Walking contradiction

Ballet and boxing.

Fred Astaire, Sylvie Guillem and Ronda Rousey.

Eminem, Pink, Taylor Swift, Dave Matthews Band, Stromae, Adèle, Bare Naked Ladies, Eva Cassidy, Beyoncé, Tracy Chapman, Florence and the Machine, David Guetta, Daft Punk, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Kanye West, RHCP, Kendrick Lamar… Verdi, Pucini, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Chopin, Sibelius, Dvorak, Elgar, Mahler, Grieg; I could correctly identify any of Beethoven vs Brahm vs Tchaikovsky’s violin concertos by the age of 11, but I only discovered Michael Jackson at the age of 17.

I’m a loud introvert.

I have a fabulous collection of high heels and be-au-ti-ful evening dresses, but my favorite footware, if I HAVE to wear any at all, is flip-flops.

I hate being late for shows/concerts or missing previews at the movie theatres. If I show up only 15-45 minutes late to any type of social event, I congratulate myself on my punctuality.

I lifeguarded outdoors for 5 summers even though I am prone to heat and sun-strokes.

I hate paying attention to detail. My career is in finance and accounting, and most of the time, I love it.

I will fight tooth and nail to avoid losing an argument yet am miserable when people don’t like me.

I love lifting weights, and feeling strong. I love being an Amazon. I am prone to bouts of incredible body self-hatred, believing I am too big to be attractive. Yet I am a proud feminist who firmly believes a woman’s worth is not defined by either her looks or the appreciation of men for her looks.

Today, I went to the gym, and proudly squatted more than one of the guys in my weightlifting/conditioning class; I’ve already identified the next guy that I plan on out-lifting. Then I went home, and gave myself a mani-pedi (peach and lavendar, in case y’all are wondering).

Girliest Beast Mode EVER.




That time I stopped being a cripple

Yesterday, I did box jumps. Lateral hops. Mobility drills with the ladder (à la football drills). NBD, right? That’s how boxers train. 

In Grade 5, I dislocated my knee doing a glissade (aka the simplest ballet move EVER). Typically an inconvenient but manageable injury, this freak accident was the beginning of a 5 year nightmare of hospitals, multiple weekly physio appointments, chronic inflammation, shattered cartilage, old-lady advanced osteoarthritis in one knee. During those years, between 10 and 15 years of age, I underwent 6 surgeries requiring general anesthetics; the shock of these drugs on my body, already undergoing the huge hormonal changes of puberty, resulted in permanent hair-loss. To this day, I am self-conscious about my noticeably thin hair. I spent more time in casts, requiring canes, crutches or wheelchairs than I did able to walk without assistance. I missed half of my Grade 9 school-year, and was home schooled by my mother, as I recovered from the first reconstructive surgery to my left knee.

My doctor was an preeminent expert in his field. He was also a dick. Infamous for his terrible bedside manner, I never had an appointment with him without crying tears of shame and humiliation. He treated my body like a piece of meat, would speak about me as though I wasn’t in the room. He deplored my lack of dedication to my rehab; when my mother pointed out that it was only reasonable that a teenager might have counter-will when faced with this bleak existence, he lectured her about being a good parent. Little did he know of the daily wars that raged at home as I tried to avoid the repetitive, painful, boring physio exercises, while my mom nagged, bullied, pleaded, bribed me into haphazard compliance. Rationally, I understood the link between the daily hour of physio and eventual health and mobility, but emotionally, it felt like my entire being had been reduced to being a cripple. I rebelled.

Finally, in Grade 10, the doctor deemed that I had reached the end of my rehab, and no further surgeries were required. His final prognosis: my osteoarthritis would degenerate until I required an artifical knee by the age of 30, and if I was very good, maintained a healthy weight (thinner than I was then – his words), avoided all weight-bearing activity other than light walking, and indulged in gentle swimming to keep the joint mobile, I might be able to delay the surgery by a few years. He reminded me that an artifical knee typically only lasts 5 years, and does not allow for a very pleasant existence. He wished me good luck.

My mother wanted the best for me. Being an invalid herself, with restricted mobility, she was distraught at my fate as a life-long cripple. She made it her business to remind me to never run, only walk, never jump, and always, forever, “be careful of your knees”.

When I started dating my ex, at the age of 20, I couldn’t go down stairs without limping. I couldn’t sit without falling – I didn’t have the muscle strength to control the motion. My knee would lock. The winters sucked: my arthritis was very painful, and I was petrified about wiping out on the icy Canadian side-walks and injuring myself again. My ex didn’t understand my attitude: the doctor wasn’t God. He didn’t have a crystal ball that determined my destiny. My weak muscles and limp weren’t set in stone. A former football player and weight-lifter, my ex set out to convert me to the joys of weight-lifting. Through his tutelage, I gradually mastered body-weight squats and lunges. My limp almost disappeared. I owe him for that.

When I started kickboxing, I couldn’t jump on one leg: I couldn’t connect my brain to my muscles. I was 25 years old. Under Voilàaaa’s mostly patient coaching, I worked on my mobility until I could hop slightly on either leg. Victory! I still was petrified of injury, and really, I was an idiot to take up a sport that requires so many snappy twists and slides. However, kickboxing allowed me to reject my decades-long identity of a cripple. I was lucky to practice that sport for as long as I did. After 4 years, when I eventually blew out my knee, I was convinced I’d just proven Dr. Dick right and had just sentenced myself to a permanently crippled lifestyle.

Coach has read, and continues to seek out, every article and book available about training, mobility, injury rehab, from all schools of thought. According to him, optimal performance is always possible, with the right information, tools, dedication and hard work. Sure, every body has its limits, and some injuries are harder to recover from than others, but it is ALWAYS possible to improve one’s quality of life through the proper training, and diet. Injuries don’t define an athlete – they are part of an athlete’s life, and require intelligent management.

For the past 3 years, under Coach’s watch, I’ve strength trained and conditioned myself to the point that I can jump 24in high, repetitively and easily. My body feels strong. Alive. I can trust that my legs will support me. I identify myself as an athlete. I’m 31, and my knee works just fine thankyouverymuch. Sure, it creaks and aches, and sure, one day it might wear out, but right now I can jump. For the first time in almost 20 years.

It feels like flying.