My body, the teacher

I wrote the following entry in January 2018. As I continue to feel like I am living a life in transition, I thought publishing it was an important step in my journey as a writer and managing my deep desire to remain grounded. Also, I see it as a radical act of self-love, in having the courage to look at a past version of myself, accept and love her for who she is/was, and share it. This is the first of several past posts. 

I started cross fit so that I could to get back into team sports, something I’d been missing for years. I decided to play soccer, and a good friend added me to her team’s roster. Using my rarely worn cleats from San Francisco and shin guards from my brother, Rob, I became the newest member of Team Slay for a recreational division 2 women’s league. It was a 6-game season from October through November, and I played in five of the games. There are some modifications for division 2 games: 9 versus 9 (instead of 11 a side), 40-minute halves, and a slightly smaller field.

Before the first game, I made sure to get there early, like an hour and half early,  so I could properly warm up. I mean, I hadn’t actually played an official soccer match in 17 years. Fortunately, muscle memory is a real thing and the 10 years I played in my youth left me with skills. I used my body well to guard the ball, interrupted passes, and was able to keep up with all of the running. After we won, I left feeling pretty confident I’d returned to a competitive level of playing. I might even be an asset to the team. Can you feel my excitement (read: naiveté)? In the next match, I could only get there half an hour early, but since I’d been going to the gym fairly consistently I was pretty sure it would be fine. Um, no! That was a mistake. Within the first 5 minutes of playing, I pulled my left hamstring. Talk about embarrassing! Here I am subbing for someone, and she has to come back in because I’m hobbling on the field. I tried to stretch and massage it out on the sidelines, but it was no use. I sat out the entire second half. Now, did this happen because I’m over 30 and no longer play soccer? Not entirely. I’m pretty sure it was because I was out sick with a flu for the week leading up to the game, didn’t warm up at all, because I’m over 30, and I didn’t think any of those factors actually mattered anymore. D’oh!

Well, I wasn’t ready to quit, even though I was barely limping around the house. With little improvement after a couple of days of icing and ibuprofen, I went to a physical therapist from the gym, Adrienn. This tiny Hungarian woman, a bodybuilder and triathlete, was phenomenal! With pain so excruciating, reminiscent of labor, I was much better after one rehab session and was ready to play in the game just a week after the injury. It was our most competitive game yet, against the University of Guam women’s team. In the last play of the game, as UOG was trying to score, I came to defend when C R A S H! POP! Someone’s cleat got the top of my foot. The sound terrified me. I pressed my foot to the ground and discovered that while nothing was broken I couldn’t put any pressure on my foot.

Ugh! Now, I had a swollen and bruised left foot to add to my already injured hamstring. Finally, I understood the lesson that my body just ain’t what it used to be. After giving myself permission to take the next game off. I focused the time on letting my body heal. This was hard for me. Physically slowing down and taking it easy required a lot more mental strength than I imagined. I’m accustomed to having an idea, a want, a need, and being able to act on it right away. This required patience, discipline, and faith that all would be alright. I continued going to cross fit classes, made appropriate modifications when needed, and kept up with weekly visits with Adrienn.

After a 3-week hiatus, I returned to soccer in time for the playoffs. My body wasn’t fully recovered, but it was well enough to play as long I was smart about how I used it. We won in the semi-finals and played UOG once again in the finals. Those 18-to-21 year-olds were ready, and we…weren’t. We had 10 players (1 sub), they had 18. We were missing four of our starters, they had their complete roster. Fifteen minutes in, the same crash and pop occurred forcing me onto the sidelines. I removed my cleat and instantly my left foot swelled up. As I was massaging and icing it to get the blood circulating, my teammate collided with a UOG player and had to come out with a knee injury. I’d been out for less than five minutes when I had to squeeze my foot back into my cleat and play the remaining 60 minutes. I’d like to tell you that we pulled a Kerri Strug and came away with the championship trophy. That, despite the differences in age and weight, Team Slay’s veterans still got it. But, we didn’t. We lost 2-4

So, do I still got it? I got something, that’s for sure. Here’s what I’ve learned: I’m 34 years old, which means my body is 34 years old too. Even though I have the athletic mindset of my former teenage Guam-based self, my body isn’t anywhere close to that, especially without any real practice in the many years since. Oeuf! I needed some real pain to make sure that lesson was learned. However, it’s not over for me, just yet.  I continue to push myself at the gym, I’m aware of and focus on my areas of weakness (hamstrings, endurance), and I practice self-care (massage and release techniques with a physical therapist, rolling out tight muscles/joints). When that spring season comes around, I’ll be ready. I’ve still got some of that competitive fire left in me that burned for years and defined a lot of who I was in my earlier years. And, I’m gonna use it!

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