As you know from previous columns I recently fell five feet off a ladder, fracturing my right ankle, which is now in a cast. Like most accidents, this wasn’t equipment malfunction — I just did something stupid.
I fell straight down on my right ankle and then backwards onto my hip, pelvis and back. Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head. I’m in excellent physical condition and didn’t break any other bones.
After the surgeon put four screws in my ankle and cast my leg, I was released to a rehab center to lie with my foot elevated 23 hours a day to reduce the swelling and to master one-legged mobility. Our home is on a hilly site above Boulder, Colorado. To get in the house I have to climb 20 steps. The rooms in our house are all separated from adjoining rooms by two to three steps.
My health care provider uses a scale of 1 – 100 to rate the need for physical therapy at home or as an outpatient. Because of my fitness I was off the chart and ready for outpatient PT! Until they saw photos of the house and all the stairs, that is. Even if I got down the front stairs I can’t drive, so for about three months I will only leave the house for doctors’ appointments. PT comes twice here a week.
Year-Round Fitness Has Helped with the Accident
Year-round I pay attention to all aspects of fitness, although I don’t bother to track whether I’m meeting the specific ACSM recommendations. I just do at least 10 hours of exercise a week year-round including:
- Aerobic exercise – riding my bike includes intensity so now I have the cardio fitness for short bursts of high intensity to hop up successive steps.
- Upper and lower body strength – exercises give me the strength to do single-leg squats and the equivalent of dips.
- Weight-bearing activity in the gym, hiking, XC skiing, snowshoeing and also doing activities of daily living, which is why I didn’t also fracture my hip or pelvis.
- Tai chi for balance. I can stand on one leg so that both hands are free to do things.
- Stretching for flexibility. While holding onto a counter for balance with one hand I can twist and bend with the other hand to reach things.
Further, because of my overall fitness, I’m finding it at least slightly easier to move around the house to do different things while my angle heals.
How Folks from 50 On Keep Aging at Bay
I’m working on an eBook tentatively titled Anti-Aging; 12 Ways That You Can Slow the Aging Process. The book includes contributions from 12 friends. Rather than bemoaning my fate, I’m viewing this time as an opportunity stay as fit as possible by following their advice.
Andy Pruitt’s (67) mostimportant recommendation is “Get off your road bike and work on your skeleton, posture, balance, muscle mass.” I’m off my bike and I have plenty of time to work the other factors.
Gabe Mirkin, MD, (82) stresses the importance of a healthy diet, eating lots of vegetables and fruits and avoiding red and processed meats and sugary foods. Because I’m sitting around much of the day, snacks are tempting — I keep cherry tomatoes handy to snack on and have a plate of raw vegetables before dinner.
Malcolm Fraser, MD, (68) stresses the importance of controlling body weight to avoid or manage chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Now that I’m getting somewhat less exercise I also need to eat less, especially no ice cream (a vice of mine).
Jim Langley (64) emphasizes the importance of goal-setting. Since 1993 he has ridden at least an hour every day. I just got an upper body trainer that I can hand-crank for an aerobic workout. It has a speedometer to display “how fast” and “how far” I’m going. My initial goal is to accumulate an hour of cranking during day. And then to build up to a continuous hour of cranking a day. And you thought riding a trainer is boring!
Elizabeth Wicks (74) emphasizes the importance of intensity. She does multiple very short, very hard intervals. I intend to do those until my arms burn!
Fred Matheny (72) stresses the importance of year-round strength training. I can hobble back to my home gym, which is a good workout for arms and one good leg. The PT recommended leg strength exercises so that my muscles don’t atrophy too much. I use dumbbells and exercise bands for upper body strength. I can even lie down on the floor to stretch, although it’s hard to do planks and bird dogs.
John Lee Ellis (55) is my old randonneuring partner. He writes, “Year-round activity is essential for me. … It keeps you in tune. And sane.” The hardest part of being home-bound is the lack of outdoor exercise, which keeps me sane. That’s why I’m suffering through intervals on the upper-body trainer.
Michelle Grainger (64) is a close friend and was my trainer for several years. She describes how she does many different activities year-round for fully rounded fitness. She emphasizes the importance of setting new, realistic goals when a major disruption happens. One of my goals had been to visit my friend Muffy Ritz and compete in a XC ski race in Sun Valley, Idaho. Reset. Now my goal is to accumulate at least 100 hours of hand cranking by the end of May, at which point I should be able to ride outdoors.
John Marsh (53) emphasizes the importance of consistency and discipline in developing positive habits. I could think of myself as convalescing and develop bad habits like sleeping in and watching lots of TV. I’m staying as consistent as a I can with my habits: up by dawn, read several newspapers on-line, breakfast with my wife, work until about late morning, work out, have a late lunch, take a short nap with the kitties and then read professional literature on cycling and do what I can to help around the house.
Muffy Ritz (60) and I have been riding together since 1991. Her contribution reminds me that although all of the above are important, it’s also okay to blow off the occasional workout or to order pizza with lots of pepperoni and extra cheese!
John Elmblad (66) and I ride every week, including stopping for breakfast. He’s driving over this morning from Denver bringing me breakfast! His contribution emphasizes the importance of having a life outside cycling and enjoying time with family and friends. This accident is also an opportunity to focus on my life outside cycling. I have more time to spend with friends who kindly bring me breakfast or lunch (my wife works), to read books about cycling science and to enjoylistening to my large collection of CDs.
Ken Bonner (75) writes, “What kind of life is it if one lives a life, which is ‘supposed’ to be good for your body and mind but if you don’t enjoy it, then what is the good of it? Do what you enjoy, whether it be a type of physical exercise, mental exercise, reading (fiction and/or non-fiction), religion, political involvement, discussion, socializing, etc.”
Bottom line: the goal is to slow the aging process while enjoying life!
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.