Saturday, August 6, 2011

Had it not been for Dawn (Conclusion) Plus 10mph!

The idea of an exercise routine designed to prevent injuries often sustained during the course of daily activities seemed like such a no-brainer when it first occurred to me that I wondered why it had not already been suggested by one of the scores of health providers I had seen over the years. But when I asked my primary care physician last year where I could find such a program, I drew a blank. It was as though he had never heard of such a thing. He had no answer for me that day, but promised to look into it, and called me soon afterwards tell me he had found a doctor of physical medicine who he thought might get me started.

It was several weeks before I could get in to see him -- let's call him Dr. H -- and when I did, I drew another blank. Medicare would only pay for treatment of an injury or illness, he said. It didn't pay for preventive procedures. What, he asked, was bothering me? With some misgivings, I said that my back had never been right since the Kettle Drum Incident, but I wasn't really there for that, I mostly wanted to develop an overall exercise program. Well, he said, let's start with your back -- and let's get an X-ray.

So I was off to the Imaging folks, who in due course produced pictures of my spine that showed I had a tethered spinal cord. Never heard of it? Neither had I. But Dr. H. said it was his responsibility as my physician to follow up on this finding, so I really should go down to see a certain neurologist at OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) in Portland (2-hr round trip travel time). Which I did, only to learn that my tethered spinal cord had nothing to do with my back pain, although in some patients it caused uncontrollable diarrhea, and had I experienced anything of the kind? Whan I told the neurologist I hadn't, he gave a good-natured shrug, and asked if there was anything else he could help me with.

Meanwhile, Dr. H had set me up with a physical therapist, Clay, who was teaching me exercises that focused on my back. I saw Clay once or twice a week, Dr. H once every four to six weeks. My back got a little better, but I was starting to have shooting pains in my hip that woke me at night. I continued to ask Dr. H. for a generalized conditioning program, but he continued to focus on narrow issues. He ordered an X-ray of my troublesome hip, but that came back showing excellent bone strength, at which point the subject of my hip was dropped, never to be resumed. He thought that some of my complaints could be neurological in nature, and said he would try to set me up with a therapist at OHSU in Portland who was really good with neurologically-based disorders. Meanwhile, I continued to do the exercises Clay had taught me for my back, and although I didn't recognize any immediate reduction in pain, I could tell that I was getting stronger. Most of the exercises were new to me, and they made good sense.

But finding a medically-based personal trainer, who could help me avoid injuries, seemed as unatainable as ever. And the reason seemed clear: neither maintenance nor prevention will be paid for by Medicare.

About this time, my wife Anne discovered the swimming pool at the Hillsboro Recreation Center at nearby Shute Park, and started using it regularly. One day she came back with a brochure promoting a "get fit" program for the public at large. An introductory price for a session with a personal trainer was part of the promotion. Maybe I could get a personal trainer to work in conjunction with Dr. H! When I told Dr. H., he said he thought it was a good idea. He sounded relieved. He also agreed to work with the personal trainer if she wanted help in tailoring a program for me. But he would still try to nail down the OHSU neurologically-based therapist, he said. (I never heard from him again.)

And that's how I met Dawn. She caught on instantlly to what I was after, tried out a dozen or more exercises on me, leaving me breathless in more ways than one, worked with me to reduce the dozens down to a workable ten (including a couple I retained from my recent therapy sessions with Clay), and asked me, as a part of her initial assessment, "Do you have any goals? Anything specific that you'd like to achieve?"

"Well, not really. One, I guess, but it's kind of silly."

"What's that?"

I told her that I thought it would be kind of neat if I were in good enough shape to ride 80 miles on my 80th birthday. "That's not silly at all," said Dawn, and suddenly it didn't seem silly to me, either.

That was about nine months after I had first started looking for a prophylactic exercise program, and, although I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, I had found what I had been looking for. I'm more confident every day that Dawn's exercises, combined with Clay's, are building the core strength that I had been seeking for injury avoidance, while the bicycling is providing the aerobics, and the endorphins, without which I probably would not have found the will and the energy to keep up with the exercises. And without the goal of 80-80, so heartily endorsed by Dawn, I certainly wouldn't have kept up the pace I've been maintaining. Thank you, Dawn!

This morning's ride was a great success. I cut 12 minutes off Wednesday's time from Safeway to my driveway. On Wednesday I clocked it at exactly 10 miles, and timed it at 72 minutes. Today, I did it in 60 minutes flat. Problem is, today my odometer read-out was only 9.8 miles. Am I cheating to say that I averaged 10mph for an hour? Well, I did it with a 17-lb six-pack of red wine in my saddlebags, so you could argue that I had a handicap. So I'm claiming 10mph!


  1. Your bike is probably 25 pounds, so adding in the wine you were riding a time trial with a 42 pound bike! Impressive.

  2. I just weighed my bike. 38 pounds.