I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is that if you keep this triathlon stuff up long enough, sooner or later youíre going to have to deal with a serious injury. In fact, studies have proven that, statistically, serious injuries are most likely to occur immediately before the biggest race of your season, and usually while you are engaged in some type of unnecessarily high-risk activity, such as pulling on a turtle neck sweater.
The likelihood of injury is particularly acute if, like me, you insist on continuing to train and race even though you have reached an age when your body has had enough of this type of activity and would, quite frankly, prefer you to take up a pastime that involves less physical wear and tear, such as, for example, crossword puzzles. Your body has a very clear way of signaling you that this time has come. Your body actually works a lot like a disgruntled labor union. If it is unhappy with the way things are going, it will suddenly and without warning go on strike and shut down major operations, such as joints and tendons, to force you to take notice and do something about the situation.
In my case, I got a very clear message recently in the form of a torn achilles tendon, which I am currently attempting to rehabilitate. This means that I am now in the process of going to physical therapy, which, to continue the union analogy way past its usefulness, is like the physiological equivalent of the collective bargaining process, in which neither me nor my body is likely to be completely satisfied, we are certain to have ongoing conflicts, but hopefully we will be able to reach some type of accommodation that will allow us to continue operations.
In case you have never gone through the process of physical therapy, I thought it might be helpful to give you some idea of what you can expect. The first thing that you need to know about physical therapists is that, by federal regulation, all physical therapists are required to be drop-dead gorgeous. There is a good reason for this. Our health care regulators know that, because of what physical therapists actually do to you, if they werenít preposterously attractive, there is no way anyone would ever consider going to see them in a million years. The job of the physical therapist is to find out what part of your body hurts, and then probe and prod and pull and tug and manipulate and basically inflict as much pain on that particular body part as possible over the next sixty minutes. And then bill your health care provider.
Of course, like most federal regulation, the drop-dead-gorgeous rule has the potential to backfire, particularly when applied to triathletes, who, by definition, are borderline masochists to begin with, and for whom the pain alone would probably be a sufficient narcotic even without the pulchritude. In my case, for example, I typically go to see my physical therapists on Monday-Wednesday-Friday to rehabilitate my Achilles tendon, and then I spend Tuesday and Thursday doing as much as I possibly can to dehabilitate it, so as to the reduce the chance that the therapists will tell me that Iím cured and I donít have to come back. Each time I go back in there, I try to look genuinely dejected when I announce that it doesnít seem like Iíve made that much progress since our last session.
The inside of a physical therapistís office is like a cross between a fitness center and an insane asylum. There are some familiar looking pieces of exercise equipment, but there are also people engaged in some extremely unfamiliar activities. There are people trying to walk on their hands and knees like a crab with neon colored elastic bands wrapped around their ankles. There are people lying on their backs attempting to lift giant inflatable balls into the air with their feet. There are people trying to balance themselves on one foot on a wooden board that has been placed on top of a baseball while attempting to play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on a violin.
OK, I made up the part about the violin, but only because the physical therapists havenít yet found the right combination of hallucinogenic drugs to come up with that one. Iím convinced that end of the day, after they say goodbye to their last patient and lock the door behind them, the physical therapists turn to each other and say, "You wouldnít believe what I got a guy to do today!"
But in all fairness, the truth is that the physical therapists, in their own bizarre and mildly sadistic way, are genuinely trying to help you. In my case, for example, just the other day, my therapists told me that my Achilles tendon had progressed to the point that I could do the rest of the rehabilitation on my own. Incredibly, on the way home from the appointment, I had the misfortune to step wrong coming off a curb and re-injured it. Now what are the chances of that?