I'm off the bench, officially. A couple of weeks ago I took the knee braces off and tucked them away, waving goodbye to my little one-legged mascot and wishing him well. I can take it from here.
My knees (yes, at one point in my therapy I was upgraded to wearing two knee braces instead of just one) feel great, and on my first day back running sans assistance, I felt like Forrest Gump when he takes off running and his braces fall off and he proceeds to run for like 20 years straight. I don't want to run that far, but I felt like I could.
No cramps, no twinges, no aches or pains. Just me and my sneakers, hitting the pavement. Well, and my clothes; I don't run naked. Me, my sneakers, and my clothes: out there hard at work. And...my iPod. Me, my sneakers, my running clothes, and my iPod. Hitting the pavement and giving it our all.
I took it slow for the first week and then got more brave, adding intervals after about 20 minutes. It feels so good to sprint, so good to take off like a bullet and feel my chest swell and heave, and to imagine the sidewalk crumbling in my wake as I race to the finish. If you ever want to experience true euphoria, run sprint intervals while listening to "Invincible" by OK-Go. It never fails.
But more important than running without my velcro buddies was my first real lower-body weight routine. Sumo squat, here I come. I actually didn't do any sumo squats (it's always nice to have something to anticipate) but I did do regular old squats and finally being able to break the plane instead of having to stop just short of a 90-degree angle was like coming home for Christmas. I even jumped on the leg extension with enthusiasm. I'm already seeing some nice definition and having to take the elevator at work is a badge of honor I am wearing with a huge dose of self-satisfaction.
Taking my braces off signaled a new phase in my training, and a new phase in my personal life, as well. I'd had a rough week and knew I needed to make some changes in one of my personal relationships. Saying goodbye to someone you've cared about is never easy, but it helped to find a symbolic link between that departure and taking off my knee braces. Removing the obstacle gave way to a freedom and lightness that I had not felt in a long time, and I finally felt like I was myself again.
So now, I am ready, full-steam ahead, to get my lower body back in shape. Putting up with the things that have held me back for the past few months - physical therapy, slow jogs, itchy knee braces, and wussy leg routines - have been well worth it. I know that I needed to take that break and put up with those inconveniences so I could appreciate the ability to come into the gym and knock it out of the park again.
So put me in coach, I'm ready to play!