Back to Exercise

Back to Exercise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

Back to Exercise

I am grimy. Grimy like floor-of-the-Port-Authority-bus-terminal-after-rush-hour grimy.

I have been lying on the floor of the exercise studio, hoisting myself into push-ups with a five-pound weight on my back. I have been slamming a medicine ball at my exercise partner and catching it as she slams it back at me. I have jumped down from a high step repeatedly, jumped rope, and climbed up and down the bench in a kind of crazy quickstep. And that’s just in the first forty-five minutes!

I don’t think I have ever sweated more or felt more fatigued. Yet I couldn’t be happier. I am back in my exercise class after nine months of absence. I had to stand aside because of a knee injury.

That day on the tennis court when I ran full steam ahead from the baseline to get a drop shot at the net turned out to be the beginning of a bad year. I was one step away from the fuzzy yellow ball and when I stepped forward to connect, it was as if I’d stepped into a hole. There was nothing under me and I went down in a heap, as my knee gave way. As I fell, I heard a snap inside my leg.

Following an X-ray, MRI and an examination by an orthopedist, I was told my anterior cruciate ligament was torn “less than fifty percent” and in those cases surgery is not recommended. A few months of physical therapy, and I’d be good to go. I was as dutiful about rehab as a puppy who anticipates a dog biscuit. I did the exercises at physical therapy. I did them at home. I did them at the gym. Three months later, the doctor gave me the green light, fitted me with a knee brace, and sent me on my way.

I marked my return to physical health by rejoining my women’s softball team. In my first at bat, I reached first base on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, the first base coach told me to “run hard” as soon as the next batter hit the ball. I did. One step away from second base, and again, my knee collapsed on me.

“Maybe you need surgery,” the physical therapist said the next morning when I called to share my woe. The doctor said the same thing. So I went for another opinion, to a doctor who only worked on knees. One month later I scheduled the operation.

When I awoke from the surgery, which repaired my torn meniscus and replaced (with a cadaver’s ligament) my ACL, I didn’t feel as bad as I feared I would. But let’s just say this is major surgery, and recovering is not easy. I couldn’t drive for three weeks (the hazards of a right knee repair). I watched a lot of TV (favoring The View and, I admit it, some game shows).

For someone who has always been active, being debilitated was eye opening. How much I wanted to just go out and run. How much I wished to be able to simply walk my dog. It made me realize how often I catch up with a friend by taking a walk with her. I couldn’t even think about tennis, but found that I was missing the women whom I’d meet on the court each week. Mixing friendship and exercise has long been my secret for staying motivated. And most of all, I missed the exercise class that left me feeling so grimy.

With much determination and a lot of hard work, I got the post-surgical okay to return to full activity. I’m much more confident now — now that nine months have passed since the surgery, and I can feel the difference in my new knee.

So here I am, feeling my lungs about to explode in my chest, and noticing the exercise endorphins lifting my mood. I’m happy. Happy to return, happy to recover, and happy to know that though my body betrayed me once, I can now get back to the business of taking care of it — all over again.

~ Andrea Atkins ~

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