For My Birthday, I Accomplished Something That Made Me Proud

It was the greatest gift columnist Lena Riedl could've given herself

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by Lena Riedl |

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Last week, I turned 29. And for the first time, turning a year older made me think.

We often hear people say, “By the time I turn 30, I want to have achieved X, Y, and Z.” I never put a time frame on my goals. But now that 30 is approaching, I feel like I should’ve achieved them by now. And that puts a lot of pressure on me.

For this year’s birthday, I wanted to celebrate differently than I have in previous years by doing something just for me — something that would make me happy.

So I decided to participate in the Vienna Night Run, a 5K that was taking place on my birthday.

I was so afraid to run it because despite my good intentions, I only trained for it once. I know some might say, “Oh, come on, it’s only a 5K,” but for me, even a few kilometers are a big deal.

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Mixed feelings about sports

Sports have always brought up complicated emotions for me. Because I live with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare, genetic condition that causes my skin to rip easily, I have to be careful with everything I do. Participating in gym classes at school was never a possibility for me.

Fortunately, I grew up in a sporty family, so sports were always a big part of our leisure time. We didn’t play because we had to, but because it offered great pleasure and an opportunity to socialize. I was lucky because even though my parents worried I’d get hurt, they helped me try out many sports.

Still, I grew up being the person who just couldn’t do it — either at all or as well as others. This always made me sad. At times, I’d try to start learning a sport, but felt so embarrassed that I wasn’t as good as my peers. It was no wonder, though — they had gym class at least twice a week while I slept in!

I remember once asking my then-boyfriend to start jogging with me. He was a semi-professional basketball player and trained five times a week. When we jogged together, he was always faster and needed to wait for me. After a few meters, I’d start crying because I felt demoralized.

These are the memories I have of doing sports as a teenager. I was always the slower one, and others had to wait and care for me.

Proving to myself that I can do it

It wasn’t until I was 23 that I discovered I could be sporty. I started working out with a personal trainer once a week, along with my sister. With some hard work, I soon saw my first results.

Over time, I got stronger and realized that physical activity wasn’t something I was unable to do — I just had to find methods that were suitable for my body and skin. And there were so many possibilities! Even if I get hurt figuring out what I can do, I try not to be too hard on myself when it happens.

Of course, there are many sports I can’t do because I would for sure get hurt. But that’s OK. I’ve found many activities that suit me and make me happy, such as SuperCycle, which involves extreme spinning in a discolike atmosphere. I enjoy doing it with my best friend; it’s our thing now!

Another thing I enjoy is jogging — which is why I did the 5K on my birthday. I managed it pretty well, met my goals, and was even a little faster than I thought I’d be. While running the last few meters, I realized that the best gift I gave myself this year was making myself proud. And for that I am oh so grateful!

proud of myself | Epidermolysis Bullosa News | Lena takes a selfie in a floor-length mirror while wearing her long-sleeved "Vienna Night Run" shirt, leggings, and a smartwatch.

Lena prepares for the Vienna Night Run on Sept. 20. (Photo by Lena Riedl)

Note: Epidermolysis Bullosa News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Epidermolysis Bullosa News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to epidermolysis bullosa.


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