“Robin. Maybe you should just sit this one out.”

These words have been tattooed on the inside of my brain and have affected physical activity decisions for most of my life. Growing up I was an overweight, adorable, hyperactive child with asthma. For some this may not seem like a big deal, but it was for my 7th grade P.E teacher, Coach George. Years before I arrived on the scene, Coach George had another asthmatic student but he didn’t take the illness seriously. Sadly, she had a severe asthma attack during class and later died.

This incident would permanently scar Coach George and drastically change how he dealt with students with severe asthma going forward. To him, my respiratory disorder was a valid reason to limit or completely excuse me of participating in all stringent physical activities…or anything I simply didn’t want to do. It was easier to let me sit one out than deal with any medical emergency rigorous activity might create. This trend would follow me into high school, with each physical ed teacher suggesting I just “sit this one out.”

Fast forward to the early 2000’s and I found myself confronted with another man encouraging me to limit my physical activity. This time it was an orthopedic surgeon that took twisted delight in telling me I had severe osteoarthritis in my knees. He defined it as stage four because the cartilage in both knees had withered away, and the only option he could provide was for me to deal with the pain a few more years and then undergo full knee replacement surgery. After comparing my knees to those of an 80 year old man that worked hard and led a strong active life, he recommended that I cease and desist from even moderate physical activity, ya know, so that I wouldn’t “blow my knees out.”

These and other similar experiences in my life have created a mental disclaimer I involuntarily check every time I venture about. I’m regulated by an internal clause that demands I always step cautiously and have deep apprehension towards any and all activities that require knee support and cardiovascular endurance. My close companions all understand my physical woes and are incredibly encouraging and understanding. They never push me to do something I don’t want to do. In truth it’s never been a lack of interest holding me back; it’s been fear.

This weekend, I pushed the fear aside. I jumped from the sidelines to center field. I conquered my demons. I threw my fist in the air at everyone that’s told me I am too sick, too big, too uncoordinated, too risky to take a chance on certain adventures. I was surrounded by a group of people so caring, nurturing, patient and kind, that I can’t hold back the tears even as I type this. I don’t just appreciate them. I love them with every fiber of my being. This weekend they gave me strength, courage, confidence, and love. So much love that as I embarked on the first real hike of my life I knew without a doubt I would make it. I had my army with me.

I’ll see you around the city soon!