By Ted Spiker

I recently did an interview with a health expert who decided to role-reverse me and ask the questions. “What is something that you loved doing that you no longer are doing because of pain?”

I stopped, thought, and ran through some options. Fit comfortably in an airline seat didn’t seem like an appropriate response, so I kept that to myself. My weekly training schedule isn’t limiting, I thought: I run, swim, lift weights, and flip some tires on Saturdays, so I couldn’t say any of those things.

Then it hit me. “Play basketball,” I said.

“Why?”

Because every time I play, my back goes out. Last time I played, I told him, I couldn’t tie my shoes for seven weeks without groaning.

“So then why don’t you play?” he probed.

“Because I want to wait until I get in better shape. If I just stretch more and and strengthen my core, I think I’ll be better.”

Then he called me out with an expletive that’s thesaurusly linked to oxen bolus.  “Because I don’t want to get hurt,” I said.

Bingo, he replied.

So we spent some time discussing back pain, and he inspired me to find the path to get back on the court with my aging, jumping-challenged comrades. I was almost ready to make the leap and re-engage when I started feeling throbs in my heel and through my Achilles tendon. There was no acute injury, though I do have some minor history with pain in the area. This would be another roadblock that—as my interviewee would say—would keep me from doing what I wanted to do.

So now—using my preferred physical healing methods of ice and rest, and emotional healing methods of Girl Scout Cookies #TeamTagalong—I’m weighing my options. What is the best path?

  • Be patient, rehab, heal up
  • Give up basketball and stick to activities that don’t hurt
  • Find another activity that has similar components (competition, with friends, etc.), but that isn’t as taxing

[Opens bottle of bourbon]

A friend, who is about five years older than me, recently said, “Get ready for it.” He was referring to the pains he’s experiencing as a result of getting older (he’s in excellent shape) and the detours he’s had to take because of it.

For now, I’m hobbling down the hall, grimacing when my heel flares up. I’m sure it’s nothing major (and for that I’m thankful), just a temporary nuisance—but one that makes me wonder this: How are you supposed to know when you should push forward and when you should hold back?