Why I want to be buff with plants


On July 29, 2017, I fell doing time trials at roller derby basic training (level 1). I tripped over my own skate doing a crossover around the apex and toppled. My ankle hurt, and used my arms—my fingers!—to drag myself off the track.

I knew I was out for the day (it was the last 5 minutes of class anyway). I was going to take off my skates, watch my roommates finish their laps, head home, and rest up.

But my roommates weren’t doing their laps. They were crossing the track—totally letting down their partners, whose laps they were supposed to be counting—and heading over to me to ask if I was OK.

“It hurts,” I remember saying, sitting on the floor and looking at my skates, “but I don’t think it’s anything permanent.”

They laughed, my roommates and the coach (who had by now slid over my way with the elegance and urgency of a gazelle—gosh they are so good at skating). “Yes, Amy. It’s certainly not permanent.”

“No, [for some reason my voice shook like I was about to cry] what I mean is I think it will be fine. I’m going to take off my skates, though,” I said. “Would you mind if I leaned on you a bit on the way to the subway?”

They laughed again. We aren’t going to the subway, Amy. Let’s go to urgent care just to be sure.

I found out at City MD in Williamsburg that I had broken my leg in two places, and that the ankle joint was, in non-medical parlance, real messed up. Basically my leg bones were no longer meeting the box of ankle in the proper spot. They were totally off, like a typewriter. The docs wrapped me up and told me to make an appointment with an orthopedist.

The orthopedist, who I met a few days later, was shocked I didn’t go to the ER. I needed surgery. I was going to be off my feet for 9 weeks, and needed physical therapy for 6.

I was gutted. My best friend’s wedding was a month away (I crutched down the aisle) and she and all her friends were coming to my place in New York next month for the bachelorette party.

I couldn’t skate anymore. Worse, I was finally becoming somebody with a healthy relationship to exercise (for performance, at long last NOT just to make myself smaller) and was really enjoying watching myself get stronger. Nine weeks off would wipe away the modest progress I had made.

It was 9 weeks of 2-hour bus rides to work. I hosted the bachelorette weekend 3 days post-op. Toward the end of the term, I crutched through the woods to drink beer around the fire. I watched so much Real Housewives of New York (actually the best part).

I emerged from 4 weeks of physical therapy with a raw and nascent appreciation for my body. How vulnerable it was. How not-fixed. How much my happiness depended on it functioning. My right leg was emaciated—humorously, surprisingly so. I needed to work on that before starting derby training (I love pain and disappointment!) again in January.

On November 1, I started a weightlifting program my friend (the bride, above) sent me via email. I lifted 4 days a week, and did HIIT on the spin bike one day  a week. On the weekends, I walked as much as my stiff joint would let me.

The strength came back to my emaciated right leg surprisingly quickly. I felt motivated for the first time in a while. I saw my body getting stronger. The weight on the scale didn’t move, but I was looking fitter.

I liked watching my body lift weights. I didn’t used to like to watch my body doing much of anything.

Now I train for athletic performance. I still strength train four times a week, but add in more cardio and agility training. I’m not buff, but I want to be. That’s what this blog is about.

Well it’s half what this blog is about.

Let’s move on in the timeline. In mid-January my roommate loaned me her Kindle to read on the subway. Score! I never did download any books on it—I lost my library card for 6 weeks—though I did read a few of hers. One was a short manual, soothingly written. I liked it because reading it fired the same parts of my brain that watching an ASMR video does. It was The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus.

I remember g-chatting my boyfriend saying that “I don’t think I can justify eating animal products anymore :(“. It wasn’t that this book highlighted the atrocities that occur while producing meat, eggs, or dairy for human consumption. Most people know about those horrors—certainly I, a journalist at a science magazine, did—and willfully ignore it. They ignore it because eating flesh and milk is “the natural way” or because most people, including people we think are morally superior to ourselves, eat animal products unapologetically.

This book did not outline in excruciating detail what factory farming is. I wouldn’t have read that book, at that time. What the book did was simply make it clear that going vegan isn’t hard. In fact, it’s fun. It’s a life of abundance and happiness. It’s an ethical choice you can make. Marcus’s writing, paradoxically, empowered me and relaxed me. It made me realize that going vegan is no big deal, and also going vegan was a huge fucking deal.

I wavered. Going vegan seemed to be a pretty straight-forward way to be a better person, something I think about a lot (maybe even more so at that time because I was watching The Good Place). But also going vegan would make me A Vegan. People would be uncomfortable around me. I would be a problem to feed at group gatherings. I would be that guest at a restaurant or that visitor at my friend’s place.

I am an ENFJ through and through (yes I know Myers Briggs is a lie; don’t @ me) and I love being loved. I hate making people uncomfortable. I hate tension. In conflict situations, I am always the mediator, the person trying to smooth things over, to brush things off, to find common ground. Becoming vegan would be so divisive. Just existing in a way I considered more ethical was going to open me up to so much resistance. I would be on the defensive. People would not like me, even before knowing me. That is painful to me.

I asked God to give me a sign.

Later that day, on the subway, I look up from my phone and see, directly across from my seat, an ad for handbags. On it the copy just says “Go Vegan.”

Well, it couldn’t get any clearer than that, now could it?

I am stubborn and ambitious, and as such I’ve never been very great at compromise. As such, I wholeheartedly reject the idea that eschewing meat, dairy, and eggs puts a damper on my aspirations as an athlete. I will have both, and this blog is here to let folks know that they can too. Just watch


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