If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, you’re probably searching for some deep and great insight into the world of fitness and exercise. If so, all I can say is, move along, move along. Nothing to see here. But if you want to have some insight into why an old, nerdy white guy, rocketing towards the half-century mark would want to suddenly hit the gym and turn his entire way of thinking upside down for the sake of his health, then you’re in the right place.
To fully understand why I’m doing all this, or why I decided to blog about it, you need to know some backstory. Yeah, it’s all about me – one of my favorite subjects (not really but for these purposes, I don’t have much choice so I might as well have some fun with it). But to bring you up to speed, I have to take you back a few years, almost 50 years in fact, to September 1967. Hold on tight, this is gonna be a bumpy ride.
I was born in Dayton, Ohio, the third child in our family, and a very late comer as it were. My mother was 34 when I was born, fairly late to have a child in those days. Although I’m told there was nothing particularly unusual about the pregnancy, once out in the world, I caused quite a bit of alarm. You see, thanks to a combination of my mother’s age and use of medications of the day to combat epilepsy, some abnormalities had surfaced leaving me with a myriad of congenital birth defects. Without getting into the details, all of them were located around my lower back, pelvic areas, hips, and the organs contained therein.
Unfortunately, some of the technology did not yet exist to correct some of these defects and i became a sort of running medical experiment to the doctors. Fortunately for me, they were some of the best pediatric surgeons in the country, who all came together to help me – one kid, in a tiny Ohio town, in a tiny Dayton hospital. But there I was, the majority of my life, in and out of surgery or one hospital stay or another.
Although I spent most of 18 years in and out of the hospital, psychologically I fared pretty well, never really experiencing any adverse effects as many do. But physically, I had limitations. Well, that is, I was told I had limitations. I never really listened and, fortunately for me, neither did my family.
You see, my parents were told I would have a tough life. Back then a common concern for a child born with physical birth defects was that a mental disability would most likely be there as well. Mom and Dad were also told, because of my hip and pelvic issues, I would likely never walk. What’s worse, my unusual anatomy and the potential for infection from surgeries and what not gave me a relatively short life expectancy – 5-10 years. I have to say, my parents and my siblings had a level of faith and determination that I scarcely understand, but, nearly a half century later, here I am, still walking around and here to tell you the tale.
Over the years, I knew very little of the details of how different my anatomy was and why it was considered dangerous for me to participate in any sort of advanced athletic activity – at least in school. At home, I did what I wanted. My mother was an amazing person about letting me just be, academically, creatively, physically. She understood the necessity to nurture and allow me to find my way and encourage my creativity and physical activity. Having grown up on a cattle farm in the middle of nowhere, I spent a great deal of time on a bicycle. Hours and miles ticked away behind the handlebars, summer after summer. It was one of the earliest ways I dealt with the stress of my medical issues, and the difficulties of being a kid.
My mother passed away in November of 2011 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and I was fortunate to have been a part of her care the last couple of years. I got to return all of that time she spent at my hospital bedside but, more importantly, I got to ensure the same level of determination to her quality of care. I tell you about her passing so you can grasp how much of her fortitude influences the fitness journey I’ll be sharing with you in this blog. Which, of course, brings us back to 2017.
Today I care for my father, who is 84 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. About a year and a half ago, my brother was stricken with a brain infection that nearly cost him his life. Fortunately, he came through it with our family’s usual stubbornness and is doing much better. But between all this, and watching my mother’s decline, as well as family and friends who just seem to accept aging’s abuse on our bodies and minds, I wanted to do something about it for myself. I’ve always known that everything done to me in various surgeries would sort of come apart as I aged. I can’t allow that, or at least, I don’t have to just sit back and let it happen.
I’ve spent a great many years trying to learn everything I could about my unusual anatomy and all that happened to me which, at the time, I was simply too young to comprehend in its entirety. I still have limitations, but instead of considering them as such, I take them as a challenge to be met and exploited for the better.
Last October, 2016, I decided to start an investigation into exactly what I could physically do in the way of exercise and fitness that would help to protect those surgically affected areas of my body. I decided to develop a fitness program for myself that would target my core, shore up my hips, legs, abdomen and any other affected areas, and help to protect myself against that deterioration that I believe will eventually occur.
I should note at this point that I’ve always been a very physically active person. I’ve been a competitive maneuverability and safety cyclist and an internationally known bullwhip artist – long story for another day. I’ve also had to exert myself in ways that I’m sure would have made the doctors tear their hair out. So I’m not afraid of anything – I just wanted to put my engineering and biological education to good use and have a tight grip on exactly what I was doing – to prevent injury and to get as much out of these efforts as possible.
All of that said, I hated the idea of working out. There was nothing even remotely attractive about the idea to me. Growing up, I was smaller than everyone else, bullied a lot by the “bigger kids,” and hated any sort of organized sports or athletics – detested gym class, locker rooms, the “jock” mentality, and so on. I was a nerd. Plain and simple. I was the typical, smart band geek. Now praised and coveted on TV sitcoms, we were once the target of way too much abuse by our muscle-head brethren. So, needless to say, I had a lot of baggage to overcome, but I was determined … the commitment came later.
One thing I have decided on, however, is a focus for my fitness regimen, aimed sharply in the direction of tour cycling – long-distance bicycle tours from 20 – 100 miles, possibly more. At the time of this writing, I have exceeded about 30 miles and my first 100 miles, or “century” ride is scheduled for May 6. I’ll be discussing this more in a future post.
For some people, exercise is an activity to relieve boredom, lose weight, or muscle through some personal issues like therapy. For me, it’s literally a way to save my own life, or at least extend it. I’ll never be a gym rat or competitive weight lifter or any other such thing.
And I know there are those of you out there in the same spot – needing to do something to get yourselves in better health but are intimidated by the gym environment or worried you can’t do it. I promise you, you can! It’s hard, though, especially for a non-athlete like me – I’m just an Old Nerd in the Gym, doing my thing and trying to be an even older nerd in the gym later on.
So, in a nutshell, this blog will bring you along on my journey, if you want to come. I don’t know who will be interested in it but I wanted to write it down so it might serve to help others in their quest to be better – not just physically, but in any way they choose. That we decide to do things not because they are the easiest, but because they’re the most beneficial to our future, our life, and our security.
Over the next several posts I’ll share my successes and failures. You’ll hopefully see something in my efforts that will help you on yours. Where I am, where I was, and where I’m going. I hope it’s helpful. And please let me know if I have inspired you in some way or what I can do to help. If I don’t know the answer, I know how to find it. Thanks, and if you want to follow my daily progress, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @gerydeer.