It’s like riding a bike.

photo curtesy Jan Willemsencreative commons
photo curtesy Jan Willemsen creative commons

A couple of weeks ago I had a disturbing realization. I can no longer ride a bike. I know, it’s something you’re never supposed to forget, and I’m sure I remember how to spin the twin gyroscopes and keep the contraption upright and moving forward, it’s just that I can’t. My right knee doesn’t bend far enough to push the pedals all the way around, I get stalled at the top of the stroke on that side. Well, I could if I raised the seat high enough, but that would put me in such and awkward position that if I tried to put a foot down when I stopped I’d be in danger of going over.


The reason my knee doesn’t bend is because it’s full of scar tissue from 4 surgeries in 2007. I had been painfully limping along with my leg bowed out, people were starting to call me Chester*. One of my buddies was extolling the benefits of his knee replacement surgery and I was pretty sure I was going to eventually need one anyway.

I had the surgery.

To make a long story short, it did not go well.

A six week rehab turned into a six month rehab.

I got good marks for my diligent work on rehab and got the knee to the point where it bent about as much as anyone expected it to. But I have to confess that I dropped the bending routine pretty quickly. What I didn’t realize was that the knee was regressing. The bike revelation was a wake up call.

I took my heavy crappy target purchased bike down from the wall because I was thinking of adding biking to my exercise routine. A couple of months ago after a trip to Chicago on which I was exhausted after walking around our daughter’s neighborhood. Becky looked me in the eye and said, “I need you to do something for me.”

Those are words that send a chill down a spouse’s spine. It could be anything from take out the garbage to give up watching basketball.  “What’s that?” I replied with rising apprehension.

“Get in shape.”

I guess I thought I was doing ok for a 65 year old guy who only a few years ago celebrated the first time he was able to go a hundred yards and back on crutches. But she laid out her reasons in Becky indisputable fashion,  and I had no choice but to buy in.

So I started working  out, walking the neighborhood and going to the Y and using the treadmill.  But it was still pretty sporadic. The bike thing shocked me. The next day I walked two miles and then went to the Y and jumped on the recumbent stationary bike. I could spin the pedals with the seat all the way back. After 10 minutes I moved the seat up to the next detent.  It was painful.

Once when I told one of my physical therapists that the routine she was putting me through was painful. Her reply was, “I don’t care.” I know that a lot of people tell you that you shouldn’t do exercises that cause you pain, but rehabbing a knee is truly a “no pain, no gain” situation. That’s one of the reasons I quit. I was tired of the pain. Now I am determined to get through it.

I’ve been working out almost daily for the last three weeks. I know some of my fitness fanatic friends will think my workouts are puny, but they’re pretty intense compared to playing solitaire on the computer all day. My walk takes me through the Basset Creek basin, so I go up and down the two inclines that serve as hills in New Hope. Actually the last three blocks up to 36th Ave have a pretty steep and the slope increases as you go up. I’ve started doing the hill twice before starting the homeward stretch. And I’ve started carrying 2 pound weights in each hand. Doesn’t sound like much, but it really increases the value of the workout, especially if you carry them with your elbows bent in power walking position. And yes, I’m sure I look pretty dorky.

But I’m feeling the effects. For the past couple of years I’ve had trouble carrying any weight up stairs. I blamed my knees. But I’ve come to realize that that was just an excuse. I never really completely got my legs back after sitting on my ass for six months during “the year of the knee.” I’m getting up and down stairs better, I feel better, I think I’ve gained some of height that I’ve lost with aging, my mood is better, I can keep up with Becky when we walk (she says I don’t walk like an old man anymore) and I’m sleeping better. It’s a revelation. And that’s after only 3 weeks. I guess it shows that you’re never too old to start an exercise routine.

I still can’t ride a bike though.

*DYR, Date Yourself Reference. The limping deputy in Gunsmoke.



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