By no means am I an athlete, but over the years, I have incorporated exercise into my life and have become fit. To me, having a dedicated exercise regimen is a necessity. I look at exercise like brushing my teeth, grocery shopping and putting gas in my car. I look at it as a peripheral aspect of daily living required to make my life wholly stable. Through that commitment, I am the healthiest I have ever been. This past Tuesday was my first day back at the gym and boy did I experience more than I expected. Who knew a simple workout could bring me to tears?
Today makes exactly 3 weeks since I had surgery on my arm. A regular workout routine is important to me, sitting out from the gym has been a challenge. I, of course, knew that I would have to layoff from working out as I recuperated, but looked forward to getting back into the swing of things as my healing progresses. After leaving work, I went to my gym, changed into my workout clothes and began my mental preparation for my workout. It was not until then that I realized I forgot my headphones! Dun dun Duuuuun!! Not the one to be deterred by something so minor, I hightailed it back to my car, and before you know it I was back inside on the treadmill. In the back of my mind, I kept the words of wisdom from the doctor. He told me :
"Get back to normal. Do everything you were doing before the surgery...just take it slow.
The better you feel the more you'll do."
The challenge is that my arm has had the nerve damage for a long time and because I wasn't aware of the issue; the way it felt was my "normal". Needless to say, anything I do from now on after my surgery will be new, so it's more like starting my "new normal".
As I started the timer on the treadmill, I fiddled around with my phone trying to decide if I wanted to listen to some tunes or watch Netflix. (Don't trip, you know you do it too!) Before I knew it, 5 minutes had passed and I still had found nothing worth watching. When I looked up at the wall of TV's, on a screen to my left was a track and field event. I love track and field competitions, but these races were different. There was no sound because I did not have my earbuds connected to the audio jack on the treadmill but being familiar with racing, I knew what was about to happen. The runners set up on the starting blocks, the starter gun goes off and the runners are off. Then I noticed, the runners have on prosthetics. I unplugged my earbuds from my phone and plugged it into the audio jack on the treadmill to find out more about what I was watching. It was the Invictus Games. I was immediately captivated.
Started by British Prince Harry in 2014, the #InvictusGames is a paralympic sports event that consists of multiple games, very similar to Olympics. Invictus means "undefeated, unconquered." Service men and women from around the globe compete for medals and recognition with the hopes of showing people that they thrive and can lead active lives like people who have not suffered from traumatic injuries. I continued to watch as the veterans raced. Race after race I was amazed by the sportsmanship of these athletes. Although there were outstanding races and results overall, one race, in particular, resonated with me.
Veterans that are paralyzed can compete in a category that allows them to use a special racing wheelchair. With any athletic competition, commentators have crowd favorites. Once the race started it was clear that an American veteran named Kelly Elimlinger, the favorite for the event took home the gold. The crowd went wild! Then, the crowd starts to cheer even louder. The camera pans over to one sole competitor that was still on the track long after the other competitors crossed the finish line. Ulfat Al-Zwiri, a Jordanian retired soldier was still pushing and anyone watching could see that it was a struggle. I watched with baited breath, thinking "hang in there girl, keep pushing you can do it!" At the point, the commentator tells her story. Ulfat served in the Jordanian army as a nutritionist and that it wasn't until after she left the military was involved in a terrible car accident that not only left her paralyzed, left her with limited mobility in her upper extremities. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, it wasn't until the day of the race that she had ever been in a racing wheelchair. It was then that my eye began to well up with tears.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO VIEW THE RACE VIDEO
What's this? Am I about to cry in the gym?! Keep it together FOXX!
My heartbeat paced quickened as she drew closer to the finish line. I spoke out loud and said, "Come on girl, you can do it!". The guy next to me gave me a quick, this chick must crazy look, but I didn't care. I had to look away several times to fight back the tears. As the soft breeze blew her white hijab, a smile crossed her face. She knew she was almost there, the finish line was mere inches away. And like that, nearly 2 full minutes after Kelly, Ulfat crossed the line and was welcomed with open arms by her fellow competitors. Her parents and brother who accompanied her cheered with joy just like the rest of the stadium. She had done it! No, she didn't win a medal, but that day she won a personal battle and the hearts of people around the world.
This race made me reflect on personal battles that I've experienced in my life and battles that I saw in the lives of my loved ones. Some of my life experience seemed insurmountable at the time, but like time, they passed and I tucked them away in my book of life for reference and inspiration as my life journey continues. My tears signified my kinship with Ulfat and others like her who are looking past fighting the good fight and looking forward to overcoming their next challenge. Here I was, in my recent challenge of rehabilitating my arm to get feeling and function back so that I can start my "new normal". There she was on the TV, a woman who had very little use of her arms and no use of her legs, "winning" a race. Her determination and resilience renewed my outlook on what I was trying to accomplish with my workout. If she could do it, I know that I can!
I finished my workout strong. I took my time and focused on my goals of becoming stronger. Slow and steady of course. I found the Invictus spirit in me and don't intend to forget or minimize my abilities to conquer and defeat experiences that seem to be undefeatable. I don't know Ulfat personally, but I can send out appreciation and love into the universe by sharing my spirit of resilience and motivation with the hopes of helping others find the Invictus spirit within them too.
Track & Field photo Source: https://www.espnwwos.com/complex/venues/track-and-field-complex/