A few years ago, when I was in high school :), I tried out for the pompon squad. My sister was about to graduate high school, and she wanted her klutzy little sister to take her place as a Sailorette. (Our motto, “Sailorettes Shake It,” meant we shook our pompons, not our rear ends, just to be clear. Seriously.) Initially, I tried out for the squad to please my sister — or certainly because of her encouragement. But by the end of tryouts, I really hoped I would make the squad, and I did.
What followed was a year on the 50-yard line as the tallest girl on the squad, two-pound poms in each hand, bus rides and hair braids, a wardrobe of orange and black, and learning and performing dance routines for a full football season plus marching band competitions and local parades. I absolutely loved it.
Toward the end of that school year, I again had to try out for the squad. Previous participation did not guarantee a spot. This tryout bore much more weight than the first one. I had experienced being a pompon girl. I knew what I had to lose if I didn’t make the squad. The threat of losing my place made me realize just how important it was to me.
I had a similar experience with running recently.
Three weeks ago, I bruised my shin bone. I was getting into the back seat of an SUV in the dark, holding a heavy bag in each hand, wearing a dress and high heels, when I slipped and landed directly on my left shin. It hurt terribly and swelled immediately. I limped my way from the car to the elevator, from the elevator to our apartment, and from there to the couch, where I propped up my legs, allowed my husband to administer ice, and began the process of feeling sorry for myself.
A bone bruise is sometimes called a “pre-fracture,” meaning some fibers of the bone have actually been damaged; recovery is slow — as in months rather than days or weeks. “All bruises were healed by the end of two years,” one article read. Really, years? So instead of following my planned agenda, I was resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the injured area. “You are at risk for re-injury,” my husband repeatedly reminded me. I did not want that, but I was afraid that might mean I couldn’t do anything that would challenge that area of my leg — including running.
When I wanted to at least walk during my morning exercise times, my husband (and physical therapist) warned against it, suggesting swimming instead. Sigh. I knew if I disobeyed my physical therapist’s orders and got injured, I would pay the price — a scolding along with discontinuation of therapy. So I obeyed. Mostly. I walked little stretches with my friend and then swam for longer stretches. I was frustrated, imagining months without running — and the trial of working my way back to my former fitness level.
I wanted to run. Immediately.
This attitude from the girl who wrote about running in a post titled “My hate-love relationship…” because I hated to run but loved how I felt after I ran. (I also liked losing some weight without really adjusting my diet.)
I was shocked that I actually missed this tormenting form of exercise.
I was more shocked last weekend when my husband casually mentioned that I should try running — just 10 minutes — to see how my leg responded. And so I did — and though my shin remains swollen and slightly discolored these three weeks after my accident, it didn’t worsen after the run. The next day I ran again — 17 minutes — and had no issues. My physical therapist cleared me to resume my running schedule. Woohoo!
It took the fear of losing running to make me realize how much I wanted to do it, rather like my experience with pompon tryouts back in high school — except I actually knew I enjoyed being part of the squad long before my second tryouts. Following those, when the list of girls for the 1982-83 Sailorettes got posted, I was too afraid to look. One of my friends looked for me. I had made the team.
Whew and woohoo!
It’s been said that “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”; I’ve said it myself. But sometimes the threat of loss is all it takes to love something better.