New Year’s Resolution Pain

Resolutions to Get Fit Lead to Frozen Shoulder, Hernia, and Sprained Ankle

If you google “New Year’s resolutions” — and why would you? — you will get around 140 million results. Seems our desire to begin afresh has not abated since the times of the ancient Babylonians, who, at the start of each year, would promise their gods that they would repay debts and return borrowed objects. (Hey, Nebuchadnezzar, where’s my cuneiform tablet?)

Despite the fact that only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolution, everybody claims to have a winning strategy. (While doing the research for this article, an ad popped up for mini gastric bypass. Coincidence? Methinks not). Even the United States government weighs in. On its website, there’s a section called Popular New Year’s Resolutions that offers “resources to help you achieve your goals.” Hmm. “Drink less alcohol.” No, thank you. “Get a better education.” Still paying for our kids’; think I better wait on that one. Ah, “Get Fit” — the link takes me to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and a video featuring Grant Hill, the NBA All-Star. Yep, definitely someone I can relate to. Next.

According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Every year — well, actually, probably once a week — I catch sight of myself in the mirror under those harsh fluorescent bathroom lights, the kind that turn pasty white skin into the coating of a marshmallow, and I swear that This Time, I’m really going to get into shape. Diet, exercise, meditation — the works. (Remember the insanity part?) But no, this time I am going to Get Fit. There’s only one problem: Every time I get fit I get hurt.

I’m originally from Montreal, where it’s colder than Siberia in the winter and hotter than Mexico City in the summer. Not into ice skating or swimming, the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to sports. And I’m one of those skiers whose fingers you have to pry off the poles at the bottom of the hill, hanging on for dear life, convinced I’m about to kill myself along with everyone on the slopes. As a child of the ’60s, fitness was not in my vocabulary — pass the joint was more like it.

So moving to California, land of the tanned and lean and nearly naked, propelled me to try new and different ways to achieve those ubiquitous and truly annoying workout goals. Enter Pilates, the method du jour. Touted as one of the safest forms of exercise, good for all ages and skill levels, Pilates boasts a contraption called the Reformer, a somewhat medieval-torture-looking table replete with leather straps and pulleys. My favorite part is that most of the exercises are done lying down — a position well suited to my temperament. I signed up with a renowned trainer and began my thrice-weekly foray into fitness. All went swimmingly for a couple of months until I woke up one morning and felt a large, previously nonexistent lump by my groin. I immediately leapt to the obvious conclusion: I had grown a tumor overnight and was dying. Turns out, no, it was simply a hernia. What the heck? (To this day, the instructor swears that none of her other clients ever got a hernia from Pilates, and she still avoids me in the aisles of Trader Joe’s.)

After the surgery, I opted for yoga: long, slow stretches and deep breathing. I wrenched my back and was in physio for months. I tried a change of pace and decided to kick up (literally) some of those endorphins I kept hearing about. I joined a South American kickboxing gym and whipped myself into a frenzy, booting those punching bags and releasing resentments at the same time. It was wonderful until all that sweat caused my skin to erupt in a rather nasty rash, and the dermatologist suggested that I was not built to perspire. Insult to injury: Someone hit my car in the club parking lot the day my body erupted. The litany continued. Personal trainer equaled frozen shoulder. Hiking, a sprained ankle. I won’t try swimming, as drowning would be imminent, no doubt. No one — and I mean NO ONE — has seen me in a bathing suit since I was 2.

Turns out I’m not alone in the getting-hurt department. More than 2.5 million boomers head to the emergency room each year as a result of injuries caused by exercise. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas DiNubile (I’m not making that up) coined the term “boomeritis” and stays busy replacing various body parts in exchange for a fleet of Ferraris. Throw in the weekend warriors who insist on playing hard-charging competitive you-name-it, and business is booming.

According to a report from the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.”

Self-confidence? Stress levels? … My resolution for this year’s fitness goals? Change the lights in the bathroom — or at least get a dimmer.


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