Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Day After ...

Boston, early morning

The more years I tack onto the ol' personal odometer, the more concerned I am about what surprises await me "the day after" any athletic endeavor, especially hockey. I'm usually OK right after a skate, when weary muscles are still warm and the beer is cold and cheap. It's the next morning that's a problem, when all my joints and muscles have had a chance to calcify, and the numbing effects of last night's beverages have worn off. My lovely bride, Lauri, likes to joke that the terms "Over 50" and "hockey goaltender" should be mutually exclusive. I'm beginning to think she's got a point.

I've played goalie in hockey since I was 12, and during most of my adult life (except for a brief, five-year hiatus when I thought I would mold myself into the second coming of Larry Bird. It didn't happen). Even at 51, I still play between three and four times a week, barring injury (and that's no small caveat). It's not getting any easier ... every little twinge or tweak can lead to a more serious injury if not properly diagnosed and treated. My flexibility - a strong suit during my youth - has gone AWOL. Oftentimes, I find myself mimicking the geriatrics from the classic TV ad: "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" Just a few weeks ago, I actually strained my lower back simply tying my skates ... how embarrassing is that? To make matters worse, I still had to play the game (that's the downside to being the goalie; a warm body in net is better than none at all), which sent my backside into full-on spasms. Took me a week to get over that unfortunate episode. Recovery, I've found, is another thing (in addition to reflexes) that slows down demonstrably during your second half-century.

Today, I got out of bed thanking my lucky stars. I don't feel all that bad, despite playing in each of the past three days. That's an exceedingly rare occurrence, but one I hope to make a habit. My brother Chris, during a recent trip to Lake Placid, showed me a bunch of great stretching exercises, and I'm trying to incorporate those into my day. Lauri keeps threatening to sign me up for a local "Stiff Guys Yoga," which always prompts some juvenile comment from yours truly. But I ought to listen to my wife. She's a superb occupational therapist who works with an older clientele, and she's always telling me that the key to health in later years can be summed up in four words: "Flexible mind, flexible body." For starters, I'm getting to work on the latter. I just hope nothing comes apart!


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