The Epistle of Q — Chapter 102

Oh no, not getting older are we? Sometimes adjustments to age are tougher than I want them to be! As you know, I occasionally work out, or perhaps try to work out. I’ve never been a really strong guy and for all my efforts I would seldom get the label of athletic. On the other hand, in spite of some moments where I have bordered on becoming (if not actually being) obese, I have managed to keep myself relatively healthy. I bike, ski, walk, occasionally golf or hike, and can, with prompting or invitation, still throw the football or shoot on-the-street pucks with the grandkids. Moreover as part of my erratic routines, I have been working on my balance and lung-capacity in addition to overall body strength. These latter issues have emerged from occasional medical moments over the years where doctors and/or their specialist colleagues have suggested I should pay a little more attention to aspects of what they gently call aging. • Balance is supposedly the one thing that can determine how successful we are at defeating the most negative aspects of getting older. But I didn’t really concentrate on this issue when I initially increased my attention to better physical fitness. And I’ll tell you why in a moment… • Lung capacity is equally important to a good life – without adequate ability to breathe, the rest of one’s system is quickly in trouble. Earlier in my professional life, when a couple of us were working on improving physical education & fitness opportunities for on-reserve Aboriginal schools, we came across some equipment that readily reported on a person’s fitness quotient. The most interesting issue that emerged from that search was the comment by the doctor supervising our testing that I had 75% capacity in my left lung. He thought I should have it looked into. But I wasn’t yet forty so who goes to a doctor, and besides my colleague (a professional football player) and I figured it had to be the result of an idiot at the gym pouring water suddenly on a dry sauna one day when none of us were looking, filling the room with steam which I inhaled in copious amounts before getting to the door… Now the two of these factors are coming home to roost, so to speak. A few years ago I took up dragon-boating after moving back to the Okanagan, having given away a kayak that I had used sporadically while on PEI. This new sport seems like a good counterweight to skiing. The Penticton Golden Dragons (PGD) are a group of seniors (the new politically correct term is 55+) who enjoy being on the lake on a summer’s morn a couple of times a week and then occasionally participating in a weekend dragon-boat festival where they race against other boats (most of the time filled with younger, even more competitive, crews). Most of the members of the PGD are women, so any man that is interested in joining is welcomed as it helps balance the crew at the festival races. Shortly after joining I found to my dismay, that while I could go flat out for a sprint race (250 metres), I was not as effective in a regular race (500 metres or more). Furthermore, at practices I was not consistent in my paddle strokes – wasn’t that I couldn’t do them, it was that I needed to take a break more often than not. This was not a pleasant sight for those sitting behind me and working hard to participate in the practice. My doctors sent me for check-ups and medical reviews and through x-rays they determined that my left lung was indeed scarred. An earlier doctor’s exam had discounted my theory about the sauna incident so I had asked my mother (who had trained to be a nurse at Sick Kids in Toronto) if I had had any severe lung issues as a young child. As her first born she had recorded everything about me when I was little – probably up until going to school, at which time she had another child and a third on the way. There was nothing in the records. So the cardiologist in Penticton determined that perhaps the sauna issue was more real than previously thought. There seemed to be no other plausible explanation (I’ve never smoked, never lived in a high-pollution city, never had TB or other lung infections). He suggested that I continue my activities as long as I am able but that in team-related events I might not be all that helpful. I need to say that while dragon-boating didn’t really captivate me, I did like the coach. He is a very knowledgeable expert on dragon-boating. More critically he is an excellent coach, especially for seniors. He knows how to teach, and he knows how to encourage. He gets more out of people with his humour and honey approach than any strict barking & vinegar style would. When I explained the medical diagnosis, he suggested that I only apply myself as necessary and that I concentrate on festivals that had sprint races. In 2017 & 2018 I tried that approach. But that meant basically dropping out after the season’s opening event (the Senior Sprints) and I wasn’t really being a very good team-mate. So the coach suggested that I consider learning how to steer as that would require less lung-capacity. Wow, that makes sense. The group always needs extra steers-people. So I agreed to try it. Remember earlier when I talked about working on balance? Well, it quickly became apparent that this would be essential if I was to become even a mediocre steers-person. I started practicing standing on one foot/leg. And I worked on it in the boat too. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Twice I felt into the water – not very helpful if the team is trying to win a race. So this year I retired from dragon-boating. Note: I can truthfully tell people now that I have retired from something!! Nevertheless I did keep up those workouts that did work on my balance and my lung-capacity. Perhaps I would get better. I felt I owed it to the coach – perhaps by next year I would have corrected the issues sufficiently to at least become a back-up steers-person. Well over the past couple of weeks it is becoming obvious that I must be aging. My left lung does not provide me with more oxygen to my heart even though I can get through the one exercise that is to help it improve (I can still bike, I’m just not as fast). And at times I can’t get through even a minute on one leg without moving around the floor which is far more stable that the bottom of a moving boat. I will keep working on these two issues. After all, I still plan on skiing and biking in 2020. I also will walk, hike and play golf (usually without a power cart). But I think I will remain retired from the sport of dragon-boating (although I will go to the occasional festival because the team has recruited more men, and the women themselves are better, so the team is more competitive and they are a fun bunch – and, I will get to talk with the coach who besides being a great coach is a smart guy and is an enjoyable conversationalist!!). Balance is a good thing to work on — and keep breathing yourself!! tnx, g.w.