In high school, my investment in swimming grew considerably as I learned more about all parts of the sport of which I could take advantage. If I was going to spend time in the water (and money on land, so that I could stay in the water), I figured I might as well work to be the best at it.
This commitment showed itself on the deck and in the pool with the team, by my focusing on proper pacing and my bothering to pay attention to the minute details of stroke technique. All of that helped, but it is not what I am most proud of. It is easy to care, to be committed, when others are watching.
I am far more proud of what I did away from the pool and far from observers, like managing my time so I could handle practice and commuting, and visualizing my stroke daily (especially that long-course 200 back) when my summer job precluded returning in the afternoon for a second pool workout.
During those years, I had phases when I would spend often an hour on the floor each night before bed, doing "core" conditioning: planks, push-ups, V-ups, or trying to do the Bruce Lee 'dragon flag' because, well, just because...whatever the exercises were, this was one of the ways that I showed myself that I was doing what I could to improve. These exercises enabled me to take complete ownership of a small part of the strengthening required by fast swimming – and since it is a competitive sport, I knew that, in most cases, I had done more than the guy in the lane next to me.
I am happy to report that I have recently re-established this tradition. After experimenting with my medicine-ball ability at the SCI-FIT gym, I knew that I could take those 6 pounds into my own hands (literally). I purchased my own med ball, and I promised myself that every evening when I return from the gym, I would do 100 of these sit-up “throws:”
I made it solidly for two weeks before I missed a day (hand therapy took priority) and so, for redress, I did 200 for the next two days. The universe speaks in mysterious ways, and wouldn't you know that the day after completing my make-up rounds, I received multiple comments from trainers during my workout on how much better I was holding my abdomen and hips in place while standing. That was last Saturday, and it was the only signal I needed.
Naturally, my baseline is now 200 sit-ups each day and, since I began this regimen, I can tell that I am not only stronger, but I can engage my abdominals sooner and sustain the contraction longer. I recognize that it is not a perfect exercise: using the weight and momentum to fling myself upright is obviously a form of compensation, but it does generate a strong abdominal contraction. I am also not currently able to tighten my back enough so that it does not round so much at the top of the movement (a form of kyphosis), and I push my shoulders forward considerably as well. These are exercise shortcomings that I accept, and work to fix.
Notwithstanding its flaws, this simple core exercise is significant for me. Just as with all of my swimming and core routines when I was in high school, these sit-up throws are absolutely within my ability, and I am therefore solely responsible for this kind of strengthening; I can easily transfer to a couch from my chair, and then to the floor to do the exercise. Just like brushing my teeth, inserting my contacts, or clipping my fingernails – all activities that I was not able to do just over a year ago – I know that when it comes to abdominal core strength, it is up to me.
I should say here that I do feel absolutely responsible for the entirety of my recovery, but this medicine-ball-exercise type of accountability leads directly to a reinforced feeling of ownership. With an injury like mine, where anyone would feel that he or she is not in control, and where it feels, rightly so, that a whole new existence has been thrust upon the individual, the knowledge of owning an outcome is a very powerful thing. Discoveries like these are just some of the many gifts for which I am thankful this year, and I know that they will propel me step-by-step back to full health.
From our Family at Thanksgiving:
While this event has expanded our family’s horizons in many ways, it has also had a constricting effect, and, at times, an isolating one. The basics take so much time that there is little room in the day for other things. We are grateful to family and friends who reached out in the beginning and gave us comfort in those early days when everything was a mystery and just how we would proceed was so uncertain. We appreciate those who have stayed in-touch and continue to lend support in some way.
Happily, we know there is more recovery to come and this fires-up Theo to work from the minute he rises, through the day and evening, on one form of therapy or another. We do whatever it takes to enable these activities. We are indebted to those who have so generously contributed to the effort by helping with specific activities, by providing financial resources, and through sharing in the complicated logistics. Thank you, all!
Susan, Ray, Adrian and Theo