I’ve never been much of a gym rat. In fact, I often associate running on a treadmill with dark forms of punishment. Fast forward to my current dark age and that’s where you’ll find me — in a gym, on a treadmill, doing my best to find a sliver of joy as the balls of my feet methodically go round-and-round. A tired gerbil in a wheel just trying to catch that freakin’ carrot.
Am I being hyperbolic? Perhaps. I admit to enjoying the dopamine hit after the run is done. It’s also a fine time to catch up on my favorite shows or let good music whisk me away. Yet the problem persists — this isn’t what I want to be doing. I want to be practicing yoga. I want to feel the release of vinyasa instead of the instantaneous inflammation. I want to be practicing arm bars in jiu jitsu, throwing jabs in my sparing class, and executing shoutos with my karate family. I long to feel connected to the strongest (and most confident) part of my body.
My dear, sweet, damaged arm.
I started feeling pain in my left shoulder last spring at the beginning of my book tour. I dismissed it as a tweak related to travel; wielding awkward bags and anxiety about the pending launch of my second book. I even remember asking a friend to dig their elbow deep into my back as I wriggled myself around the knobby bone praying for a pop of release. The tour commenced, and while the pain remained, I didn’t have time to fixate on it. The year continued and the pain ebbed and flowed. I did my best to stay out of martial arts classes and limit my vinyasas as I’ve learned from a plethora of injuries that the best cure is rest. Fast forward to a month ago where the rest wasn’t paying off (I suppose completing over 100 segment flights and constantly teaching doesn’t quantify as ‘rest’). I finally saw doctor and was given a concrete answer:
Torn shoulder labrum and biceps tendonitis.
Bad news: It’s torn. And it hurts. Obviously.
Good news: It shouldn’t need surgery, just some dedicated physical therapy to build up the rotator muscles in order to stabilize the shoulder and let the tear heal up.
This image is from happier shoulder days, and my quote is from an old interview, but the timing of the photo and post (shared tonight) is perfect. Fast and shiny: allowing myself to be defined by my body’s abilities. Solid and real: defined by my ability to find strength in patience and healing. This life is cyclical, and I’m just chilling at the bottom of the ferris wheel as they fix the engine.
I’m now two weeks into my therapy. I visit my PT twice a week to get dry needling, ultrasound, and muscle stimulation, followed by exercises with the resistance band (my daily work). My therapist asked me how I was feeling as the slow and persistent burn of the external rotation band work set in.
“I want my shoulder back,” I quipped. “But I suppose you hear that from every single person in this office, huh?”
He gave me a kind, weathered smile of agreement. It was no better than the people who ask me if I have a dog named Toto when I tell them I’m originally from Kansas. No one wants to be injured. Rarely does someone possess the true patience to trust the journey to recovery. It’s always up to our personal calendar; not that of our body.
My smile knowingly joined his. Yes, this is my journey. My arm gave out on me for a reason. Perhaps it was years of wear and tear. Too many vinyasas; overbuilt muscle groups; martial arts; the grind of travel and lugging bags. Or maybe it was emotional? The anticipation and expectation hangover of releasing my book; the demise of my marriage; the stifling of my voice amongst the weeds of my experience. At this point I don’t even need to know why, because I’ve shifted all of my energy from the ‘why’ into ‘yes, and …’.
Yes, and I want to move on. I’m ready to drop the story, the need to understand, and move forward. I’m ready to … run?
So yeah, do I like running on a treadmill? Now that I really think about it —yes. What I really like is having a body. A body that gives me the ability to run. To modify. This resilient and delicate body — especially when the narrative and ego is dropped — that has the ability to heal, restore, and adapt.