I have met my match. I have the annoying habit of making people think I am listening to them, and I do at times take heed, but most times I nod and know that I’m not necessarily going to listen. Not any more, he speaks and I jump to attention.
We met in his gym. His frank demeanour is a little unnerving. He gazed at my scarred, now misshapen foot, studied my latest X-rays and listened to my demise caused by total abuse of my foot in my running days. I will go to any means to relive that sublime feeling of fitness. The sound of running shoes hitting the pavements in unison, the soft chuckles with running friends, the early morning sunrises and sometimes sunsets in the forests. The sweat, the screaming muscles, the literal pain and glory. I tell him this, and I sense he gets it. My first session is varying balancing exercises which I am dismal at as I discover rapidly that I have been relying on my left foot and leg for everything. He ends that first session with “rules” and I know then that I am not going to break them.
For the last three weeks I have been balancing on a small piece of blue sponge on my right foot, knee locked, knee bent, calf raises on a toe that I never thought would bend, lunges backwards onto my stiff foot, I pull him across the room in a harness to activate my toes and foot muscles he then pulls me back so that I am forced to resist, I have to repeatedly climb up and down a bench with just my right foot, I squat, I stretch, my calf screams for release, and the exercise changes. The beads of perspiration build more from the concentration than the exertion. I see him quizzically studying me from time to time and I’m still not sure if he is amazed at how weak I have become or at my tenacity. There is the odd laugh when I get the movement wrong, but back to the drawing board we go.
“So, what’s your dream?” he asked last week. “To be able to run”I answered. “How far? he asks as he cocks his head to the side. “Far enough to sweat.” “I’m going to break my own rules, come with me.” I follow and find myself at the treadmill. “1 km only and let me know exactly how it feels, I’m going to study your take off and landings” OMG I’m like a kid in a candy store, Chariots of Fire may as well be blaring out loud. My 1km is soon over, I am ecstatic, stiff….but not sore. “Right, come, lets discuss the rules” We sit on the mat. He puts my foot up against his chest, he applies his body weight, I return the pressure, then he says “just relax your leg.” This proves to be the most difficult ask of all. He quietly urges me to let the pressure go, let the pain go, free yourself of this foot, free yourself of all the foot has meant to you. I am slowly lulled and feel my throat thickening and tears in my eyes.
This week I am allowed to do 2km on a flat treadmill. It is life changing for me. Even though the other parts of my life still feel like Kalk Bay traffic at Christmas time I am teetering on the brink of becoming a self-governing individual. I am actually feeling kind of delighted about all the compartments of time and space that are appearing in my days, during which I can ask myself the radical new question, “What do you want to do Shan?”
My time on the couch has brought this ray of hope, a new life, accompanied with a new little village, my time with my match has unlocked my crucial physical well being. I bow down before both your talents. You have possibly unlocked a demon….
Ambivalent. I was. No longer. I know exactly what I want.