Blood, Sweat and Tears

A couple weeks ago, Bob, a friend of mine and practicing member of the Wellness Club, went for an after-work mountain bike ride. Nothing too technical, just a nice up and down loop to work up a sweat after sitting in front a a computer all day.

Nearing the top of an incline, he realized he didn't have enough momentum and decided to dismount and walk the last few feet. Coming to a stop, he went to put his right foot down, but his shoe cleat wouldn't separate from the pedal, and he fell over sideways before he could get it freed.

Anyone who has ridden trails on a mountain bike knows this happens all the time, and you usually get a scrape or bruise. But when Bob went down, he realized something was different about the fall and pain. He pulled himself up and could see blood spurting out the side of his leg. He looked down and realized he had impaled his leg on the jagged stump of a small tree. Using his cell phone, he called his wife, who was waiting in line at a health food store, and explained his situation. (Thanks to Bob for this picture - ouch!)

He managed to glide back down to the trail head, where his wife picked him up and got him to the emergency room just in time because he was starting to go into shock. After numbing him up and giving him a relaxant, the ER doc stuck his latex-covered finger into the wound all the way up to his knuckle, and then called a general surgeon for a consult. They decided to clean out the deep puncture wound as best they could and not sew him up in order to avoid infection by letting the wound heal from the inside out. They packed it with a ribbon of gauze and sent him home with a prescription for some narcotics to ease the pain.

Bob's healing well and getting off the pain meds, but he can't do much physical activity yet, and this is hard on him. Several years ago and headed towards 50, he decided to get rid of his beer belly by getting in really good shape. He watches what he eats and exercises hard every day, rain or snow. He's a great example of the benefits of eating the right foods and working out regularly. When people bring crap food to work, he avoids it. He's broken through to the fitness side.

When you become really fit, you form an addiction to exercise. If you don't do it, you miss it. You feel sluggish, tired, overweight, anxious, depressed. You crave exercise. That's where Bob probably is now, but won't be for long. He'll heal and be back out there soon.

If you exercise hard (do more than walking), there's always a risk of injury. Usually, it's something minor like a strain, sprain, or abrasion. When you push a little harder like Bob and most TOJs do, the risk goes up, especially if you're fatigued and try to do that one last rep or run a little faster than you ever have before. We all have a boundary that we shouldn't cross and, if we do, will get injured. Part of the challenge of getting fit is knowing where those boundaries are. And almost all people who exercise hard will get injured at one time or another.

The day Bob got hurt, he hadn't reached one of his physical boundaries. He had an accident out on a trail that really had nothing to do with fatigue or pushing beyond limits. Being fit and tough from falling other times helped him be able to get to a place he could get some help.

A couple days after he returned to work, he ran into one of his fellow workers, who's young and very overweight. She asked Bob why he was limping. After briefly describing what happened, she said, "THAT's why I don't exercise."

Over the long run, guess who's at most risk between the two of them? Emergency Rooms are no fun, but they beat the hell out of Intensive Care.

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