Listening To My Body

Going into my senior year of high school, my dad wasn’t very happy with me. Over the summer of that year, I announced I’d taken up smoking. To complicate the matter, it was the same time he decided to kick his habit! No matter how hard he cajoled me, my young mind would not budge. As the habit ran its course, I tried to kick it a few times, never successfully – I guess I just wasn’t ready.

Finally, I gave up my 20-year pack-a-day cigarette habit, deciding it was time to treat my body with more respect. That same month I started a running regimen. By the end of April that year, I was running five miles most days and had lost some extra weight. I’ve often said that running kept me off the weed and kicking that bad habit made me a better runner.

Over the years I kept it up. I joined a running club at one point but found that I really liked to be on my own – did some of my best thinking out on the roads. Among other injuries, I’ve had stress fractures in both of my tibias that kept me off the roads for a few months each. The best advice I ever received, was from Dr. George Sheehan’s book Running & Being. He writes, “Listen to your body. Do not be a blind and deaf tenant.” He taught me to listen to my body which will tell me when I need to back off.

For the next 25+ years I maintained my running regimen – trying to balance home/work life and take time for a run wherever and whenever I could. I joined gyms near my offices so that, when possible, I could get in mid-day runs. I traveled a bit in my jobs, so would always pack my running shorts and shoes to get out on the road when I could. In addition, I participated in several local races (a few pictured below) just to keep my edge. Running became an integral part of my life. Some would say I was addicted to it – albeit a good addiction versus my former tobacco habit.

LTMB - Road Races

Many years of pounding the pavement started to take its toll on my joints and lower back. I wasn’t getting out regularly and was gaining weight! Maybe time to stop this running stuff. Listening to my body, I decided to heed the signs, slow down and replace running with walking.

I started out slowly, mixing treadmill work with outdoor walks. Soon, I was doing 6 miles, 3-5 times a week. [modified since the pandemic to 3 miles every day – to get me out of the house more often!] Getting out of bed one day in 2015, I felt a “pull” on my right side, I didn’t think much of it as I went for my normal walk. Finally, listening to my body after a few weeks of pain, I sought medical attention. Bottom line: age was catching up with me, as I had moderate right hip joint osteoarthritis. Electing a conservative treatment plan (physical therapy and occasional cortisone injections), l was able to maintain my active lifestyle for another 7 years.

This year a follow-up x-ray report confirmed how I’ve been feeling: “severe hip joint osteoarthritis; findings have significantly worsened.” After consultation with the medical team and my two adult children, I’ve decided to have total hip joint replacement surgery in May. My rationale for going forward is that I may be eighty, but I sure don’t feel it. If I don’t address this now, my quality of life may be impacted even more than it is now. I have much I want to do in the time I have left on this earth.

My surgery had been scheduled for later this month but was rescheduled, as I’ve tested Covid-positive. The medical center has a policy that one must be covid-free for three months after testing positive, so it’s been rescheduled for later this year.

I recently returned from a wonderfully vigorous hiking adventure. This was a Road Scholar trip to Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains NP and Carlsbad Caverns NP during which I took a spill on one of the trails. My right leg (of course the one that’s to have surgery!) was pretty banged up – the leg will now have plenty of time to heal. I believe I was exposed to Covid on my return trip to Tampa.

Instead of writing an extended article about this recent trip, I’m just posting a few photos and suggest you visit Laurie’s YouTube page. She was a stranger among 21 others when we met up in El Paso to start this adventure – our group became like family before it ended 8 days later. Her vlog really captures the essence of that trip.

LTMB - Big Bend+

I’ll continue to listen to my body and hope it keeps talking to me for many years to come!