How Fitness Saved My Life

| by Salwa Al Bicyclechi |

I was born in Kuwait in 1989. A year later, my family had to move to Baghdad (our homeland) due to the Kuwaiti-Iraqi war. Another war started in 2003 between the United States and Iraq. Civil war started a year after the actual war. This was the hardest thing we had to go through in our entire lives. Being an active positive person, I couldn’t bear sitting at home and doing nothing while years passed on. Because of the civil war, I started exercising on the roof.  I did this for 7 years before we moved to the United States. I truly believe that exercising saved my life. Living in a civil war zone affected me negatively every single day. I experienced it first hand and I completely believe that staying active almost every day saved my mental health, which in return saved my life.

I ran on our roof because any sign of normal living could have cost me my whole life. I ran at night when nobody could see me, and it was my one and only therapy. No one complained to one another or even talked about the stress that was eating us all alive because everyone was going through the same thing. Running was my only way out. Every hour I spent on that roof was worth it and I looked forward
to night time just to go upstairs and relieve my stress and fears.

In 2004 I had a knee dislocation due to dancing, so I had to have surgery on my right knee to get it fixed. I couldn’t move my right leg for about 8 weeks so all my muscles atrophied. I started back on my exercise program, just walking at first and using the elliptical. After it was healed I started running again which wasn’t the best choice for building my muscles back but I didn’t know that at that time. It still helped me mentally and I got some muscle back due to reusing it. I found my passion in resistance training, so I started a program that included both cardio and resistance training and that helped my muscles build back up from my injury.

After arriving to the U.S.A. I continued running and developed an interest in doing long distance running because it gave me so much peace and mental clarity. I ended up doing the monumental full marathon followed by the Indy 500 half marathon and then a couple of 5Ks. My experience with exercising inspired me to switch majors from biochemistry to exercise science after arriving to Indiana. I graduated in May 2015 with a degree in Kinesiology. I’m also interested in pursuing either a degree or certification in Nutrition. Now I’m mostly doing resistance training but I still have a passion for cardio because my goal is to build my right leg muscles back and get it as close to my left leg as possible.

Tragedy does not have to happen for us to start using our bodies and treating them like we are supposed to.

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