View from the top of Minotaur Peak, June 2023
"How long before I can run?"
"It will be 6-12 months before you can resume any of your activities."
What?! Tears welled up in my eyes.
"You athletes are so impatient. In your case, your age is working against you."
This is the conversation I had with my surgeon the night before he put a plate and seven screws in my broken right wrist in June of 2022. I was 62 years old at the time. I broke my wrist while out running on the trails. I had no idea how I’d survive not moving for so long. My activities are central to my well being and what I accomplish in my life overall.
Fast forward one year later to June 2023 when I participated in the Skyrunner Global Series, Meet the Minotaur mountain trail race in the southern Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. While I wasn’t able to make all the cut off times to complete the entire race, I completed two of three segments, climbing 2300m to the top of Minotaur peak at 2780m. The route was vertical up, vertical down with relentless climbing—and descending—over rocks and tricky terrain. My total distance was 32km over 10h45m. It was the toughest event I’ve ever participated in.
How did I accomplish this most challenging endeavour given the warning from my surgeon a year earlier about what I wouldn’t be able to do?
By having my age work for me rather than against me.
During the six weeks I had my cast on, I was on my yoga mat every day. I know how to modify postures so I was able to adjust to meet the movement restrictions I had been given. I continued to work around the yard and in the garden, using my left arm to shovel, carrying a pail with my upper right arm balancing it against my chest, and pushing the wheelbarrow using my left hand and right crook of my elbow. I also walked. A lot. My body is meant to move and I just knew that for optimal healing, I had to keep moving.
When I met with the surgeon to have my cast removed, he was astonished at what he saw on the X-ray. The fracture was 90% healed and my range of motion was impressive given the restrictions on moving my wrist.
Guess what my first question was? Of course, "Can I run?"
He looked at me with a grin, saying, “Well you didn't sit around and gain 20 lbs. You look fit. So, ok but only easy runs on a flat surface. Make sure and wear your splint,” he warned.
I grinned back at him, while explaining my belief. “Healing is an active process so I knew I had to keep moving…especially on my yoga mat! Thanks!”
I walked out of his office, well, almost skipped out of his office, with a big happy smile, more grateful than ever for the ability to run and move more freely again.
At my three month check up, the surgeon gave me the go ahead to resume all my activities, including road cycling with clips, paddling, downhill skiing and trail running. (I didn't tell him I'd already been out on the trails!) Until my confidence built up again, he advised me to wear the splint on my wrist.
I looked him in the eye and pronounced, “This is a result of my age working for me not against me! My body knows what healthy is and what to return to during healing. My daily practices helped the process along.”
His eyebrow lifted with a quizzical smirk on his face. “You had to prove me wrong! Get out of here. I don’t need to see you again,” he said with a smile.
Remember the surgeon said no activities for 6-12 months. Yet, at 3 months, I was cleared to resume all activities. Twelve months after surgery I climbed up to the top of Minotaur Peak at 2780m. And being a year older matters when you’re in my age range because of the law of diminishing returns. However, as an experiment of one, I am proving that I can counter the aging phenomenon of decline by my daily practices; specifically, practices to shift my mood, move my body and expand my mind.
You too can defy aging, maintain wellness and optimize healing with daily practices. Here’s how it worked for me:
Also essential is having a supportive community. In this instance, my running coach Meg MacKenzie, was instrumental in helping me train and even more important, maintaining my belief in myself and my ability as I took on this wildly challenging goal. How lucky am I that Meg, an elite mountain runner, agreed to take me on as a coaching client at the beginning of the year, meeting me where I was at in my training and helping me get strong in body, mind and spirit.
The wisdom and teaching of Yogrishi Vishvketu, a Himalayan Yoga Master and founder of the Akhanda Yoga Institute, has also been instrumental in my accomplishments. I rely on his extensive variety of online classes for my daily practice along with the custom practice he created for me when he helped me train for my mountain race in Nepal in 2019. Without a doubt, my daily movement, breath work and meditation practice helps me keep me injury free and balance my energy for whatever goals I'm going after.
While this is an example of an athletic accomplishment, daily practices are leadership practices and contribute to your success in all areas of work and life. Remember though, physical activity is a necessity for a healthy mind and spirit as well as body.
What challenge are you willing to take on to put your daily practices into action and move into possibility? What ‘mountain’ do you want to climb? Perhaps implementing a daily walk or daily yoga practice. Or train for a 5k walk or run. Or take tango or ballroom dancing lessons. Or learn to kayak or swim in open water. Or perhaps you too want to climb to the top of Minotaur Peak too! Maybe I'll see you there.
Saboteur alert: Don’t listen to the voice that is downplaying your ideas for a challenge because it seems small in comparison to the magnitude of my Minotaur Peak challenge. I’ve been running for over 30 years and my accomplishment is the culmination of many, many miles on the road and trails. My first 'jog' was 20 min at the age of 32. Start where you're at and move from there.
My life challenge that I’ve taken on is to keep trying new and more challenging activities to help me stay young and vibrant. When I maintain my daily practices to shift my mood, move my body and expand my mind, I’ve learned that the sky really IS the limit!
Until we meet again Minotaur Peak...