My body feels about fitness the way my soul feels about God.
There are these moments in life where you get a preview of what’s to come. It’s a feeling like deja vu in reverse. Experiencing the future-your future-while standing in the present. That is the feeling I get when I step into the gym. From the moment I get in the door, my gloves are on and I’m ready to go. For a recent WOD (workout of the day) I showed up and went over to a bench already setup with dumbbells. I sat facing the rest of the class. Crossfitters doing pristine push jerks and cleans in unison.
Community. Sweat. Solidarity.
Much work is to be done so that I can live in the future that I receive previews of. Every minute counts. Every prayer counts. Every round counts. Every rep counts. Every second counts.
“Good job,” said a fellow athlete to my right.
“Does it look good?” I asked, concerned with my form.
“Yeah” he said.
“I just want it to be perfect” I said. Eyes forward, smiling through the heat, rowing on. Whenever it hurts too much-which is often-or I can’t do another rep-which also happens often-I just think about the future. The long-term goal that motivates me through the short-term suffering. I think about being the fittest version of me. Sometimes though, my personal future isn’t enough to get me through the sweat of it. That is when I think about my children. If I choose to have them, they’re going to have a fit Mama-just like I do-my future offspring deserve the best me I can be. I made it through the 1000m row and the 3 sets of cleans and shoulder presses. Then I got beat by three seconds during the finishing 100 sit-ups. When I went to go take a picture of the WOD on the board as usual, I fell, in between the rowers, not on them-thank God. Teva did not catch me but he did move out of the way very fast. How ironic it was that I nearly hurt myself when the hard part had ended. It took me a half hour and change to complete but I loved that workout. My favorite part of that morning though, was the fall. To clarify, I did not enjoy the fall itself. I voluntarily sign up to train as hard as I can but I am not that much of a masochist. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt. Falling is usually just a mere annoyance now because my body is so heavy that when I fall it’s a lot of dense weight crashing together. The part that I enjoyed was that no one helped me up.
Seeing a person fall, watching them be suddenly jostled out of rhythm is concerning, no matter who they are. Seeing a disabled person, much less a disabled person with a Service Dog take a tumble, the world treats it like a tragedy. As if they have just witnessed a collision and seen bloody victims in the wreckage. I get it, it does look bad and I am so thankful that people care enough to help but it is important to know that people like me are stronger than you might think. It’s difficult to explain, this Half of a Whole existence I live but there are plenty of people who see past the surface. Plenty of people understand that Cerebral Palsy is something I have, it is not who I am. Being that I am a woman with a disability, there’s a certain stigma attached to it, one that I’m not thrilled by because it doesn’t really suit me. Nevertheless, it is a label I wear. I am not the only beauty in a box that would love to break out.
Laying on the ground between the rowers I was so pleased that no one rushed to my side. There was no blood, I did not scream or curse, there was no cause for alarm. It was just a fall and so the people there with me treated it as such.
“Yeah” I said, pushing myself up on my quad and dusting myself off. Smiling. I felt like I should say thank you for not helping me, for not freaking out, for seeing me as I want to be seen; a strong, capable, confident woman.
“I always give it a minute” my coach said, “odds are you’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, sometimes it’s best if I help myself up.”
It’s very interesting the impression I leave in the fitness world, CrossFit in particular. Cerebral Palsy and a Service Dog are atypical pairings with a workout regime so grueling that it has its own version of the Olympics. Men and women train all year for the CrossFit Games to win the title of Fittest on Earth. Then there’s me. Showing up over and over again to do whatever I have to do in order to get to where I want to go. I’m a brand new member at my CrossFit gym so I don’t know everyone and not everyone knows me. The initial expression on the welcoming and friendly members faces when they first notice Teva and I is one of the delight and confusion. Being a CP athlete truly shifts people’s paradigms. Even though I wear this disabled label, even though I do it slower, even though I fall; I get back up just like any other athlete.