Altitude Sickness
March 1, 2017

Making lemonade when life gives you (lots of) lemons

I have been sitting here, pondering all of the ways life goes wrong. I have been thinking of all of the things that have happened to me, dozens of injuries, dozens of broken bones (ostensibly more than a dozen broken noses alone), love life that is ridiculous to the point of stupidity, loneliness, no retirement account, nothing but an office full of half-broken instruments and a storage unit full of trade tools that I hope never to use again.

Then I look at it through another lens. I have pursued brutal, ragged dreams, and come out (student loans aside) a few thousand dollars ahead. I have battered my body and my brain to a point that would have killed or permanently disabled many. Break an ankle? I will hop around my house a week later with a hot bowl of soup in my hand. Now maybe if I hop under a doorway I will wind up out cold on the floor with hot soup all over me (ask me how I know), but I will also wind up with a good leg that is as strong and capable as a tree.

Out of work for a month or two with an injury, do I sit on the couch? No, I rise to the challenge and see just how far I can push this physical therapy thing. Broken bones heal stronger in the end.

A certain degree of isolation means that I am inflicting my life onto no one and can concentrate on physical therapy, rehabilitation, etc. A storage unit full of things means that eventually I have a very useful basement, or an excellent yard sale ahead of me. No retirement account means that…well that still sucks.

I have picked a ton of lemons in my life, but I have made a LOT of lemonade … right down to writing some really good songs that very few people will ever hear and some very good stand-up comedy that very few people will ever see.

In the lemonade department this week, let’s talk about the pool work, which is going swimmingly. (That pun, by the way, is totally intended.)

Being in the pool as much as I have in the last week and a half, I have learned an important lesson about cramping, which I always assumed was from either dehydration or sugar/starch. It turns out that there is a third category, a third cause, which is insufficient caloric resources.

One day when I was having trouble with cramping in the pool, I grabbed a handful of walnuts and drank my usual amount of water before heading out. While I did get some crampy feelings, I was able to work around the edges of those with hydration and modification of kicking technique (cramps always start in the toes, working up into the shins and calves, finally to quads, hams, glutes, and lower back, starting at mild, and taking a sudden turn into total charlie horse without warning).

I did so well that I actually pulled off a bit of a coup. I walked 700 yards with my usual rotation (front, back, side, side), and decided that instead of swimming 500 yards of crawl, that I would swim 600 yards. I felt so good after, that I went into a 600 yard breast stroke without touching the bottom. I then did 200 more yards of crawl, 200 yards of breast stroke, 150 yards crawl, 50 yards breast stroke.

Here’s the kicker (pun, once again, thoroughly intended): 1,800 yards is more than a mile. The farthest I had previously swum without touching the bottom of a pool is 1,000 yards, and that was when I was a racer (admittedly, it took me less than half the time). In 10 short days, I went from wheezing through a 100 yard crawl to swimming a contiguous mile plus. I would have gone further but for the cramping. I promised myself to try two handfuls of walnuts next time. I then walked another 800 yards to bring my walking laps up to my swimming laps.

Today, I hit another milestone in my pool time. I walked 800 yards and then swam a contiguous 1200 yards of crawl, another personal best for me. I then knocked out another 400yd breast stroke for fun before the cramping got the best of me again.

The pool at the Woods Spa is rapidly getting me back into the kind of shape that I like to be in, but the physical therapy is not doing anything for my ability to stand up for more than a couple of minutes. Strong? Yep. Flexible? Downright bendy. Can I now sit comfortably for longer than a half hour or so? Yes. Bu tcan I stand for more than a few minutes without excruciating pain? No I cannot.

At least in the pool I can exercise without excruciating pain. As you all probably know by now, I need regular exercise, because I am like a poorly-trained Rottweiler. Keep me tired and occupied and I am well-behaved, even courtly. Let me get fat and bored, and I will eat your favorite shoes and start in on the couch. I will destroy everything, from furniture to the lives of every person who cares about me.

In other news, I went out last night on a whim and did a quick set at the Snowplow comedy contest at the Outback and made the finals (which will be complete by the time this article goes to press). Afterward, I did something that I almost never do, which is to stay out and go to a bar where people are drinking. I went out because the Heavily Brothers were playing, and frankly, you just don’t miss a chance to see those guys play. (Music fan-favorites Rick Redington and Duane Carleton have reunited their acoustic duo the Heavily Brothers.) I stayed for a few songs, said hi to the boys, and then split because my back was screaming. I am as pleased as punch that the boys are playing again. Killington wasn’t the same without them.

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