Paying the Price

When I was in my late 20s, I fell in love with martial arts. I joined a Tae Kwo Do class and worked my way up to black belt. I’ll bet that during that time, I did thousands of kicks and punches. I never once thought of my rotator cuffs, muscles or joints. I reveled in the fact that I could do all these things, and I did them to the best of my ability.

I went on to get my 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th degree black belt, and I taught Tae Kwon Do at my own school with two excellent female black belts. Teaching students who range in age from 7 to 72 can be challenging, and painful. Although our class was a strictly “non-contact,” we teachers often got kicked and punched (out of sheer enthusiasm) from our students. Back then, a bruise disappeared in hours, not days and weeks.

When I wasn’t involved in karate, I did aerobics. I also ran two miles every day until I developed shin splints. After that, I took up race walking. I loved being active, and back then, I felt invincible. When the weather was bad, I did yoga exercises.

Not long after that, I noticed that both of my hands throbbed and ached after each day of typing on the computer at work. It turned out that I had carpal tunnel in both hands, so I had the surgery for both.

It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I started to notice my knee pain. I didn’t run anymore, and I stopped race walking and simply walked. A few years later, I tore one of my rotator cuffs. When I saw the doctor about it, he said that he needed to do a surgery on my neck first, then the rotator cuff. I went through both surgeries, and for the first time, I realized how long it took to recover.

A few years later, my knee pain became unbearable, so I had a knee replacement. A few months later, my doctor checked it as I was complaining about pain. It turned out that the replacement was failing, so I had a knee revision a few months later.

Last March, we moved my dad into our home as his house had become too much for him to handle. For the month and two days he was with us, he was in bed most of the time. He needed help to get into the bathroom, and one of us would help him out of bed. The times I did it, I felt my back go out. I finally went for physical therapy, which helped a lot.

See the progression here? When young, we can do anything, and our strength and stamina seems endless. We age and conveniently forget that all our muscles and joints are aging too. There are now things that I can’t do anymore, but still I find less stressful exercise and walking are just as satisfying and not so hard on my body.

I have to laugh when I remember how young and resiliant I was, never thinking that I would someday pay the price for all I did when I was younger. If anyone had told me to slow down and be more careful back then, I would have just laughed it off. But that’s how life goes; we feel when we are young that we will be strong and healthy forever.

I enjoyed all that I did back then very much, and I am grateful for all the mobility I have right now. I am much more careful these days with my body, and I am aware of any balance issues. I find that just standing on one foot for a few minutes, and then the other, greatly helps my balance. Life is still good, and I am still active.

You know what? Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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