Exercise Alternatives

“Doctor Dworkin, I know I should exercise but I hate running.”  Or, “My knees are bad and jogging makes my back hurt”.

Sound familiar?

I have previously written that it is my belief that the benefits of exercising 3-4 times per week exceed the benefits of colonoscopy, mammography, flu vaccination and seatbelts COMBINED!

I admit, exercise is not easy and even I don’t always enjoy doing it.  Any type of exercise is good but it must be done regularly.  However, I wanted to share with you an exercise alternative I had to make.

Over the past two years, I experienced several hours of hip pain after a 10 mile run or a tough work out around the track.  But, this past March I developed hip pain that would not resolve after a run and was severely limiting my mileage and speed.  A thorough evaluation revealed significant arthritic changes that surprised me.  My choice was either to continue running with pain which would quickly lead to a hip replacement or adjust my activities and somehow continue vigorous exercise achieving a target heat rate = (220-age) x 0.85… at least three times per week.  I thought, what could I do that would not stress my hip and still keep me fit?

I am now learning to swim….

As a kid and adult, I was a horrible swimmer, barely water safe.  I have a beautiful 20 yard pool with a bottom racing stripe but for 19 years I walked past it twice daily and never swam a lap.

With the help of You Tube and friends, I have taught myself the basics.  After 6 months of steady progress, I joined a Masters Swim Group for early morning pool workouts supervised by a coach.  I’m still very slow and have lousy technique, but am determined to not only learn a new sport but get as good as I possibly can at it.

It is hard to injure yourself swimming.  The fitness benefits are extraordinary and swimming is easy on your back and joints.  I also learned that being “land fit” does not mean you have aquatic fitness.  My thinking is that I have the rest of my life to become a better swimmer and am up for a new challenge.

While so many of my patients stop exercising as they age (which is really a bad idea) I am determined to find ways to stay fit.  I never imagined giving up running yet the shift of my focus to swimming has been easy. Swimming is something that I am currently not good at but determined to improve.