Ten months and twenty-three days into what has been the most bizarre year of my and probably everyone else’s lifetime, I finally felt a deep, comfortable, settling sense of normalcy, if only for a few minutes.
My moment came when I was doing “bungee walks.”
For the last three months I’ve been doing intense rehab both at a clinic and at home following my ACL reconstruction surgery.
It’s been an all-consuming process from putting my hours in the continuous passive motion machine (CPM) to learning how to walk with crutches to being able to do basic housework again to enduring grueling, painful physical therapy sessions.
In late August I graduated to a smaller, more functional brace that improved my mobility. The trainer who helped me fit into it declared, “You feel like an athlete again!”
But I haven’t felt like an athlete. I haven’t had time or energy to “feel like an athlete.” A well-meaning friend asked if I was trying out another martial art since I can’t do taekwondo right now. I just laughed. Every moment that I’m not working, eating, or sleeping is spent massaging my still-swollen kneecap or working on extension (painful) and flexion (really painful).
I just want my damn leg to bend and straighten normally.
So it was quite a joyous and surprising sensation when, on a recent Friday morning, I felt a profound sense of normalcy that had been sorely missing since March of this year.
I was doing my final exercise of the day in physical therapy: bungee walks.
Here’s how it works: I clasp a belt around my hips and click it into a blue stretchy bungee cord connected to the wall. Once I’m clipped in I walk as far as I can back and forth for three minute stints. I walk forward, backward, and side to side with both my left and right legs leading, stretching the cord to about ten to fifteen feet. I look ridiculous, but it’s actually quite fun.
I can walk at a pretty fast clip with the security of the belt and the cord, faster than I normally can right now. Once I get going, I speed up my pace and try to stretch the cord further. Friday I having so much fun I *nearly* sprinted across the floor, but I didn’t want to risk re-injury doing something I wasn’t really ready to do. So I settled for speed walking. When I was going side to side it felt a little like the bouncy movement of sparring, so I dropped into a fighting stance and scrabbled across the floor with my eyes toward my “target.”
I was panting (my cardio is shot right now), sweating…and smiling.
NOW I felt like an athlete again.
I haven’t moved quickly or used my fast-twitch muscles or done anything to raise my heart rate since my injury on July 9, 2020. Even though I have been working out and doing some kind of sport since I was a teenager, I was surprised at (1) how easy it was to forget that feeling and (2) how much I deeply missed it.
Moving like an athlete is my “normal,” and it was so satisfying to feel it again. I know I can access that feeling again, and it will happen more frequently over time.
So be open to receiving whatever your “normal” is as we brave through the final two months of 2020.
You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Stay tuned for my upcoming book– “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!
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