Friday 23 August 2019

Mid-life crisis: The power of negative thinking

Muscle man: 'The swimming coach thinks we need to get in a personal trainer. I nodded politely, while internally saying to him,
Muscle man: 'The swimming coach thinks we need to get in a personal trainer. I nodded politely, while internally saying to him, "Do you honestly think I have room for a personal trainer in my life?"'
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I'm like Madonna at this stage such is the size of my entourage. My retinue of various fitness and self improvement gurus is growing all the time. I have not only a physiotherapist now but also a physical therapist. I am conscious you probably don't know the difference between those two things. I didn't either. Indeed, I'm still not sure I do. But if you want the lowdown on it you can ask my physical therapist, who will explain it to you at length. What I can tell you is that between the two of them you get a lot of exercises to do. It's a bit like juggling two wives or something. Not that I would know what that is like. You tend not to mention one in front of the other and if they ask about each other you play down your relationship with whichever one you aren't being pummelled by at the time. "Oh, him? He means nothing to me."

They both tell me I'm doing great. The physio more so, perhaps because she is female and maybe slightly more nurturing. And then she tells me to put my formerly broken bony arm out to the side and resist her pushing it in, and I crumble immediately. And she says nicely that the movement is really improving but we still need to do a bit of work on the strength. I do try and explain that the baseline we are working from isn't exactly ironman territory. You could look at my injured arm and conclude that it has withered hugely since the break, but then you could reassure yourself with a look at the other "healthy" arm, which would make you conclude that actually there isn't that much withering.

Add into this a really buff swim instructor and you have a fairly packed schedule. I decided to take the opportunity of being broken to relearn how to swim. He and the swimming have been a huge part in my salvation. He had me front crawling within two weeks when it should have taken months to get back to that level of arm movement.

I think I'm finding my way into a half-decent stroke with him, but it's going to be a long road. It takes me weeks to get used to each adjustment. I think he is slowly coming to terms with this. At the beginning, he was very ambitious for how quickly he could whip me into shape. He was talking about sea-swimming and whatnot. I like to think I have worn down his positivity with my relentlessly can't-do attitude, and he has lowered his expectations completely now.

I am one of life's plodders, and in between all his exhortation and encouragement, and indeed that of the various therapists, physio and physical, there is my dogged head, saying "I can't do this. I will never be a proper swimmer. I can't build muscle. I've never had a muscle and one wouldn't know how to grow on the barren soil that is my body." It's incredible the power my ingrained negativity has. At the moment it is counteracting all the efforts of the entourage. I grimly plough through all the exercises, thinking that maybe someday I will get there. But fundamentally, I don't believe I will.

Then the buff swimming coach tried to introduce a new guy onto the pitch. He thinks we need to get in a PT. My first reaction was, 'what has this got to do with the Department of Post and Telegraphs?' But apparently a PT is a Personal Trainer who would give me some exercises for my core, which would in turn improve my swimming, which in turn has done wonders for the mobility of my arm. I nodded politely, while internally saying to him, "Do you honestly think I have room for a personal trainer in my life? When exactly am I fitting in these core exercises? I can't even keep up with the regime from you and physio and physical as it is!"

So like poor old Amy Winehouse, I'm kind of playing along with the rehab thing, but inside I'm saying, 'No no no'.

Cut to my roller-skating tuition of Number 1 the elder. She is really making progress and can now go 10 yards or so despite herself before her head kicks in and she decides she can't do it. She will make a huge leap and then she will stop and tell me vehemently she can't do it and it's too scary.

'They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad/ They may not mean to, but they do/They fill you with the faults they had/ And add some extra, just for you'

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