By Terry Carter, Editor
I have always been an athlete, playing a handful of sports as a student. Today, I display a few war wounds, but not many are from sliding into third base, catching a pass or getting hit with a ball.
My right knee has had surgery and six months of rehab after a non-sports accident. The right leg is now about 1/2 inch shorter thanks to the surgery, but I’ve learned to walk and jog again. And in 2015, I completed two 5K runs within two weeks. It was dramatic progress over walking and dragging my bad leg behind me like Festus in the long-running TV series Gunsmoke.
My left hand also sustained a serious injury, but at least this one was somewhat related to sports. About 15 years ago, I was the National Football Editor for an ambitious prep website called VarsityOnline.com. While covering the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, I was on the sidelines taking photos with some pricey Nikon equipment and a monopod to keep my images steady. All went well until a cornerback plowed into me about 3-4 yards off the field. Naturally I took the brunt of the collision, and my monopod — shiny, new and straight when I arrived — wound up looking like the letter Z. Unfortunately a couple of fingers on my left hand did the same. They have never recovered despite surgery, about 30 stitches and more therapy.
Now in my 50s, I’ve learned several ingredients to getting in game shape from the athletes I covered over the years and from the authorities in healing and improving your health.
My weight has dropped about 25 pounds and stayed off since my wife and I began walking to rehab my legs. That began about 26 months ago in February. By June, my competitive nature forced me to keep a wrap on that healing right knee and jog a little at a time. Later that fall, I began adding 50- or 100-yard “old man” sprints into the walking jogs to keep the workout challenging and fresh. I recall reading that the best body builders constantly changed their workouts to keep their muscles growing because standard routines minimize explosive growth.
Later I incorporated swimming 1-2 times each week. OK, I am not much of a swimmer. But I race walk in chest-deep water and am breathing hard by the time I finish 15-20 laps. At the same time, I challenge myself by pushing off the wall and swimming as far as possible on one breath to improve my lung capacity.
Why would an old, scarred guy in his 50s do this? Same as you, I hope. I am not ready to be stuck in a rocking chair yet. Most people my aged still some get-up-and-go. I decided when I fell on some stairs 4 years ago not to let that end my active days. So I’ve chased improvement ever since, and I am typically beat when I go home from work, which is physically taxing.
Just because we are not 25 and handsome or beautiful does not mean we cannot stay focused on being our best — and keeping our best years ahead of us by working out mentally, physically and spiritually.
The result of my somewhat rigorous workouts has truly surprised me. I am now stronger in the leg press than when I was 35 years old. I can run faster and farther than anytime in my life. However running was never my forté, I might add. Still I have shown that beginning to use a weight room and a county park running trail and a pool can change you physically regardless of your age. I am 51 now and happily accept the compliments from those who guess I’m about 40.
I credit my loving wife for making it much easier to remain dedicated because she is often at the gym and walking beside me. Teamwork makes it much easier to let the fitness dream work. She is also keeping us healthier by altering her cooking routines and mixing in low-carb meals. Vitamins, more water, more daily steps and 100-percent juices are also keys to keeping me energized.
To those of you who are thinking you are past your prime, wake up and go for a walk. If permanently disabled, scarred diabetic who used to walk like Festus can do this much, you — my friend — can do much better. Now go outside and enjoy this fabulous spring weather.
Or take a long walk off a short pier. At least you will get your steps in and a short swim also.