good sports story needs some kind of challenge right at the climax.

Let’s do this.

3 thoughts on “The Countdown Begins

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