Things we take for granted: Taking a single step

One small step for man, one continuous movement of two legs.

Things we take for granted: Taking a single step

Have you ever noticed that when you are taking the stairs, you never take one step at a time? It is always left leg on one, right on the next and so on. You never move discretely one step at a time, but continuously.

I came to this realization the hard way.

Sometime last week, I got into an accident on my way to office and I hurt my knee. It was painful to stretch my knee at the time, but in the shock, I just continued on my way to work and got to my office. I work out of the 3rd floor and luckily, since the building has a lift, I was able to make use of it. I was in a bit of pain and kept my knee stretched after taking a seat at my desk to relieve the strain.

I usually grab a cup of coffee after settling in for work and have to head to the 4th floor for it. That day I made my way up the stairs with some effort and went about making my regular cup of joe. As I made my way back and took the first step down, I felt a stab of pain on my knee (I could relate to the old man in the house in Goblet of Fire). I stepped back and just grabbed a seat waiting for the pain to die down. I realized I would not be able to take the stairs and took the lift down.

That was the day I found that every restroom in the office required me to take a step up. Now going up the step was not the problem, but going down was painful af. I had to will myself into going every time I had to use the loo that day. A single step became a challenge.

That evening I prepared myself mentally for the weeks of pain ahead. I knew I would have to avoid activities that would add excessive stress on my knees including cycling (for those who know me, you know how much I love cycling). Beyond that, taking the stairs looked like it was definitely out of question. I was really worried and even made plans to work from home if needed.

That night I headed to bed giving my knee some support during my rest. I took a painkiller and that gave me some relief. The next day I found the pain had reduced considerably. I understood and came to appreciate the value of a good night's rest, and the body's ability to recover and heal.

I made it to office the next day. It came the time for coffee and I faced the challenge of climbing the stairs. As I took the first step, I found my other leg automatically take the next. And when I hauled myself up, I felt the pain shoot up my knee. Only when I consciously took the effort to take one step at a time and get both my foot together on the same step, I could evade the pain. It took twice as long to get up and get down.

I learnt that when you take the stairs, your legs work together in a coordinated manner to smoothly transfer your weight from one step to the next. By alternating the legs with each step, your body is able to maintain balance and stability throughout the movement.

I came to appreciate the marvel that is our body, it's ability to recover and heal, it's non-conscious ability to most effectively make coordinated movement and the value of one single uninjured knee.