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Balance Beam

One, two, three...plop!

I have always been athletic. I love exercise in all shapes and forms: in water, on land, with wheels, running shoes, barefoot, jumping, bounding, stretching and more. In addition to my love for exercise, let me just mention the blunt fact that I am a klutz. A feet tripping, bench missing, pole bumping, flat on my face, klutz.

I started young.

I think it was at the age of 2. My sister and I were playing tag, while waiting for mom to give us a bath. I was running around with remnants of that night’s supper of spaghetti and meatballs in my hair. My sister ran out the door first and closed it slightly behind her. Without noticing…crash! My forehead collided with the door and off we went to the ER. A few stitches on my forehead and no hair washing for a week!

My mother thought (hoped) that this was a lone incident but as I grew things only got worse. I remember the time I had a gymnastics recital after a year of hard work and practice. I was so excited because my balance beam routine was so cool. I was already doing handstands on the beam and my dismount was a cartwheel doo-hicky that ended in a handstand-landing-feet-together.

Unfortunately, that day I was destined for another injury. At school, we were playing belts during recess. I backed up and started to run with great speed and gusto to jump over the two jump ropes lying far apart on the ground. I made it! The victory was short lived because the grass on the other side of the ropes was wet from the rain. I slid on my rear end down the slope. I could not move. I broke my tailbone and it has bothered me ever since.

But on that day I was determined, or should I say, I was stubborn and I refused to let my mother keep me from my gymnastics recital. I went. I told everyone in my group to let me stand up first, so that it would look like I was okay, and once I was standing, they could too. I didn’t want my mother to worry and to take me home. I did not do my beam routine that day, or the parallel bars, or anything for that matter. I paid the price later that day and I was not sorry one bit. I love gymnastics.

How does a person deal with the fact that most exercise may come with one sort of injury or another? When my great grandmother would hear of someone injuring themselves, she would always say, “Sports! They were doing sports!”. And she was almost always right. We hated that. My mother would always warn us not to tell her when we got hurt doing something athletic because she would look at us with her I told-you-so stare and say, :”Sports, that’s what happens when you do sports!”

If I see someone with a cast on their leg and they tell me that they slipped at work I look around quickly, pull them aside and whisper to them, “Skiing! Tell them it was skiing. I’ll back you up. It’s your pride at stake.”  There is a trophy-like feeling to walking around with a sprained ankle after going for a lay-up in basketball. When people ask you how you hurt you ankle, you can respond with your head held high. You were being a hero and you are paying the hero’s price. It is almost worth it to, always, be doing something exciting so that you have a news-breaking story to tell.

I will be the first to admit that there are people who have been injured while merely being spectators of some form of athletics or another. I am not only talking about being trampled by a soccer mob. For example, a good friend of mine, who has always been an avid cyclist and runner, was standing at the bottom of a ski slope and was hit in her calf by a snowboarder.  She has not been able to walk normally ever since. The pain of the injury is coupled with the agony of not being able to return to the activities that have been an essential part of her life for decades!

What would my great grandmother say if she heard about that? She would probably ban sports altogether.

Sometimes, the unfit people in the world benefit from good health. Take my Uncle, who worked in an accounting office with middle-aged men. They all seemed to cycle, run etc. and they were always talking about their aches and pains, knee replacements, muscle relaxants and so on. One day, he was sitting there listening to them complain and it occurred to him that although he didn’t exercise regularly, he didn’t have anything severely wrong with him and he felt fine, maybe even, dare he say, good.

I have started to jog again.

After 5 babies, and 10 years of being out of shape. I love the feeling of running far and long. I love to push myself to the limit and then to push myself that little bit more. I sometimes feel stiff the next day. I wake up with an intense need to stretch myself out before starting my day. I know that the chances of injuring myself (God forbid, ptooie, ptooie, garlic on my neck and all the rest) are greater when I choose to exercise. But I also know that I will lower the chances of other ailments, have better bone mass, muscles, energy, strength etc.

I have war wounds and I am a survivor. I stretch my leg and see the scars on my knee, the swelling in my left ankle, I flex my arms and I notice the scars on my middle finger. I bend forwards, my back creaks and cracks, I move my head and my necks tenses up. I feel alive!

I am woman. Hear me roar!