I once read the tragic news of a young professional cyclist, Michael Goolaerts, age 23, who was on his 109th km of bicycle racing during his first Paris – Roubaix professional road race when he suffered cardiorespiratory arrest, fell off his bike and into a ditch, and lay unresponsive on the ground. He died later that evening.
My heart goes out to his family, friends, and those that knew this young man. Yes, he was doing something he loved when he died, but no one expects a young, healthy athletic man to die at 23.
It was then, out of some curious interest, I googled how many professional cyclists had died during a race. There have been 115 since they began recording such details. If you include those that died while training for the races, it is closer to 150. That is a significant number, far higher than I had expected. As a novice rider, at first I found myself quite alarmed by these facts.
“If these professionals died” the cautious me screamed, “Then what the heck am I doing on the road, even on my trike?” For many years, helmets weren’t even being worn! I also know that flying down the road at high speed probably wouldn’t happen if a bike is under my control, although there is always potential for those freak accidents. Do I let the “what if’s” rule me, or do I take them under advisement and plan accordingly?
A lot of things can be potentially unsafe. Just recently, crossing the road was hazardous to me when a distracted driver ran through a red light as I was crossing the intersection, missing me by only a couple of inches. It was jarring, yet I still cross roads. Our local newscast routinely reports on fatal road accidents, and yet people don’t stop driving.
Any day could be potentially our last, with the odds adjusting depending on what you are doing at any moment. My dear father told me I must live every day, and I do. Filling the days with joy, movement, friendship, and laughter at every opportunity. Being an eternal optimist helps me greatly in that department.
While my thoughts were still actively dancing in my head, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were in more potential danger when we stayed still, or when we chose to “GET A MOVE ON?” I think this may be true, more so than we might want ourselves to believe.
When I was at my unhealthiest, I hurt too much to move, and easily gave a realistic impression of a sloth every day. It was a challenge just to maneuver myself from the bed to the bathroom or the couch. My body did its best, but began losing the battle at a somewhat alarming rate. It didn’t matter that I had every justification to continue sitting still; in fact, the medical profession sanctioned my stillness. If I was any more still, I would have been dead! Only my loved ones could have told the difference. I was death, waiting to happen.
Fortunately, it didn’t happen, or I wouldn’t be writing this right now; Instead, and as someone who came dangerously close to reaching the point of no return, I offer a note of warning. If your body no longer performs the functions needed to sustain life, it prepares for death. However, if you make the choice to manage just one thing today, make it movement.
I am not talking about running a marathon, but begin by taking the longer route around, even if it’s just to the kitchen. If you take your plate first, and come back for your mug, you have already increased your motion by 100% for that task. Then look for similar ways to increase your movement and build on them each day.
Fortunately, our bodies are far more forgiving than we probably deserve. Thank goodness for that. The one thing I told myself, right from the very beginning of taking control of my health recovery, was, It took a long time to get as bad as I got, so I can’t expect things to turn around quickly. I became committed to the long haul, and for most things, the change was far quicker than I could have ever hoped for.
As for the lifelong things that I could never do, well, they are taking considerably longer. That’s OK with me because I keep discovering new abilities; and frankly, I’m shocking myself. I am all ready to celebrate and put out the welcome mat when I achieve something new. Like a child in a sweet shop, I try to decide what delicious treat I should have next. I want them all!
For example, my balance has always been nearly non-existent; yet because of my daily commitment to movement, today I can stand on one leg without falling over. Now that I have mastered that, what do I want to do next? My mind races with thoughts of the possibilities.
Are you more of a sloth, or a speed racer? While both extremes can get us killed, I believe I am somewhere in the middle myself. I am no longer a sloth watching the world go by, nor am I being scouted for any Olympic speed event of any kind. I will say that I am far more of a movement girl than I ever dared to dream that I could be, and I love it. It gives me the wings to soar.
I finally acknowledge that in the past, my body has worked very hard to keep me alive, even when I offered it little or no help. Now, I am listening to my body, and working hard to give it what it needs to keep doing an amazing job. Now that I am taking an active role in my health, I am finally seeing the results that the medical profession wasn’t able to provide me. There is no pill or potion that can substitute for movement.
As you go about your day today, thank your body for all it does for you by giving it movement. Take it for a walk, go for a swim or strap on the helmet and go for that bike ride. Bring friends and family along if you like – the more the merrier! Let your body know that you are its greatest cheerleader.
No matter whether you associate best with the sloth or the speed racer, your body will appreciate the attention.
Author Bio: Maria Skelly
Maria is the author of The Pilot Light Effect, a book chronicling her journey from seeing her life becoming unrecognizable as her health deteriorated, to taking control of her future by rewriting and reconstructing the life she’d almost given up on. Her goal now is use what she’s learned to help as many people as possible find their own best health.
When not exercising, Maria can be found reading a good book by the fire, embroidering, savouring a great cup of tea, or enjoying the sights on Vancouver island with her husband.
Blog / Website: www.pilotlightinitiative.com