Never Skip Leg Day

This past Monday I had another appointment with Mike, and we met at the gym so he could see my progress on the routine he’d given me. I arrived a few minutes before him, so I hopped on the treadmill to warm up. He was immediately impressed with my form and excited about the pace I told him I’d been keeping. I average ten minutes of 2.8 km/h pace before another five minutes slowing down the pace to keep my legs happy when they start to act up.

To make that clear, I can walk fifteen minutes without stopping at an almost able-bodied pace.

Mike wasn’t going to let me stop there – which is why I keep making appointments with him. He watched me go through the three other machines to work out my legs and then added in a circuit toning my arms – because why not, he said. He then made me practice stepping up and down on a stool, focusing my attention on using my hips and butt rather than pulling myself along with my arms. I can do a couple flights of stairs, but the effort is still mainly in my arms at this point. Mike wants to see me capable of a flight of stairs using my legs soon. Full disclosure, he told me he wanted to get me using the stair stepper instead of the treadmill before I leave. It’s good to have goals, right? It’s a scary one, to be honest, but I’ve seen such incredible improvement over the last five months that I’m willing to shoot for it.

The last thing we did together was time me walking from one end of the small gym to the other and back. I managed a 1:09 time on my first go. For a gage, Mike timed himself walking at a slow pace with an additional three seconds to account for standing, turning, and sitting and made the lap in 26 seconds. When I went for my second run, I shaved off five seconds and hit 1:04. “I think I can do it in a minute!” I told him brightly.

I took a few deep breaths to prepare and then launched myself up holding on to just one of Mike’s hands and pushed myself hard to the end of the gym and back. There was a tiny stumble on the way back that cost me a couple seconds, but I regained my balance quickly and returned to my seat to hear what the time was. Mike looked at his watch and gave me a grimace, “You were so close.”

“What was it?” I knew it was the stumble that added back those seconds I wanted to get off the last time.

“Fifty-six seconds,” he grinned before giving me a high five.

I felt like a gold medal champion. Since Mike can do it slowly in just about half that time, we set a goal for me to make that distance within thirty seconds before I leave New Zealand.

Mike encouraged me to keep up my routine and check in with him in a couple weeks to see what marked improvements I have. I made it back three more days since then to do my leg and arm circuit, and I’m still feeling improvements in my strength and stamina. Balance is an ongoing struggle, which, honestly, is what needs to improve to speed up my pace when I’ve only got one hand on Mike during our test. I know I can still practice lots of things to see my balance strengthen along with the other improvements I’m making, so I’ll keep putting in the hard work. I’ve got a pretty decent weekly routine worked out that can get me to the gym regularly and watch my body get better.

I’m also fortunate to have the ongoing encouragement of friendly Kiwis who constantly comment on my speed and form and celebrate my accomplishments with me. For all of you inclined to pray for me, praise God for the positive people in my life here and overseas who are consistently encouraging me when I face lots of struggles. It isn’t easy for me to do the leg curl – and the automatic counter on the machine doesn’t always recognize the motion that my weak legs put in – but I’m not giving up. I deal with enough negativity from my own brain that defaults to being embarrassed about setting all of the leg machines to the lowest resistance in order to move them at all, so when people go out of their way to encourage me or notice the difference in my walking, it means a lot.

Actually, to be honest, any encouragement anyone gives me means a lot. I need a lot of support, and I want to give a huge shout out to the people who intentionally add positivity to my life. A couple years ago, I started sending out a handful of encouraging messages to people who mattered in my life every couple of months because I’d realized how valuable it was to me when people intentionally reached out to support me. The fringe benefit was that when I offered positivity to others, I felt more positive myself. I actually used to make my most notoriously whiny student do it occasionally, and he’s remarkably less whiny as a person now. (In fact, dude, I know you read this, and you’re probably due for another round.)

It’s a healthy habit that I want to keep included in my life, and I’d encourage you to try. I know the routine is different for everyone. For example, I can never skip leg day because my body needs the constant attention, and I need to have a regular opportunity to be kind to others or my soul shrivels up and I become extra cynical. This week, I want to give an extra thanks to Jen and Nicki who both read through my very first draft of what I’m calling a memoir and gave helpful feedback. I also want to celebrate how awesome my friends Emily and Givorgy are for hearing my unfiltered thoughts and frustrations without judging me at various points this week. Finally, shout out to my sister Denise who doesn’t read my blog but texted me that she loves me yesterday; that was super nice.

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