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Way of thinking to improve your health

Published March 22. 2014 09:00AM

Call me a health and fitness columnist if you like, but a more accurate term may be a health and fitness conduit a means by which health and fitness information is transmitted.

Sometimes I pass along relevant research, adding my point of view about it or a potential way to employ it. Other times I simply experiment on myself and report the results.

Today's column is the second kind and will serve as the lead-in to next week's column, one which could aid all sorts of people.

Those feeling the lingering effects from serious injuries. Those having aches and pains associated with aging. Even those suffering from the assorted minor maladies brought on by the work environment, stiff necks, tight backs, sore shoulders, and even stress-related migraines.

To set the stage for that info, you need to know I'm a firm believer in negative visualization, a mental process first employed by the Stoics in ancient Greece. In fact, I used it for years before I ever knew who invented it or what to call it.

Negative visualization allows you to be grateful for the simple things and satisfied with what you have despite living in a society that teaches you never to be satisfied and to want more and more and more. To do so, you simply seriously consider a worse scenario than your present one.

I did so in April of 2009 when I broke my leg in a bicycle race. Talk about a bad break, both figuratively and literally.

Not only did my right hip hit the road with such force that it created a fracture that ran nearly the entire length of my right femur, but it also occurred in a big-time bicycle race, one I had wanted to win for years and one where I had a seemingly insurmountable 55-second lead with less than two miles to go. Worse, the injury interrupted an unbelievable string of early-season success. That win would've been my third in four races, and in the other race I finished second.

Yet as I rehabilitated the leg in the weeks and months afterwards, I never really got depressed or felt life was unfair. Sure, I recognized the terrible timing of the injury, but most of my focus fell on how the crash could've been worse.

As a result, I felt lucky that the crash (the result of a defective tire and not poor bike-handling skills, by the way) occurred in the final 90-degree turn rather than the next serpentine one that lead to a single-lane bridge. There, I could've slammed into the metal pipes serving as an odd guard rail or slid underneath them and dropped into a rocky creek bed.

I also felt lucky that the crash occurred on a single-man breakaway. In the middle of a pack, who knows what other injuries I would've sustained and created for other cyclists when they crashed into me as I lay on the road?

But the thought that almost made me giddy with gratitude was how lucky I was to have had the tire that rolled off the rim and locked up the back wheel pile drive my hip into the macadam. I know reading that phrasing sounds ridiculous, but consider what could've happened if my skull would've slammed into the macadam with the same force.

A badly broken leg is certainly preferable to paralysis or death.

Now can you see why I consider myself lucky? Besides, if I had figured out how to train and eat and rest to allow me to race as well as I had been racing before the crash, I reasoned, why couldn't I do it again?

But when I made that my goal, I lost my bearings a bit. While I still was cognizant that the crash could've been worse and grateful that it wasn't, I saw the return of that razor-sharp racing condition as something I was owed. When I struggled to regain that form because of the off-and-on pain resulting from the two titanium rods and the three metal screws now in my right leg and the subsequent scar tissue produced from cutting the glutes and quads to fit the hardware in there riding became a chore.

But I soldiered on and finally did recapture that form, winning four consecutive races late in the 2012 season.

After that, I felt fully recovered and found it easy to train hard that off-season. Then Hurricane Sandy hit, leaving debris all over the roads. That next weekend I crashed into another rider who had gone down when debris wedged between his fork and front wheel.

As I rode the 25 miles home with a broken collarbone, a pain developed in my crotch. It increased but I dismissed it, figuring I just whacked the bike's seat tube as I hit the ground.

Dismissing the discomfort was dumb.

Three weeks later, when I was still struggling up stairs and using both hands to lift my leg into my car, I returned to my sports doctor and learned I had a fractured pelvis.

I had ridden for those three weeks with the broken collarbone by sitting upright on a spin bike, an activity that allowed me to keep something far more important than fitness.

My sanity.

For during this time, you see, my father not only underwent surgery to remove melanoma from his back, but he also had open-heart surgery.

Riding that spin bike despite the pain in my crotch had been my escape.

Unfortunately when you ride for weeks with one injury, you tend to create different ones and different pain. In next week's column you'll learn about the product that eventually caused the problems and the pain to abate.

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