I didn’t exercise when I was a kid. No formal or organized activities. We had gym class in school— dodgeball and rope climbing and other activities designed to embarrass kids like me who weren’t what you’d call athletic. It’s not that I hate sports. I just don’t love sports. I don’t spend a lot of time following a team, any team, studying their draft picks, discussing their “chances” this year or "good looking" players with a “nice pair of hands.” I figure the team’ll win or lose whether I watch them or not, even if I wear my lucky hat.
I never went out for what they called Intermurals when I was a kid, afterschool softball or whatever. And there wasn’t the organized forced soccer for five year olds that we do to our kids now. There was Little League, I guess, but we weren’t a sports family so no one made me try it. My father didn’t play sports; he didn’t watch sports, talk sports, or even gamble on sports so there wasn’t that pressure.
I didn’t exercise. But I rode my bike everywhere, my black Stingray with a banana seat: two blocks down to my best friend’s house, or to the “downtown” area of our suburb to Baskin-Robbins for an ice cream cone or the drug store for a comic book. Eventually, my mom let me ride to the next town over, across Harlem, to the hobby shop. Sometimes I’d just ride endlessly in circles around our block.
My neighbors and friends and I ran around in our yards or up and down our street. We’d throw Frisbees or play catch. Hide and seek. In the summer, we’d have squirt gun or water balloon fights. One time we even had a dirt ball fight: throwing dirt clods from surrounding gardens at each other ‘til the neighbors caught us and told us to knock it off.
I never did anything you’d call a formal workout. Jogging hadn’t been invented yet. That wouldn’t come around ‘til later when Jim Fixx made running away from your house and back again for a certain amount of time in expensive shoes something you forced yourself to do on a regular basis. (Fixx died in July of ’84, by the way, of a massive heart attack while jogging!)
I didn’t start working out seriously until about 12 years ago when I was laid off from my day job and had lots of extra time on my hands to start a new habit. I’ve had one kind of ache or pain ever since. I went to my doctor who sent me to a physical therapist who told me I have a “supinated foot” and I need a shoe that “promotes eversion in my stance phase.” (Sure, why didn’t I think of that?) I got custom running shoes at a running shoe store.
Still on any given day, my shins ache or my arches hurt. I popped something in my back. I’ve got trouble with my knees, now. My 17 year-old son, who’s on the cross-country team and runs a mile in 4:57 minutes, has the same back issues. My daughter, who was on her high school softball team all four years, has the same problem with her knees. She thinks it’s her ACL! So, I’m thinking my problems are genetic and I was obviously healthier BEFORE I started working out...
Statistics show that men and women my age are hurting themselves in record numbers because they’re staying active longer. They’re refusing to slow down.
Dr. Leon Benson, a surgeon at the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute and a professor at the University of Chicago, says “[Older people are] reluctant to accept that their bodies may have changed, and often plunge into new activities too vigorously – with unfortunate results. It’s very easy to write a check that your body can’t cash.”
I know what you mean, doc: cha-ching!
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