Ripped (#191)

In elementary school, I was the tallest and the strongest. In 5th grade, I was the only student awarded the Presidential Physical Fitness medal. By sixth grade, I was 5’8,” with size 10 shoes.

By high school, I had crushed all contenders in arm-wrestling. I didn’t see the need to get stronger. But my best friend needed to be able to do a single pull-up in order to make it into the Air Force Academy, and she needed a friend to support her – literally. Every morning before school, I held her up under the pull-up bar in our high school gym until she gained enough strength to manage a pull-up on her own. When it was time for her AF physical, she actually did TWO whole pull-ups and we did about fifty girly squeals together afterwards.

While helping my friend get all buffed up, I lifted some weights, too. After all, it was gratifying to watch the guys come into the gym as we were leaving. More than one beefy white boy strutted past me to the leg press, did a double take at the weights, and tried to surreptitiously remove a few without his friends noticing.

Whereupon I hurried back over, loudly apologizing, “Sorry, dude, I shoulda re-racked those, lemme give you a hand.”

Similar incidents happened in college weight rooms, and then when I joined a gym. Watching incredulous male faces was always fun, but taking credit for it seemed wrong. Muscle strength is mostly genetics. Sure, I lift weights and do cardio on a regular basis to make up for chocolate consumption (with varying degrees of success), but my mighty quadriceps are a fluke.

Strength – especially quads – came in handy for pot-stirrer spins the dance floor, though. When my husband and I retired from competition, I became obsessed with volleyball, playing recreationally, then in a league. My quads served me well once again, especially when it came to blocking. Seeing the shock on a male hitter’s face right after I stuffed him was always delightful.

Like Badminton Becky, I hounded better players for lessons, did drills, and played whenever I could. I played too much, straining my right quad during a tournament. I shrugged it off. I’d had a few muscle strains before, a boatload of stitches from various dogs and windows, and had even survived flipping a car 3 times without a scratch. I foolishly considered myself semi-indestructible. I took a few too few days off, then went back to volleyball practice.

But when I jumped to spike a set, the ball didn’t go down.

I did.

My right quad finally failed me. I fell in a heap on the gym floor. The smallest move sent shooting pain through my whole leg. I crawled to the side of the gym and tried not to throw up while my teammates called my husband and told him to pick me up.

My husband did pick me up, but not literally, because I’m not a small person and Andy has compressed discs in his back. When tiny little Veronica broke her ankle at volleyball and tried to hobble out, her husband scooped her up in his arms and carried her out to applause.

My husband is not so foolish. He draped my arm over his shoulder and told me to lean on him. I did. He winced, and recruited another player to help us out to the car, saying, “Take as much of her weight as you can.”

I made a mental note to make sure Andy and I did leg weights together once I recovered. Maybe he’d get stronger. Maybe he’d be humiliated. Win-win.

Later that day, the orthopedist confirmed what I suspected. By stupidly jumping on a weakened quad muscle, I’d torn it. I’d be on crutches for weeks. After that, I could look forward to months of physical therapy before I could play volleyball again.

“That long?” I wailed.

“If you’re lucky. It’s a pretty bad tear.” The doctor shook his head at me and said, “I’ve never seen a woman with a torn quad before. It’s kind of a rare injury.”


“Because it’s usually massive football players who decide to play some basketball and they rip their quads doing jump shots.”

I never could decide if that was a compliment.

Or not.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

21 thoughts on “Ripped (#191)”

  1. I love this and can relate to it on so many levels. I also have size 10 feet and had them from 6th grade on (although the rest of me never grew past 5-4). I am also freakishly strong and heavy and once tore my hamstring playing softball. (So. f*cking. Painful. I had to go to the ER.)

    Is there going to be another follow-up? I wanna know what happens next!

    1. You are also a canoe foot! Well done. Have you impressed any males in the boxing ring or carried Ray around? 🙂 Yes, next up will be what happens when the main house-cleaner is benched. Plus one on the differences between men and women when injured. Nice to know there is an audience!

  2. Wah, I have only size 9 feet! (European size 42-43, my dad got size 13-14 though)
    I had my fair share of injuries due to sports over the years and I am very lucky that nothing major happened for a couple of years now. My shoulders and my back were always the main problem with swimming.
    These days my shoulders recovered thanks to my gym workouts but I do not really feel like testing them in the water with hard exercise. My legs were always weak for me so my quads are…well don’t think they will tear too quickly :p

    1. Swimming was the only exercise I could do after that injury, mainly because my kick sucks and I mostly use my arms. I always feel like arm weights are tougher than swimming. Maybe you do more butterfly?

  3. When I was in school, I enjoyed sports, but I just barely squeaked through. I was good at water ballet, dancing, and cheer leading. That’s all. I didn’t even like to watch sports. Good thing we had our little song-leader dances to keep me entertained.

    Fortunately for our daughters, they inherited strength and athletic ability from my husband. They’re all taller and stronger than I am.

  4. I think I discovered your secret identity.You are She-Hulk!!

    I am tall (5’9″ in American, why do you use such weird measurements?) but I never liked sports. So I’m a tall weakling, haha. Never had any injury apart from ankle twists… but I seem to remember we used to do pull-ups in secondary school? Not sure I would be able to do one now, haven’t tried in like almost 20 years…

  5. Sorry to hear you have busted yourself up. Don’t worry, I also sometime think I’m semi-indestructible for doing a lot of crazy stuff. I once broke my ankle very badly on a ski. Not long after the cast was taken off my leg, I took part in a 10K cross-country race. Guess what? I saw the surgeon, who operated on my ankle, at the starting line. He had the WTF expression on his face! Better still I beat him!

    I’m sure with bit of upper body training and perhaps swimming while you’re on the crutches, you will be back in shape quickly. Good luck!

    By the way, is that a picture of you at the top?

    1. OMG, that is hilarious about your surgeon. At least he could console himself about what an amazing job he did on your ankle. I bet you’re his poster child for the ultimate recovery and he tells all his patients, “hey, you’re gonna be fine. I had this one guy and he was running a 10K within a few months!”

      Not me — my leg is healed, but I broke a finger badly a month ago, which reminded me once again about the joys of being an injured neat-freak. I’ve a friend who does cross-fit and she let me borrow her picture. She’s way stronger than I am, especially for overhead lifts.

  6. Cool! Being strong is awesome. You’re lucky! The good doctor, I think, was just sharing information. It’s up to you to decide if it’s a compliment or not 😉

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