Well, the back is out again. Fortunately it has been awhile since it last fell apart. See back when I was a kid (16) I was helping winterize the Red Cross building on West street. I was helping remove the window air conditioners when the guy on the inside let it go. It fell on top of me and injured my back. I spent Christmas that year in the hospital. Not fun. Turns out that what was injured was actually a disc or 2 in my lower back. For some number of years after that I was mostly fine but as I aged I frequently had issues with my back.
The "beginning of the end" occurred about 6-7 years ago. I was walking back from a client who is about a block from my office. About 50 fee away from my office I felt a sharp pain / cramp / weakness in my back. It hurt like hell. I felt like I should collapse but worried it might be too painful to just collapse. However, it was also too painful to stand. I couldn't do the "fall on your face and catch yourself with your hands" because I knew it would wrench my back even more. Couldn't sit down as I couldn't bend. So I just stood there. It must have looked ridiculous and I'm thankful no cars wanted to come through the parking lot because I couldn't move. After about 5 minutes I was able to shuffle over to the sidewalk and kind of lay myself down sideways. At this point a car did come through the parking lot and I attempted a hasty "cool" look by propping myself up on one elbow. It was about 40 degrees so I'm not sure how effective it was but it did keep the folks in the car from calling EMS.
At this point, I contemplated my options. I didn't think I could walk the 50 feet to the office. Frankly, the office might as well have been in a different state. I noodled through what crawling to the office would entail and didn't think I would make it that way either. Too much gravel involved. So, I pulled the only option I had that would preserve my dignity: I called my wife! She happened to be in the office. Naturally that involved 20 questions that further irritate me. I cut her short and asked her to come over to the church. She approached. "it's cold, why are you sitting on the ground?"
"I can't move"
"Back is out"
"Out of what?"
"Out of whack. I'm in a lot of pain"
"OK, let's get you to the doctor"
"no, just get me home"
"nope, I'm driving you to the doctor or leaving you here"
"ok, let's go"
And that's how it started. Since then, I've had to do physical therapy and embark on an endless program of core strength. This normally keeps the back happy but every couple of years things just go to hell and once it starts, there isn't any heading it off. It's kind of like the flu. You might take some drugs to help it out but there isn't any getting around the suffering. You have to do the time. Biking doesn't seem to bother my back if it's settled. Most weightlifting doesn't bother it either but I have to be careful. Squats and deadlifts are great core exercises but I have to keep the weight low and move carefully. Running is kinda outta the question but elliptical works pretty well.
The one exercise that I have avoided since the first is swimming. One might reasonably ask, "Why?" It's the exercise perfectly tailored to people that have back problems. Look, I'm a fat guy. What fat guy wants to be wandering around at the pool with 20 year old kids that have spent the last 5 years on the pool? None. That's how many. However, over at LA fitness, they have a very under-used lap pool. I figured I'd give it a try. I didn't do swim team when I was a kid but I can do 3 or 4 different kinds of strokes so……why not.
Initial reports from the pool are mixed. First of all, swimming is hard work. I can do one lap at a time. It's a relatively brutal affair. I was swimming about 10 days before my back went out and just went back this morning. I've lost a little traction but not much. I do 30 laps for each workout. Mainly freestyle but I'll mix in some breast stroke to keep things moving. I think the weakest part of my game is my kick.
Second, while my form is passable I still think my swimming form is closer to "not drowning" than it is to "swimming". I continue to think that I may need to get some help with my form but before I spend any money on that I want to see if I'm willing to stick with it. I've watched a fair number of videos and have made some changes. The changes help but I think the main problem is that I just need some time in the pool to get better fit.
Third, when I was just lifting, I'd come to the gym, do my workout and roll home to get cleaned up. Didn't really even go into the locker room. Now that I'm swimming I've got to change, dry off, etc, etc. Changing or showering in front of others really doesn't bother me but I'm circumspect about it. I'll put a towel on. I really don't get the dudes who wander around naked for what sees like forever. Walk through the locker room with their towel over their shoulder….wander back to the bathroom. Whatever but it's kinda strange. I imagine it happens in the womens locker room as well but have elected to simply assume that this is the case and forgo any confirmation.
I'll report back in a month or so. Hopefully I'll be able to swim a couple of laps consecutively by then….