It’s time to do some ‘splaining about why I let myself become overweight and sedentary. In a way, I didn’t have the vision to avoid it.
The reason I never got into sports is a medical one; the reason why I never got into regular exercise is environmental and experiential. This blog takes a bit to explain why.
When I was a toddler, I rode my little metal “car” into a fire hydrant at the curb in front of our little house. My mother thought I either needed to go to an eye doctor or I was a bit touched in the head. Turns out she was right on both counts. The optometrist had a foreboding message: I was born hyper nearsighted, and my eyes were so distended (oblong) that I was a candidate to suffer detached retinas. He advised no contact sports, avoid roller coasters and such, and to come in immediately after any car accident, even a fender bender, to make sure I wasn’t in trouble. At that toddler age, I didn’t know I wasn’t normal and the world was just fuzzy and bumpy for everybody. Maybe that’s why I have a deep and abiding appreciation for music, since my hearing probably overcompensated for the poor vision.
From the time I could comprehend my situation, the fear of going blind loomed in the back of my mind. In those days, retina repairs were crude and did not enjoy a high success rate. Topping it off, the glasses I was given were the thickest most people had ever seen. By the time I got to middle school my nickname was “Eight Eyes” because four eyes did not adequately describe the vortex of distortion on my face. On the playground, I avoided dodge ball and tetherball and any physical games, opting to run around to release energy. The running was helpful to get me away from the bullies, too. Hey, look at the photo at the top of this blog! I mean, really – if I was any kind of self-respecting bully, then taunting and beating up on Delbert was a required duty.
I did grow up a huge baseball fan in North Hollywood. Going to Dodger Stadium with my dad was super special, and I wanted to play the game. My parents reluctantly allowed me to join a team, but because I had trouble seeing fast grounders and line drives the manager only trusted me in the outfield. Since every other fly ball disappeared when Eight Eyes frantically circled and searched the sky for it, I never got sent out for more than an inning or two. My field of focused vision even with my telescope glasses was much less than others. But I loved feeling part of a team and playing the game I loved. I just resigned myself that I was never going to be an athlete or be much more than a nerdy fumblebum. I finally got contact lenses and started to discover a real social life at 16, but the die had been cast.
Now for the environmental part. No one in my family had any athletic interest, and no one ever exercised. The biggest factor was my dad’s medical condition. Pops was an athletic youth and played varsity football and golf before the world boiled over. Bud Moon was a true WWII hero, manning the helm of the Coast Guard escort ship and small landing craft in the South Pacific. During his three-year service he was twice blown off his feet, once during a typhoon and again when a Japanese Kamikaze plane splashed next to the boat. As a result, my dad put up with almost constant back pain during the entire time I was raised. He couldn’t even play catch with me for more than a couple tosses. Mom got her exercise chasing four kids around and had never played sports. But hey, my dad could have easily found a watery grave and never met my mother, and I would not be writing this history. I’ll take it!
I did find a physical outlet by participating in marching band in high school and with the LSU “Golden Band from Tigerland” in college, so I did participate in a team exercise and loved playing my trombone on the field. I always joked that trombone was for me because it was the only instrument that you can succeed with by letting things slide. Again with the puns!
Entering my adult life I worked some pretty physical jobs with concerts and other special events. Early on I was a starving writer and always had a second job, often in food service. However, once I got going as a PR guy a few years later, most of my work time involved a desk, typewriter and a phone. Every attempt to start exercising fizzled as the tasks of raising two kids evaporated my time and energy. Eventually couch surfing and a 25-year love affair with Louisiana cuisine led me to The Great Metabolism Recession of 1993. When my motor powered down, the pounds started mounting up.
Now back to this vision thing. After decades of feeling the Raven of Darkness on my shoulder, the stern warning my first eye doctor came true. In late 2012, without any cause, the left eye failed. Then, the following March, I was in Cleveland for planning meetings for the 2013 National Senior Games presented by Humana when I woke up and noticed the “lamp shade closing” phenomenon starting in my right eye. By the time I sat down for the first meeting I knew it was game on.
It is imperative to get retina detachments treated quickly, and I was hundreds of miles from home. Luckily, the medical director for The Games was sitting right next to me and immediately called in an emergency appointment at the Cleveland Eye Clinic, where my fears were confirmed. Knowing that recovery involves laying face down for 50 minutes out of each hour for ten days or more, I called my surgeon in Atlanta and paid a small fortune to change my flight to get home right away. The next morning I was back in the chair, watching the bizarro light show under a happy gas fog.
The good news is that I can now see better than any time in my life and chances of having more are much lower than for the original failures. Thank God for modern medicine. Even better is that I have made the commitment to never be sedentary again, and the carrot in front of me is the 1500 meter Power Walk at Nationals in Albuquerque next June. Now, I feel that my vision has been corrected in more ways than one.
“TWEAK” UPDATE: My back spasms would not go away, so I got X Rays and began physical therapy. I found I have a degenerated disc between the L3 and L4 vertebrae, but the situation is manageable since the spasms are not as intense and usually end shortly after I get up and move around. Fast pace walking does not seem to aggravate it but caution has been advised. In addition, the PT has loosened me up and there’s hope this will subside if I approach things properly.
I’ve gained great advice on how to approach exercise and accelerated training activity, and it is working. After two weeks of short walks and allowing my muscles to flex better, I am just beginning to do spurts of distance power walking again. I have more than six months to prepare for the big event so I can ease back into the groove as my body allows.
Do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help for your specific situation. Until next time, the Moon Walker strides on…