Even us “fit” folk have to reassess our limits
I am fit. Some would say very fit. After all … fitness has been the focus of my life since I started playing sports in 1973 as a seven-yearold when contact sports were full contact for everyone at every age. Luckily, I was bigger and stronger than most. And I never got hurt. Except for the occasional “Charlie horse,” pulled hamstring or sprained ankle. Other than those issues, I was fine.
Throughout the years, I competed in 10 different sports. That’s a lot to ask of a body, but, incredibly, I never got hurt. Oh … except for the odd “mild” shoulder separation, torn pectoral muscle, broken wrist or the time my back “gave out” and I couldn’t tie my shoes for a while. I also had whiplash, which felt like I was being electrocuted. Other than that … no problem.
Playing college football for Purdue University and professional football in the CFL allowed me to compete against powerhouses like Notre Dame and Michigan and to go to a Grey Cup. For 10 years, my job was to be as big and strong as possible while competing at a professional level. And I never got hurt! … except for the time I had knee surgery or tore my bicep. Other than that … nothing.
After retirement and five surgeries, I started mountain biking, playing hockey and running in adventure races. I was able to keep my competitive juices flowing while living a normal life as a business owner, husband and father. And the great thing is … I never got hurt! Well … unless you count the time I went to the ER with a broken cheek, developed Achilles tendinitis or when I tore my rotator cuff. Other than that …. NOTHING!
So … now I’m a 50-year-old former pro-athlete, current Medical Exercise Specialist and it’s time to, finally, face facts.
My body hurts.
This article has given me the opportunity to do some searching as to just why my body hurts so much. As I reread my words … wow, I’ve done a lot and my body owes me nothing, that’s for sure.
The mystery is not WHY I hurt, but, rather where do I go from here.
A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson. I employed three really fit, strong trainers who were all in their 20s. I started to work out with them and could do everything they could do. In fact, I was stronger and fitter than most of them. The difference was that they could push hard day after day after day (kind of like when I was in my 20s) no matter what was going on in their lives. Trying to keep pace with them was killing me. I needed more recovery and I was faced with a reality check. I was, in fact, “human” and was going to break down if I didn’t make adjustments. It was time to start taking the advice I give to my middle-aged clients. Push and then, be realistic, and allow yourself time to recover. Recovery used to be just a little bit of your overall fitness plan. At 50, with a lifetime of injuries behind you, it becomes a much bigger part of the big picture.
As I plan the next phase of my life as a husband, father, business owner and athlete I am looking for things that will keep me fit and strong and keep the competitive juices flowing … without killing me. Or making me hurt.
My cycling continues, but, is a little less daunting and I walk the bike where I used to ride it through dangerous single-track trails. I’m planning a return to recreational hockey and I really enjoy in-line skating in the summer as a substitute for the pounding I used to endure as a runner. I’m pretty sure Crossfit isn’t in my future, but I’ll look at everything else.
I plan to plan, assess and modify things along the way.
While fading away doesn’t sound too appealing, I’m just as sure that I don’t want to burn out!
Ernie Schramayr, CPT, is a Medical Exercise Specialist in Hamilton who helps his clients manage medical conditions with exercise. You can follow him at ErniesFitnessWorld.com. 905-741-7532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In-line skating is a great cardio option that does not punish the joints as much as running.