I Can Swim!

Cadet Ana Andino broke the Houston Police Department Academy’s record for female push-ups by doing 405 “real” push-ups during physical agility testing.

I can do 45 push-ups, of the “girl” variety, and only when broken up into three sets of 15. But that’s a far cry from what I was doing six months ago when I was barely able to do 20 push-ups off a door.

Ana Andino inspires me because, like me, just six months ago she couldn’t do 25 push-ups. According to the press release, “Cadet Andino had no previous athletic experience, just determination to see her goal through to the end… Andino, a single mother, practiced day and night. ‘I would watch TV in the push-up position and my children would count my push-ups for me. My children are what kept me motivated and they encouraged me to not give up. I did it for them. I told them that you can achieve anything you believe you can do.’”

When I started physical therapy for my shoulders, my physical therapist said I was “capable” of doing not only “girl” push-ups (where you use your knees for support), but full-blown plank-style push-ups.

“Me?” I said. “With torn rotator cuffs and messed up biceps tendons?”

Yes, he said. I could do anything once the right muscles were strengthened.

I assumed (and yes it’s true what they say about “assume”ing) that once you were injured, that was it. Granted, I’ve worked hard to ease the pain immensely in two years through strength training, massage and chiropractic, but pain easement and general mobility was all I hoped for. Now, with the help of a “never say never” PT, I think outside that narrow-minded box. While my goal isn’t to break any records, I’m already seeing the fruits of my push-up labor.

The most obvious is that holding grandbaby Luca is much easier than holding grandbaby Claire when she was an infant. In fact, I can hold both of them quite easily.

(In the photos, Claire, me and Luca before Claire passed out – finally – after a busy afternoon)

The not so obvious became clear yesterday when I went swimming, and I don’t mean just standing in the pool twirling Claire around in her floatie device like I did last year. I mean I swam, as in backstroke, sidestroke and treading water, something I haven’t done since long before 300 pounds and my self-imposed No Swimsuit policy.

And while I’m no Dara Torres, I discovered I can still find my way from one end of the pool to the other.

And it felt…


I started by pushing with my legs off the side of the pool and floating on my back. Then I took a chance and waved my arms, gently at first, and to my surprise they not only didn’t hurt, but they moved me forward. I moved them more aggressively and I moved faster. I stared up at the sky, and with my ears underwater, heard nothing but the muffled voices of my daughter, niece and granddaughter, and I swam back and forth through the water, loving my muscles and thanking god for my drill instructor physical therapist.

Just like two years ago when I discovered by strengthening the muscles around my crap-for-knees I could go biking for 15+ miles, I learned my shoulders can take on physical goals I thought were beyond their ability.

For years I let my weight, and then my injuries, prevent me from getting in a pool and enjoying one of the most peaceful activities I’ve ever known. Thanks to a PT who saw me as more than an injury or a formerly obese person (those are my blinders), I can now add swimming to my expanding list of exercises I like to do.

My arms are a little stiff today, but not in a “what the hell did you do to me” way. They’re becoming awakened, like aspiring Buddhists. I’m not quite ready to move on to “real” push-ups, but it’s exciting to think about how much more stronger I’ll be when I do. I’ll move mountains!

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