Friday, August 19, 2011

The Day I Ran Out of Excuses

It was an afternoon, I don’t remember when—maybe 2 years ago—and I was at the gym. I was at the pool. I was in the hot tub, pre-pool. I wasn’t excited. I may have mentioned swimming isn’t my strong suit, but I try to make it happen. At the time I was always trying to force myself into 40 laps—just a bit over a ½-mile, but enough of a bit to make sure it’s a solid ½-mile.

I was sitting there soaking and trying to think of reasons not to swim, as I’m wont to do, and I noticed a wheelchair poolside—there was no one in it. There was some piece of cloth signifying a triathlon attached to it. There were other indications of athletic triumph attached to it.  

I don’t remember the details so much, honestly, but I remember this guy. He was swimming laps. He was a better swimmer than me. He was faster. He was the only person in the pool. He was the only other person in the swim area. He was, from what I could surmise, paraplegic—at a minimum, he had, at that time, no apparent use of his legs. I couldn’t tell by his swimming, although I noted after a while he wasn’t kicking. It was confirmed when he got out of the pool. This was the day I ran out of excuses.

There’s not really much more to say about it than that, but of course I’ll ramble on. It’s not like I stared. And I didn’t dream it, either. Although I’ve only seen him there that one time, others at the gym have acknowledged his existence. And I acknowledge the fact that I’m making a lot of (or at least some) presuppositions. I won’t spell them out, because for the most part, they’re probably obvious. They’re irrelevant. Whether these presuppositions are true or not, this man is an inspiration for me to this day. I don’t know who he is.

I don’t know how long he swam, but I know it was at least 10 minutes, because that’s how long I’d sat in the hot tub marveling over how well this guy swam and figuring out that wheelchair was his, and I’d bet it was a good while longer than that. I just watched. Should I feel bad for that? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t think he’s say “yes.” This guy, he wasn’t using a pull buoy as I am now with my one hurt knee. He was just swimming, and there are others that swim with no kick and I’m aware of that, but man, this guy was moving. Moving way better than me through the water, even to this day. And the part that got me, the moment all my excuses to skip exercise melted away, was when he finished his workout.

I feel like the reason for the inspiration is obvious, and I also feel like maybe it’s something I shouldn’t type about…like maybe it’s taboo or insensitive. But it’s not meant to be like that and honestly, I just can’t help it.

He’d been doing all this swimming, and then he was done. He rested at the side of the pool for just a moment. He put his hands on the edge of the pool, just as I would, and hoisted his self out, as I’ve done lately with my hurt knee: lift then twist to sit on the edge. But then he didn’t move his legs and he put his hands on his wheelchair, and he hoisted himself into that. His legs weren’t moving—it didn’t seem they would. And without looking around or at me or any other consideration what-so-ever, he wheeled himself back into the gym. That’s all I know of that guy. I’ve made some assumptions. Irrelevant.

I got out of the hot tub and swam my 40 laps. I’ve swam at least 40 laps once per week every week since that day (with rare I’m-on-a-2-or-3-week-vacation-to-South-or-Central-America exceptions). My swimming has gotten better. I suspect he’d still beat my ass in competition.

I’ve come up with plenty of excuses to not exercise in my day—I’m just tired; I don’t feel like it; my stomach is too full; my stomach is too empty; I’m probably undernourished; I didn’t sleep well last night; I worked out hard yesterday—and some of these can be valid, don’t get me wrong. It’s important to listen to one’s body and know how far one can push oneself. I’ve pushed myself too far plenty of times and learned some important lessons on physical limitations—again, another blog entry altogether. But now, any time I think of one of these excuses not to exercise or any number of others, I always think of that guy hoisting his self out of the pool and into his wheelchair, then wheeling away. And more often than not, I drop my excuse and exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment