Rise & Shine Interview: Mina Samuels

I'm delighted to share with you a personal story of perseverance by Mina Samuels (Author of "Run Like A Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives"). Mina Samuels is a freelance writer and editor. A former litigation lawyer and human rights activist, she has ghostwritten and edited work on a wide range of topics including human rights, business and legal issues, sports, and fiction. Mina’s most recent book is Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives. Her previous books include, a novel, The Queen of Cups, and The Think Big Manifesto, co-authored with Michael Port. When she’s not writing, she might be found out on the roads or trails, running, cycling, cross-country skiing, or doing yoga, among many other things. If you would like to connect with her, you can check out her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter! Thanks for sharing your story with us Mina!

Photo Credit: Mina Samuels
Photo Credit: Mina Samuels

Last summer I came down with a mean bronchitis, almost as if the bronchitis knew that I'm not generally one for half-measures. I was so racked by coughing, that my ribs started to hurt, first the right side, then the left side, too. Finally my doctor sent me for a rib X-ray and confirmed what she suspected. I had fractured multiple ribs on both sides. If you have never had fractured ribs, take a moment to say thank you right now. The pain is exorbitant. Fractured ribs make most of the basics of life challenging. The acts of sitting down and standing up, not just on and off your couch, but, oh yes, on and off the toilet. I didn't bother sleeping in my bed, because the process of lying down was so time consuming, not to mention trying to get up out of bed again, that it was just safer to sleep in a nest of pillows on the couch. Lifting anything, carrying anything, reaching for anything, bending over, opening a heavy door, breathing deeply and, the final insult, laughing, all caused sharp spikes of pain. Not to mention coughing, of course, during which I would wrap my arms around my ribs as tightly as possible, hoping to hold them together and lessen the pain. The technique seemed to work to alleviate the tiniest bit of pain.

You get the picture.  Nothing was comfortable.  To do any of the activities I normally engaged in would have been impossible--running, cycling, yoga etc...And so, I instituted for myself a daily walk.  I downloaded a couple of very long audiobooks, plugged in my ear buds and took myself outside in the sunshine to Riverside Park and walked.  At first I literally made it one mile in an hour.  Not exactly the mile split time I was used to.  I just kept telling myself that something was better than nothing.  Was it painful to walk?  Yes, but no more or less painful than it was to sit on the couch, literally, so why not do it?  At least this way I was outdoors, which I love.  The worst was when I'd accidentally trip or stub my toe, jarring my body, sending jagged shards of pain through my ribs.  I had to stop sometimes and scuttle into the shrubbery, so I could cough up the ickiness clogging my lungs.

Gradually my ribs started to heal.  I was able to walk two miles in an hour, and I added in a routine of super slow step-ups onto a park bench.  Nothing that would risk rattling the cage of my ribs, but enough that the muscles in my legs knew I hadn't forgotten them.

I didn't dress in workout clothes for my walks.  I didn't wear running shoes.  My walk uniform was a jean mini skirt and flip flops.  All I was doing was stirring the blood around, on some theory that would help me heal faster.  I listened to Ann Patchett's, State of Wonder, and Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows', The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  Sometimes I walked the hour and a half it took me down to my acupuncture appointments.  I took epsom salt baths when I got home.  I hurt, but I knew I wasn't hurting myself.  When people asked why I was walking, I asked why not?

For 8 weeks.

In the ninth week I was out in the mountains in California, and I started hiking.  By now it was the first week of August.  Back in May, before I'd gotten sick, I had signed up for an ultra-marathon in South Africa for the first week of November.  Now the race was 3 months away and I hadn't run for 9 weeks; and it wasn't as if I'd been doing some other extraordinary cardiovascular fitness.  By mid-August I'd started running.  Poli, poli, as they say in Swahili, slowly, slowly.  And to my surprise, I had not lost nearly as much fitness as I expected.  In mid-September, a month after I started running again, I ran a 50k on roads, then another month after that I ran a 50k on trails.  Then it was November, and I was in Cape Town, running up and down the rugged terrain of the Three Peaks whose stately presence surveys that city.

Was I back to 100%?  No.  Or rather, I don't know what 100% is, or if it exists.  In the winter I noticed my lungs would hitch, just a little, on the really cold days.  My ribs ached for months.  They still ache sometimes, not a lot and now days might go by when I don't think about my ribs, but then I'll be tired after a late night out, or a hard workout, and I'll feel the low thrum.  I don't mind.  The ache reminds me of how healthy I am now.

We accumulate aches over our lives--physical and mental.  To me they are the fortification that reminds us what it means to persevere.

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!