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That Last Step's A Doozy

by Stephen Kelly

I recently sprained my ankle. I know that doesn’t particularly severe. When people hear you’ve sprained something they think you twisted it a little, and spraining your ankle ranks up there with stubbing your toe. But a sprain is no small deal, as it stops just short of being a fracture, which, of course is the difference between a three-week recovery period versus two months. Anyone who has injured an ankle can testify to how painful, and inconvenient, it can be.

I wish I could put a glamorous spin on how I injured myself, like playing hockey or chasing down a purse-snatcher. No, I have to admit my injury was the result of carelessness and a little stupidity. While I won’t go into the gory details, let’s just say that last step is a doozy and it’s not a good idea to multitask while descending a narrow, rickety, flight of stairs.

When it first happened I swore it was fractured as I thought I had heard a faint cracking sound. My first painful utterance was a word so obscene it cannot be reprinted here, although it has something to do with having sex with a female sibling who is not your sister or grandmother. From there came the swelling and the constant throbbing pain.

So it was off to the hospital I went, where I was poked, prodded and X-rayed. Since my injury happened at work, I limped in waving my workman’s comp around, and sure enough, I got hustled through. So from entrance to x-ray may have been twenty minutes tops.

But it takes time for the X-rays to be processed and they put me up in a comfy bed and I waited for the results. That’s when I started sweating bullets. If I'm not working, I'm not making money, and a recovery that requires me to be off my feet for an extended time could be financially disastrous . And working out would be out of the question for at least a few weeks, which I know would affect me physically and mentally.

So I breathed a big sigh of relief when the doctor said that was no fracture, just a severe sprain. Being a certified personal trainer I know how to recover from a sprain, nothing that a little rest, ice, and a lot of Advil can’t take care of. So I told them I could take it from there, and away I limped.

That was three weeks ago and I have to say that my recovery took a lot less time than I would have thought. I was back at work four days later. I probably should have taken the rest of the week off, but even a week would have hurt financially. It was bad enough losing two lucrative shifts as I recovered. And I have to admit that it was touch and go there for the first two days. I was in a lot of pain and walking with a pretty bad limp. It wasn’t so bad if I kept on the go. It’s when I stopped that things began to feel bad.

But I have a history of speedy recovery and this was no exception as things improved as dramatically and quickly as I thought they would. And while I still feel a slight twinge of pain down there, particularly in the morning, I’ve recently declared myself over the ankle thing.

And not a moment too soon. I was in pretty good shape before the injury, hitting the gym five to six times a week for about two hours of weight lifting and cardio. I work out with my friend who is also a certified trainer. We’re pretty dedicated, meeting at 5 AM and putting ourselves through the paces. Before injuring my ankle I was on a pace to get myself below 10% body fat while maintaining a body weight of 180 pounds.

Call me vain, but I like the feeling of being in shape, of having your body tuned. For me it makes my brain work that much better. I’m a big believer in that mind/body connection thing and I like having my house in order. Getting into that type of regimen also gives me a structure and discipline needed to make sure everything is ship shape. Being proud of how I look also gives me the ego boost I need occasionally to keep me feeling good about myself; a positive outlook of how you look is, to me, is also a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Still, I’m not one of these trainer types who strut around Jack LaLanne-like, forcing feeding their fitness regimen down the throats of everyone they come into contact with, living lives devoid of anything they deem poisonous or dangerous to their bodies, pooh-poohing every slice of pizza you eat or any beer you drink. While well intentioned, high-powered trainers can be like born-again Christians and, sometimes, recovering alcoholics. We all know people who are so relentless in their fervor they become nothing more than a boorish pain in the ass.

I believe in healthy living, but I also have a laundry list of illicit substances of which I partake in on a regular basis. As with the aforementioned obscenity, revealing too much here may be incriminating and is probably best left to your imagination. Call me a hypocrite, but it’s all about balance. I may party, but I never go overboard. I take great pains to keep myself in shape.

But it’s amazing how much you can lose in three short weeks. The lack of exercise is beginning to take its toll on the mind and body. There has been no strenuous lifting, no forty-five minute cardio sessions, no burning of calories and fat in any way. Needless to say I’m not feeling at top of my game. If anything, I’m feeling slightly rotund, unpleasingly plump. Stick a fork in my ass and turn me over. I’m done.

It may all be in my mind, of course, but right now I feel like you could tether me and make me the lead blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. So I’ve finally gotten back into the gym to start on the road back. My workout partner is out of town this week, so I’m slowly ramping before he gets back as we get serious again.

But all this inactivity has allowed a laziness that lurks just under the surface to emerge and perpetuate itself. It’s getting harder and harder to tap into the motivation I had so intensely not so long ago. Unfortunately, when my motivation goes so does my focus, followed closely by all sense of discipline. Mentally, I’m feeling pretty fuzzy these days.

That could partially be because a month off has opened the doors for all the little demons I’m able to keep at bay when I’m focused. For instance, in the past few weeks I’ve gotten used to, and have quite enjoyed, my many post shift cocktails. I’ve even reconciled with my old friend Bombay Sapphire and we’ve been having a good time. Which, of course, isn’t helping in the battle of the bulge.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, but my usually disciplined diet has gone completely out the window. I stick closely to diet balanced between carbs and protein and very little fat. Again, as a trainer, I know how to feed myself to get the results I want in the gym. But lately I find myself indulging in all sorts of crap. Yesterday, one of my coworker left a big bag of Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion potato chips for all to share and I dove right in, stopping just short of sticking my head in to make for an impromptu feed bag. I washed all that grease down with a big glass of coke, natch.

There’s a pizza shop right next door to the bar and it’s become my go-to place for dinner, because there’s nothing better than crappy pizza after five or six drinks. I’ve heard they are developing a slice named after me, covered with green pepper, basil leaves and other green items that suspiciously resemble all of the cash I spend in that place.

All that alcohol and pizza puts me in a right sleepy mood, and I’ve really gotten fond of sleeping in. It’s going to be really tough getting up at 4:15 this Monday when my workout partner gets back. But it’s got to be done. As you can see, I become a quivering jellyfish when my structure falls apart. Don’t know if that’s good or bad.

What I do know is that my more sensible, disciplined side is slowly reporting back for duty after a little R&R. The past couple of weeks have been fun, but if I go any longer I’ll become like the bar flys I’m always making fun off. Besides, I’m getting a little tired of waking up hung over, getting sick of feeling so…sluggish. But it’s when I become aware of my waistline, when I detect a bit of jiggling as I walk, like I did yesterday, that prompts a return to normalcy.

I’ve gone through these periods before and I always know when to reel myself back in before embracing my destiny as a fat guy. And past history indicates that it won’t take long to get back into it. So, despite my protestations, I’ve enjoyed this respite. Let the games begin!