Thursday, March 11, 2010

The annual physical

CONSUMER WARNING: The following blog entry contains material of explicit nature, which some readers may find unsettling, or even disturbing!

Boston, waiting for the storm

There are few things in life more revealing, or more, um, invasive, than the annual physical. Not confession, not those heart-to-heart chats with my bride, not those long, soul-searching conversations with the man in the mirror. Nope, the annual physical exam takes the cake, because your body doesn't lie.

This year, I shuffled into Dr. Taylor's office resigned to hear the worst. It hadn't been a good year, physically speaking, and my body was a veritable road map of inactivity. Between a banged up shoulder (the result of a nasty over-the-handlebars mountain bike spill) and a persistent groin injury, my cycling and hockey playing had been severely curtailed over the past 18 months. And the proof was hanging over my belt. I had packed on at least a good 20 pounds of lard, absolutely useless adipose tissue. I knew that wasn't going to go over well with Dr. Taylor, a straight-shooter who I've known for almost a quarter century now.

A nurse in pajamas takes me through the rudimentary, baseline tests. I'm still a shade over 6-foot-2, which means I haven't started to shrink, vertically speaking. Horizontally, I continue to expand. My weight now hovers around 230. I'm tempted to toss off every last stitch of clothing, but I know that's not going to make much of a difference. The fact that the nurse says my weight "isn't bad" for someone my height and age (52 now) tells me all I need to know about the collective health of this country. She says the same for my pulse and blood pressure readings, which, if you charted on a graph for the past 15 years, would look like the front side of the Matterhorn. "OK," I tell myself, "you knew this wasn't going to be pretty."

So the doc comes in and, patiently, listens to my concerns and my confessions (I always feel, somehow, that I've let him down when I've let myself go). Some things are a natural byproduct of age ... the fading eyesight and faulty hearing. Others -- primarily a waistline running amok and the loss of muscle tone and flexibility -- are self-imposed. Dr. Taylor nods and smiles, pokes and prods, and records all the salient points on his laptop. In his matter-of-fact style, he tells me what I already know: I'm woefully out of shape, and need to turn things around if I hope to keep pursing any kind of truly "active" lifestyle. Actually, he didn't say "woefully," but I know better.

No physical, of course, is complete without "the exam." And Dr. Taylor, always the gentleman, always saves this indelicate test for last. I honestly don't mind the notorious digital exam. Not that it's pleasant, mind you, but it sure beats the alternative of not knowing if I might have prostate issues. Rarely can ignorance be more dangerous.

But everything seems to check out OK this time around. I pull up my trousers, and think about pulling myself up by the bootstraps and getting back into a sensible, and serious, exercise routine. I owe it to Lauri and the girls. And I owe it to myself.


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