Growing up, Mom signed me up for every sport. She liked to keep her kids busy, but particularly me. She would encourage that I keep my own daughter busy as well–as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s tools. But sports did more than keep me out of trouble, sports was my outlet. As a child, I was spirited, as they say, which is code word for: CRAZY. I had a lot of energy, aggressive energy, and would drive my Mom and everyone nuts, including myself, unless I was busy running, swimming, biking, kicking, swinging. So Mom put me in swimming, softball, tennis, golf, basketball, soccer, dance, gymnastics….so my days were made up of school, homework and lessons. Repeat. And for the most part, I learned and advanced in each sport quickly.
Like me, Mom loved fitness. She loved to workout hard. She had amazing strength and stamina because of it. But with time, with decades of going too hard for too long, her body began to break down. She died suddenly this past July. She was taken from me and my family too soon, suffering from terrible back and knee pains. I never knew how terrible the pain was because she didn’t like to talk about it with me. Why, I don’t know. And it’s too late for me to ask. I can only fathom now from my own experience, as her daughter, Why.
I too, for many years, didn’t like to talk about pain. And the gym, field, pool were places where I’d sweat out the Malo, the bad, as my Mom would say. And there weren’t many rest days, just plenty of Go-Go-Go days. Hours after my son’s c-section, I managed to pull myself out of bed to walk over to the nursery, ignoring the staff’s pleas for me to stop. A week later, I wore a waist trainer so I could use the treadmill, which I had convinced my husband was for light walking. I was running. I showed up to the pool for a masters swim practice soon after and ignored the Are You Crazy, You Just Had A Baby stares from my lanemates. Was I? Yes, a little bit. But, I told myself that I was tough–something my mother would regularly tell me, which I’d accepted as character, like Disciplined. It’s embarrassing and I am ashamed that I did these things and more. How tough would I have been if my guts spilled out? That’s really fucked up – to think I was that confused. I eventually did stop once my husband got wind of it.
But after my Mom’s death, I was back at it. I scheduled training for a marathon, an Ironman, swim meets. I kept my body and mind busy all day, every day. Though I enjoyed it, exercise wasn’t an outlet, but an escape. From pain. So I’m hitting the breaks. I’ve cut down big time and started scheduling rest days. When I feel agitated, I remind myself that rest days are just as important to the process of building strength, endurance and muscle. And I’m hearing her voice now again, telling me, Hijita, Descansa. Rest well, she tells me. Give your muscles and bones time to rebuild, find time to re-connect, and give your broken heart time to heal.