Battle Scars

Posted: July 19, 2007 in Health

I’m breaking one of my self-imposed rules: no writing about myself (in a chatty tone, no less). This entry and the two before it are about me, which break from my usual focus away from myself. So sue me.

I’ve never been a fat slob and fully put away my athletic gear like lots of middle-aged guys. All my former tennis partners have fallen away (like my bridge partners) and the frequency of workouts has undoubtedly waxed and waned over time, but I’ve kept at it. I have biked to work off and on for years, but my main thing has always been swimming, which has helped me to maintain my sanity by periodically getting me out of my head and back into my body. Last year, I took on a new challenge: the triathlon. Although I only did the sprint distance, and none too competitively, folks gave me a lot of encouragement and credit for being out there on the course in my middle 40s. I’m signed up again this year.

What brings this third “about me” entry is a recent reminder how my sense of wellbeing is oddly and counter-intuitively enhanced by minor injuries suffered in the course of an active lifestyle. For instance, I’ve catapulted over the handlebars of my bicycle three times in the last seven years, most recently only two weeks ago. I’ve never been injured swimming; indeed, swimming helped me smoothe out the jammed shoulder from the first bike mishap. And I’m such a lousy runner, doing so little of it in fact, that it would be a surprise if typical over-exertion and strain injuries ever manifested.

My latest injury was yesterday. I was playing softball in a fairly relaxed coed business league — pitching the game, actually — when I slipped and fell to the ground in the process of making a play. I was able to throw out the runner at first base, but I got up and discovered that I had scraped off a good portion of skin on my right leg (side of the shin/calf) on infield dirt hardened by recent rain. (Be glad I don’t own a digital camera, which might tempt me to put up a pic exhibiting my battle scars.) The full extent of the injury only became apparent today: I’ll have to forgo swimming long enough to heal, which is a bit of a shame considering I’m doing the swim leg of a triathlon relay in two weeks.

What interests me, though, is the sense that getting beaten down a bit and even bloodied from time to time enhances my sense of overall wellbeing. It’s unclear whether that’s machismo or excitement over having escaped more significant injury or even death in the case of being a veritable human catapult, but I feel strangely energized immediately after an injury. (I’ve been joking with one female friend that my ability to withstand some abuse should trigger her biological impulses associated with mate selection; she counters that I’m simply accident prone.)

I’m not the sort of gonzo, sallow-cheeked enthusiast who trains every day and sets speed and distance goals. I’m doing it for fitness and to avoid getting too over-intellectualized about everything — to have a full range of human experience in short. There’s actually a syndrome for boomers who go too far with exercise: it’s called boomeritis and is characterized by some pretty significant and oftentimes repeat injuries and the orthopedic surgeries to correct them. Frankly, I was just as pleased after last year’s triathlon not to have injured myself in the preparations (lots of folks are sidelined training for marathons, for example) as I was finishing with my middling time. So I doubt I’ll be pushing so hard that I’ll be hospitalized, but the bumps and scrapes are a more-than-welcome reminder that when I get knocked down, I can still get up again.

  1. presentpeace says:

    Bingo! That’s the rush and that’s the truth. That’s what the common folk mean by the saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s the categorical truth that I know quite well from receiving all kinds of battle scars. Welcome to The Club of the Will-Driven Warriors! We are fierce in determination and, therefore, great in personal strength.

    Uh-oh! Must…fight…biological…impulses… You…seem…sexy…

    (I guess your friend is wrong.)

  2. Vilon says:

    Injured? You call a scrape an injury? Wimp! What about paper cuts and wrist cramps from typing?

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