It may surprise you to learn that I have developed significant upper body strength. Maggie weighs just under 80 lbs of constantly moving parts and I lift her at least a dozen times a day. When she is in her 105 lb wheelchair with an additional 30 lbs of equipment, I am constantly wrestling it into place, pushing it up hills, ramps etc. It is a constant workout, but the benefit is limited. I am out of shape, overweight and strong as a horse.
I do not even realize it until I spend time with someone who marvels at my strength. My friend Grace Young, aka my favorite Chinese Cookbook author or the wok evangelist, (check out her books here) did just that the other day.
Maggie and I accompanied Grace to the huge Alemany Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Grace always posts the most beautiful pictures of fresh food on her facebook page and I told her next time she came to San Francisco we had to make a trip there. Maggie loves going there too. There is a trendier and fancier farmers market at the Ferry Building, but it cannot compare to this one. It is a huge farmers market with an unbelievable selection and absolutely no frills.
One “frill” that I would love to see there are curb cuts for the wheelchair. You don’t know how much easier those little ramps make life for wheelchair users and the people who push them. A low curb is not too difficult. I just use geometry and physics; tilt, push, and the lift is minimal. When a curb is too high for this it becomes more problematic. The bolt that secures the chair into the van sticks out from the middle of the bottom of the chair. I cannot tilt that chair back far enough to clear bolt on the high curbs. I have to dead lift twice, first the front and then the back. There were several like that at the farmers market. At the worst one, I could not do it by myself. Grace kindly offered to help.
She took the back of the chair as I manually lifted the front. That was perfect There has to be someone back there so that the chair does not tip over backwards. I secured the front of the chair, raced to the back, and lifted the 200 lbs the necessary 7 or 8 inches. Grace was amazed. Apparently, she had been trying to do just that and could not even budge it. Grace, though a heavyweight in the world of food and wok cooking, is a 98 lb weakling. (Here she is trying to convert Maggie to the Magic of wok cooking.)
I just laughed and told her this came from years of practice but that at our advanced age (we went to high school together so we are the same age) it comes at a price. My shoulders are shot. In fact, after several months of increasing pain in my right shoulder I was heading to the orthopedist.
In March 2010, I had surgery on my left shoulder for damage directly attributable to all the lifting I do. That is now doing fine, but my RIGHT shoulder has become increasingly uncomfortable over the past several months. I stopped reaching for things with that hand and tried exercises, but I needed something else. I went to the doctor yesterday and confirmed what I already knew; it is the exact problem I had on the left side. As he gave me cortisone shot in my shoulder (OW!) he told me I could take comfort in knowing my body was symmetrical.
I could not be happier.