My bike wasn't too happy when I took it out for the first time this year. It had lots of kinks to work out after an idle winter. My pack wasn't too happy either, as I splattered mud on just about every inch of everything. My body can't be left off this list. My shoulders felt the weight of my body leaning against the handle bars. My lungs felt the burn of cold spring air. My legs were screaming bloody murder and my creaky hips knew that they were moving.
I went for a 14 km ride, which last year would have been considered a short jaunt. Last summer I had managed to pull off a couple of century rides on the Kawartha Classics routes. I felt disheartened as something I had taken for granted for so many years was now hard to access - my athleticism.
For most of my life I have participated in sports of some variety. Until middle school I was a figure skater, then I shifted to tennis. After that I had a go at competitive horseback riding, rowing, and now most recently rock climbing.
While I may have been very indecisive in regards to which aspect of athleticism I participated in, I always had unwavering faith that whichever sport I tried, my body would keep up. There was no question in my mind that I was an athlete.
In my first year of university I joined the rowing team. This was the most fantastic experience. I loved the sport and met many wonderful people, some of whom are now my roommates (six of us squeeze into a house). However, nearing the end of last season I began to feel an ache in my hips and back. It got so bad during exercise that blurring and black spots in my vision were common. For a long time I simply ignored it and pushed through the pain. When I finally went to the doctor they took x-rays and a multitude of other tests. They found slight scoliosis and arthritis in my SI joints.
In theory a few weeks rest, followed by management through physio and chiropractic should allow my body to come to a state where I could participate in sports that did not include repeated motion or impact. Which unfortunately included a lot of what I loved most, like rowing, cycling, and most importantly, running. I tried to go to the gym here and there, but I felt lost without the ability to run. Running had been my outlet throughout all my other activities. Stressed? Angry? Happy? Any other emotion? Go for a run and I was guaranteed to feel better.
Over the months since I was diagnosed, I have begun to eat differently - and not for the better. I stopped exercising completely. I watched my motivation in many aspects of my life circle the drain. With these changes I also felt my body change. I feel weaker, my body has considerably less muscle, and generally I feel unfit. I also gained a lot of bad weight. But what bothers me most is no longer feeling strong and no longer feeling healthy.
Recently I decided that enough was enough. I have started rock climbing and take myself out for hiking adventures. I'm making an effort to enjoy sport again and to enjoy what my body has to offer me: the ability to move.
Contributed by Jen Stoltz @jen_stoltz
Jen is currently enrolled at Trent University in the Geography and Environmental Resource Studies Program. Her athletic pursuits have allowed her to explore Peterborough and the Kawarthas but she now focuses on her new passion - climbing. For a local rock climbing experience, Jen is often found at Rock and Rope in Peterborough.