A story of changing habits

Posted by  GeoffBrown —May 1, 2013
Filed in How Stuff Spreads & Changes, Story

I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging and I write this (quite eco-centric) post dressed in a theatre gown. I have an hour to wait before being “wheeled” unconscious into surgery for a 3rd episode of dental surgery (on the same tooth!!!). So here goes …

3 things have just come up for me:

1. I am feeling privileged that I can even afford this intervention

2. Like my wiser friends have warned me, “You’re in your 40’s Geoff!” They are right. At 42 I’ve racked up x4 operations on a dodgy molar and dicky right knee. I vow this to be my last procedure until my 7th decade of life!

3. My habits have changed drastically since this 40 year old body began to fall apart …

A Story of Changed Habits

Firstly I’ve always been active, physically fit and healthy. I was still 39 when I tore my medial meniscus (aka cartilage). During the rehab phase I learned that it tore because I’d lost strength and tone in my VMO’s – the big muscle that runs on the inside half of the thigh. It tore so badly that I needed surgical removal of 2/3’s of the essential “shock absorber” in the knee that prevents ‘bone-on-bone’ deterioration. If I don’t look after my knee (and strengthen the muscles around it), I’m staring down a total knee replacement in my 50’s or 60’s!

Fuelled by a determination to stay pain free, out of the dentist chair, remain surfing and avoid major knee surgery, I have been slowly transforming my daily habits. Here’s just some what’s changed, including a bunch of things I’ve had to let-go of …

1. I ride my bike practically everywhere!

  • I have given up running for trains and walking long distances with heavy backpacks – anything that involves jarring the knees
  • I avoid car travel whenever I can – it’s the sure-fire way to stiffen my knee and back!
  • I’ve joined Melbourne Bike Share and transformed the way I get around Melbourne when working – this also means being prepared to show up to meetings with messed up hair and a bit sweaty!
  • I’ve replaced lots of little, local car trips trips with the bike
  • I’ve NOT turned into a lycra-wearing, competitive bike rider – it’s a lifestyle thing.

2. I ‘sit-less’ and ‘move-more’

  • I avoid my computer wherever possible because it usually means sitting … or standing in the one spot – both activities don’t do me any favours
  • It’s anti social, but when the TV is on at home, I’m in the studio stretching or exercising
  • I avoid driving any distance beyond 50km unless I absolutely have to

3. I floss regularly and avoid sugar

  • After 30 years of trying to form regular flossing habits, finally the threat of dental pain has transformed me!!!!

4. I PAUSE before I lift or move anything!

  • The other day a neighbour asked me to help him lift a really heavy workbench off his ute … I politely refused … we found 4 extra people the next day and potentially back/knee breaking activity was made easy
  • This habit extends to everything in the garden, in the house and at work when re arranging chairs/tables in workshop spaces

5. I’ve lost my mojo in the home garden ;-(

  • I used to be the most passionate home gardener I know … but instead of gardening I now go surfing!?

6. I’ve given up Karate … for good this time!

  • 12 months post surgery and after a dedicated 12 months of rehab, I briefly returned to the dojo. One night my knee flared up with swelling and it scared the shit out of me. I all of a sudden realised that this might prevent me from surfing, riding my bike and remaining pain free … just like “that”, I turned my back on an activity that I dearly loved.

In Sum … 

During this journey to change my lifestyle and remain pain free and active in the longer term, I’ve unintentionally let-go of some rock solid habits like sitting down to blog and picking up the guitar. I still love these activities, but it’s now an effort to get to them. And if I do them too much over a period of days (which usually involves longer periods of not moving) I feel the effects in my back and knee. Instant feedback!

The home vege/fruit gardening is the most compelling example of forced change. Before my knee injury, growing food at home was everything to me. But for months of rehab I simply couldn’t do it – it hurt too much. The hours I used to spend plating, tending and harvesting were directed elsewhere (in the surf on my SUP). Now that I’m strong and fit again, it’s bloody hard to rekindle the same passion!

I’ve taught myself to be much more “body aware” and I do not put up with aches and pains, niggles and sprains like I used to! If I feel knee joint stiffness coming on, or a dull lower back ache upon waking, that my signal to do more of what’s good for me. Go for a ride, stretch, go for a SUP or make an appointment with the Osteopath.

I’ve tasted the pain of surgery and felt the fear of losing my physical capacity to do the things I love. Funny how we humans struggle to make lasting, lifestyle changes before we start to breakdown.

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