Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Dangers of Exercise (Richmond, VA)

Exercise is dangerous to your health. This unfortunate truth has been hit home to me time and time again.

The first time it hit me, it did so with force. I was 21 years old, pitching a no-hitter in Manhattan's Central Park, with a group of friends, when a man (who had asked to join us) smashed a line drive into my face. Don't believe it if someone tells you that a softball is a soft ball. That sucker lifted me up, then deposited me on the ground four to six feet from my launching pad. I had an out-of-body experience, watching myself fly through the air from a perspective about two feet south of Heaven. By the time the ambulance had arrived and the batter(er) had run away, I was convinced that all my teeth were going to spill out of my mouth. They were the only things that hurt; the ball had damaged the nerve in my face, leaving it numb -- a good thing, as I never felt the pain of my broken jaw, nose, and the bone under my eye. By the time I was back on my feet -- with two black and jagged-red radiating-line-decorated eyes, the gluey remnants of recently removed bandages still visible, and a crooked nose that would ensure that modeling could never be my profession -- I had sworn off soft, base, foot, and basketball or any sport or exercise involving round objects sailing through space that could come into close or far proximity with my face.

My next brush with the perils of exercise occurred years later. I was participating in a calisthenics class, and the instructor decided to break the group into teams and have us race each other. As a woman of already a certain age (but much younger), I was in my element. I used to sprint competitively, and this was a chance to strut my stuff. So, I hit the ground running, until I hit the ground, running. My knee promptly swelled up to the size of a bowling ball. I have avoided running, bowling, and the ground ever since.

I literally and figuratively hit a wall about a year and a half ago, while taking a combat aerobics class. You use moves from various martial arts, but there is no person-to-person contact in this type of exercise. There's not supposed to be any contact with walls, either. But on that ill-fated day, just a few minutes into the warm-up, I was moving forwards and back, when the next thing I knew, I was not. I found myself sitting up against the wall, my wrists hurting like hell, and with no memory of what had transpired. I emerged from the emergency room with a broken right wrist, a sprained wrong thumb, and a lump on the back of my head. I couldn't drive, dress myself, or type on the keyboard for the next two months or more. I managed to obtain a special pencil that attached to the middle finger of my left hand, but I could never read whatever it was that I wrote, so I ended up just using the device as an extended finger to indicate my anger -- if you know what I mean. Since then, I've kept my distance from combat, walls, and anyone or anything I consider backward.

I've probably erased from memory other exercise-related mishaps, but the latest occurred a few evenings ago. I was dancing with one of my salsa buddies, when I stepped on my very own foot. When I removed my shoe later that night, revealing broken skin and a bloody toe, I resolved to avoid referring to dancing as exercise.

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