Summer has always been my favorite season. Growing up in a place where it’s not uncommon for snow to cover the ground six month a year or more, it’s probably not a surprise that most of my favorite memories of growing up were summertime memories. My birthday is at the end of June, so that is another reason for me to look forward to summer.
For me, summer has always been the most active time of the year. Baseball, golf, road trips, days spent at the lakes with family, and just constantly being on the go.
Last summer, my first summer in Florida, I was still in school and was incredibly busy. For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts, I attended a golf school in the Orlando area from 2015 through 2016.
When your life revolves around playing golf in the hot Florida sun, it’s pretty easy to start losing weight. I moved to Florida with the goal of getting down to 180 lbs, which is what I weighed when I graduated high school.
By the time I got home from the course and from class most days, I was too exhausted to workout or to care about cooking a healthy meal. I ate whatever random food I happened to have that required little effort to prepare, and I didn’t go to the gym at all. But, by the end of the summer, I had actually reached my weight loss goal without even really trying.
When I finished school at the end of 2016, my body needed a little break. I was sore, swollen, and just beat up. Yes, golf can be hard on your body. Injuries add up and become a problem over time.
I kept telling myself that I would take a break to let my body recover, then I would get back into a more active routine. I kept saying I would start working out again to get into “golf shape”, and then I would start playing again.
At the end of April 2017, I got an e-mail informing me that my tee time was set to play a round of golf at Bay Hill in Orlando, which is part of the reward for those of us who volunteered in the merchandise tent at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I was excited to get out and play golf again, but I was also nervous, because I was finally starting to realize that I hadn’t played in almost six months. I started a daily stretching routine and stuck with it for the two weeks leading up to my tee time. I felt like my game would be rusty, but wasn’t worried about anything else.
By the end of the second hole, reality slapped me in the face, and I realized how out of shape I had become since I finished school. I was exhausted from two holes of golf!! Considering I had, at one point in the past, played 54 holes and then spent three hours in the gym in the same day, I was shocked, to say the least. I use a wheelchair to get around on a daily basis, but I walk when I play golf. Since I had remained fairly active wheeling around every day, I never thought about how little I had walked over the previous six months.
Luckily for me, a nasty thunderstorm ended up sitting right on top of Bay Hill after just a few holes, and my group wasn’t able to finish the round that day. I was thankful, because that meant we would get a rain check, and I would have a few weeks to exercise and better prepare myself before we came back to play again.
Once June began, the weather in central Florida turned absolutely terrible. From the beginning of June through the end of July, nearly every single day was filled with constant rain. When the weather is like that, it’s hard to feel motivated to do much, as far as exercise or outdoor activities… especially with the amount of rain we were getting each day, and the crazy sharp lightning we have here in Florida.
I have always had issues with establishing a consistent sleep schedule. When I was in school at Golf Academy, I slept well, because of the amount of physical activity I was doing every day. When I am more active, I sleep better. When I’m not as active, I don’t sleep well, if at all.
My sleep schedule became an absolute mess by the end of the first week in June, because of a combination of the weather, and also the fact that my summer blockout dates on my Disney annual pass had begun. Instead of wheeling 5-10 miles around the parks every day, I was now sitting at home watching the rain fall.
When I received the e-mail with my rescheduled tee time for Bay Hill, I was absolutely ecstatic!! The round was rescheduled for the afternoon of June 28th, my birthday!! Knowing that I would get to spend my birthday at my favorite golf course that I’ve ever played was pretty incredible. It was extra motivation for me to try to get back into shape as much as I could in a short amount of time.
As I said, I typically use my wheelchair to get around, unless I am golfing. Since there was pouring rain almost all day every day in June, I had to get creative. I started using my crutches and walked as many steps back and forth across my living room as I possibly could every day. I walked until my legs gave out and I literally fell to the floor. Although I wish I had been able to do more to get myself prepared, I was very happy with the progress I made in just a few short weeks. I went from only being able to play four holes of golf in May to being able to play 17 holes in June!! It was disappointing that I had to skip one hole, but I was just happy with the progress I’d made. And, to make my birthday even more amazing than it already was just getting to play Bay Hill, I ended up getting another amazing surprise. Playing in the group in front of me that day was baseball hall of famer Cal Ripken Jr.!! I didn’t get to meet him, unfortunately, but I have always been a huge baseball fan, and it was truly a thrill just to be able to see him and play in the group behind him.
When I look back at the rest of the summer of 2017, there honestly weren’t many highlights for me. July was another month of rain. August was hot, but finally drier. I got to go back to Disney again, starting at the beginning of August, so I tried to wheel around the parks as much as possible to make up for two months of inactivity. September’s big story was/is Hurricane Irma hitting Orlando. It was my first time experiencing the full force of a hurricane, and it’s something I will never forget.
The thing that stands out the most to me as I look back and reflect on this past summer, is the hard work I put in to get ready for golfing on my birthday at Bay Hill. I’m really proud of that, and I need to use that as motivation moving forward. I HATE using my disability as any kind of excuse, and I hate thinking about doing things that are “special” because of it, but I do have to say this… for someone with Spina Bifida who is in a wheelchair 95% of the time, the fact that I pushed myself in June and forced myself to get to the point where I was walking 10,000 steps every day to get myself back into “golf shape” is pretty damn impressive!! I am proud of myself! High five to me! haha
I am the director of a junior golf program for kids with special needs. The message that I always try to pass along to those kids (I try inspire through actions more than words) is, anyone can do anything they set their mind to, and the only person who can stop them is themselves. People with any kind of a disability can find ways to meet and exceed any goal they set for themselves. They may have to create their own way of doing things, but they can still achieve the same results as “normal” people. I’ve always had to find my own ways of doing things. I don’t do it to try to impress people. I do it because I have to do it. If people notice and are impressed by something I am able to do, that makes me feel good. I hope the kids I teach feel the same way when they accomplish something that isn’t easy for them.
As we transition into a new season, I need to keep reminding myself of how proud I felt when I worked so hard to get ready for Bay Hill. To be honest, I have gained back nearly all of the weight I lost while I was in school. I need to force myself to get more active every day. The hardest part of any routine is just getting started. The rest is easy. Once I start getting more active, I will start to lose weight. When I start to lose weight, I will start sleeping better. When I start sleeping better, I will feel more rested and energized. When I feel more rested and energized, I will be able to easily become even more active. It’s simple, but I just need to start doing it.
Today is the last day of summer and the first day of fall. Along with that seasonal transition, this is a perfect time to transition the motivation I am feeling right now into getting active, and get back to the lifestyle that I enjoyed so much last year. It’s long overdue. The best part about living in Florida for someone who uses a wheelchair is that this is “The Land of Endless Summer”. I hear that all the time. It tells me that I won’t have to be stuck inside while there is snow piled on the ground. I can keep living the active lifestyle I’ve always enjoyed most. There is no better day to get started than today!!