Go Hard or… Modify

I’ve been known to push myself too hard and overdo it at times in the name of keeping up and not quitting. That’s all well and good, but when you’re managing a chronic illness, you can end up doing yourself real harm by going too far.

Sustained physical effort is an issue for me. I’ve accepted that being a long distance runner is probably not in the cards for me, but interval training at my friendly neighborhood martial arts place is great. I love going at the mitts and shields with combos and kicks, but far sooner than I’d like, I start to fade and my muscles wipe out, sometimes even spasm and seize. In the past, my pride kept me pushing to the point of breakdown because in my mind, not going hard was equivalent to not going at all. “Go hard or go home”, right? Unfortunately, that maxim needs revision for people who have limitations but still want to stay in the game.  The trick is to not only admit to the limitations, but to understand them and find ways to compensate, so you can make it to the bell without dying. On a good day, this takes motivation and courage that many of us with a clean bill of health don’t have. But, as some pain in the ass (who shall remain nameless) likes to remind me, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”

Deezy Striking

I desire all right. But I still get a twinge of anxiety when I step on the mat. OK, more than a twinge. I panic and start biting my lips before I even get my gloves on. Last week I was surrounded by men going through the circuit hard: blasting out push ups, throwing medicine balls, dragging heavy bags and whatnot. And that was after the mitt work. I do far fewer reps than my mat mates these days. I take a few seconds (OK, several seconds) between punch combinations even if my partner is ready to go, and I focus on the quality and not the quantity of my kicks against the shield and give myself a minute to recover before I feel the shakes come on. I put the same amount of effort into shutting down that nagging anxiety as I do delivering an ascending elbow because of the fear of embarrassment as I huff and puff between sets. But a greater fear snaps me out of it and pushes past my pride.

        I fear that the tightness running up the back of my left leg will get worse and turn into a full on limp if I don’t work it out. I fear that neglecting my footwork will translate to my balance issues increasing (we already know the deal with high heels). With every push up or burpee I don’t want to do, I fear losing the strength to get back up again after I’ve fallen for the hundredth time. So I keep training, I keep riding my bike, and practicing yoga poses. I listen to my body, I modify, and the desire mostly wins.
Desire gets me out of bed early to stretch and salute the sun. I get on my bike and head out with “Remember the Name” pumping in my earphones. I roll out with the breeze sweeping through my growing afro and I feel invincible. Until of course I hit an upslope that makes me have to pump my legs extra hard to keep the wheels turning. I start thinking that I should leave the bike at home and take the bus. But I want to thrive instead of just survive. So I take breaks, I keep ice packs at the ready for my wrists and neck. In class, I put my hands up again, and go on. I go slower, but I still go. I can’t always go so hard, but I damn sure ain’t going home.