Colleen Haggerty took part in the summer session of The Fit School for Women Walking/Running Program. Colleen is an above-knee amputee. With her permission, I’ve reposted her perspective of her first and last day of the 6-week program. You can visit her blog at http://mymilewalk.wordpress.com/. Get ready to be inspired…
Staying on Track (7/20/11)
Last week I started Carol Frazey’s Fit School for Women Walking/Running program
This program was recommended to me by my friend Cami Ostman, a marathon runner, who assured me that Carol is a great teacher and very accommodating to anyone’s needs. I emailed Carol to be sure she could accommodate me, an above-knee amputee. After some dialogue, I felt assured she could.
On the first morning fifteen women met at 6:30 am at a local high school track. I expected about five women, so when I saw so many, I was intimidated. Just that many more people to look foolish in front of.
We started off by walking around the track. Carol wanted to get a baseline mile for each of us, so she timed us. As I started walking I felt as self-conscious as I did after I lost my leg when I was 17 years old. When some women started running past me, my throat constricted. It was a challenge for me to not compare myself to these fit, two-legged women. I don’t go to a gym; I don’t work out. I just take my daily mile walk. Hell, I don’t even have workout clothes. I wore my cargo pants, an old t-shirt and a corduroy jacket. So to be around women who are clearly active and fit was at first disconcerting. I panicked when I realized that all the other women would likely finished their mile while I still had half a mile to go. Would they all have to wait for me to finish?
Then I remembered what Carol said before we started walking: this is not about comparing ourselves to each other; this is about doing something for ourselves. I’m a busy, working mother. I don’t take much time to do anything for myself – and when I do it’s not usually something healthy, like waking up at 6:30 in the morning to walk and do push-ups. So I puffed out my chest and stood a little taller. I realized that I can compare myself to every woman there till I’m blue in the face and in doing so I’ll only feel worse. Or I can acknowledge that I’m doing this for me, for my health and perhaps I’ll learn a more efficient way to walk. Every woman on that track has a story, a reason to be there, and I decided I’m just another one of those women. I’ve excluded myself, physically and emotionally, for so many years because I’ve told myself I don’t fit in. Well, that morning I decided I do fit in, simply because I showed up.
And, yes, I was the last one to finish the mile. But who’s keeping track?
Personal Best (8/21/11)
Last Thursday was my last day at Carol Frazey’s Fit School for Women. I walked onto the track that morning knowing that we were going to be timed as we pushed ourselves four times around the track – 1 mile. The first day of class six weeks ago we did the same thing - so there was a time to beat.
I told myself it didn’t matter, that going faster is not my goal, that I’m not in this to win anything or to prove anything to anyone. I’m simply doing this class to get fit and be healthy.
What amazes me about runners is that they do it. When I was a girl with two legs, running was always hard for me. Within a block I had a splitting side ache and my lungs felt like they were on fire. Even if I still had my leg, I doubt that running would be my thing. There was one woman in the group who clearly loves to run. Each time she passed me I heard her breath, heavy and steady. Little puffs of morning air escaped, like she was a small dragon-lady. Her gait was fresh and light; her ponytail bouncing behind her like it was swishing flies from her back. It’s not that she was fast; it was that she was determined. She probably was my opposite, wanting the beat her time from the first day of class, wanting to see improvement.
She kind of rubbed off on me. All the women walking and running that morning did. After my first lap, I realized that it I did want to I improve my time. I acknowledged that how fast I walk is directly related to increased fitness. By increasing my pace I increase the benefits of the workout. So I kept walking, despite the muscle cramps in my residual limb.
On my third lap I remembered how hard it was six weeks ago to join this group of able-bodied women who seemed so comfortable in their bodies, who could run if and when they wanted to. I remembered stifling back the tears, feeling like the odd girl out again, just like after I lost my leg.
But this wasn’t about them, this was about me. This was about doing my personal best. And that one runner who ran laps around me inspired me to do my personal best just by doing hers. I decided that this does matter. I did want to improve my pace. I did want to prove to myself – not to anyone else – that I can get better at walking. Even if my fastest walking pace is still slower than everyone else on that track, it was better than when I started.
I am proud to say that I rocked! I finished my mile 2 1/2 minutes faster than 6 weeks prior. I came in at 18 minutes, 41 seconds.
Maybe I’ll sign up for Carol’s next session. Who knows what my personal best can be.