Please allow me to introduce you to her.
I was never an athletic kid, at least not in the traditional sense. I played kickball and ran around with other kids, but never played a team sport. When it came time to stand against a wall, waiting to be picked for something sporty, I was almost always the last one chosen. Everyone knew that I wasn’t good at kicking or throwing or running or… caring about sports.
I have zero hand-eye coordination – less than zero if that’s possible. Recognizing that at an early age made it much easier not to be disappointed at not winning an award for MVP or freezing my ass off during fall soccer season. (The fact that I was the tiniest kid in every class did not inspire confidence that I could play well, either.) But I did find something “athletic” that I loved.
Classical ballet. Like, hardcore classical ballet. I may not have been a runner, but by the time I hit the age of ten, my legs were toned and muscular from hours of pliés and pirouettes. The course I followed involved yearly examinations by stern-looking British women and men judging the turn of my ankle and the curve of my arm. I spent a lot of time dancing and looked forward to doing it for as long as I could. I dreamed of heading to London and perhaps pursuing the life of a prima ballerina. (Remember how tiny I was? Last paragraph? Primas are tiny.)
The year I turned twelve was monumental for me. Monumental suckage. Not only was I diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but it was also discovered that I had caused a horizontal fracture in one of my lower vertebrae and shift in my spine, rendering me unable to dance at all. (By “discover”, I mean one day out of nowhere, I had to be carried, screaming in pain, to the car and into the ER.) Weeks of physical therapy strengthened the muscles in my back, but when I bellied up to the bar and went on pointe on the first day back, I knew it was over. Pain washed over me and my mother untied my pink ribbons and slid my Bloch shoes off my feet. Throwing those shoes away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I knew that exercise was important. That golden triangle of insulin, diet, and exercise was drummed into my head from the start at Joslin. So, I tried other types of exercise to see if I could make a pretty triangle – or even a obtuse one.
- I tried running. Got the right shoes and everything. Did the stretches. Took my time. Slow jogging. And…Shin splints. More physical therapy and ice and warm packs.
- I tried other types of dance that didn’t need a rigid posture. Contemporary. Jazz. Modern. And…Back pain. Flexeril.
- Swimming. I was fat and ashamed of my body, but I stuffed myself into a bathing suit and got in the water to do laps. And…Swimmer’s ear and the closing of the pool I used to “guests of the hotel only” from the health club that I paid to use said pool.
- Biking. It was how I lost the weight the first time. Three speed bike and a lot of determination. And…Then back pain.
- Dressage. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I loved riding. The doctor refused to write me another prescription for Flexeril after the third bottle. He told me to find a new sport.
It’s no shocker that I had a discectomy for a huge ruptured disc in 2005. We had hoped it would at least allow me to enjoy some sort of athletic endeavor after the surgery, but instead, it’s made any attempt to do much more than walk almost impossible. (Yes, I’ve tried pilates, yoga, blah blah blah.) Now that I’ve got a toddler who won’t sit in her stroller anymore, it’s impossible.
I am so out of shape (although you’d never know it from looking at me) that I’m out of breath and my heart pounds after a few minutes of exertion. (I had an EKG in December and I’m fine, with minimal risk for a heart attack. I have had low blood pressure episodes for about twenty years and when my heart starts to race, I keep thinking I’m going to faint.) Even cutting my basal rate or adding extra carbs does crazy things to my blood sugars hours after getting a long walk in.
I’m scared of exercise.
I need to conquer her to stay healthy, but I don’t even know where to begin. I need to find some activity that I can love as much as classical ballet. (I already have a really cool cape, so I can check that off my list. Needing a Justice League kind of answer. Any suggestions?)