These are the steps to the top of the Venice Island Center Bridge. (also known as the Venice Avenue Bridge). Yup that's a lotta steps for sure. Why does it matter?
Well, y'see, Florida is flat. I mean really flat. I don't always realize just how flat it is because there are so many trees that you just cannot see very far. But if you took away all of the trees (and buildings) you could probably see for miles. And miles. And miles. And, well you get the idea.
And then there is also the fact that we now live in a one story house. There are a lot of one story houses here. Probably more one stories than two come to think of it. And every building that I know about here that has more than one story, has an elevator. (or escalator like in shopping malls). So I have, I suppose, become accustomed to one story living.
Back in Colorado, we lived in a two story house that also had a basement. I went up and down those stairs every single day. Many times every day. And sometimes I ran up and down those stairs. The building I worked in however, was only one story. At work, even though I was on my feet most of the day, it was only one floor. That was just four years ago.
Before Colorado, we lived in Connecticut. Also a two story house, also with a basement. At that time I worked in a two story building and my office was on the second floor. I did those stairs many times a day.
Both Connecticut and Colorado are hilly places. So if you are going to go for a walk, odds are very good that you are going to be walking either up or down a hill, just to spend time outside. So add that in as well.
I never had trouble with ANY of those stairs. It was a perfectly normal thing. Like brushing your teeth. You don't think about it, you just do it. Stairs have never been an issue for me. I laugh in a face of stairs.
And then of course we moved here to one story, flat topography life. And it was all good. Until recently when we were somewhere (I don't even remember where) and circumstances required that I go up a rather long flight of stairs. "Nothin' to it" I thought to myself and I began climbing. Half way up my thighs started whining. 3/4 of the way up my calf muscles joined the chorus. And by the time I got to the top I was light headed and needed to stop and catch my breath. What the hell has happened to me?
I walk miles every day. Seriously, I try to do at least 3 miles each day. Some days, like hiking days, it ends up being more like 6 miles. And on a really fun weekend day of activity it might be closer to 9. Awesome! I still do my Pilates workouts as well. I thought I was in fairly good shape. Oh how very wrong I was.
So I decided I would take steps (no pun intended but hah!) too correct this problem. The only steps I could think of that I could incorporate into my exercise routine were the bridge steps. Ok I can do that.
Here was my plan. Every day I was going to walk first to the Center Bridge and I was going to do the steps for two sets (up and down is one set) gradually working my way up to more sets. And then I would continue my walk to where ever I was planning to walk that day. I sounded like a terrific idea.
Once my plan was in place, I was excited to begin. So I grabbed my camera and set out toward the Center Bridge which is a wee bit more than a half mile walk. And a pretty one too, through nice neighborhoods, past Epiphany Church (which plays the prettiest music at chime time), then behind the Theater, under the North bridge and along the Intercoastal Waterway to the base of the stairs of the Venice Avenue Bridge. It was a nice cool day and nobody was out walking there other than me. Very Nice. I took a few photos
It was a beautiful day, I had a great plan, and I had confidence that this plan was perfect. Piece of Cake. I am clearly an idiot.
I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. And Up. And UP. Hmmm. There are a lot more stairs involved than I realized. But no big deal, "I can do this", I sez to myself. And with a big smile on my stupid face, I began climbing. I wasn't holding the railing because even though these were unforgiving concrete stairs, I don't need no stinkin' railing. Oh I am twelve different kinds of ridiculous.
I began with sprightly pace, no running but moving with happy energy. It didn't last long. There are so many steps involved in this particular stairs case that there is a landing half way up. I paused there, ostensibly to look out at my surroundings from this higher perspective and to give my legs a chance to rest a second or two. "Get a grip" I lectured them, "This is no big deal! Keep moving". So I turned and continued up, this time with my hand on the railing, just for safety's sake at a less energetic pace.
Once I reached the top, I stopped again. This time to catch my breath. But I was facing the water, so any car passing by me on the bridge would think that I was just enjoying the view. While trying to steady my beating heart, I took a few photos. Mostly to kill time.
Once my heart rate had calmed down a bit, I took a deep breath, once again reassured myself that I could, in fact, do this, I went back down the stairs. A wee bit slower and more carefully but down I went. You'd think it would be easier going down than up, but for some reason I always have more difficulty with the descent. On ladders, Mountains, stairs, makes no difference, for me down is scarier. So I'm extra careful.
It felt like it took forever, but once I finally got to the bottom, part of my brain said, "call it a day" but the other part, the really stubborn part said, "No you said you would do two sets today and two sets you shall do!" I groaned out loud, but obediently turned and started back up, moving at the speed of smell.
When I got to the landing, my thighs and calves were no longer whining at me, they were screaming. And what they were saying was, "Why? Why are you doing this to us? You are a cruel and viscious woman!" I told them both to shut up and kept climbing. I wasn't goin to to pause on the landing this time because, frankly, I was afraid that if I stopped I would be able to get started again. I was huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf. Obviously I couldn't see myself but I'm sure my face was red, I know I was sweating, even in the cooler air.
My legs were now trembling. I found myself saying outloud but softly , "step, step, step" in a helpful instructive way. I was now pulling myself up with my arms as much as lifting with my legs. I was going to get there, come hell or high water. By the time I reached the top, my entire body was shaky and I was gasping for air. I leaned against the bridge railing while I collected myself. "What the heck is wrong with you?" I asked myself, "Why can't you just let sleeping fat lie there quietly? Why are you doing this to yourself?"
As I wiped sweat off my face with my hand and the corner of my tee-shirt, I peered back down the stairs. "you know what?" I said to myself. "1 1/2 isn't bad for the first time. Next time I will do two full sets" .
And I continued over the bridge to Venice Ave and dragged my weary arse home on blessedly flat ground from there.
The next day, my legs hurt, my butt hurt and I felt quite accomplished. If it doesn't rain this afternoon, I will go back and this time I will do two full sets, dang it! I will! If I can do 1 1/2 then I can do 2.
It may take a little longer to get back to where I want to be, but I will get there. One of these days, and soon, I will be able to do those stairs with ease, with aplomb, with style and grace, and then continue my walk all over the island. I can do this!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.