The inevitable came to pass for me in 2013. After struggling with arthritis in my hips for over a decade, it was finally time to replace them, which I did, one at a time. So that was the bad news. There were three pieces of good news. The surgeries and rehabs went well—I was immediately pain free, recovered all of my range of motion, returned to playing baseball, have continued to workout, and most importantly, remained active with the grandchildren.
Another piece of the good news was actually from before the replacements. Despite the soreness (some might say pain) and a loss of range of motion from the arthritis and despite ever-increasing recovery times after games, I was able to continue to play baseball up to the time of the first surgery.
But the real reason I’m telling you all of this is the final piece of the good news. One word—“prehab.”
Let’s face reality—as we age into and through retirement, it is likely we will eventually deal with a serious health issue, with injury, with surgery… Anybody surprised by this? If you have been part of a conversation with retirement-age folks, it’s highly likely that somewhere in the conversation, normally pretty early in it, there is extensive talk of ailments, doctors, physical therapists, medications, aches, pains, etc.
My wife and I went to a screening of a documentary film called “Lunch.” It was about a group of the older Hollywood comedians (e.g. Sid Caeser, Carl Reiner, Groucho Marx’s son, Gary Owen, Monty Hall) who, some time ago, got together every week to enjoy each other’s company. One of the participants said that they always start off the lunch with an “organ recital.”
“What do you mean?” asked the interviewer.
“Simple. We talk about this organ that hurts, that organ that has been removed, another organ that requires medication… Then, after the organ recital, we can start telling jokes and giving each other a hard time.”
So, given the inevitability of being part of the organ recital, what are you doing about it? Consider prehab as the best answer to that question.
Prehab is not the few excercises they gave me to do several weeks before my surgery. Yes, it was right to do them, and I did. But waiting until something happens is normally too little too late. For me, prehab is all of the strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness I have developed and maintained over time.
Is this just one more plea, one more reason, for physical fitness? Yes! You can probably list many of the other reasons to be fit. And doing prehab will enable you to take advantage of them all. But the new reason for wanting to be fit is like an insurance policy. When you are confronted by a medical issue, you’ll be ready for it.
A friend just went through bilateral hernia surgery—he is a prehab enthusiast, and his fitness enabled a more certain and complete recovery. Another friend needed hip surgery, but the doctors wouldn’t even operate on him until he lost a significant amount of weight. Well, bariatric surgery and 140 pounds later, he had successful hip surgery. But what if he had been doing prehab all along. He might have avoided extra years of pain and a substantial amount of time in a wheel chair before the surgery.
My dad, who was a strong, robust guy but who had been inactive for many years as he got older, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Having been more fit would not have cured him. I’m convinced, however, that he would have tolerated the illness much better had he entered it in better physical shape.
Throughout my life and his, my dad taught me important lessons. I was not happy to learn this one, but through his experience, he taught me never to lose my strength.
During my hip replacement recovery, I needed upper body strength to manipulate through the routine activities of daily life and to facilitate my rehab—having done my prehab enhanced my ability to do all of that.
When you are confronted with an inevitable issue, which precondition would you choose? Would you want to have looked back and rued the fact that you had been sedentary? Or would you not want to start the battle from a position of strength? I contend you would rather have done your prehab and enter that challenge strong, flexible, and aerobically fit.
I’m not looking forward to my next contribution to the organ recital, but being realistic, I’ll likely face that situation some day. It’s likely that so will you. The only question is when. With painless hips, I’ve been back at prehab since 2013—at least four days each week.
The concept is pretty simple. Taking action is more difficult. What are we doing to make sure we are physically prepared for any eventuality? Have we done our prehab? Have we developed the daily and weekly habits to ensure we have optimized our strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness?
What’s your prehab plan?