Attitude,  My Story

Rediscovering a love of physical strength…

At the Women’s Institute Lookout, Kemble Ontario.

Last summer, my just barely reborn running career came to a screeching halt when I was told that I had a 15-16 cm ovarian cyst. All bouncing activities were to be avoided, in case the cyst ruptured and spilled its contents throughout my lower abdomen. Given that the cyst turned out to be cancerous, it’s a good thing that I grudgingly conceded defeat and quit running early last August. In hindsight, a ruptured cyst would have been a really bad thing…

After surgery in late September, finding out I had cancer, another surgery in early December, 5 weeks of post-op bladder spasming, then 5 months of chemo, I was pretty de-conditioned. During that journey, my energy level was awesome for what I was going through, but certainly not anywhere near my usual. In particular, I had noticed that for the first time in my life, I couldn’t drop into a deep squat and lift myself out of it unassisted. I had to hold onto something to rise out of squat, even if I was just going down to get things out of a lower cupboard in my kitchen.

I have always been a non-exerciser – my parents were older and my mother quite disabled with childhood polio, so getting us kids involved in physical activity was not a priority for them. Besides, I was the biggest bookworm around – the kind of kid that read books while walking to school, only looking up at corners to avoid a traffic accident. The kind of kid that read by flashlight under the covers long after my bedtime. I was never significantly overweight, but I was definitely not in shape. Like most teen-aged girls, though, I hated my body, thinking that I was enormous and unattractive. Thighs that rubbed, you know…

In late high school, I discovered jogging and liked it. On and off throughout the following decades, I would get into spells of running, then give up again. It was the year that I turned 40 that I discovered the concept of walking a marathon. Soon, I was running again and completed dozens of half-marathons through my 40’s.

The year I turned 50, I made it a goal to run a full marathon. However, I also spent most of March of that year wandering around Antigua Guatemala, over rough cobblestone roads for hours a day, in very old and poorly supportive sports sandals. By the time I came home, I had trashed my Achilles tendon. But, stupid me, I kept training all summer through the tendinitis, never giving it the necessary rest for adequate healing. That September, I ran two half marathons on back to back weekends – my altered “full marathon”, then immediately stopped running to heal my Achilles. It took me years to get going again.

A couple of years ago, I again got very motivated to get in better shape and joined a Boot Camp style gym. By jumping onto a fast-moving treadmill after a woman half my age had just jumped off, I managed to get a stress fracture in my shin. Again, I had to rest it for several months, and it hurt for about a year afterwards, limiting my ability to run. So much for my short-lived crossfit career…

So, last summer, the legs were finally all pain-free and ready to go. I started very slow and shuffly, but soon I was up to 5 miles/8 km jogs, and loving it. I live along the side of Georgian Bay, part of the Great Lakes, and my views while running are spectacular.

Then the cyst happened…

In the three months since chemo has ended, I have returned to a great ability to work for extended periods at gardening, painting, moving stuff around, and just general putzing. I don’t sit around much. I also started to power walk again, 2 miles (3.2 km) around my subdivision. But it wasn’t feeding my soul, so I wasn’t very dedicated.

The day before I drove to London for my hysterectomy, last December, I slipped on the steps at a friend’s house after dinner and badly sprained my foot and ankle. One of my toes was dislocated, but I had no time to deal with it prior to surgery. It was not pulled back into position until I got home from hospital about 6 days later, so it hasn’t healed properly. It was a matter of “bigger fish to fry” at the time, and it got ignored. So my feet aren’t altogether right and running is a bit iffy right now…

Not a happy foot…

Enter my bike… Last summer, I bought a new (to me) road bike on Kijiji. I rode it a few times, but it really wasn’t comfortable. But I have a good friend who has recently fallen in love with cycling, and we are planning to travel to PEI this summer together. It’s a perfect place for cycling, and we talked about bringing bikes with us. But geez, I haven’t actually been on my bike yet…

The first ride was 3 miles/5 km, and I was totally trashed the next morning. Low back ached all day and my right shoulder was so sore that I couldn’t raise my arm without pain. What the heck! Turns out that the handlebar grips were on backwards and I couldn’t put my weight on my hands on the bars. Once that was fixed by my in-house bike mechanic (hubby), I was able to go out the next ride and do 5 miles/8 km without any problems. Cool!

But a measly two rides does not a cyclist make… So when my cycling friend suggested an outing on the Lake Huron Shore Road this week, I was a bit nervous about keeping up and what my tolerance would be. Well, I crushed it! We did 10 miles/16.5 km in a fairly high wind. Not fast, but steady. And I was not exhausted afterwards. I felt exercised, not trashed.

I’ve never been a cyclist before – I always hated the saddle and the numb crotch feeling. But with a little wiggling and some pressure reduction moves, I seem to be managing that fine. And a trip to Value Village netted me a great pair of chamois-lined bike shorts – for $4! I’m set!

This morning, I got up and put on my new bike shorts and went out for a 10.5 mile/16.8 km bike ride. And it was awesome! I think I’m in love!

Just the sensation of having the physical strength to do this level of exercise again is so empowering. I feel like I’m falling in love with myself all over again. Physical strength leads to mental strength, which leads to greater focus on my goals and aspirations. Each part of the package, inner strength and outer strength compliment and enhance each other. Man, it feels good to be strong again!

And by the way, I just checked… Despite 16 km on the bike this morning, I can drop into a deep squat and lift myself out again – I’m back!

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