Failure, fears not options as she gains strength

  • While her knee heals, Catherine Edman's trainer, George Gersch, is concentrating on upper-body exercises.

      While her knee heals, Catherine Edman's trainer, George Gersch, is concentrating on upper-body exercises. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Posted3/5/2012 6:00 AM

You've heard the expression "A stomach so taut you can bounce quarters off it"?

I'm not there yet. Coins would sink without making a sound. But my shoulders? Oh yeah, baby. Bounce away.


You see, for the last two weeks, I've only done upper-body workouts. I tore a ligament in my knee -- not the one I damaged when as a child I was hit by a car. No, that one is fine thanks to trainer George Gersch's vigorous leg workouts pre-tumble.

I fell down four stairs, landed on my left knee (the bad one) while my ankle angled out to the left and tilted upward because it was still stuck on the first step. It was ugly. My knee should take about a month to heal, during which time I'm wearing a ginormous black knee brace. And while this isn't exactly the sort of rehab-approach-to-working-out George and I had planned, it's the one we got.

George once asked, while coaxing a reluctant me into a fear-producing lunge, "What's the worst that can happen?"

"My knee cap could blow off and shoot across the room," I said, stating what I thought was obvious.

Well, Chicken Little, meet Falling Sky. But George and I have a motto: Failure is not an option. We're adapting.

We're no strangers to taking a novel approach to accomplish our goal: a fitter, healthier me. Take, for example, my brain's refusal to let my left leg perform a lunge regardless of the fact it is now strong enough to do so. Pre-fall I'd take a big step forward with my right leg, lunge down with my left knee, and watch my entire left leg shake like a sail in a strong wind -- every single time.

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There was no physical explanation until we factored in my brain. So we brought in the Beatles for help.

George and I started singing The Yellow Submarine, loudly, whenever I lunged. Why? We had to distract my mind to allow my left leg to work properly. I've spent three decades protecting my left knee: this is a behavior that's deeply ingrained.

We were adding other tunes to our repertoire, when the speed bump surfaced. Luckily George is creative, and skilled, in dealing with wounded and rehabbing people. He never missed a beat, unlike me who still feels temporarily deflated. He got out a giant red balance ball and moved all of our workouts "up top:" arms, shoulders, back, chest and core.

Instead of standing in front of machines and pulling on cables, I now sit on the ball and do the same motion. I sit on a bench for bicep curls with dumbbells. I lie on a floor mat for abdominal workouts that don't tax my knee too much. I can't walk on the treadmill, which means my cardio's temporarily shut down, and my weight loss has slowed. But I'm getting stronger by the minute, and when I get back up to full strength, I'll have a whole lot more muscle and a trainload of momentum on my side.

Failure is not an option.

• Catherine Edman is the cooperative advertising manager for the Daily Herald. She spent 19 years as a reporter at the paper, frequenting many drive-through windows on the way to cover night meetings, before joining the advertising staff in 2009.

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