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Doing what you can

Gerald Ingolby reports on his new fitness regime

Medical and fitness issues concern me today.

It’s been about three months since my hospital consultant, having listened patiently to my long list of symptoms and ongoing discomforts in my arthritic hip, paused for a moment and cheerily responded “That’s fine then, I’ll sign you off – your next step, when it all gets too much, is the hip replacement op. But try not to have it too soon, because you can only have a hip done once …”

This far later, not having had another occasion to visit my GP, I thought I’d drop in and see him – or at least one of them. At my surgery it’s a random lottery as to whom you’re allocated on any given day. I’m not sure about the details – maybe you can insist on going to one you prefer, but this is not an option they readily offer and frankly I don’t give a row of beans which doctor I see. I assume they’re all qualified.

Anyway, I saw a youthful young dark-haired chap with designer stubble. He may have had a tough day, but it was slightly disconcerting to see him attempt and fail to stifle a yawn as he listened to my – I thought rather entertaining – hip update. I guess neither of us really knew what I was there for. I suppose on my part it was to check-in with my GP surgery and just explore what my alternatives were.

[I later discovered that he was not fully-qualified, but a youngster gaining GP experience, when he asked me to complete a ‘customer feedback’ tick-box form on his performance. When it came to ‘How did I rate his ‘patient communication’ and ‘interest’in my problem’, there wasn’t a box marked ‘did he yawn?’ and so I let him off that one.]

Anyway, the verdict of my youthful doctor was that I had just two options going forward – either ‘living with it’ (with or without the help of painkillers) or having the op. It was up to me to decide.

I thanked him and asked whether the fact I’d begun going to the gym to try and get fitter was a good idea. “If you think so, yes” was the reply.

In the gym, what I can actually do depends upon the acuteness of the discomfort in my thigh. So far – instead of my previous normal 30 – I’ve managed just 20, 15 and (twice) 3 minutes on the stepping machine – stopping wisely each time when the pain gets awkward. I can nip around the weights room and I’ve tried swimming. I did 4 lengths of the 50 metre pool the first day, 20 the next, and on both Saturday and Sunday I managed 50.

swimmingI’m quite proud of the 50s – I’m not a good swimmer and so 50 lengths takes me perhaps double the time and effort it would take others. I progress via (1) a breast stroke that relies mainly on arm strength as my hip doesn’t allow much leg thrust; (2) a front crawl on which I have breathing problems – try as I might, somehow my technique and rhythm results in taking in decreasingly amounts of air, until I have to stop mid-length, rest, and begin again; and (3) a back stroke in which my arms remain by my side and simply ‘feather’ the water as I kick my legs.

I wish things were different, of course.

Yesterday there was a pretty twenty-something Asian lady with an admirably lithe figure in the next lane to me who, without apparent effort, reeled off length after length at about twice my speed. Every so often as she came past I thrashed about, pretending to crawl like Ian Thorpe, but I don’t suppose she noticed as she powered on into the distance. Our eyes met briefly as she stopped to help me by diving to retrieve my locker key with its red tag that had fallen out of the pocket of my bathing shorts to the bottom of the 1.2 metre depth pool.

It’s enough to make an old man want to go again tomorrow.

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts