…are playing a big part in my training right now. I’m sitting on them, standing on them, throwing them, and catching them, all under the watchful eyes of a group of senior physical therapy students at a local college.

For young men and one young woman. They’re all so earnest. And young. And fun. Plus, they know what they’re doing. Or at least, it seems that way to me, but what do I know? They could be making this stuff up just before I walk in the door.

I’ve been spending parts of my Friday mornings with them since the beginning of March. It’s part of their training to become accredited in physical therapy. There’s a group of ten or 12 of us, and we’re divvied up amongst the members of the PT class, each of us getting our on little pod of proto-PT’s. After they weighed and measured me and got some basic information together about me, they asked me what I wanted to get out of the sessions. “Core strength and flexibility,” I told them, and they nodded sagely. I nodded sagely too. It’s what you do when you talk about core strength and flexibility. I just wish I knew what the hell those words meant. I overhear them a lot at the gym, so I figured they must mean something.

I kid. I do know what they mean. And I need them. On most tests of flexibility, I rate someplace between a bridge support and a Fox News Commentator.

So they work on different stretches with me. They don’t show me how to do them. They grab various parts of  my body and bend them in ways they think they’re supposed to bend. And I know they are supposed to bend these ways. I know this because I’ve seen football players in warmups being bent these exact same ways. And I’m pretty certain the expression on my face matches theirs. It’s just that their ankles are much closer to their ears than mine are when they make the same faces.

Then they have me do some exercises. At one point I thought burpees and planks had to do with gardening and construction. I was silly back then.

And then we got to the balls. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with balls. I sit on a big one while they throw a little one at me. Well, not so little. But smaller than the one I’m sitting on. It’s a heavy ball, too. I grab it and throw it back, using just my back and abdomen muscles.

Then they have me stand on a ball–well, half a ball, at least, and I’m supposed to do squats while on it. Right now I’m just working on standing on it without falling over.

Balls, balls, balls. And then they showed me a way to run on my balls.


I mean the balls of my feet. Yeah.

Their theory is: since my calf hurts when my heel hits the pavement on the run, I should try shortening my stride. So I did a lap doing a light jog, using small strides so that I land flat on my feet (or on the balls) rather than on my heel. It feels sort of weird, and a bit silly, and like I’m not really running at all, but at least it’s getting me on the track and running, rather than sitting around making excuses as to why I’m not running, right?

After the session was up, and I changed back into my street clothes and regular leg, I ended up walking out with another one of the participants in this class. She’s a transfibial (or above-knee) amputee. Even though there’s a bunch of us in this class, we get herded off with our students for the hour, and don’t really have any interaction with each other.

“You’re the runner, right?” she asked me.

I almost said no. Not out of modesty or disingenuousness,  but because I don’t think of myself that way, and honestly thought she had me confused with someone else. But I realized she knew who I was more than I did. It made me laugh a bit.

“I dunno if I’m a runner or not,” I told her, “but I’m the guy with the running leg. I also have a trumpet. Doesn’t make me a musician.”

“Well, you look very fit,” she told me.

Wow. Runner. Fit. Not words I’m accustomed to hearing about me.

I thanked her, and we chatted a bit. She also keeps fit, and goes to the same YMCA as I do. Well, one of the ones I go to. I split my time between four. And as I talked to her, I realized that this may be the longest conversation I’ve ever had with an amputee.

Just because I am one doesn’t mean I know any.  I had to get back to work, but I told her I looked forward to seeing her next week (it would have to be two weeks, she told me, since she was going to be away this Friday), but she was happy to meet me too.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve spent my life hiding the fact that I’m an amputee. So this is something new to me. If I have a chance, I think I’ll try to at least say hello to some of the other participants when I can.

Believe it or not, that will take some balls.


Leave a comment


  1. you are great balls of fire, my friend! great post.

  2. Christa Knaak

     /  April 3, 2012

    Nice entry!

  3. Mike

     /  April 3, 2012

    I like the trumpet line.


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