Mr. Glass

I am no man of steel. To say that I’m prone to injury might be a wee bit of an understatement. I’ve been to the emergency room more times than I can remember. At last count, it was more than ten. I was backed over by a car, broke both arms, sliced my leg open, fell down the stairs (more than once), crushed a couple of teeth when my face got into a fight with the street, bashed my head into the corner of a formica covered kitchen counter, broke numerous digits, stuck an EpiPen into my thumb bone, severely sprained my ankle while trying to prove I could jump over a cardboard house (the house didn’t survive), and on and on and on. With the exception of the head meets counter episode, each of those injuries was self inflicted and the product of carelessness; and one might argue the counter was my fault since I asked to be swung around by my feet.

Though, with all of the abuse and harm I have inflicted on my body, I heal. Strike that; my body heals itself. I don’t have to do anything except wait and try not to get hurt while I’m waiting. However, there is one exception. More debilitating than any of the aforementioned injuries is a good ole back injury. How have I hurt it you ask? Well, let me start with my honeymoon (yeah I wish it was what you’re thinking of. Get your mind out of the gutter, you pervert). Seven years ago, my wife and I went to Great Britain after we got married. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a great idea to pack our entire wardrobe, but hindsight is 20/20. Being the gentleman that I am, I carried both of our 70lb suitcases up and down many flights of stairs as we navigated our way through the London tube system. The following day, I felt something I had never felt. It was a tight tingling sensation all the way down the back of my left leg. After months of pain and discomfort, I discovered through an MRI that I had a herniated disc. More so, I found out that the discs from the middle of my spine down to my butt were degenerating. Since that discovery, I have injured by back by picking up a large man, picking up a small baby, lifting my leg in the shower, standing up out of my car (this was the worst since my son was born the same day and I couldn’t walk normally for more than three months), and by doing ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING!

Of the fifteen or more times I have been incapacitated over the last seven years due to back pain, doing absolutely nothing has been the primary cause. Why is that you ask? Gee you sure have a lot of questions. I have come to the realization that doing nothing is what causes me to constantly injure my back. Conversely, as I have become more and more active, I have been able to avoid injury. Like many people, I began to live a stagnant life after college. When I met my wife at 21, I weighed 135lbs. Within 10 years, I ballooned to 195lbs. The funny thing is, I didn’t even notice. I drank, I smoked, and I ate in excess. Worst of all, I did nothing to counter the unhealthy lifestyle I was leading. I spent the vast majority of the day on my ass. I would wake up, and go sit in my car for the ride into work. Then, I’d go sit in front of a computer for 8 hours. After that, I hopped back into my car, rode home, and then proceed to sit on the couch until it was time for bed. In short, I was a slug, an idler, a bum.

But then, three years ago, it all changed. I don’t consider myself a very religious man, but for some reason, I decided to give up drinking for lent that year. I had never given up anything for lent before, so it was a little out of character to give up something that I love so much for a reason I had never quite understood. A month into this newfound and short lived religious devotion, my cousin challenged me to a bet that would change my life; a weight loss competition. I’m not saying I’m a competitive person, but losing is like dying. Given that I had already lost 20lbs from my heaviest due to some sporadic exercise and the healthy lent living, I had my misgivings. Fortunately I didn’t let the risk of losing the challenge keep me from accepting. Over the next few months, I exercised more than I had in the previous 10 years. I ate Greek yogurt for breakfast, a dry meat and bread sandwich for lunch, chicken breast and veggies for dinner, and a high fiber cereal right before bed. I limited my drinking to black coffee, water, and red wine. I was on a mission, and my devotion paid off.

Funny thing is, I liked working out so I kept doing it. It gave me energy, made me happy, and increased my feeling of self-worth. As an added bonus, the frequency of my back injuries declined. Sure I’ve had some setbacks, but usually those have been of the self-inflicted type (i.e. giving a 300+lb man a piggy back ride—no one can cure stupid). At no time during these last three years has the correlation of working out and staying pain free been more evident than when I started a routine that focused on the core. What is the core you ask? Again, what is it with you and all of these questions? The core is the body minus the arms and legs. Watching TV late one night, my wife happened upon an infomercial for the Insanity workout. She wanted to try it out, so I was game (more on the benefits of having an exercise buddy in a future post). Prior to starting this intense 60 day routine, my exercising consisted mainly of running. The Insanity videos feature a healthy dose of squats, planks, stretches and other exercises that work on the back and stomach. By the time we finished, I had no more back pain. I was stronger than I had been since my teens.

Sadly, we took a break and a month later my back issues resurfaced. All of my experiences over the last few years have taught me that when it comes to back pain, inactivity rather than activity is the cause. Only during times of frequent exercise have I been able to stay pain free. Taking it easy is not the key to avoiding injury. You need to strengthen the core and keep moving if you want to keep living. Since my last setback, I’m working out again, getting strong again, and eliminating that pain again. If there is a takeaway from this post, I want it to be pain is not inevitable. Just because you age, doesn’t mean you have to slow down. Just because you hurt, doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a fact of life. You have the power to fix what ails you. Get off your butt, and get moving. Your body will thank you for it.

My name is Michael. I’m 35. I may not be a man of steel, but I will become one.

1 comment:

  1. You are right. You can't cure stupid, but it is great to be reminded that you can change. Thanks for the reminder! MC