Active recovery and being an older athlete – topics I thought I knew a lot about, but became quite intimate with recently. I am a “regen” specialist, or what some of my teams and private clients call a “performance care” coach or an “active recovery” teacher. With regards to the long game, at 54, I figured I was still on the front end of getting older. However, about a year and a half ago, I faced death and became my #1 client.
I woke up one day with what I thought must be the flu, but three days later, I became very sick, was hospitalized, stopped breathing, was intubated, needed spinal decompression surgery, open-heart surgery for a new mitral valve, and was on IV antibiotics for five months to fight off severe septic shock from that damn MSSA superbug. I spent a month in the hospital followed by 10 days in a rehab facility where I literally had to learn to walk again. I arrived home with the ability to climb 4 stairs and climb back down 4 stairs. That’s it. Healthcare got me “functional”. While I’m super grateful for everything my doctors, specialists and nurses did for me, I learned I would have to pursue “optimal” on my own.
My heart surgeon, once he heard my plan for my self-designed rehab phase at home, he said I didn’t need the hospitals standard cardiac rehab program (also, I used to teach cardiac rehab). Also, my insurance company didn’t approve my request for additional physical therapy even though I had yet to shower unassisted. (Maybe they Googled me!? I doubt it.) I was just dependent on a walker days earlier, and yet I was heading home to figure it out. I couldn’t get up and down off the floor let alone in and out of a tub! They did recommended I buy a shower seat and showed me how to wrap my arm that housed my port with swan wrap. I had real fear heading home but because of my line of work, I knew what to do next. However, hospital stay or not, how do people who are pre/post physical therapy manage or simply those managing a sub-clinical injury and its dysfunction find themselves facing some fear with the need to manage pain and to figure out how to move well again? Separate from my work with athletes, this has been a good portion of the clients that seek me out. I now can relate on deeper level.
Once I was back home, when I wasn’t tethered to my IV pole twice a day for 2 hours at a stretch, I rehabbed myself from November 2017 to now. Today, I’m back in the gym lifting heavy things, back in a variety of yoga classes, I can run a few miles without stopping, I’ve fallen in love with threading together kettlebell flows and I can get up and down off the floor without using my hands. This last one might not seem like a big deal, but it’s how I rehabbed myself. From the ground up. Ironically, it’s also how I start almost every active recovery session with an athlete. What was my plan? I threaded my knowledge and experience together from studying human movement & embryology, having raised three kids, 30+ years of teaching movement and yoga, strength and conditioning, FMS, my study of the work of Original Strength and was guided by this sentiment from Aurthur Ashe and popularized by the good folks at Original Strength: Start Where You Are, Do What You Can, With What You Have.
Staying intimate with how you originally learned to move and breathe is foundational for all humans who wish to optimize beyond moving well now – ground up training can help you avoid injury, age well and for athletes who need to be able to optimize by cultivating maximum recoil or what’s called managing ground force production, MAX POWER OUTPUT. It’s also where your mind/body connection really started to move you through your world – when you were an infant from your first strength-based move – breathing – through moving towards toddlerhood. It’s a spine first approach my yoga clients appreciate, my athletes learn to respect and my post-rehab clients see as having cracked a bit of the code towards a future of independent living.
Dynamic aging to me means taking responsibility for yourself at any age and being able to manage your own aches & pains, perform daily self care to your own soft tissues, maximize your human potential, with or without having experienced some kind of body drama like I’ve been through. Some people have been through far worse.
My inspirations today are my students I meet from teaching at various places in North East Ohio and beyond. There’s my students at The Gathering Place who are on the cancer journey. They are the most bada&$ performance athletes I’ve ever worked with, only their goal isn’t game day on Sunday, but rather they’re training for their Super Bowl of becoming the most resilient 90+ year old(s) they can.
There’s Joe, 78 years young, former collegiate athlete, who showed up pretty stiff, but today we call him “the wet noodle” because he now rolls more fluidly during our warm up (fluid rolling translates into fluid walking.) There’s Agata, a young, fitness instructor who always stays after class to ask me deeper questions about what we learned that day. There’s John, a 62 years young former marathon runner with two hip replacements who refuses to let that stop him.
While the primary goal of a pro athlete is game day, it really is the same conversation as the long game for the rest of us – the goal is self-knowledge of how to optimize the intelligent design of the human body and mind. Lebron James and Tom Brady are certainly very inspiring to the younger generations and all of us with their commitments to training and active recovery but my everyday students are truly showing me how we all can not be benched and stay in the game – independent living.
Need to up-level your long game? Book me for a workshop that speaks to these topics above or work with me privately with my 12 session curriculum of movement education for life long learners. Why wait to start training to be the resilient 90 year old you wish to arrive to be? This mindset today will also allow you to be at your best now.