Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Ski or Not to Ski

Okay, I’m back. How many times can I say that phrase?

I’m finally coming up for air, after six months of pure chaos. I know, it’s no excuse not to exercise, or even post here, but I’m calling it water under the bridge and moving on.

The NY house finally sold, and our whole family is finally in Colorado. We are still in the tiny condo, but if the stars are all aligned, we’ll be moving into a rental house in just two weeks…with twice the space. Then it will be time to truly exhale.

I am actually excited about getting back to a routine. Not just with exercise, but with cooking, grocery shopping, laundry…the things that make up life. I am here today, finally posting about my fitness journey, because I can actually say I went to the gym yesterday. Even in the middle of a snowstorm. And it was good. And yes, I have vowed to show up there many times a week, from this day forward.

I have gone to our local recreation center a total of three times since we’ve lived in Colorado. That’s bad. Especially considering all of my home exercise equipment is in a moving truck somewhere. So I can’t even pretend or allude to the fact that I’ve just been ‘doing it at home’.

But something happened this week that kicked me in the butt. It has to do with skiing.

I love to ski. It’s probably my very favorite activity, the top athletic perk that came with trading out my old leg for this new bionic one. I skied a lot in Utah. I found a fantastic program in Park City, and on the first anniversary of my amputation surgery, I began my lessons. Every Friday, that season and the two that followed, Jeff and I drove up to Park City and skied all day. It was cheap, through the Ability Center, and became a priceless get away for two people who are raising a house full of kids together.

I’d have two hours of lessons in the morning, then we’d spend all afternoon on the slopes together. We’d do a few runs late in the morning, then stop halfway down the slope, at a little café, and split a hot juicy hamburger and fries. So many times I’d sit by that roaring fire, wondering if this was really my life. It was almost too good to be true.

Then we moved to NY. The skiing was more expensive and the snow was much less predictable. It was glaringly obvious why we always found ourselves on chair lifts with New Yorkers, back when we skied in Utah. There was a reason they all flew West to ski.

Life was crazier than usual. All four kids were in school, once Sam started kindergarten. The cost of living was outrageous. I went back to work, full time, then part time. We were constantly renovating the house. There just wasn’t any extra time or money to get me outfitted in the ski gear that I used to use for free in Utah. The ski conditions were not as stable, which I relied on a lot, as I swished down my favorite bunny slopes in Utah. I never got around to skiing in NY.

As soon as we knew we might be moving to Colorado, I knew I’d get to ski again. Not only is the snow just like Utah snow, but there are lots of adaptive programs in Colorado. It was exciting to think I could pick up my favorite sport again.

The past six months, as we’ve tried SO hard to get our family moved here, the priority had to be getting the kids on the slopes. Money was extremely tight, as we supported two households, while we waited for the NY house to sell. We lucked out, by having a local mountain with season passes for only 180 dollars. We bought a few, and then Grammy came through and bought the others, as Christmas presents for the kids.

By early Dec, my whole gang was enjoying the perfect Colorado slopes. And I was okay with waiting.

I know myself, when it comes to challenges. It’s all about the mental for me. I have to feel confident going into a challenge, or I’ll bail the second it gets hard. Then I’ll walk around thinking I hate that activity, just because one day went badly.

So I’d made a deal with myself, and shared it with my family. I need to get strong again, or skiing will not be fun for me. I tend to have weak hip muscles as it is, because of my years of disability before I got my new leg. When I skied in Utah I was strong. I loved it because I was capable and in control. So before I even click on the skis on a CO mountain, I want to be strong.

Since this ski season is slipping by, I made a promise to myself. I’ll spend this spring getting back in shape, getting back in control when it comes to fitness. I’ll jump on mountain bikes and spend time on the trails with my boys this spring. I’ll hike with my family this summer. Then, once October rolls around, I’ll be ready.

I’ll get the right gear together. I’ll find a pair of outriggers (the special poles I use, that act as second ‘brakes’ for me). I’ll hit that mountain ready.

Then I had an unexpected phone call this week. The manager of our local mountain, who we’ve come to know from spending so much time up there this year, called about an unrelated topic. By the end of our conversation I’d told her I’m a disabled skier. She hadn’t even known I was an amputee (long pants in winter, and all).

She is very familiar with disabled skiers and programs. She told me that our local mountain even has an instructor on staff who has trained Para-Olympic athletes. I had planned to drive over to Winter Park to get my Colorado lessons, and suddenly I’m finding out I can get lessons locally, with a well trained coach. She also had connections for finding me outriggers and anything else I might need on the slopes.

Whoa. I had been a bit slow in the motivation department, thinking I had months to get into shape. Our friend on the mountain was excited about doing all she could to get me on the mountain this year. Even if it’s just a few days in the late spring, softer snow. Now my fitness goal has been pushed to overdrive.

It’s just as well, I suppose. I’m still only about 30% confident that I’ll click into skis before October. But there’s no reason to drag my feet about getting in shape, either way.

So I looked up our bigger recreation center, the one closer to our soon to be new house, and Michael and I drove over there yesterday. He spent a half an hour digging the car out from the new 5 inches of snow we got, and then we slid our way down the road, in the still falling snow.

And I loved it. I felt so at home there. For never having been an athletic person, I love being in a gym. Maybe because I spent so many years feeling so inadequate there. Now I feel like I belong.

Let me be honest, to me, it’s one of the perks of my metal leg. People see me there and they give respect. They either assume I’m in the middle of rehab, after ‘my accident’, or they think I’m some super amazing disabled athlete. Neither are true. I’m just a soft middle aged lady, trying to get strong again. But it sure is motivating, to push harder and longer, when I know I’m getting ‘points’.

And I feel so good when I hit my wall, then push on. I love having the music pounding in my earphones, matching the rhythm of the song with my pumping legs. When I’m not riding to the rhythm of my music, I match my pace with the guy on the treadmill beside me.

I’ve made it no secret that I am in awe of runners. The fluidity. The rhythm. The pace. It’s all magic to me. It’s all I can do not to stare, when I have a smooth runner on the machine next to me. But yesterday I watched token random runner guy out of the corner of my eye, and I took encouragement from his long, even strides. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend I was running next to him.

I walked out of there feeling great. Wanting to come back. Wanting to get the strong me back. It’s all within my control. Whether I hit the slopes this year or not. It’s my game again.

And it’s good to be back.