July 21, 2008
Perhaps I should say: Middle-Aged Man's Best Friend. (I'm 44, is that middle-aged? Hmmm....)
A few months ago I and a couple other Men-Of-A-Certain-Age (actually, I may have been the youngest in the bunch) at the gym were in the locker room changing and talking about our aches and pains. One of the men, who lifts weights and runs on the treadmill, who I'm guessing is closing in on 60, laughed and said, "Forget a dog. A man's best friend is ice."
Alas, gone are the days when I can exercise regularly without suffering some ache or pain that is not, you know, a NORMAL ache and pain. Yeah, if I run or lift weights or whatever, I'm going to have some muscle soreness and that's normal. As my wife likes to say, mimicking the local football team: Pain Is Fear Leaving Your Body.
Well, although I think that's an OK thought, you have to use some common sense. When I hit my forties (sound like an old codger, unfortunately), I did notice that not only was it more difficult to get in shape--gone were the days of six months of inactivity followed up by a hey-I-think-I'll-go-running and go out and jog three miles--but my recovery from exercise was longer and more prone to not-so-normal aches and pains.
I developed tennis elbow, or tendinitis, in my left elbow from lifting weights. I've now got one of those straps I wear when I lift and it seems to work, plus I'm very attentive to proper mechanics now. I've mentioned my strained calf muscles (probably the gastrocnemius or possibly the soleus) from running. I have the occasional mechanical elbow problem (right elbow) that I haven't figured out yet. And weirdly, I've occasionally got soreness on the tops of my feet after running or biking. This apparently is inflammation related to having my shoes tied too tight.
The treatment for most of these? Ice and rest, by and large. Take some ibuprofin, too. But ice may very well be the miracle treatment for a variety of aches and pains.
The key is learning which ones are regular exercise muscle soreness, something that can be treated with ice and rest, and the ones that are more mechanical in nature. I would also add that I apparently have a touch of arthritis or something in my right hip. It doesn't seem to be affected by biking or running, but karate, oh boy. That can be an issue. It's not entirely clear if it is arthritis. It may just be a very stiff and oversensitive tendon and ligament and it does seem to improve with proper stretches.
Now, for any non-exercisers reading this who say, "See, this is why I don't exercise. All these aches and pains aren't normal."
I know, I know, the couch potato women my wife works with say this all the time. I always ask her, "Don't they constantly complain about their aches and pains?" And Leanne will run off a litany of Bridgette's back, Kathy's chest and shoulders, Mary's...
After a certain age--35? 40? 50? 60?--a certain amount of aches and pains seems to come with the territory. As the expression goes, "The thing about life is none of us gets out alive." And none of us gets out without a certain amount of discomfort. But I do find that exercising regularly changes my views of the various aches and pains.
I wouldn't necessarily take the adage that pain is just fear leaving your body, but I might suggest that a certain amount of discomfort just means your body is responding to stress by getting stronger.
And of course, if it's a really weird or specific type of pain, get thee to a doctor quickly.