The painful truth about what can happen as a sportsman ages
One day back in early March, being in a bit of a rush, I leaned my back against the closet door jamb to pull on a pair of socks. Knowing better, but refusing to acknowledge the physical cautions that come with age, I pulled on my left sock in one quick motion as I stood balanced on my right foot.
A jolt of stabbing, tearing pain instantly hit the lower lumbar region of my back, and I collapsed to the closet floor in a heap.
I could barely breathe, as sickening spasms of burning misery radiated from my lower back. Gasping for breath, I crawled to the bathroom vanity and somehow managed to pull myself to a semi-upright position.
The almost-blinding pain convinced me that I had either slipped a disk, pinched a nerve root or maybe done something even worse.
The most-maddening realization at that moment, though, was that spring turkey season was about to open in a few days and I had almost certainly knocked myself totally out of commission.
You see, hunting and fishing are two of my biggest passions, and to miss an opening day for any reason — short of war or civil calamity — is next to unthinkable.
Having just celebrated my 66th birthday two days before “the incident,” I wondered, am I falling apart?
The steady drumbeat of days as they roll off of the calendar is a relentless reminder of why aches and pains most often become the norm as one ages, but with a little prevention it doesn’t really have to be so bad. I once read that one’s physical body time is not measured as a smooth decline, but more as a series of alternating stair steps, with long, flat, relatively healthy stages punctuated by sudden, sharp declines.
The trick for all of us as sportsmen is to maximize and prolong the flat, healthy periods while minimizing and shortening the unhealthy declines.
One characteristic that we all share is the singular fact that, like death and taxes, we are getting older every single day whether we like it or not. The challenge is to maintain an acceptable level of fitness and flexibility.
This is extremely important in order for all of us to continue enjoying hunting and fishing, enjoying the great outdoors to the absolute max for as long as possible.
Look, I work out and do core strength training three times a week with weights, and I also do exercises such as planks and push-ups, so I have considered myself a little above average in the physical department.
I have obviously been fooling myself, and more conditioning is needed — especially in the realm of flexibility.
We all need to consider age-appropriate training on a regular basis, even though our natural tendency is to slow down and take it easy as we age.
For those readers that might be skeptical of that statement, consider the fact that sports-minded men and women should be considered “athletes” in the sense that they participate in outdoor activities that involve such things as walking, running, climbing, lifting, and so forth.
The good news regarding this most recent of my physical episodes is that after two solid weeks of painful misery, a full regimen of anti-inflammatory meds and several physical therapy sessions with Mark, Angela and Brian at the Strength Center, my favorite physical therapy clinic, the root cause of my injury was found.
It turned out to be a fairly common problem that is usually correctable.
Lo and behold, the sudden, awkward lifting of my leg dislocated my left sacroiliac joint, which is a connector between the spine and the pelvis. I still cringe when I recall what it took to relocate my errant SI joint.
The physical cure on the PT table resembled being pinned in a Greco-Roman wrestling match as the stubborn joint finally gave up and — with an audible “scrunch” — popped back in place.
This particular malady can occur at just about any age given the right set of circumstances, but it can become particularly bothersome as we age due to a natural regression in “core strength” and overall “flexibility.”
Had I been seated when I pulled on my sock, probably nothing would have even happened, and I in all likelihood would have been trotting toward the sounds of a gobbling tom turkey on opening morning. Instead, I wound up lying in bed at home on my back with two pillows propped under my knees dreading having to even get up.
As a society, we have slowly and surely become more and more sedentary over the past 20 to 30 years. This can be blamed on any number of compounding factors, including such things as television, smart phones, computers, video games, ATVs, and so forth and so on.
I recently heard and then later read about recent medical studies that equate “sitting” as the new “smoking,” as it relates to increasing ones risk for heart decease and stroke.
My clarion call to sports men and women of all ages is to get up and get moving. We can ride bicycles, take the stairs at work rather than use the elevator, take walks on local roads and woodland trails, and do some work out in the yard.
A person only needs a minimum of 30 minutes a day of some form of moderate exercise to see real benefits — even if it is nothing more than going for a walk on a regular basis, which cost nothing and only requires a road or path to walk on.
Recent medical guidelines recommend that we each should walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day in order to maintain a meaningful level of fitness. This recommendation, of course, includes every step that we take during the day for any purpose.
We can all walk to better fitness, and better fitness means fewer injuries and more ability when it comes to climbing into a tree stand, more stamina when following a pack of bawling rabbit beagles and more strength when dragging out the buck of our dreams.
I plan to redouble my fitness regimen from this point forward, with the intention of wearing out rather than rusting out.
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