Edith Wilma Connor holds the Guinness World Record for oldest female weightlifter. She’s 77. What’s more, she didn’t start strength training until she was in her 60s. She had a stressful desk job and was looking for a good way to release tension.

She found it in the gym, and not hoisting ‘Barbie weights’ either.

That apt descriptor comes from yet another over-60 woman who started strength training after finding her previous workout regimes weren’t helping her get stronger or leaner.

Check out her lens on this subject – it’s short easy reading, and another persuasive message about how important it is for women – especially after 40, 50, or 60 – to get over their fear, distaste, discomfort or even disinterest and go for the iron.

We’ve all heard this message a million times. Weightlifting does more for the heart, bones, and overall well-being than just about any other form of exercise. Yes, you most certainly have to eat right, too. You need the right fuel to do this and you won’t lose fat until you combine good nutrition with lifting.

I didn’t listen either…until I did.

The core of the program I’ve been on this past year is strength training. Of course that, and everything else involving movement, took a back seat for a good long while until my knee was able to handle life in the gym again. To be honest, I think I stayed out too long.

My knee’s still injured, I’m still awaiting surgery, I can’t walk well without a brace, and can’t do any long or even long-ish walks at all, but it turns out there’s a *lot* I can do that doesn’t involve twisting or pounding the knee (in the way those treadmill intervals did, for example).

Caveat: If you can, get a good trainer. Lifting big heavy things has to be done right, especially if you’re injured.

It’s been happy times in the gym these days because I’ve been able to do dead-lifts again, and other resistance exercises.

HIghlight: 95lb Romanian dead lifts. Not the weight I was lifting before but still heavy! In these ones you don’t start with the bar on the ground and you only lift as far as the picture on left shows.

Still – it’s a real lift and it was great! I have hand calluses to prove it.

Other recent workouts have included:

  • Assisted Pullups – 135lbs 12 reps x 3 sets
  • Lat Pull Downs – 50ish lbs 12 reps x 3 sets
  • Free Motion Row – 70 lbs 12 reps x 3 sets
  • Bench Press – 55lbs 12 reps x 3 set
  • Free Motion Fly – 20 lbs, 12 reps x 3 sets
  • Wall Angels (slides) – 12 reps x 3 sets

So here’s the thing, the reality gloss I’ll provide so no one confuses me with Edith or anything. (never gonna happen). Mostly, I’m in the gym surrounded by men who could lift what I lift with their baby fingers. The occasional much younger woman shows up and can also leave me in her sweaty dust. Now and then someone in my demographic shows up and I silently cheer. I have not transformed into Wonder Woman; my progress is slow. Stefan calls me persistent. I’ll take that.

And it’s all ok. I’m not for a minute comparing myself to guys or youth or even Edith who has clearly committed herself to weight training at the championship level. But I do show up. And lift stuff up and down. No one’s looking at me. I’m not looking at them (well, except for the occasional awestruck stare when someone lifts something really massive, with quiet focused effort).

And it really really feels good and it helps – with my previously persistent lower back pain, with many regular life chores, and – well, there’s something else to it. Something I’ve found difficult to name. Something more internal or mental or even, yes, spiritual. I’ve riffed on this theme before. Toyed with the idea of powerfulness – in all of its meanings – and the simple lure of getting stronger.

But it was in taking a break from the more heavy duty weight lifting that I began to feel a more fundamental connection to this weird solitary activity, one that had never ignited my interest before. I knew as I got older I was ‘supposed’ to get with the weights program, given loss of lean muscle tissue and bone loss.

So now I’m doing it but it’s not just about following medical advice; if that were the case, well, there’s a lot I’d be doing that I’m most certainly not. It’s also not about trying to hang on to youth, though I am glad to hear about older people who say they’ve become more mobile, flexible, and have more stamina now that they sling iron around in a gym 3 days a week or more.

I just kind of like it. Some days I love it. It won’t replace walking in the great outdoors for me; that’s a whole different zen. But there’s definitely a hook.

So what in heck is it exactly? What I used to love in the gym was high intensity cardio classes – ones where you really go flat out for an hour, sweat buckets, and jump around a lot. I still sweat and it does get the heart rate going but weightlifting is much more focused, more ‘specific’ somehow, more alone.

I will say there’s an extraordinary sense of accomplishment, however brief, when all the reps are completed in good form. My head clears. I’m not yapping. I’m not worrying. As one t-shirt I saw said, ‘shut up and lift’. Ok. It feels strangely meditative.

When you google weightlifting and spirituality, a lot comes up about Sri Chimnoy, an Indian spiritual leader I remember people talking about in the 70s (the hippie years for me and a lot of that’s still in me, without apology). While his main claim to fame was about his religious teachings, he also attracted attention when he became a master weightlifter after starting at age 54.

He tied strength training and his spiritual path together, and said: “The reason I have entered into bodybuilding and weightlifting is to inspire everybody to pray and meditate so they can bring to the fore their own inner strength. If everybody brings to the fore his own inner strength, the world will eventually be inundated with peace.”

Inner strength. World peace. Good enough for me.


So it’s been a while. Haven’t written here in what feels like eons. It’s not as if I don’t have time. I finished up at my old job recently and am doing slow entry into new, with a ‘real’ start date coming up soon at The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.

This is Angus.

Unabashed plug for the wonder of donkeys now. If you want to ‘wash your soul and get it clean‘, go there. Pat a donkey. Bask in their calm, curious, accepting spirits. They are wholly themselves and it’s easy to be at peace around them.

Back to my other point. About writer’s block. (dream block, life block, I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of block going on).

Many times I’ve sat here to write about what’s been going on since an MRI revealed surgery is the likely next step to get my knee into fighting trim – for the Camino, for daily life, for work that’s on a farm (my office there is in a beautiful converted drive shed).

I’ve always said I think with my hands so I’ve sat here, fingers poised, ready to go, eyes boring a hole into my computer screen. Come on hands, do your work!

No go. I couldn’t find the words. More important, I couldn’t find the thoughts. I had lost the narrative, lost touch with the main theme, couldn’t see how the plot-line I’d been working on for months was going to develop now with so many balls in the air and unanswerable questions.

So I have walked away from my desk, ok, hobbled, many times.

Yesterday – finally – I felt the threads reconnecting again, I had a sense of what had been happening, and the energy was there. So I wrote some words. And wrote. And wrote some more.

And then, just like that, they were gone. No idea what internet gods I angered. But gone for good they were. I fumed and fussed. Which did a *whole* lot of good.

Today I thought I’d give it another go, and be thankful instead of pissy, and recall everything I’d ever told anyone else in life about getting too wedded to your own words, that first drafts were often just a way of clearing out the pipes before the real spark gets ignited. So easy when you’re telling this to someone else! Still true. We’ll see if draft 2 is any better. No choice, really.

Tennessee Williams said “The future is called ‘perhaps’, which is the only possible thing to call the future.”

Many people have asked the reasonable question lately about whether I will in fact be doing the planned Camino hike this September.

More and more my answer has been perhaps. Maybe. Maybe perhaps in 2013?

And here’s the rub. I think that sense of ‘perhaps’ has taken over my brain. Putting off the Camino, even in theory and even with the attraction of possibly doing a much longer hike later, has translated into a kind of fuzziness about the whole thing at best, malaise at worst. I just could not see my way clear.

The initial surgical assessment is still weeks away. Then there will be the inevitable wait for non-emergency surgery. Unknown recovery time though this is an arthroscopic procedure which I’m told is pretty easy. Somewhere amid the waiting, I will be starting my new job with the donkeys.

It seems many timing stars have to align for a September Camino to happen.

Mind you, a Camino veteran recently suggested I stick with Camino plans but instead of walking, I should ride. On a donkey. Hmmm. Been done. See Travels with My Donkey. (next on my list of Camino reading, so I guess I am still pretty hooked).

I was reminded of a funny scene in The Way when one of the walking pilgrims – hot, tired, blistered – looks up to see a happy cyclist sailing by and says “What? You mean you can do that here?” Seems pilgrimage comes in many forms.

My heart is set on walking. That’s the rhythm and cadence I love best. I miss it.

So I finally packed in physio which I’m sure helped but I think had outlived its usefulness. And went back to the gym.

I’ve been going 4 times a week for the past several and will for as long as I can manage.

We have been doing a mix of rehab-style movement, stretching, and strength building (re-building) in ways that don’t strain my knee. Lots of upper body work but also working on muscles that support the knee so even that feels a lot better these days. The best part?

I am focused again – on what I *can* do, not on what the injury has kept me from doing. Energy returning. Thank you, Stefan, for the talks, the tailored workouts, helping me understand how I had let uncertainty become a drain. (and for the reminder I feel much better not only through movement but through healthy eating.)

Here’s a sample of what we’re doing in various combinations and circuits:

  • 30 lb Free  Motion chest press
  • 60 lb seated rows
  • 60 lb standing rows
  • 15 lb bench press (remember, the bar itself is 45 lbs so while this isn’t the dead-lift of old, it’s something!)
  • hamstring curls using the stability ball
  • assisted pullups. (This is the one where I began to strenuously regret the movie popcorn dinners, Dairy Queen visits ostensibly for the benefit of my young niece, and the deep-fried mushrooms I said were ‘just vegetables’). See the pic for details.
  • wall slides aka wall angels which sound benign and will make you cry.

Everything hurts today. In a good way! Seriously. This is what I need to do. I have decided to reaffirm my Camino goals. I can’t know how everything will turn out. Clearly, we never really do anyway.

Tennessee Williams concludes his statement about the ‘perhaps-ness’ of the future with “And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.”


“The Camino doesn’t give you what you want, but what you need.”

“You don’t visit the Camino, it visits you.”

“You always have a love affair on the Camino, even if it’s with yourself.”

“How can you walk in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, who’ve walked the Way through the centuries, who’ve hurt, cried, laughed, braved the elements – and other dangers – to seek whatever they were seeking, and not feel the spiritual grandeur and powerful humanity of that?”

“Face the Camino with an open heart; let go of expectations, judging, evaluating – be it, live it.”

“It’s just walking. So walk. Let your legs be the best judge of how far or how fast or how much.”

Oh, and “forget giant backpacks. Think small. You don’t need much. Your back and legs will thank you.” (As the poster child for over-packing suitcases, and often with all the wrong things, this tidbit, illustrated with one woman’s actual Camino pack, was an effective teaching moment for me).

These were among the Camino reflections shared at (and later in post-party e-mailing) a recent gathering of veteran pilgrims, some of whom have walked the Camino de Santiago many times – and back again; two of us with our first trip booked; and others for whom a long walk in Spain is a glimmer of an idea.

I know from experience that spark can be fanned into beautiful flame pretty quickly.

The Camino – it’s just like that.

And the Camino community in my part of the world, a network that just seemed to materialize when I said the word ‘Camino’ out loud, is an eclectic, generous, fun, very knowledgeable and yet so humble collection of people I have been privileged to meet.

They are practical and earthbound – walking a bunch of kilometres every day carrying many pounds on your back through rain, heat or cold is real, it’s physical, it is about body and mind as one.

They are also about the soul of Camino, each in his or her own way, speaking a kind of poetry about the experience – some lyrical, some street rap – all part of the narrative that has spoken to me so deeply.

For someone who hasn’t yet walked one step on the Way, I feel blessed indeed to have experienced parts of it up close and personal through these wonderful people.

And now – about that, about the ‘idea’ of a walk in Spain and the reality.

MRI results on this now months-long knee situation revealed more damage than originally thought – 2 long jagged meniscus tears, effusion, some kind of fluid-based cyst in the back, cartilage pieces floating around, and, well, you get the drift. Where it all began – nobody knows.

Doc is trying to get me an appointment with a surgeon right away, seems to think that’s the likely next step. I won’t describe the surgery but apparently, for many people, after a few weeks recovery, you’re good to go!

After many months of rehab and increasingly limited movement, I say bring it – let’s do it – I am ready to be unhobbled. Camino or no, I am itching to walk. Yes, I have seen the value of the ‘patience lesson’ that has been the leitmotif of my journey to date.

Might I now say I am ready (extreme readiness – is there such a thing?) to put one foot in front of the other and have that wonderfully simple and oh-so-taken-for-granted walking rhythm come back again??

These sorts of appointments and procedures don’t happen overnight, I know that. So I wait. And wonder. Will all the steps fall into place in such a way that a September walk is still possible?

My friends and I are not walking far, in the scheme of things (about 100 k). But right now, a walk around the block would be a big accomplishment. I have been to the gym a few times to do strength-building, rehab-style exercises with Stefan.

The doc said as I wait for surgeon, I should keep moving – as much as I can without risk. Hmmm. He said listen to your body which of course is excellent advice but my mind continues to speak softly on occasion until it starts shouting – so I’m not completely clear about what I can do now, today.

And there is another piece of the puzzle to consider now. I am leaving my current job because, if I can borrow a worn cliche, my dream job came up, I threw my name into the ring, and it worked out!

Forgive me, but I simply must shill for the place a little…you’ll understand, it’s for the donkeys! I am going to be the Executive Director of my beloved Donkey Sanctuary, a refuge of peace and care I’ve spoken about here and loved for years. Start date, still vague, given my need for some time between roles and to sort out my knee if I can.

A friend who heard about this development said to another friend: “This is Katharin’s Camino. This is a place of spirit, of enlightenment, of healing. And you walk around a lot!”

She may be right. If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that Camino is a plurality, a matter of perspective and interior journeys and heightened awareness. And yes, it’s also about walking on a sacred path in Spain. For me, ‘taking steps’, though, has taken on multiple meanings. I have been stopped in my tracks, literally, but the journey has continued – much tougher for me, at times, than walking many, many k’s.

Still, I am living in a place of possibility – as distinct from high expectation – that I will go with my friends to Spain this year. I don’t get to decide this right now, it seems.

How could anyone resist that smile?

I will live with that, look forward to petting donkeys every day, and continue learning.

The book I’m reading now? The Wisdom of Donkeys, and it’s absolutely beautiful. And how about this one? I’ve ordered “Travels with my Donkey” which is about a guy who does the Camino with a donkey companion. I’m pretty much morally obligated to read this one, yes?





Went back to the gym this past Easter weekend!

Everyone knows the ears are the best part.

That was better than chocolate bunny ears, (though I may have bitten off one or two of those, too).

This, after days and weeks of zero exercise, due to this knee/leg strain/injury thing that has demonstrated remarkable staying power despite all I’ve thrown at it.

It’s not as unhappy as it was in the early days. But, it’s still quite moody if I a) sit too long, b) don’t sit enough, or c) dart across the street to avoid being hit by a car before remembering I’m not exactly in good sprinting form, making for a pretty uncomfortable lunch outing with a friend.

Ok, so no running. Or even much standing around as I discovered at a recent party.

Still, I felt it was time to venture back to gym world. In search of strength.

Physio has changed to include an exercise component – squats, lunges, and several other greatest hits from the old BI (before injury) days. Treatment is still taking place, but getting my strength back is now on tap.

I much prefer to do that in the gym.

I also knew Stefan would tailor everything accordingly and not cave into my demanding ways – “Come on!! Let’s just try – fill in the blank with any move that would involve more sweat and a raised heart-rate.” He just smiles, stares me down, says no or ignores me.

So back I went.

It felt wonderful to walk through those doors again, hug Stefan, breathe in the eau de sweat ambiance, and get moving again (or so I thought would happen).

I guess I knew (somewhere in my head) that simply lacing up my gym shoes was not going to time-travel me back to where I left off.

Sure I knew this. That didn’t stop me from wanting it to be different. Sometimes, reality bites. But it’s what we have. Woody Allen said it best: “Reality sucks, but it’s still the best place to get a good steak.”

So we took it slow. As in slower than yoga, molasses in January, and dial-up internet. And a lot slower than I moved even during my very first session with Stefan – which has now taken on the mythic, nostalgic quality of bygone years, in another country, another lifetime.

We didn’t do too much either, or that’s what I thought.  Stefan is now sighing, I’m sure, because, as always, he has a plan. It is not mine to wonder why.

We worked on abs – strengthening moves that Stefan believes will help support my knee better (I know there’s a more accurate scientific explanation for this).

No dead-lifts. No balancing on bosu balls. No sweat. Down to the floor I was sent, spending the better part of an hour doing various small movements while engaging the abdominal core – aka sucking in my gut.

And that was about it.

Except for the weigh-in. Up 1.5 lbs.

Not to sweep under the rug the fact I had clearly not spent my gym-less time eating rabbit food instead of rabbit ears, I was quite fine with this modest gain.

I expected the slurping icing out of the can incident, movie popcorn (I’ve seen a lot more movies these days), and stealing candy from my work colleagues would have added up to a lot more.

Stefan thought it was just fine, too. I did launch into an old patterned response about food ‘getting the better of me, carb addiction, blah blah blah’. And I expressed some anxiety about the slippery slope down Old Habit Mountain into the valley of mindless snacking and sugar hits.

He simply said, “You know you control this, right?” A friend asked when I told her of this response “Doesn’t that make you want to smack him?”

No, it doesn’t. Because it’s profoundly true – and profoundly empowering. He doesn’t deliver this message in some ‘holier than you’ll ever be’ spirit of chastisement, by the way. It’s never about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ or any other term that erodes sense of self and power.

What he’s talking about it as the core of – well, everything in this journey.

I do have control. I can choose what to do, what to eat, how to feel, how I respond to events that often make me feel out of control. I say I want to be strong, healthy, and more mindful of what I actually put in this one and only body I’ll ever possess – I want to give myself the right spiritual – and physical – fuel for whole health.

He’s not saying ‘get skinny’. That’s not the goal, never really has been. Yes, I do want to reduce fat, build lean muscle, work towards a healthy weight (and I do *not* have a number in mind; I will know it when I feel it) that suits what I want to do, how I’d like to move through life.

So I need to keep thinking about all the dimensions of health and strength, not just the ‘Iron Kate’ ones in the gym, much as I miss flat-out, hard-core workouts. Those are quite a ways off, I think; heck, walking 1k is a ways off; Camino – I remain hopeful.

Food – how I would like to eat and think about what I consume – is part of the picture I can do something with right now. Allowing that I do, indeed, have the power to make choices; I can change, I actually can. I feel better, not self-righteous, when I eat well – losing weight or not.

In the spirit of the Easter weekend past, I dedicate my 6 3/4 month results to renewal and fresh starts and peace of mind.

I commit to keep on trying. I will keep absorbing the lesson of patience, acceptance, and calm that this injury, I think, has been trying to show me.

I commit to keep going. Onward. Ultreya.

Leg’s on the mend. So is my spirit.

This past week, for the first time, I considered the possibility that I might not make it to the Camino this year, that I simply won’t be ready after all. I have avoided saying this out loud – didn’t want to give the thought undue power – but I can’t pretend it’s not there either.

I half-halfheartedly imagined a Plan B – going to Spain anyway, staying in Barcelona, doing touristy things there while my friends walked. But, really, if my leg can’t carry me on the Camino, then it’s not likely I could traipse for hours along city streets or through museums either.

What, then? Not sure what to do, how to focus – do I need to make some kind of decision? What’s the plan???

Trust the Camino, it will provide.

This theme, a request for faith and calm acceptance, runs like a river through all the Camino books I’ve read and regularly bubbles up in Camino forums. One direct quote: “Do not worry. Just walk. Trust the Camino. Trust your heart. All will be provided.”

I don’t know that I really heard or believed this message – until now. I suspect my need to ‘know’, to be assured I can take care of myself, and my relative inexperience in faith-based living blocked my heart from this profound lesson.

But ‘trust the Camino’ came from somewhere this week. I felt I had to pay attention.

So I stilled all the noise and my strong desire for answers, for certainty, (and at core, my desire for everything to get back on the track I’d originally planned). I quietly sat with the possibility that ‘all will be well’, come what may.

And I began to see that what may come could look different than what I imagined I wanted, not the script I initially authored – new plot lines, new endings, a constant unfolding. I can’t jump to the last chapter. But whatever the story, it may be all I need.

I’m still interpreting. But I feel quite uplifted by a shift in perception; that trusting ‘what is’ does not mean sitting back, waiting passively, letting others do the work for you, so to speak, something I’ve feared and resisted. It can simply mean opening – mind, heart, spirit – to something bigger, something I don’t control.

So I opened a door to the Camino that I realized I’d slowly begun to close. And here’s what happened.

First, this message from an oft-quoted Camino angel named Rob:

1) You are going to do the Camino. This is only a temporary setback. And I firmly believe it will happen this September.
2) You will do the Camino this September in any case. If, by some remote chance, your current plans have to be put on hold, I will “carry” you with me on my September pilgrimage, try to send the occasional message and remember you. I will give the saint a hug for you when I reach Santiago and have a quiet word or two with him.
In return: When you are on your second or third pilgrimage, I will ask you to do the same for me.

This tremendous vote of confidence and the generosity of spirit and the acknowledgement that now or maybe later, I will walk the Camino – more than once – and be able to pay that pilgrim blessing  forward – this meant the world to me. Once again, I felt that soul-stirring sense of excitement I’ve experienced many times (just not lately) since I got caught by Camino a while ago.

Next came this. Rob and several of his pilgrim friends have organized a Camino afternoon, where a number of people – pilgrims and pilgrims-to-be – will come together to share experiences, look at pictures, and, I expect, delight in our common purpose. The Camino network/community is wide and deep, I have already felt its support and guidance, and I look forward to meeting those who are part of its fabric.

One such person is Sue Kenney. She is a Camino veteran, a guide, a writer, and from what I have learned, a beautiful and spiritual pilgrim. It’s best if you take a look at her website: http://suekenney.ca/ and I’ve added her ‘My Camino’ blog to blogroll here.

I’ve ordered her 2 Camino books and can’t wait to read!

My Camino is her first, Confessions of a Pilgrim her recent second.

A story Sue tells on her blog struck me (well, many of her words have) as *the* right message for me today as I learn to trust the Camino, let go of expectations, and let faith in.

I can’t do her powerful story justice here. Take a look at her post, which happened to be the first one I stumbled upon when I was searching for her books. What a gift it was for me, at just the right time.

And more happened this week:

A fantastic talk-rich lunch with a woman I’d never met before who’s caught the Camino spark and wants to plan a trip. We’re now connecting with others on the campus where we work who have been or would like to go. We’re thinking a possible Camino trip together some time down the road.

A flyer I was given by chance let me know about the annual Guelph Walking Pilgrimage, 180k over a week, which apparently draws many Camino pilgrims, and other seekers. They also welcome people joining just for a day, something I may do if I’m able. Good Camino preview!

And very happily, my leg felt a lot better today. I went for 2 short dog walks – yay!

A line from a song (Gypsy Dream) by the uber-fabulous Laura Smith played in a loop in my head as I walked, one foot in front of the other, slow but steady: “Your fears, now, they’re just so much flotsam floating down the stream, nothing you can’t steer around once you hoist the sail on the gypsy dream…”

 I can’t get the audio player to work here…but here’s the link if you want to play this on your own computer. (It’s a beauty, take a listen)

If there’s any reason in the world I can find to quote Tom Waits, I will. So I have.

Hold On, one of the softer Tom songs and I’ve always loved it. His voice in this one doesn’t sound as much “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car,” as one music critic famously described.

It’s one of those songs I keep replaying a lot; something is resonating.

When I boil everything down that I’ve been feeling these past days, weeks, now stretching into months, as I limp, ice, sit around, and get endless physio, what I come out with is this – hold on. Hold on to what, exactly?

Here’s the best I can do:

Hold on to the belief that this leg injury will heal – one day.

Hold on to the reality of a long walk on the Camino de Santiago in September. Or, as one of my walking pals said, don’t get stuck on the notion of 20-25k a day.

This is one of the bar/cafes on the Camino. At least I know how to order coffee and beer.

If it comes to it, you could walk a kilometre or two, then take the bus to the next town and drink cervezas or cafe con leche until friends hike in.

You will do as much or as little pilgrimage as you can.

Hold on to sanity. I have had a few too many days recently where I felt, if not starkers, exactly, a sense of not exactly being one with the universe or self. Peace of mind – no. Sixes and sevens – yes.

Or just hold on. Period. It means whatever it means. It just feels like a good mantra for me right now.

Here’s the thing. I have spent many hours (and dollars) getting treatment for this leg ‘thing’ and not doing much of anything else, or so it seems. The doctor has now ordered an MRI – just to see if more precise answers can be found as to what’s going on and why it’s so persistent.

When he started talking about the possibility of chunks of cartilage having come loose and which may be floating around in the back of my knee, I understood – deeply – why I never considered entering the medical profession.

I guess I paled because he asked me then whether I thought I’d need a mild sedative to help me stay calm inside a big metal tube for a half hour or so? Well, now I do, geez!

I would just like to know. Uncertainty is my constant theme. Is this a really big (or possibly permanent) problem? What really happened and why on earth after treatment and LOTS of rest is it still here, perhaps not quite as acutely, but definitely not gone? Or (please resist calling this denial) are we all making much ado about not too much?

This past week one of the physio guys said the muscles in my right leg have definitely atrophied, more than my left, so now I’m going to have to deal with the resulting imbalance – or something like that. I kind of tuned out when he said ‘atrophy‘. That means ‘wasting away’!

All I know is, I was feeling great, strong, and getting stronger, especially doing weightlifting. I think that program on its own was doing wonders. As far as I can tell, the troubles (what am I, Ireland?) began when I decided to run on the treadmill. I suppose if I have any regrets, it’s about that, and pushing ahead even when it started to feel pretty lousy.

And now, I feel much weaker, beached, bogged down, and full of questions about the future – yes about Camino but beyond that. I don’t think I’m sensationalizing if I worry just a tad about whether this is a longer-term deal now that it’s gone on and on?

Or am I? Maybe that wonderful turning the corner moment is just ahead. Thankfully, hope does seem to spring eternal. And speaking of eternal, as in verities, what’s the point of worry anyway??? I get it. I just can’t always live this truth.

The contrasts are so sharp. Today, I went, for the first time in ages, for a walk with the dog. Not a ‘walk walk’, just a slow, halting, ten-minute amble – though it was, as always, beautiful here, through budding trees, a soft gray river, and other happy dogs all around.

Coming back up the very slight hill at the end was the only really difficult part, so on the one hand, I was happy, grateful to be out, feeling like ‘me’ again, secretly hoping this was a sure sign I was on the mend, for real.

On the other, I thought, you only walked a few hundred yards – yards! And then this weird sense of confusion tinged with anxiety bubbled up – I mean, this thing going on is really not very visible, I’m not even sure how it happened, I’m not in traction, for heaven’s sake. How do a few messed-up tendons cause this dramatic full-stop in all the things I consider part of a normal – and good – life?

I told a friend I hadn’t been writing much here as the leg problem persisted. She wondered why, and I said that I’d written a few times when I thought I’d had some insight or new perspective on what was going on – and most particularly, my frame of mind about it all.

But that of late, I’d felt stuck, a bit mired, you know, just how interesting can it be to anyone if I wrote and said: Tuesday. Leg still bothersome. Staying home. Eating disgusting fake cake icing straight out of the can.

I didn't bring this into the house. Just sayin'.

(yes, it’s true, I did that – does it help if I say I didn’t feel good about it?).

She said you never know when someone else might relate to what you’re going through. And that it might matter to hear what you’re feeling, even if you feel kind of clueless right now.

On that note, I will once again affirm that I have the most wonderful friends and family in the world who have kept on loving me even when I’m crying into my icing.


Haven’t been writing, haven’t been gymming.

After yet another brief return, even to highly modified workouts, my leg continues to sing out of tune. A few hobbling steps ahead, a few painful limps back. Let’s hope there’s at least an inch of progress in there somewhere.

So what now? Latest physio recommendation: Stay off it, except for what you simply must do in a day (drive to work, *minimal* walking even there), for 3 weeks. At least. Nearly one week down but who’s counting?

Ice, ice, ice, regular ibuprofen dosing, (I’m told this is called ‘trail candy’ on El Camino, where leg and foot pain is a fact of life, so I will consider this pill-popping another form of preparation), and rest. No poking it with a stick, as my physio guy poetically puts it.

I have hardly known what to feel about all this, partly because there’s still no indisputable diagnosis of what ‘this’ is, anyway.

Significant soft tissue damage around the knee. Hamstring strain. Shortened ligaments. Poor pelvic/spinal alignment. A history of doing pounding-style exercising causing multiple minor injuries, now creating a perfect storm of trauma throughout my leg. Weak abs. Good grief, did I fall off a cliff without realizing it or what?

Oh, and Uggs. Both Stefan and Mark, (osteo guy), recently discovered I wear Uggs – not as a fashion statement (how some believe these hideous looking boots could be that staggers the mind) but because it’s like wearing warm, cozy blankets on your feet. I drive to work in them, do quick dog walks, errands. Mine are particularly disreputable, with rips, holes, salt stains and mud streaks. Comfort.

Stefan: “Uggs? You have *got* to be kidding me! These are not shoes. They have NO support. At times like this, I want to pound on you with a foam bat!”

Mark: “Uggs? Stupidest shoe in whole world, kangaroo road-kill pieces of crap that are going to have a generation of young girls coming to physio for the rest of their lives.”

Holy opinionated. So I’ve put aside my well-worn ugly Uggs for now, just in case.

So the problem doesn’t feel ‘clear’ to me, like an actual broken bone would be. But yeah, ok, all is not well, I’m getting that message, and much as I’d like more certainty about what it is, and, therefore, how to fix it, that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

The way this challenge has presented itself has reacquainted me with the famous 5 stages of grief. I’m not equating a break from the gym with losing a loved one. But let me tell you, my reaction has followed a startlingly similar path.

Denial: This is nothing. It’s a minor strain. It will go away if I just work out the kinks in the gym. This parrot is resting. No, he’s dead. No, no, he’s just stunned, needs a bit of a kick to get him going. Polly, wake up!!!

Anger: I’m not mad *at* anyone. Just pissed – maybe at the universe? Some of the time, anyway. Which has been about as effective as trying to rouse poor dead parrot.

Bargaining: I think I lived out this stage primarily at physio. How about if I promise to sit down the entire workout, encase my leg in an iceberg for the rest of the night, and go twice a week only? Answer: That’s not rest. Rest means rest.

Depression: Poor, pitiful me. I am down for good. They cull lamed animals from the herd, don’t they? Pass the cookies.

Acceptance: I guess I’m experimenting with this phase now. And it’s tough to do. For instance, I’ve argued with my accepting self, challenging that maybe it’s worse to stay idle so long, people often persist with far worse injuries and they’re fine and so on. My muscles will atrophy permanently. (See, I’m only part way there).

I am now trying to learn something through this experience. What else is there to do? And I most definitely have time.

At first what I learned was rather disconcerting. I have some weird brand of ‘performance anxiety’. I need and want to be strong, to be ‘perceived’ as strong, I depend on that drive, I am glad for independence. If I’m not that, who am I?

What if I can’t finish what I’ve started? What if I don’t get as fit, strong, thin, whatever as I’d planned?

The fact I am having difficulty walking at all struck me the hardest – I’ve always walked, it’s my thing, and it’s what I hope to do for many hours and days on the Camino. Not going to the gym is bad enough, but not walking? NO! Oh, but yes.

So what I’m now learning is I simply must stand by, let it be, and relinquish control, a false sense anyway. I need to learn true patience. I had no idea how difficult this was for me, though finally, I feel like I’m finding that still place within – and letting go.  I am also getting familiar with humility and recognizing this quality as a different kind of strength.

As always, I gratefully receive all the love, help, support and advice I’m getting from my daughter, family, and friends.

The only way through it is through it.

I am also supremely fortunate that healing is fairly assured – if I can be patient. Of course I understand many others don’t have it nearly so good.

And the Camino is speaking, too.

A Camino angel I’ve quoted before (and whom I’ve still not actually met) had this to say, recognizing I was likely worried I might never get to Spain.

“They say the Camino only rejects those who are not ready for it and you are so ready.”

Thank you, everyone.