I train two women that have significant structural damage to their spines. I will call them Carol and Anne. At first glance, Anne appears completely healthy; however, she had a serious back injury over 30 years ago that left her with long term damage and ultimately chronic pain. Carol suffered a disc herniation 20 years ago that resulted in 3 failed low back surgeries. She has an unsteady gait, but no pain. Anne participated in powerlifting for years after her injury until about 12 years ago, when she realized maybe she needed to explore other exercise options. She still skis, hikes, and snow shoes regularly. Her doctors are shocked that she can do as much as she can with the severity of her structural issues. Carol’s imaging indicates she needs both knees replaced; the doctors are surprised she doesn’t have any pain and is still able to live by herself, travel, and walk regularly.
People love to post inspirational pictures and stories. Motivational memes invoking thoughts like “Strong is the new skinny” and “Beast mode,” regularly make the rounds on social media. While I love watching amazing people move in graceful, effortless ways, it’s people like Carol and Anne that are the true inspiration. So many of us take our functioning bodies for granted. We don’t wonder what it would be like to have pain that will never go away or have a leg that sometimes doesn’t do what you ask it to. We focus on the little grievances, aches and pains that could possibly be improved with a diet of less processed food and a mindful exercise program. Instead of appreciating each walk outside by the ocean, we ponder what we could be doing or think about how we would rather do something else. Carol and Anne appreciate everything their bodies do for them and focus on working with what they’ve got. My goal is to be more like Carol and Anne and be grateful for what my body does for me, every day.