Any of you who visit here very often, know me through Life-Cise, or know me personally, know that I emphasize strength training – a lot! Strong is good! Strong is healthy! Strong is sexy!
It’s important to help slow the bone loss that is sometimes caused by so many of our life-saving drugs. It helps us maintain our mobility and range of motion. And it’s been shown in studies to improve our self esteem, irregardless of how much strength we actually gain.
But there’s another benefit – preventing injury (or more serious injury).
Last week we saw another HUGE snowstorm here in the Northeast. We had close to 2 feet of snow at my house! It was really wet, heavy snow, but it was almost 2 feet! Since pretty much everything was shut down, including very many of our roads, I went skiing in the woods by my house. (Of course, what else would I do?)
It was gorgeous and tons of fun, although I wasn’t skiing my best. I think it started off badly when I climbed up on a ridge and chose the most direct line from the highest point I could find for my very first run. There is a word for that: hubris. And hubris often leads to a downfall (as politicians and golf players know). I hit a tree. Not hard, no serious damage, other than to my ego.
But that shook me up, so I felt a little off all day.
After 5 hours, we decided it was last run. To make the last run “worthwhile”, I once again headed up to the top. Apparently, I had learned nothing earlier in the day. It was a great run…until it wasn’t. I fell. No trees were hurt this time, but I was. My knee, my ankle. I couldn’t really tell which was more of a problem. I slowly and gingerly made my way off the ridge and down to my house, took an epsom salts bath, and followed that with ice.
It is tweaked. I’m still nursing it, but it’s not anything very serious. I did go skiing (quite cautiously) yesterday, and will go tomorrow. – Come on, we don’t often get snow like this here – I have to take advantage of it!
What does this story of my lack of skill have to do with strength? Protection. Limiting injury. You have to understand, I really twisted my knee and ankle with a lot of force. I’m quite sure that had I not been in such good shape, I would have done some very serious damage. I had a lot of strong muscles protecting my joints and ligaments.
Now, you might point out that if I weren’t in such good shape I might not have been out skiing, putting myself in potential danger. True.
But back before I had cancer, I was run down by a taxi as I crossed the street. I was in the cross walk, crossing with the light (which is kind of unusual for a New Yorker). The only danger I was putting myself in was going to work. I was tossed several feet through the air. I had a neck injury that eventually required surgery (totally successful).
I had just come back from ice climbing and skiing in the Adirondacks, and a month before was climbing large mountains in Ecuador. I was in the best shape of my life up to that point. Many of my doctors told me that had I not been in such good shape, with such strong muscles protecting my frame, I probably would have been much worse off – possibly paralyzed or dead.
When you are strong, you have some protection when accidents happen. You’ve got a layer of muscles holding your joints in place, protecting your tendons and ligaments. If the accident is bad enough, strong muscles may not save you, but they might at least limit some of the damage. Strong muscles will certainly save you from a lot of the ordinary day-to-day accidents. You might be able to catch yourself if you trip. You might be able to pick up that box of records without hurting your back. You might even be able to play basketball with your kid without hurting your shoulder.
So, work some strength training into your week so you’re not so weak. You may save yourself a lot of trouble if you do.