… Staying there is hard.”
Years after I stopped training with him, the words of my trainer, Jimmy Ng, still echo inside my muscle memory every time I step foot into a gym.
“You’re an athlete, Barb,” Jimmy would say. “You’re not working out, you’re training.”
Although I wasn’t training for anything in particular, Jimmy was right. I’ve always been an athlete.
According to my mom, I learned how to swim before I could walk. When I was barely 6 months old, my dad took me into his arms and together we went into the waves off the beach at Guanabo, Cuba.
My dad was a swimmer. I was about to become one.
Legend has it a wave knocked me out of my dad’s arms as my mom stood screaming by the shore, losing sight of her baby, not knowing what was to become of her only child.
Mom was not a swimmer. She was, and always has been, an overprotective mother whose unconditional love taught me that no matter how much it hurts, love will always lead me back to the person I was put on this earth to be.
But that day on the beach in Guanabo … as my dad calmly searched for me underneath the churning waters, and my mom stood by helplessly on the shore, I was taught a lesson in patience that has stayed with me ever since.
Wait for it … always seems to be the gift the Universe longs to give me if I trust Her enough to just wait and see what She has in store.
What seemed like an eternity later, my tiny feet cracked the surface and my dad pulled me out of the water feet first.
I was a laughing hysterically, apparently quite fond of what had just happened.
Hence began my love affair with athletics.
I was never much of a team player (Another legend says I’m a selfish only child), but I was always an athlete. Swimming, running, and cycling have always been my drug of choice.
At midlife, however, I discovered weight training and suddenly the scrawny kid from Brooklyn found a strength I never knew I had.
When I began to train with Jimmy, I wasn’t training for anything in particular, except for the greatest game of all, the game of life.
At 55, I was fitter than I’d ever been. Everyone noticed. I noticed. It was the kind of fit that would help me lift two fifty pound suitcases into the trunk of a taxi — after I’d flown 5,000 miles across the pond with little sleep — and make it look like I’d tossed two rag dolls over my shoulder.
I stopped training with Jimmy after a few months but I kept on a regular gym schedule, determined to “stay there” no matter how much work it took.
But life got in the way. And even though I found it harder and harder to “stay there,” I always knew I could “get there” again.
And then the unthinkable happened.
A couple of months ago, I fell off my bike and broke my wrist.
I’m an athlete. Injuries are for wimps.
But this time, my body didn’t heal as fast as I had hoped. The weeks of dumbed down training took a toll on all of me, physical, mental, and spiritual.
Getting there is easy, staying there is hard, I kept reminding myself.
Jimmy was right. When you start to train, you reach your goals very easily. Your body adapts and grows stronger day by day. But then you plateau. And to go beyond that plateau, to stay there, you have to double your efforts.
And that’s when it gets tough.
It’s the same with any new skill you’re trying to learn.
Sports, after all, are a metaphor for life.
But my injuries and inabilities to work out have humbled me. And they are once again my teacher.
And this is what they are saying …
Begin again. Don’t expect to pick up where you left off. Welcome the challenge of getting there again and perhaps discovering something new.
Are the physical “injuries” a metaphor for a deeper pain?
Can it be that to find the source of my physical injuries, I must first find the source of the injuries to my soul?
Can it be that as I heal from my physical injuries, I will heal my soul?
But I know one thing … I’ll get there again.
And I’ll always find reasons to stay there.