Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Don't Have To Do The Really Big Waves: Being Active With MS

As I mountain biked down Phil's Trails yesterday, I thought about not pushing to ride faster or harder, but relaxing into the ride, letting my full body lean into the turns, and appreciating the experience. Instead of fighting my body or stressing it, I relished my body's strength, balance and adaptability.

I think of the documentary, "Surfing For Life," about men and women in their 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's who surf every day. I saw it years ago, and it was an attitude and life altering moment. At one point in the film, 88 year old Woody talks about how he took a tumble while surfing and broke his eardrum.  He described conversations with friends, family and his doctor suggesting he was too old to surf anymore. He understood they wanted him to be safe, and he agreed it was probably time to give up surfing.  And then he thought, "I don't have to do the really big waves."

I loved it.  His approach resonated with me. I realized I can do any sport I enjoy to the level I'm able.  I loved doing gymnastics as a kid and thought I was too old to do it anymore. I found a gym an hour's drive from my house that allowed adults to learn and practice gymnastics at open gym. Their definition of adult is teen and up - funny given most of the attendees were in junior high or high school! It was the only gym I could find that allowed people over the age of 21 to participate. I started going to open gym Thursday evenings from 8-10 pm.

I had a blast learning to do tricks I hadn't been able to do when I was young. It took a year of daily backbend practice and falling to learn to do a back walkover again. I inspired and was inspired by teenage girls. They couldn't believe someone in her late 30's was doing gymnastics with them. After doing a round off back flip one night, a girl said to me, "I hope I can do that when I'm your age!"  I loved that those girls wouldn't grow up believing as I had that we outgrow activities we love.

This week I'm vacationing in Bend, Oregon mountain biking with friends. I enjoy riding last in the group down the single track paths. With less experience and practice than the rest and my own body's limitations, I ride at my own pace and like not feeling like I'm holding up a rider behind me. I figure they wouldn't keep inviting me to ride with them if they minded waiting for me.  And they keep inviting me!

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