Thursday, September 4, 2008

Takin' it Easy

When I exercise, I go full-tilt. Why run three miles when you can do five? Why stop at five? Why stop at all?

Which is all well and good when athletes are hale, healthy and hearty. But what when they aren't?

There are lots of reasons to stop exercising. The most serious of them is health. Illness or injury can sideline even the most dedicated athlete. Thankfully, those times are rare.

However, when that happens — when ill health prevents you from exercising — you have an obligation to do one thing: listen to your body.

You probably should also listen to your physician; after all, that person knows more about medicine than you do. If Dr. No says, "No running for two weeks," then consider not running for two weeks.

I have found, however, that physicians have stopped passing such edicts. Dr. No has turned into Dr. When-You-Feel-Like-It. After my shoulder surgery five years ago, my orthopedist wisely told me I could start running again when I felt like it — and I didn't feel like it for two weeks. Now, had the good doctor forbid me to run for that length of time, I would have been chafing at the bit. Instead, he let me make the call and I healed in peace.

This summer, I did not walk for two months. Again, that doctor was wise: I would return every couple of weeks for evaluation, to see if there was a chance to put my foot down. As much as I wanted to get back on my feet, the pain (and additional complications) kept me from doing just that. At each visit, we would agree that it wasn't quite the right time.

Even once I was allowed to put weight on the foot, I edged forward tenderly. I like my feet. I like them even better healthy. After nine weeks, I figured another week in the boot or another couple of weeks with the cane wasn't going to kill me. When I was ready, I put the boot aside cautiously and, later, tried out my feet without a cane. So far, so good (though I think I'll employ my natty cane for just a tad longer).

However, I am not out of the woods yet. If the edict comes down that I'm doing too much, the boot, cane, walker all get put back into rotation as needed. (The crutches, however, are history, no matter who says what.) My ego is not greater than my fear of going backward. I have put too much into healing to mess it up now.

So, when it comes to injury, take it easy. I know it's easier said than done, but remember: it's easier to do it right the first time. Patience pays off. Trust me on this one.
- Chris

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