A woman is biking up a hill after having to pass multiple people walking slowly in a park.

I Hate My Body...Sometimes

I was out riding my bike on the local rails-to-trails path on a glorious day. It was one of those days that nobody would be surprised that other cyclists and a few mothers with strollers might be out at the same time. Most of the time, it was great fun with the sun shining warm, the sky a bright blue, and a distinct lack of forceful winds. A perfect day for a bike ride.

But the ride took a turn that put my frame of mind into a dark place. What made this day less than perfect?

Too many people!

I don’t begrudge other people from enjoying the same beautiful outdoors that I was compelled to enjoy. But it’s become too difficult to do so without fear and frustration with our current social distancing and isolation restrictions.

So many people are cooped up at home “working” but also trying to find ways to maintain normalcy. I believe that we all need to find a way to get some fresh air and exercise.

What happened on this ride that was different than all others?

The difficulty of maintaining a safe distance

Because there were so many people spreading themselves across the path — rather than more safely walking a few feet separated in a more single line — my husband and I had to slow WAY DOWN to navigate these pedestrians while other pedestrians and cyclists were coming from the opposite direction.

The trail was overcrowded

No matter how much bell ringing I did or how much hollering of “passing,” “passing on your left,” or simply “on your left,” these folks wouldn’t budge. They didn’t understand the rules of the trail. We had to practically stop just at a time that a backup of at least 10 individuals, plus dogs and bikes, momentarily occupied the space of about 10 ft x 10 ft.

I couldn't build up momentum

Once past the chaos (that annoyed me on its own), we entered an area of the trail that starts an extended incline. Normally, I would be going into this climb with having built up tremendous speed to carry me at least partially up the long hill.

I NEEDED that momentum!!!

Pushing myself to keep going

Starting from an almost stop meant that I had to dig deep into my muscle reserves to keep going. I downshifted as best I could and cranked up the pumping of the pedals. There was no use in trying to catch up to my husband. I simply had to go my own pace.

Focusing on every movement

A funny thing did come to mind as I was working to climb. Sometimes when I get overheated and am walking a distance, I get to the point where I have to watch the ground and my thoughts turn to “step, step, step, step, step.” I literally focus on lifting each leg enough so that feet don’t get caught on the sidewalk.

As I was pedaling, my thoughts went to “push, push, push, push, push, push.” I took three pushes to breathe in and three pushes to breathe out, to keep my rhythm steady. Sometimes I got out of sync, but for the most part, it helped.

Unable to stop at our resting point

At a common resting point at the top of this long incline, there were too many people on a single bench. Rob and I kept going. Actually, he had kept going, and I just followed. A little farther down the trail, I looked at my “bike computer” that shows current and average speeds.

"Geez, how is it that I’m only going 8 mph when I usually manage 11-12 mph in this area?," I wonder to myself. Push, push, push….

Burning through my energy reserves

It doesn’t take long before I realize that the only simple slowdown amongst the crowd of people caused my body to burn through its reserves. It was like my 4-cylinder car was only running on a single working cylinder. And barely chugging along at that.

This is the point I mentally lost it. Here I was, out on a gorgeous day doing something that makes me happy. Something that many people with MS would not dream of doing. I was near the turnout point on our ride with only a fraction of my normal muscle strength, and we were 11 miles from home.

Suffering from muscle fatigue

The nerves in my spine were simply not transmitting the right “firing” messages to the muscles in my legs. I had reached a point of undeniable muscle fatigue.

I was angry at my body

I was MAD!! I was angry that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to do. I was angry that this was occupying my thoughts and interfering with my ability to simply enjoy being outdoors. I was angry at the hordes of people who should be spread out and not causing chaos on the shared trail.

Finally, I was mad at myself for feeling mad. How dare I get angry at MS when I have so many friends who don’t have the physical freedoms I do? The mixture of emotions itself was exhausting.

Resting to gain feeling back in my legs

Rob and I sat for a good long while in the grass next to the trail. I waited until I could finally feel my legs again, at least partially feel my legs anyway. Once I started to feel better, Rob insisted that we rest some more. It was going to be a long ride home.

My husband's support

Several times, Rob offered to ride ahead to home and bring the car to come pick me up. “Let me know if you need to stop,” he said repeatedly. “Don’t push yourself so much that you can’t do anything tomorrow.”

Appreciating my body

My thoughts finally shifted from my disappointment with my body, to an appreciation of my body, and more so an appreciation for the understanding and support of my husband. Multiple sclerosis is a part of both our lives, but it doesn’t have to be all of our lives.

Best wishes,

Lisa

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