Fear of Falling

Have you ever feared falling? I have. With the recent ice storm and frigid weather, I have come close to falling more than once. One Saturday morning I barely noticed the black ice awaiting me in front of my house. I suddenly slipped, but was able to regain my balance and recover without incident. My heart pounded madly, the thought of falling on my recovering left knee seemed imminent. Before my surgery, I had rarely considered the possibility of falling. I went about my usual activities without much regard for the environmental conditions, such as the slick sidewalks, stairs and driveways.

However, my recent knee surgery has put me in a such a different mind set. I now know what it feels like to lose mobility, to have arthritic pain in the knee joint, and just recently I have added a fear of falling to this list.

What is the solution then? Will fear prevent you, me or the senior population, who are especially at risk, from carrying on with the simple activities that many take for granted? The solution is not so simple. There are exercise programs devoted solely to balance and fall prevention. 

In my work with boomers and seniors, I focus on this serious issue – falling! I work to reduce the fear by addressing balance, flexibility, stability and strengthening the core.  I believe that because my fitness program consists all of these crucial components, they are what saved me from falling on the ice that bitter cold day. My advice is be proactive and make sure that you have a comprehensive fitness program in place and don’t take a thing for granted – like falling.

Swimming to Recovery – the Art of Improvisation

When I arrived to the hotel the first thing I checked out was the pool. Was I in for a suprise, it was much smaller than the picture advertised on the web site. I thought to myself, “How can I swim in a pool that is three feet deep and about ten feet long?” My response, “I don’t care how small or deep it is! I am going to make this work!”

I quickly went to my room to change into my bathing suit. With my IPOD in hand, sandals and sunglasses on, I happily strutted out to the pool. Once in the water with the hot Miami sun beating down on me and a glorious blue sky overhead, I forgot about the size of the pool or about the ice and cold back home.

“Now what?,” I thought. I was in the water but my real agenda was to work out in the pool. With no kickboard available, I  grabbed the life saver to use as a floation device. I began to flutter kick around the perimeter of this tiny, yet sparkling and cozy pool, holding my IPOD in my hand, so it wouldn’t get wet. I kicked to the beat of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” perfect music for a swim workout. Once I warmed up, I spontaneously broke into a jog. I began to jog around the tiny pool in one direction and then I switched to the other direction. From the jogging came the lateral crossovers, hip hikers, side kicks and front kicks. I started to kickbox my way through the pool. The resistance of the water was challenging, yet comforting, because there was no impact.

I was exhausted, yet inspired. So inspired that I decided to permanently include swimming in my training plan.  An hour later, my arthritis of the knee seemed to disappear. I was walking without any pain or stiffness. A day later, there was no pain or stiffness. Could this be just what I needed, the miracle that I was waiting for? My physical therapist was right, swimming is wonderful for recovering from injury or for overall health and fitness. I am convinced.

Here I am back home – it’s cold and snowy. Tomorrow I plan on swimming again. So what if there is no sun or warm weather. I can improvise – right?  A little spontaneity goes a long way – and besides it’s fun to spice up your workout.

Continued Tales of My Left Knee – Arthritis now!

I never imagined that I would be blogging about my knee. If my knee could talk, what would it say today?  “Help – get me some fast and permanent relief!”

I am in agonizing pain. Eight weeks into my recovery: my knee is stiff, swollen and hurting! How could this be? I was used to exercising daily and now I can hardly walk. I am supposed to be getting better. I can barely do my physical therapy program, let alone my own exercise program.

My doctor’s response: “You’ve got arthritis of the knee. We fix the meniscus and now we have another problem. I’m going to give you a cortisone shot. This shot is a miracle in that it will speed up your recovery! You’ll feel much better in a few days. You’ll feel like you can run. No running or squatting for now!”

As if I could joyfully run and merrily sprint out of his office. Instead, I will slowly and carefully hobble out, stunned after hearing the word – arthritis. The word stinging like the swift injection of the cortisone shot in my knee. Hopeful that this “miracle” will get me back on the road to recovery.

A few days later and I am skeptical. My knee feels funky – although not quite as painful – a bit stiff.  I do have better range of motion.  I used my elliptical trainer yesterday for the first time in months. Today I’ll try my spin bike. I feel like I am starting over or perhaps I am beginning again.

I am not one to give up quickly and let arthritis or injury to prevent me from leading an active and healthy life. After some initial adjustment, I have signed up for the Brain Tumor Society Ride for Research in May. I’ll begin training next week.




The Year of Magical Thinking

How does one deal with and emerge from a crisis? That is the question that is weighing heavily on my mind this week. I normally control my stress through exercise. However, since recovering from knee surgery, I am using other outlets like reading. In an attempt to find answers, I am reading Joan Didion’s compelling memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” 

According to Didion, “Life Changes fast.”

“Life Changes in the instant.”

“You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

“The question of self-pity.”

Didion does not mince words. She gets right to the heart of the matter with laser precision, as her blunt words aptly describe the past months for me.  Although I did not lose my husband to a heart attack or a daughter to an untimely and premature death, I had an alarming crisis – a family emergency.

As a result – my life as I knew it, radically changed in one instant. I now realize and appreciate that everything is in flux. I can’t control the events in my life and self pity is not an option at this time.

We all are unexempt from crisis, be it physical, emotional, social, artistic, intellectual or spiritual. At any age and time in life, crisis can strike, and catch you off guard. For example, this week I learned that a former beloved colleague died suddenly of a heart attack at 58. Last week I learned of a friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer at 47. What does this coming week hold for me I ask?

I ponder my own mortality. This recent phenomenon can be explained in part because of a family crisis, the premature death of my dear colleague, my upcoming fiftieth birthday, and my recent knee surgery,  I am older it seems, so much older this year in particular.

This is the year that like Didion, because of crisis, my own thinking has temporarily become somewhat “magical,” or distorted. Irrational questions arise and haunt me, like: Could I have prevented this crisis, the colleague’s premature death, the friend’s illness, my turning 50, or my knee surgery? 

I still don’t have quick and easy answers. I do know that there are no life guarantees that shield us from crisis. I also have come to recognize that there are times when one is struck by some kind of magical thinking. It allows us to make sense of our present world and get through a crisis! I am sure that I’ll be doing some kind of magical thinking for the time being. Thanks to Didion for putting it into words. (Reading is exercise for the mind.)


Serena’s Comeback

Imagine that once you were a champion and ranked number one in women’s tennis. Until recently, you were plagued with ankle and knee injuries that prevented you from playing in the major tennis events. To make matters more complicated, you are ranked number 81 and playing in this year’s 2007 Australian Open.

You rally back to your past years of exquisite tennis. Strong and tough, once again you show the world that you have talent, guts, grit and determination. You’re a winner once again, but you know defeat all too well.

Serena’s comeback is inspiring. How did she do it? What’s the secret formula? I have always wondered how professional athletes cope with major setbacks and rise to greatness once again. (More on this in future postings).

This is a lesson for us all, whether pro or amatuer, if she can do it – so can any of us who have been hampered by injury!To you, me and all of the Serena’s out there – never give up on yourself. I know this sounds trite and simplistic, but it does seem to work. Just look at Serena – few believed that she could do it – yet – she never doubted herself.

Recovering from Knee Surgery

What a great way to launch my blog while recovering from knee surgery.  Yes, it’s true fitness professionals can become injured. This happened to me during an exhilarating fall hike in Northampton. Apparently while ascending some steep terrain, I tore my left medial meniscus. I discovered this a week later. While walking my left knee buckled. 

At that moment, I panicked and realized that something was seriously wrong with my knee.  For 49 years of an active life, I was unscathed by all of the pivoting, twisting, pounding etc. on my body, particularly – my knees. I had taken them for granted. As an active and mobile kid, I never listened to my body – now as a fitness professional and aging baby boomer – I learned how important it is to listen and pay attention – to care for those joints – those precious knees!

It’s been five weeks into my recovery. I must confess it hasn’t been easy. I have had to slow down – something that is hard for me (and I’m sure for plently of others in this day and age of busyness!) For one thing, I never considered or imagined that I would lose a significant amount of strength in my left leg and that walking a short distance and time could be painful and difficult. A humbling experience for me- to be put in a position of vulnerability.  How many of us recognize our struggle with our bodies – pain, injuries, weight, aging etc.?

With each day that passes, I am more mindful and appreciative of my body and mind. I pay attention to my mood – particularly since I have temporarily curtailed high impact cardio activities like running. Running certainly boosted my spirits, my self-esteem and challenged me physically.

A new year brings me into unchartered physical and psychological territory as I recover from injury. How have you been challenged by injury? I am inspired by how much courage and patience is needed to aid the healing process.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and fit year!