Disclaimer: this is a stock photo off the Internet. My actual bicep size may vary!
It has been a year since I had bicep tenodesis surgery through the Sports Medicine department at the Cleveland Clinic. My last post about the surgery was 6 months ago. Back then I noted that it had been about a month since I began to feel like I was “back to normal.”
Here I am at the one year mark and my verdict is that, despite the fact that recovery was longer than I expected, it was worth it. 99.9% of the time I don’t even think about my shoulder; before the surgery, pain and discomfort were my constant companion. The only differences I notice now are that when I sleep on my left side, I can only sleep with a pillow supporting my right arm (the one that had the surgery), and that during certain exercise that involve raising my arm overhead I hear clicking. Aside from these minor changes, I have no limitations.
Final thought: as we age, we often think that we have to accept pain, discomfort, and limitations on our mobility. That is not necessarily the case. Every person is different and individual circumstances will dictate the best course of action. Sometimes physical therapy is called for, or simply rest and ice. In my case, when those options did not improve the situation, I am glad that I was a candidate for this surgery and had a successful outcome.
Something pretty exciting happened in sports just a couple of weeks ago. Golfer Phil Mickelson, who will be 51 in less than 2 weeks, became the oldest player to win the PGA Championship. This goes against the conventional wisdom that as we age, we are less able to compete and win in sports. This is no fluke, though. In fact a recent article shows the strategy that Mickelson undertook to be successful.
The story is not anything earth-shattering, but rather just a confirmation of what fitness professionals–especially those of us who work with older adults–have been saying for a while. Our bodies undergo changes as we age, but that does not mean we are powerless to counteract them. The article points to three main areas that Mickelson addressed and they are instructive for all of us.
First, among the changes we experience is often a change in metabolism. Some of us when we were younger were able to eat whatever we wanted and not put on weight; as we age, however, we must be more conscious of our nutrition. Mickelson was aware of this and if you look at pictures of him, you will see how much more fit he looks these days.
Second, mobility and strength need to be maintained and even improved. This is a big part of what I do with my clients. It is not enough to simply be flexible; one must also have the muscle power to go behind the movements. For years, older adults were told that it was dangerous to work out with weights; research now shows that as long as it is done in a responsible way, it is key to maintaining independence. Additionally, studies indicates that power training (combining resistance and speed/repetitive motion) is an effective way to boost fitness and even life expectancy.
Third, be certain to assess and re-assess the plan so that workouts and diet are appropriate. Doing the same thing every single workout without progression rarely leads to progress. On the other hand, overtraining can do more harm than good. In this regard, it is good to have a professional like a certified personal trainer to shape a program that will be safe and effective.
Phil Mickelson should be an example to all of us of what we can accomplish if we follow these guidelines. He is just one example, though; we all know that there are many older athletes out there who are pushing the limit and showing us just what is possible. No need to accept defeat!
They say that aging is not for the faint of heart.
Each year, it seems, my body surprises me with something else. Last year I had an emergency appendectomy–not fun at all and with a harder recovery than I expected. Three months later, I finally took care of a long-standing issue with Plantar Fasciitis that led to another surgery–also not the least bit enjoyable with an even harder recovery.
In the midst of COVID-29–which, thank God, I have avoided thus far–I have had a skin cancer with surgery (about which I blogged earlier). I will be having shoulder surgery in the not-too-distant future to resolve bicep tendonosis. And did I mention that some of my labs came back “funky” and I’ll need some more evaluations?
Definitely not for the faint of heart.
There are times when I do feel like I’m falling apart, like I am a broken robot whose circuits and switches are malfunctioning. The weird thing, though, is that I am still running (thanks to the surgery on my foot last year), am still working as a personal trainer, go for long bike rides a couple of times each week, can hike, and do the other activities that I enjoy. It is all relative. I sometimes see pictures of others my age and think that I’m actually doing pretty well, if not excellent. Others who see me tell me how great I look and ask how I keep in such good shape. And yet, there are days where I feel like I’m simply holding on with toothpicks and glue.
My attitude has evolved into the following. My father lived until he was 85. He had a lot of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s, and did not always take the best care of himself. If I manage to make it to 85 that means I have another 28 years to go (God willing). I plan to do all the maintenance and repairs so that my body will help me to do all the things I want to do as I age. It is kind of like taking care of a car; as long as we are faithful with the upkeep, the car should last a good long while…and may even become a classic!
I know that this is not the end of the surprises. I am sure that other parts will fail me every now and again. I am fortunate that I have access to health insurance and can deal with my issues in a planned way rather than at the ER when the situation becomes critical. I do worry about so many others who do not have the same privileges that I do. This too is part of the social protest movements that are going on.
The main thing is to listen to our bodies, to care for them, to keep them well-nourished, well-exercised and well-rested. We cannot control everything that will happen, but we can keep ourselves as strong as possible so that when parts fail, we are better able to address the issue.
That is my strategy as I make my way into territory that is not for the faint of heart.
May 24, 1963. My parents weren’t expecting twins, but that is what they got. This was in the days before ultrasound and there were surprises. My sister, Michele, and I are still close even though we live in different states; she works at the University of Michigan and I am an OSU fan, but we still have that twin thing after 57 years.
In a way, it is unbelievable that I am 57. There are things that I think about and say to myself, “that must have been about 15 years ago,” and I realize it was more like 40. My 35th college reunion is this fall. 35! It feels like I was just in high school and I couldn’t wait to get to college, and now my 35th reunion is coming up. It hasn’t gone quickly…until recently when it seems like the weeks just fly by.
This is, of course, a time for reflection for me. When I was younger, I thought 57 was ancient. Now, my brain still thinks like I am in college or even younger. I still find the 3 Stooges hysterical. I can’t say no to pastry. Farts and fart jokes are ALWAYS funny. And I am always looking forward to the next adventure. But every once in a while, my body reminds me that I’m 57.
My life has had its twists and turns since this photo was taken. I was very sick as a teenager with Crohn’s Disease. I had an amazing college experience with lots of travel. I have lived in Colombia, Costa Rica, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Israel and Ohio (for the last 23 years now). I was married, had four kids, and got divorced. I got remarried and picked up a stepdaughter, and am happier than I’ve ever been. I was a rabbi for 25+ years and, while I still am a rabbi (it’s like Herpes–it never goes away), that is only part of who I am as I’ve become a Certified Personal Trainer. I have an amazing extended family as well as friends from the many times and places of my life.
Do I worry about getting older? My biggest worry is not getting older but being unhealthy as I age–either physically or cognitively. I have devoted a big part of my life to staying healthy and helping others to as well. I continue to challenge myself; yesterday I ran a 5k with my 20-year-old stepdaughter, and today I biked 15 miles with my wife. I am always learning new things and planning to someday travel again to exotic and not-so-exotic places.
Fifty seven years has brought me a certain amount of wisdom. Fart jokes are in fact always funny. Aside from that, I understand myself better. I have learned to be less judgmental and to forgive others (and myself). I truly value my family and the friends who have stuck it out with me over the decades. I know that what matters is how you treat others and how you make them feel. I have a more mature understanding of how I think the worlds works and what God wants out of me.
Lots of blessings. It hasn’t all been unicorns and glitter, but on the whole I have a great life and have learned to be resilient when things don’t go my way. Thanks to everyone on this journey with me. Here’s to the next 57…or whatever that number may be.
This book was recommended to me by Cody Sype from the Functional Aging Institute when I attended his certification seminar.
I am accustomed to going to seminars, conferences, etc., where books are recommended and I am often cynical, but as a guy who is not getting any younger and is somewhat anxious about aging, this book sparked my interest.
Marc Middleton makes the argument that the “Machine”–the healthcare industrial complex, government, media and culture in general–wants all of us as we age to feel helpless, frail, weak and dependent. The Machine does this because it makes money for them; entire industries are built around this notion and we buy into it because it is so prevalent in our society.
Middleton’s goal is to show us another way. Retiring and aging aren’t about being put out to pasture. On the contrary, our 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond can be the happiest and most meaningful years of our lives. Middleton brings multiple examples of ordinary older Americans doing incredible things. These are not all far-fetched examples; all the individuals are accessible and inspiring.
I can honestly say that this book got me to rethink my attitude about aging. I know to look at the Machine with skepticism. I know that many of us reinforce ageism without even realizing it. I know that unless our society changes its point of view, we will have a big problem on our hands. This demographic is growing; unless we are able to dismantle the Machine, we had better be prepared for a whole sector our economy warehoused in long-term care facilities. Is that what we want?
I am inspired by this book. It has changed my thoughts about aging and given me the courage to rock whatever time I have left!