Ten out of 10 doctors, and I, although I’m not a doctor, agree that exercise is good for you. Parents and teachers push activity and fitness increasingly as this country deals with ever increasing obesity rates. However, for all the good exercise does, very few talk about dangers of exercise.
How can exercise be dangerous you ask? Well, clearly you don’t know my family or me. Let me recount a few stories to prove my point, starting with the most recent incident.
Last week, I was at my gym and decided to start my workout on the treadmill. I fired up the mechanical hamster wheel to do some interval running (walking for two minutes and sprinting for one minute alternatively). As I started sprinting, I felt something irritating the side of my knee on the inside of my gym shorts. For some reason that I’ll never fully grasp, I decided to try to reach and pull out the loose thread while continuing to run. Guess how that ended?
Actually, don’t. I’ll just tell you.
I lost my footing, fell and landed on the belt, with my right forearm hitting it first. The speed off the belt shot me off several feet on to the hard, cold composite floor. Of course this had to happen when the cardio area was full of other gym members. To their credit, no one laughed, and someone was nice enough to help me off the floor.
I got up nursing a sore hip, scraped arm and bruised ego but finished my workout. A co-worker tried consoling me, saying that perhaps some of the women present found it charming in romantic comedy kind of way. I would like to believe that, but I think I probably just looked like an uncoordinated jerk.
However, I’m not the only one in my family who has found running to be treacherous business.
When I was a kid, my dad was jogging along one of the major roads in my hometown and was hit in the stomach by a half-full beer can tossed from a passing truck. It was 10 a.m.
My dad also learned that one must keep a wary eye on the animal kingdom while running.
Before my brother and I were born, my dad used to take frequent fishing trips to Canada. Even during these trips, he would continue to jog. During one trip, a German Shepherd chased him through a Native America village near his camp every day he ran. During another trip, a three-legged dog chased him down the road, keeping pace surprisingly well.
I think my dad and I were lucky compared to my brother, though. He broke his foot simply running his leg of a 400-meter relay at a high school track meet.
Exercise calamities are not limited to running, though. Many fall victim to disaster while lifting weights.
In high school, I participated in off-season weight training for football. One day I was in the weight room doing dumbbell flys and after my final rep, I let my arms collapse to the floor with fatigue. But I was met with instant pain instead of relief. Someone left another set of dumbbells that I hadn’t noticed on the side of the bench. My ring finger on my left hand was painfully crushed between the two metal dumbbells.
It was the only time I said the F-word in front of any of the coaches.
My dad’s mishap wasn’t as painful, but I’m sure it was far scarier. He was bench pressing in the basement of our old house, and he thought he had one more rep in him. He did not. The bar was stuck on his chest and he had to yell for my mom to come help him.
I saw a similar incident in the high school weight room. Someone asked for a spot while bench pressing, but the spotter stepped away for a second to answer a question. A second later, cries of “HELP!” were reverberating around the weight room.
I haven’t even brought up team sports.
On two occasions I have taken a baseball to the face. One was a line drive that glanced off my glove when I wasn’t as ready as I should have been. The other was a one-hop shot that took a bad bounce while I was playing shortstop. At the plate, I’ve been beaned in every spot from my head to my ankle.
And most people wouldn’t even consider baseball a contact sport. Football is a different story.
Once an over enthusiastic teammate managed to get an elbow through my facemask and give me bloody nose while I was handing the ball off to him. The next year I broke the middle finger on my right hand deflecting a short pass thrown with great zeal by my coach. My brother is owner of a several-inches-long scar on his arm after having it gashed open by the serrated edge of a helmet snap. Although I suppose battle scars are to be expected when you sign up for football.
Readers, I’m not saying don’t exercise, but I am saying be careful—well, at least more careful than my family and me.