Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Tao of Ow

It’s officially autumn in this part of the world and while I loathe the coming cold weather, I’m not sorry to close the door on the Summer of ‘11.

My life took a bad hop back in July, when I had to drop out of my beloved boxing class due to extenuating—and excruciating—circumstances in the form of a bulging disc.

An MRI revealed that I have a mild case of arthritis in my back.

It was a bit of a shock. I mean, arthritis…me? C’mon, old people have arthritis; I’m strong, fit, in the prime of life…sort of…I can’t get arthritis.

Except that I can. My doctor said this is a degenerative condition, that he can treat the symptoms, but not the disease, and promptly packed me off to a sports medicine facility for physical therapy. The head trainer seems positive about my recovery.

I’ve gone to two sessions so far and I’m following the home exercise program the trainers have given me. At least it’s some kind of workout, even if it’s mostly stretching.

I also get to see people who are in much worse shape than I am trying to get their bodies—and their lives—back together.

The rehab’s radio dial has apparently been Krazy Glued to a classic rock station and I’ve been hearing songs by Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, and other Jurassic rock stars.

The other night I was trying to extend my shockingly tight calves to the tune of “Celluloid Heroes” by The Kinks, a band whose name seems rather appropriate given my current situation.

Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star, and everybody’s in the movies, it doesn’t matter who they are…

But being unable to work out like a lunatic the way I used to is driving me batty. Doctors recommend regular exercise as a treatment for everything from diabetes to depression and what’s the one thing I can’t do? Yep…

I always knew I wouldn’t be able to do the boxing class forever, that some day I’d be so goddamn old I wouldn’t be able to put the gloves on let alone do the workout.

Time For You To Leave

When that time came, I had planned to shift over to my Tai Chi phase and replace the beastliness of boxing with the gentle movements of the ancient Chinese martial art. I just hadn’t planned on doing it so soon.

But since boxing’s off the menu for the foreseeable future, I decided to take a free beginner’s Tai Chi class last week at a place on Dean Street.

I had a good time. We did five moves of this lengthy form and it felt strange, but I was getting into it.

The people were nice—there were no Karate Kid loons running around smashing cinder blocks and screaming that their hands were deadly weapons. The instructors here try to help you.

Tai Chi has been described as moving meditation and I can see why. You have to be in the present moment if you want to do the forms correctly.

I’m always worried about the future or stewing over the past, so I found I really had to change my way of thinking to keep up with the class.

At the end of the night I felt a nice pull in my lower back as if things were loosening up down there. Great, I thought, I sign up for a month’s classes and see what happens.

I was thinking that this could be the start of a whole new life for me. Instead of a wheezing Rocky Balboa wannabe, I would become Shaolin Rob, speaking softly, living on rice and vegetables, riding the subways in a lotus position and levitating up to my office instead of taking the elevator.

Hell, I already have the shaved head. It’s time to get in touch with my inner Kwai Chang.

First I thought I should run it by my trainer. I was sure he’d have no problem with me doing these simple routines. And I was wrong.

“Not yet,” he said. “You have to wait a little longer.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I’m too fragile for Tai Chi? I see 80-year-old Chinese ladies doing these routines in every park in town, but I can’t join them? If not Tai Chi, what the hell can I do—basket weaving?

I was tempted to ignore my trainer and take the class anyway, but I don’t want to do myself any more damage. He’s also twice my size and it wouldn't be smart to piss him off. A guy who specializes in pain management could probably manage to inflict a lot of pain if you rubbed him the wrong way.

Yes, I wish my life were a non-stop Hollywood movie show because celluloid heroes never feel any pain—but I sure as hell do.

I’ll do what my trainer tells me to do and stay away from boxing and Tai Chi until he gives me the thumbs up.

In the meantime, does anyone need a basket?


Ron said...

Faaaaaabulous post, Rob!

"by The Kinks, a band whose name seems rather appropriate given my current situation."

HA! Love that!

I am so happy and excited to hear about you taking Tai Chi (taking it when you get the thumbs up, I mean) because it's an incredible form of exercise that not only helps physically, but also mentally and spiritually.

"Tai Chi has been described as moving meditation and I can see why. You have to be in the present moment if you want to do the forms correctly.


Along with walking, I also practice yoga as a form of exercise that seems to work well for my body. For me, I have to do exercise that's low impact and gentle. Yoga, too, is like a moving meditation; allowing you to remain in the present moment, which is so beneficial for someone like me because I have such high energy and need to balance it at times. Yoga does that for me. In fact, when I don't practice it on a regular basis, I can really tell a difference in how I feel overall.

I'm such a strong believer in the eastern forms of exercise, herbs, and natural healing modalities because they seem to work deeply and holistically. I've seen eastern practices do some amazing stuff!

So, keep the faith, buddy. And know that when you're ready to take Tai Chi, I have a feeling it will really help with your back.

Have a great week, Rob!

Rob K said...

Thanks, Ron, I really enjoyed that class. I suspect my trainer is being a little too cautious, but that's part of his job, I guess. I didn't know you were into eastern form of exercise--they're becoming more attractive to me as I grow older... and older...and older...

Take care, buddy!