Break a Leg (Or At Least a Foot)

An aerobics class; not mine.

An aerobics class; not mine.

Those of you who have read my story “Competitive Yoga” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You (story available online here, and book available from Amazon here), know that I took up yoga several years ago. You also know that I hate exercise.

My experience described in “Competitive Yoga” was not the first time I made a foray into regular trips to a gymnasium. In my mid-thirties, after constant nagging by my husband (an exercise fiend who currently works out strenuously six times a week), I tried an aerobics class.

Actually, I tried several aerobics classes, but there was only one instructor I could follow. The others jumped around too much, and their routines were hard for me or too complicated. But Debbie—though she adopted the cheerleader yell approach to leadership—was easy to follow and only changed her routines every couple of months.

I still had a full-time day job at the time, and although Debbie taught evening classes three times a week, I was lucky to make it to the gym once a week. But I kept at it. For four years.

And felt quite proud of myself for my perseverance.

Then on Monday, August 28, 1995, Debbie announced that for family reasons she could no longer teach the evening class I attended.

I groaned. How was I going to find another aerobics instructor I could follow?

“I guess I’ll have to find some reason to stop aerobics,” I told her as I thanked her after class that evening.

On Tuesday, August 29, 1995, I broke my foot.

Now mind you, it wasn’t a deliberate act on my part. It was the end of a very horrible and rotten day.

My day at work had been long and hard. Several messy lawsuits in the middle of discovery, and I was scheduled to give a management training presentation on workplace violence the next morning.

I came home that Tuesday evening to find the hanger rod on my side of the closet in the master bedroom had pulled out of the wall, dumping all my clothes on the floor. My husband took the opportunity to complain about the volume and weight of all the clothes I owned.

And after dinner my checkbook wouldn’t balance. It was $10.00 off. (This was back in the days before online banking, when people actually balanced their checkbooks.) I went through it several times and could not find the error.

I was tired and cranky.

I carried the bank statement down the stairs, staring at it to see if my missing $10.00 would magically appear. In trying to count my pennies, I failed to count the stairs, and I missed the last one.


I heard the bone snap.

I immediately went into shock.

I yelled for my husband, who came running.

From the top of the stairs, my ten- and thirteen-year-old children stared wide-eyed as I laid on the floor shivering, my head on the floor and my injured foot raised on the step above me. They’d never seen Mom laid low before.

“I’ll take you to the ER,” my husband said. “Kids, get yourselves to bed.” He found me some shoes (I only put on one) and my purse, carried me and the purse and unneeded shoe to the garage, and sat me in the front seat of his car.

My teeth still chattered, and I babbled incoherently.

We sat for three hours in the suburban hospital Emergency Room nearest our home.

crutches“It’s cracked,” the ER doctor told me. “But you can put as much weight on it as you can tolerate. No need for a cast—here’s a padded shoe. Keep it elevated, and let’s fit you for crutches.”

“Should I stay home from work tomorrow?” I asked. I was out of shock and a little more rational after three hours of sitting, and worried about my presentation at work the next day. But it was two hours past my bedtime, and I hurt and I was exhausted. I needed to get to work, but I knew I would be wiped out.

The doctor looked guarded. I think he was used to people wanting to drum up excuses to stay home from work, but I just wanted to know if I had to find a midnight substitute for my management training program. “It’s up to you. I’ll write you an excuse if you need it.”

I was my employer’s expert on the Family and Medical Leave Act. I knew what documentation I needed for the absence. But even if I missed the presentation, how many days would a broken foot keep me out of work? Surely not the “more than three days” required for an FMLA absence. “Not a problem,” I said.

“Here’s some Tylenol 3 for the pain, and a referral to an orthopedic group,” he said. “You should make an appointment with them later in the week.” And he sent me home.

I decided I was too tired to go to work the next day, so I left voice mails messages for a couple of possible substitute presenters. I missed the training program on Wednesday, but had lots of return messages asking whether workplace violence had caused my injury and whether I had completed my FMLA paperwork.

I couldn’t get in to see the orthopedic doctor until Thursday, so I hobbled around my house until then.

“No way should you be on that foot,” the orthopedic surgeon told me on Thursday. “You’ve damaged your ligaments. You’ll need to be in a cast for at least six weeks. No weight bearing on that leg. But your foot is too swollen to cast today. Come back next Tuesday after Labor Day to get your cast.”

So that’s how long a broken foot kept me out of work—from the Tuesday evening when I broke it until the following Tuesday after I was put in the cast.

And it kept me out of aerobics far longer—over eight years, to be precise, from August 1995 until September 2003, when my second stint at the gym began. I didn’t really start yoga until the start of 2007.

What desperate measures have you taken to avoid something you didn’t want to do?

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  1. Theresa every morning my daughter has to almost kick my behind out the door for my daily walk. Im allergic to exercise, but age is setting in on these old bones and I know I need to move it or lose it. Smiling today as it is raining heavily no walk, or weights ….reading ah now thats so good for my eyes.

  2. Your post brought back memories of the four times I’ve broken my feet, each foot, two times. The first time I broke my foot, like you, I heard it snap and felt the pain, but my gym teacher yelled, “Get up, keep running”…so I did. By the time I got home from school, my foot was the size of an eggplant. 🙁

    • So sorry, Jill, but your comment made me laugh! Someone klutzier than me. Though I’ve sprained some ankles in addition to twice breaking my foot. The left foot both times, so I could drive. My husband was not so considerate, and I had to chauffeur him around for several weeks when he broke his right foot.

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