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Exercise and a Bad Back

Updated on December 18, 2013

Fitness is the key

From 1996 to 2005 I served as a police officer. I was 26 years old when I first went to the academy and at the time considered myself and athletic person. Not because I exercised but because sports were always part of my life. Baseball was a love of my father and thus became a love of mine. I was hitting baseballs and throwing at a pitching net by age 7. Growing up I participated in the big three of sports in the south, baseball, basketball and football. By age 14 I could hit most anything thrown at me, was a consistent free throw and three point shooter and ran a 4.5 40 yard dash. If I decided to go for a run I could run for miles.

Once I reached the age of 18 other things began to take hold. After a severe car accident my life consisted of hanging out with my buddies, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. We would still have pick up games of basketball and football but they often included beer. Being ADHD I was never a great student so college was not in my immediate future and unbeknownst to me the lifestyle I chose was beginning to take its toll. By the time I turned 26 and became a police officer I was in the shape of a sedentary 40 year old. I looked fit after a lifetime of sports but I was nothing of the sort. I did not realize this until 2013.

In 2005 with the job and lack of activity taking its toll I retired from law enforcement, went back to school and graduated with a BA in 2006.

January 2013, in a new city with a lot of free time and no prospective employers I began to yearn for the uniform once again. This proved to be the motivation I needed. Not sure if it was possible, but willing to try, I hired a personal trainer and began a workout routine on January 14, 2013. Because of my background I selected a trainer with experience in physical therapy. Being sent to therapy on more than one occasion, I never found it effective due in part to my inability to practice it outside of sessions but paying out of pocket for a trainer in a gym makes it harder to slack off. If you have chronic issues, make sure you get a trainer to get started, do not let pride or cost deter this. Just like driving a car or playing golf, if you are going to do it correctly, you need someone to teach you.

Knowing I lacked the fortitude to initially fight the pane and carry on I signed up for 24 sessions with a personal trainer. Expensive, yes and worth every single cent. When measured against how I was living and feeling and how I feel today the benefits far outweighed the costs. For the first two months I hardly touched a weight. We began with warmup exercises intended to strengthen the core and teach my body how to move again. At the start I lacked a great deal of mobility and stability, much more than I ever would have imagined. But this was improving and in notable fashion.

Before the program began I had no mobility and was prone to lower back attacks rendering me useless, unable to do the smallest of tasks like putting on socks and shoes. During the program at the very beginning I had one more major episode. In the year since there have been none.

We would workout twice a week and on occasion three times. On off days I used a elliptical machine in the home for 30 minute sessions. This process was very difficult. In the beginning there was pain and suffering making it hard to stay motivated. But noticeable improvement pushed me forward. Doing a 30 minute program on the elliptical had me going around 1.6 miles and kept my heart rate around 150. By the time my training sessions ended the 30 minutes turned in to 2.8 miles with a heart rate of 160.

Several months ago I began running several times a week. If this was attempted a year ago the results would have been crippling. Initially I could only run about one half mile before stopping and after two months this is only up to 1.6 miles but it is improving and making a difference. With strength training and cardio I have no back issues. At age 44 I am in better shape when compared to age 26 when I first became a police officer. I still want to go back to police work, but I want to make sure I am absolutely ready and prepared. This is not far off and whether or not anyone hires me the program I started will continue. The last time I felt this good I was 17.

As a bonus to my new found mobility and pain free existence my body is now 20 pounds lighter and looks 10 years younger. I have the energy of my twenties and enjoy each new day more and more. All of this without the boosters and testosterone enhancers of the current mainstream push.

So, if you find yourself feeling as I did when this started then get started. It is never to late. My only regret is time, I wish I had started this 15 years ago. Fitness truly is the answer and the pain to get there is nothing compared to the lack of pain I now feel. The rewards are endless. This winter I will go snow skiing for the first time in 20 years. I began playing basketball again and might even take a martial arts class. Get up, get out and get moving.


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