What do you do when your 22 year old brain wants to climb mountains and your 50 year old body says “Seriously”? This summer I found out the hard way…
I have to say this has been the summer of fun up until the end of June anyway. I’ve kept busy with lots of tennis, hiking, fitness classes, gym workouts, and I picked up a new sport – golf! Now that my husband is semi-retired, we thought it might be fun to try to do something together. So we joined a golf club and started going out on Sundays. I met a fun group of ladies and we golfed Friday afternoons. I use the term “golf” loosely here, as you can imagine. But overall, it’s great to be outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and long days.
I’d been feeling a sharp pain behind my right shoulder blade for some time now. It would come and go and I figured it was a sore muscle or just a tension point. One night, I turned over in bed and felt a white hot, searing pain course down my right arm. I flew out of bed and panicked for a moment but once it subsided I guessed I had a severely pinched nerve. After seeing my doctor, who ordered the MRI, it turned out I had a severely herniated disc in my neck. I can’t begin to describe the constant ache and pain. I lost a lot of mobility in my right arm, my energy was consumed in trying to control the pain, and I stopped doing just about everything I would do in a normal day. After trying and failing at drug therapy and rejecting the idea of cortisone shots, I decided to have disc replacement surgery to replace the “shredded” (my doctor’s words) disc that was hanging out on a nerve near my neck.
I had the surgery July 29th and now, three weeks later, I am happy to say I am pain free! My surgery was a success and while I am still recuperating, slowly building back up my strength and stamina, I have to ask myself, what can I learn from this experience and should I change my actively level as I get older?
So like the rest of the world, I googled the question. Most sites I found agreed that in your 50s, four to six cardio sessions that last 30 to 60 minutes each with a medium level intensity (can talk but no casual chatting) plus a half-hour of weight training twice a week is ideal. Okay, well I have to admit, my activity level in June far exceeded that recommendation. How to dial it back? I didn’t look at all the things I was doing as exercise. It was just fun with friends. Tennis three times a week, golf twice, hiking 4-5 times a week, weights twice a week (at least that was on target), plus fitness classes. Obviously, in winter I am not this active but as an empty nester, I don’t have to worry about the kids anymore and my favorite place to be in summer is anywhere outside.
So, now that I’m feeling no pain and can walk and start lifting very light weights, I want to start appreciating my body for what I can do, and not for what I can’t. Tennis and golf for me are done for the season. I have to complete some physical therapy on my right arm and neck before I can resume those activities. I’m walking about four to five miles at a slower pace than usual three times a week. Today I start working out a little in the weight room. I am starting on just a few leg machines and light hand weights for arm work, keeping my neck stable (meaning I am wearing the soft neck brace) and seeing how that works. In my head, I keep saying be patient. I want to be kind to my healing body but I want to work hard too. Finding the balance will be a challenge.
I think it’s kind of ironic that I turned 50 this summer and my body gave me a heck of a wake up call. Now I have to figure out how to stay healthy, active and injury-free going forward.
How do you find balance in your life? What changes have you made as you’ve gotten older?