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Age appropriate exercise, living in the moment and having fun

Even those of us, in the fitness industry and who are staying in shape, get injured or do questionable physical things.  Things that we may advise a client to avoid. Two years ago, while visiting friends and traveling with my daughter in Norway, I decided that it would be fun to take a ride down the Olympic bobsled course. So I convinced the father of my daughter’s friend to join me on this adventure. 

Just next door to the bobsled run is an amusement park. While the kids were having fun at the park, Marius and I quickly made our way to the finish house of the bobsled course. They were just about to close and we hastily filled out the disclaimers. On the disclaimer, it essentially said if you have back issues that you assume all risks and that this would be dangerous to your health. In other words, don’t go for a ride.

After being driven to the top in a van, I began to have some reservations. While looking forward to the downhill ride, I was starting to think that maybe I should have paid more attention to the disclaimer. The sled drivers were all very thick and muscular and I am not. The sleds had wheels and were otherwise very spartan. Then as we were sitting in the sled they gave us a set of very quick instructions and we were handed a weightlifting belt to wear. At that moment, I began to seriously wonder why I was sitting in that sled.

Within seconds of getting the set of instructions and tightening the weightlifting belt as tightly as possible, we were on the course. Rather than enjoy the ride, I spent the entire run trying to keep my abdominal muscles contracted and my body in the prescribed position to protect my back and neck.

The roughly 5 “g’s” that one experiences in a full speed bobsled run are massive and they all go through your spine. Your head bounces around and the turns come very quickly and continuously.  Your entire body and spine feel and absorb the pressure and it is non-stop. Unfortunately, for me, I was so focused on self-preservation that I could not enjoy the ride.

Whether or not my approach to protect my back and the focus on staying in position was correct or not, my back has never been the same since that ride. It brought the feelings and aggravations of a lifelong back condition to an entirely new level.

As we age, the temptations of our youth are still present. In fact, the temptations may even be greater as it is easy to think, “why not, life is short, I am only getting older and I am still in shape.” It is up to us to maintain age-appropriate physical activity and exercise levels. Rather than living in the moment and pondering the whole, "life is short" theme, instead, why not think how much life there is left to live and what am I doing on a daily basis to make it the best possible?

On a practical note, I learned that at least in this case Norwegian disclaimers are not written by teams of lawyers to protect operators from every possible form of a lawsuit for things that may or could happen. Their form was very clear. A bobsled run is dangerous and if you have a back problem do not go for a ride.

By the way, there is also a reason why bobsledders are incredibly fit and have a lot of muscle mass.