Kinetic Motion - Blog

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Until that dreary morning last year I'd never done a cartwheel. Alas, I don't recall my first, but they say that's a good thing. Your brain will draw a dark curtain around what it thinks you're better off not remembering.
The doctors and the lawyers needed to know, however, so now I know what my brain won't tell me.
From the driver's testimony: "I would say he was airborne for -- from the point where he separated from his bike -- 10 to 15 feet before he hit the ground, and he bounced, quite literally, back into the air from that initial impact."
From the surgeon's commentary: "Your helmet is cracked because you landed directly on your forehead."
From the medical reports: "Unstable neck fracture, C1-C2."
The driver: He "basically tumbled from there down the hill . . . somersaulting, rolling . . . an end-over-end all the way into my car."
The surgeon's commentary: "You were doing cartwheels."
The medical reports: "right wrist and hand fracture"; "left second rib fracture"; "left [shoulder] separation."
Driver: "He was on his back . . . I said, 'Don't move.' "
Medical reports: First surgery: "This was a complex operation . . . requiring two board-certified neurosurgeons . . . using a power drill preset to 28 mm we cautiously drilled holes through the [top vertebra] . . . we inserted 22 mm titanium screws into these holes . . . and locked them down with a torque wrench."
Second surgery: "The [shoulder] was exposed . . . the drill guide was placed . . . a wire was passed through [the hole] . . . and tied on the top" to close the separation.
Surgeon's commentary: "It was the classic Christopher Reeve injury. It is a miracle you survived."
But this is not about falling down. It is about getting up, something that you do every day. And it's about choices we all make when we roll out of bed.
The question I asked myself last year, and that I ask you today, is: "What are you going to do?"
Is it time to pack it in? Is it time to recognize that most people give it up after a while? Is it time to accept that being 20 pounds overweight isn't fatal? Is staying fit worth the time when time is so precious?
And -- here's the biggie -- I'm flat on my back and you're flat on the couch: Is it even possible to get up and get fit? Can this washed-up, busted body ever work right again?
We are, after all, not teenagers anymore! I'm 56. No need to kick my tires. The body creaks, it aches and sometimes it shrieks out in pain when those muscles are asked to bebop along like a college kid's.
More on my own answers in a minute, but here are yours.
Yes, you can get up and get moving again.
Yes, you can avoid the injuries that have stopped you every time you've tried.
Yes, you have the time if you can find the willpower.
Yes, you have the motivation.
Your motivation is the same old, same old. You know you'll feel better. You know you'll like yourself more. You know that you can apply the brakes to the aging process.
You're lucky. The sciences of sport and nutrition have matured right along with you. Not so very long ago, a whole host of things could put your desire for fitness on permanent hold. Now we know better. The know-how about the way a body works, why it fails and how to correct it has increased tenfold in the past decade.
You've watched as the ways to exercise have mushroomed into the thousands, and with those opportunities come a lot of people just like you to share the experience with you.
Sweating isn't such torture if you're doing it with a friend.
The first step is getting up out of bed.
Or so I told myself.
A thought came to me that night as I lay there awaiting surgery that, should it go wrong, would leave me in a wheelchair forever. This is it: "The winds of adversity can knock you down or lift you up, depending on how you spread your wings."
Aging and adversity may not be twins, but they sure are kissing cousins.
It is all about faith and the will to move forward. I took as an act of faith that the operation would go well, that I would regain my fitness and that one day soon I would be stronger than I was that morning when that car swerved in front of my bike and sent me soaring.
What's more, I made a silent vow that after I found my fitness again I would do my best to help other people find theirs.
So far, held together by steel, titanium and wire, it has worked. At first, I pedaled a stationary bike in a neck brace, with one arm in a sling and the other in a cast. I started out jogging on a treadmill, but now I run outside. Finally, after a year of shoulder therapy, I can swim in a fairly straight line. This month, I won a triathlon in Texas. I made the U.S. team in my age group for the triathlon world championship in Australia this fall.
I will not lie and tell you that the journey from being screwed back together to winning medals has been painless. For a while, just moving in bed caused me to scream. But that's long over with, and the satisfaction of being whole again is so worth whatever it took.
And my promise about helping other people get fit again? From 9-year-olds to college kids to some folks who are seriously adult, if you get my drift, that's what I've been doing.
To my fellow baby boomers, here's my simple message: Boom again, baby!
I'm upright again, and you can be, too. I'll help, but do me one big favor: Try to stay away from cartwheels.
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