29 April, 2012

Time is an Increasingly Poor Healer

The other week my daughter, my son and I had near-identical cuts on our knees (running tumble, playground spill and football incident respectively). On the Tuesday morning we initially noticed and compared them. And every night we looked again to see how they were doing. By Thursday both their cuts were entirely healed, whereas mine was still much the same. In the end it took me three times longer to heal. Compared to me they seem like Wolverine - we all know that physical deterioration is a fact of getting older, but I don't need a clear set of data points rubbing my body's decline in my face...
(By the way, I can't stress enough that this was just a complete coincidence. I love a controlled experiment, but not enough to cut up my children)

Don't get the wrong impression, I'm not dilapidated just yet. While I'm no Brad-Pitt-in-Fight-Club, I'm in better shape, for example, than you. (And even your mate who just did the marathon in sub-4hrs... though admittedly probably not your mate who did it sub-3:30). But even if I'm relatively fit for a 34 yr old parent, I'm still noticing significant crumblage from my issue-free earlier-years physicality:

-- I remember playing tennis or football for literally whole days with no ill-effects. Now after I play football or go for a decent run, my legs are super-stiff for the next two days 
-- If I'm stood up all day, my left knee aches all night 
-- I used to be able to bench press over 100kg. Now I can't. (And I'd rather not go into by how much I can't...)
-- I had an MRI on my back (after a football injury) last year that showed noticeable wear on the discs between my vertebrae... nothing too worrying, but enough to suggest that in my later years I'm not going to be one of those ancient Mr Miyagi-types who can still do tai chi on the beach, fight off a gang of baddies and clean a car* before breakfast.

* Never mind "wax on, wax off" - old future-me will probably be exhausted before getting out of bed even if he just wax off 

Everyone knows that people don't live forever and that physical abilities decline with age... but I suppose we all struggle to imagine it happening to us. It will though. And the already-notable differences between me and my kids has drummed that home for me. 
We play a game where: they climb up on a chair and jump into my arms; I throw them onto the bed; they climb down and back up onto the chair; etc, etc; repeat-to-fade... this afternoon we played it non-stop for 30 mins - half-an-hour! I had to fake needing the toilet and go lie on the bathroom floor for a few minutes - they could have Duracell-bunnied that game on into the night.

I've got to accept that some of the self-esteem I get from my ability to perform solid sporting exertions will have to come from other places in the future.  I wouldn't mind, but the children are already catching up in some of these other places. For example, I like a bit of darts and feel pretty safe that I'll be able to keep playing, continue getting better and be on a par with younger people at that into my old age. 
Then recently my little girl had her first go...

Learned Wisdoms
#39: You may be excited to find that having a really cold bath after football or running works like a lesser version of the Welsh rugby union team's cryogenic therapy and means that you don't subsequently get stiffness from lactic acid. That benefit will, however, by outweighed by the psychological damage encountered if you accidentally glance at your genitals while in the freezing bath.