Reconstituting a Wreck, Part 2

Man in a Palm Tree (2).jpg


Weight 95kg (that’s another 2kg this week, see below).  Cigarettes – zero, of course, I’ll leave this out next time. Alcohol units – 7 (and that’s just last night). Near-death incidents while cycling – none this week, amazingly. Injuries – lower back a little ‘warm’ while cycling


This dieting thing. That’s another 2 kilogrammes gone this week. OK I did start at 99kg, so there’s plenty of it to lose, but I am bit suspicious of it, altogether. First up. Woe! Spurning all that food that I love to eat. My seven cups of coffee, plus milk and sugar? Gone. Late night bowls of cereal? Haven’t had one in three weeks. Biscuits, on which I am a specialist: right out. Instead I’m faced with a lifetime of pissy teas and fruit.

It’s like denying the call from the Cro-Magnon, which shouts from father to son, all the way down the genetic chain, with: “Eat it! You never truly know where your next meal is coming from…  So eat till you’re full….! And you can exercise tomorrow...”

And exercise is what I do (albeit dialled back to a 5 at the moment, after the Doc’s warning about not cycling home, let alone across Montana). Or at least that’s theory. Because now I have to learn to run again.


On which, it’s back to Joe the Physio. At the end of our first session, he concluded:

“Well, you’ve got a few dings in your hardware, for sure. But the software? That we can change.“

And so at the start of our second session I find myself laid out on the treatment bed while he begins to do a bit more regular sports physio work on me. Which involves some low-grade violence on my thighs and then calves. I assume he was stretching them out so that when I run they will be less er… I’m not sure what.  

While I grimace and wince on the table, Joe peppers the conversation with telling (and sometimes worrying) facts about physical life. First up: A human’s cardio peak is in their 30s. Long gone, then. I’m going to be puffing along behind all the youthful runners in Montana.

He sets me a regimen which involves half and half running and walking. Apparently I will decrease the gaps between the running bits. Meantime if anyone tuts at me for being a pansy, for giving up too easily and walking, well, I can just scowl at them and say “Physio’s orders”.

Fun fact No 2: You’re probably 15% slower in repairing yourself at your age…

He explains that the mechanics of running has changed. There should be less extension of the foot, the strike point should be beneath the body, so that the force of the impact travels vertically and is taken up by the muscles, sparing the joints (the huge cushioned heels of running shoes are right out now). And then there’s cadence… and leaning forward… and lifting my heels. And I have to try to remember to do all of this at once…

The net result is that I start to run like a cartoon figure. In place of my normal lope, I begin to move in quadruple quick time, shuffling my legs madly back and forth.

Fitness in my case will be as much about building running resilience as aerobic transfer. But, but…

Fact 3: Apparently my Achilles, both of them, are ‘deranged’. Hmmm. No, says Joe, it’s true, after all the abuse I have put them through, the fibres are all mucked up, facing in random directions, literally de-ranged.

I forgot. This is all about preparing me for Montana:

“It’s a nice combination of muscle groups”, he continues, which I assume is physio speak for different sports. And then it dawns on me, as Joe locates some poor, abused muscle buried somewhere in my thigh and turns it to molten iron, that the landscape of training, pain and potential injury will be multiplied by four. As well as running, there’s swimming, cycling and paddling.

A nice fact to end on, though: It’s the exercise you take in your 40s and 50s that affect your fitness in your 60s and 70s. Well, there’s some good news, at least. I’ll be standing up quickly from chairs for years to come. It’ll just take a doctor to be impressed.