“You have the shoulder of an 80 year old woman, but after this surgery, you will be able to hold your future babies.” Dr. Welker said this as he prepared for surgery to fix my perpetually dislocating shoulder. It was 2003 and this was the second surgery on that shoulder in as many years. Sports injuries and a family pre-disposition had left a deep seated – and warranted – fear of dislocating during everyday activities. I would dislocate while washing my hair, riding a bike, being bumped while walking down narrow steps. The idea of being able to hold a baby and walk around with confidence seemed like a pretty big leap.
Well, the surgery was successful (thanks to Dr. Welker and lots of PT) but the fear of dislocating or causing additional damage was holding me hostage. My once active lifestyle had gone sedentary and the effects were obvious on my waistline. My arm mobility was limited, my upper body was very weak, and my fear of the surgery failing was enough to keep me from pushing any limits. After the birth of my daughter in 2007, my perspective changed dramatically. I was able to hold her with confidence – no fear at all. I wanted to make sure she lived a healthy lifestyle – one that included physical activity and healthy food – void of unnecessary fear – and I realized that my example was the most critical piece of teaching her a healthy and active lifestyle.
So I started to shed the extra 40 pounds with diet. And I began working out with Wii Fit. Around the same time, I met John Drake and he urged me to come try a boxing class. It took a few months to get up the courage, but one Friday afternoon in the summer of 2008 I finally came into the gym. I was taught how to throw a punch, the boxer’s stance, and how to do a proper squat. I did my first 20 pushups since high school gym class. We worked out on the heavy bag and with Mitts. The people in the class all learned my name and were encouraging me – literally cheering me on – as I learned my first combination. Nobody had cheered for me since high school. I felt like a million bucks. Better than that even. I was so proud of myself. What would Dr. Welker say if he could see me now?
After class my muscles were sore but my shoulder did not slip. I felt like I was checking off a list of things that suddenly I could do if I just tried – greater physical challenges than I had taken on in 10 years. I did 100 consecutive pushups. I ran a 5K. I went to class 3 days a week, increasing my speed and taking on more complex combinations. I had muscle definition that I never thought possible. And it happened while I was having fun and making friends.
A year ago, I felt the shoulder ache come back and I thought I felt it slip. I had recently increased the weight of my gloves and had been lifting a lot of very heavy boxes at work. I muttered to myself that Dr. Welker gave me release for a free range of activities but probably would have said “You know, except maybe you shouldn’t box” and I would have laughed because… really… that would have been a ridiculous concept at the time. And there I was, potentially tearing the muscle that was holding my shoulder in socket, for fun. I felt foolish on one hand and I was devastated on the other – I just couldn’t give up when I had come so far. And hitting a bag was like therapy for me.
So I talked to John about it and he assured me that we could continue boxing – and that strength training is part of PT and that is really what we do for most of the class. We came up with a new strategy to keep me boxing and ensure I healed. For many months I lifted 3lb dumbbells instead of 15 pound tires. I picked a softer bag and laid off the hooks. I adjusted my planks to relieve stress on my shoulder. And most importantly, I switched to be a left- handed boxer, which meant that I threw fewer punches with my left arm and more jabs with my right. I felt like it was my first day in class again… my form was poor and my punches were weak. I was discouraged – but now I had a group of friends cheering me on every time I got in the ring. And they encouraged me to keep trying and helped me recognize when I was pushing too hard. Slowly, I built back up to doing all the pushups and lifting the tires. Last week I got a text from one of my classmates saying that she thought I boxed better as a southpaw. I felt like a million bucks again.
If I don’t go to the gym, I am difficult to be around. For me and many others, it is a non-negotiable part of our life that keeps us balanced. There are so many inspirational members at Drake’s gym – people in their 60s belting out 100 pushups straight, women who have lost over 100 lbs, people with shoulders of 80 year old women, and newbies that are starting the journey and renew the exhilaration for those of us who have been doing it for years. It is a unique group that is united by an enthusiasm for seeing yourself and your peers excel and learn new skills – and a place where you are expected to encourage and inspire others. I love to introduce it to new people – they are immediately hooked.
To get a glimpse of the hard work and fun in action, go to Fight Night on July 17th with gates opening at 7:30 and bouts starting at 8:30. Pre and post parties will be held at The Color of Energy (where the exhibit “Punchers and Painters” has been on display since last month) in collaboration with neighboring restaurants and bars in the Oregon District. Learn more about the gym at www.jabcityboxing.biz or just come in and see what it is all about.