My father caught my grandmother trying to break up concrete with a pic ax when she was eighty-eight. Grandmother was both strong and strong-willed. I think of myself as taking after my grandmother. I am strong, stubborn, and had generally maintained the belief that nothing can stop me from accomplishing my goals—including physical activity goals. I suppose I had always thought of myself as rather invincible; I somehow thought that certain rules of aging would skip right over me. I think one of the rules of aging is that when injured, we aren’t going to bounce back as quickly as we did when we were younger. The notion of “being sensible” now has new meaning when it comes to exercise. Thirty years ago, if I tweaked my knee or strained my back, I could take an aspirin or two and could keep pushing through. I can’t ignore knee pain and strains anymore. I’m navigating new territory as an active, older adult.
When Pushing Through No Longer WorksAbout three weeks ago, I felt a sudden pain in my right knee while jogging. I tried to ignore it and continued jogging for a couple of more miles. When I went jogging the next day, my knee pain was worse, so I ended up walking on the way home. I took a couple of Advil and put ice on my knee. I’ve always loved jogging because I feel so free when my feet carry me along paths and roads. But I have not been able to jog for more than two weeks. I am learning to enjoy taking walks up hills and around the neighborhood. Sometimes I stop and visit with people who are also walking. Often, I carry two eight-pound weights while walking for a little more of a challenge. This afternoon, I took a bike ride along a country road. I haven’t ridden my bike since last fall. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the exhilarating feel of air pushing against my face after I crested a hill and road down the other side. Last week, I bought a copper compression sleeve for my knee. After wearing it for a couple of days, my knee did feel better. (Though I suspect any type of compression sleeve would have worked just as well.) I haven’t needed to take Advil or use an ice pack for the past few nights—I imagine that’s a good sign.
DownshiftingWhen I was decades younger, I could run at a respectable clip for a few miles at a stretch. When I got a bit older, I slowed down to the point that I was jogging, not running. I don’t think I even noticed the down-shift when it occurred. I was no longer pushing myself as hard as I once had, but I was enjoying the journey just as much or perhaps even more than when I was younger. I am down-shifting again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue jogging in the future. If I do, it will be with an added bit of caution—or maybe after a knee replacement. I am learning to appreciate that there are many different ways to accomplish the same goals—and perhaps have an opportunity to enjoy the journey even more in the process.