16, Aug, 2012

Pain, Gain, and Olympic Inspiration

img0815Two weeks have passed since I posted my last blog entry August 2nd. This summer for me is a busy one, almost too intense — sometimes overwhelmingly so — but fun. However, I’ve been cheating myself out of one of my favorite stress relievers — exercise. I’ve only done the minimum forty minutes or so of cardio daily, and my abs — a hundred crunches at night. Since my schedule’s been overloaded and often erratic, I’ve missed out on riding my mountain bike, which is something I really dig doing in the summer.

Also, I’ve gotta admit that the onset of the Olympics and its pantheon of well-muscled, insanely fit, amazingly graceful athletes did make an impact on my self-image. What I’m saying is, I started obsessing on my glutes and hams, and foolishly thought that a rigorous session of back kicks and leg extensions would set me right. And it might’ve, if I hadn’t done them “half-assed,” (no pun intended) that is, haphazardly and in such a hurry.

Shortly after I initiated my inept attempt at muscle sculpting, the harsh consequences of bad body mechanics pounded down on me like a stampede of rabid buffalo. On the morning of August 5th, I woke up with intense back pain, the kind of pain that assaults you, body-slams you, gets you in a rear naked choke hold and squeezes till all your creativity shrivels up and swoons like a Victorian debutante in a too-tight corset. I’ve spent the past eleven days managing the pain: moving gingerly, changing position frequently, applying Biofreeze, a topical pain reliever, to my lower back, and murmuring fervent prayers to the lumbar gods, beseeching their mercy.

img0821My chiropractor rode to the rescue, as he always seems to do, and thanks to numerous visits, a plethora of ice packs, a well-timed session of kickass massage therapy, tons of positive self-talk and some highly focused positive visualization, I’m beginning to feel better. Since I couldn’t get comfortable sitting on my couch for any length of time, I’ve been sampling the Olympics, and checking it out on my laptop. I really don’t know why I watch any of it, except that it’s fascinating and inspiring to see the Olympians perform feats of strength, speed, beauty and grace, things that regular dorky uncoordinated people like me can only dream of doing.

And I love to see the way the athletes handle stress — the unimaginably difficult challenges of the competition, the seemingly omnipresent camera lenses focused on their every move, on each tiny reaction or facial expression as they glance at the scoreboard. Their performances are the sum of years of discipline, self-sacrifice and heavy investment, with no guarantee of remuneration or fame. Sure, they compete for the gold, and if they’re lucky they’ll get product endorsement deals later. But the essential truth of it is that they’ve got to be doing it out of passion, for the love of their sport, which is a beautiful thing.

That said, it’s no wonder that the Olympic Games have been a tradition in our modern world since 1896. Even dorks like me — those of us who plod along from day to day doing nothing more physically challenging than a half hour on a Stairmaster, and who can f*#% up our backs doing back kicks or squats, can relate to the singleminded pursuit of a dream and the ongoing effort to improve our performance in life — to be better…and sometimes, even to be best.

Did you know they used to have rope climbing as an Olympic event? The spectacle consisted of two people racing to the top of the rope, nothing more. They ended it in 1932, so why in the hell don’t they purge that odious form of torture from junior high gym class?

This year, women competed in all the sports, even boxing. That’s badass. Chicks rule. We do, seriously. Four years from now, maybe I’ll make it to Brazil. As a spectator, of course. Hey, my back feels so good I think I’ll go out and pump up the tires on my mountain bike. And if my back still feels good after that, maybe I’ll go for a ride. After all, I put my back on ice, not my dreams!

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