We all injure, get sick and get aches and pains. When it comes to exercising, it makes good sense to have the right team around you to get better.

Over the last few weeks I've cleared out a lot of blackberries around my yard, and then in the immediate area to control the spread. I just walked back in after another bout, covered in blood and scratches, my shirt and hair full of thorns. Such work, as I am pulling out the crowns (as well as my hair) means that there will be some respite for a few years. Then, I am hiring someone. Because, my hands.

I have arthritis at the base of both thumbs, worse on the left by far. The kind of bone-on-bone pain that makes you scream when you grasp something. When I went to see my new orthopod last week, I already knew what I had, and what was coming. First, cortisone shots. Eventually, surgery. I had already done some research, but Dr. Bear, who is with Slocum Orthopedics, suggested one procedure I couldn't track down but knew existed. We both know the process and the drill. I have to wait ten days for shots, but those are a stopgap procedure. Still, we're partners. I walked out informed, and we laid out a plan.

This is body and health management. I don't tell him, he tells me. I do the research, but I don't assume I know anything. That research simply allows me to ask better questions, particularly if you're dealing with a specialist. In this case a specialist with a really good reputation, in a town full of athletes of all ages, including top college athletes. Again, this is body management. Life quality management.

We might all do well with a body pit crew selected with our best health in mind. Eugene is the perfect place for an aging person who wants to stay active. It isn't just the wonderful outdoor opportunities. It's the combination of caregivers who can help us stay in life. However it's incumbent upon us to make use of those resources. This is particularly true as we get active again, summer is right around the corner and you and I may not be in the best of shape to return to normal activities. Yet.

To that then, I am suggesting that this year in particular, you might want to put some thought into creating your own professional pit crew to best ensure a long, healthy and active life.

I've not always been good at body management, but then, I was never 68 with an aging body, either. Those factors make you a lot more aware of what you need to stay in the game, relatively pain-free and engaged. At this age, at any age, establishing the proper pit crew becomes a lot more important. It's not just about staying in the game, in the lineup, on the field. This is about staying in life at full strength.

Your body, like any high-performance item (and it is, it might not feel like one sometimes) needs the right attention from folks with varying viewpoints, not just people who give you pills, when often the real RX is better lifestyle habits.

My sports chiropractor Kevin Plummer's mother, who is the massage therapist at his office, just had the thumb arthritis CMC surgeries on both her hands. I regularly bring in my splints, the patches and fixes I use to keep my hands in play, and we share remedies and ideas. She has to layer up a few splints on her hands in-between clients like I do between stories. She's my age, 68, and we have both been athletes for years. Our hand joints are wearing out. This particular kind of injury is much more common in women. For those of us who play hard and work hard, and for me as a writer, being able to treat it correctly is key.

Parts of us wear out, wear down, and need specialty care as we age. But first we might want to get better at realizing when we need that care. Part of that is recognizing that if you have an injury or you feel pain severe enough to cause you to limit or completely stop doing what you love, don't self-diagnose. Reading WebMD doesn't make you a doctor. What it does do is give you a range of information to discuss with your doctor but it takes some sleuthing to get to the heart of the matter.

Since my masseuse has a son who attends to wrapping her wrists and who makes sure she gets the right care and PT, she's in good hands, if you'll pardon the pun.  But that's not the case for all of us. Too many of us tolerate pain, or dismiss it, or take pain medication to put off seeing someone who knows what they're doing. For those of us who put on extra weight, who are trying hard to return to activity, a sore knee or ankle or shoulder could be indicative of something a lot more serious than just a "crick."

Plummer is currently seeing  agreat deal of this at Advanced Chiropractic, as likely are others in town as people are returning to their activities after months of not much, or not enough movement, and too much eating and sitting. Those are bad combinations and he reports that folks are ending up in bad shape fast.

Plummer, sees me twice a week. This morning we were discussing the biomechanical aspect of injuries like this. I still have to work out, I still have to type, I still need to function. So last week I asked my personal trainer, Ryan, to help me figure out a plan.

Plummer is a biomechanics guy, which means that not only as an athlete, as a chiropractor and as a personal trainer, which he has done for years, he understands how muscles, bones, ligaments and cartilage work. So does Ryan, who is an all-natural bodybuilder who practices out of Genuine Fitness on 6th, in the Whitaker neighborhood. Ryan's father was a surgeon. All these people come with multiple layers of complementary credentials. Someone with this kind of background applies those principles to your unique body.

Last Friday morning, Ryan had me working with Rogue bands, which are a higher-end version of the stretchy PT bands that a lot of offices use. (Dick's Sports has them here in Eugene). He was showing me how to do my full range of exercises in perfect form without having to grasp a dumbbell, which for right now is way too painful. I still need to train, but I have to find a way to use the bands to get the resistance I need.

By the way, I have boxes full of those soft bands physical therapists use. They break. You only need that to happen once and the end hits you in the face before you pony up for the high-priced spread. Rogue isn't the only one around, but they have an excellent reputation. My eyesight is worth it.

If you are thinking about a trainer, great. Here is some advice on how to choose one:

How to Pick a Great Personal Trainer
WebMD has a list of factors to consider when looking for a personal trainer to motivate and guide you.

The bottom line for me for trainers is do your due diligence. When I called Aaron at Genuine, I gave him my age, my fitness level, that I wanted both injury prevention and recovery work, he heard my energy level, and he recommended Ryan. That saved me an enormous amount of time and trouble interviewing people, and Aaron's judgement was spot-on. That is part of what you pay for.

After Ryan started me on the bands, I checked in with Kevin an hour later during my regular Friday session. Kevin was asking me about my rotator cuff, for I've already had surgery in one shoulder and am getting another procedure in the other. He was concerned that the band work might strain the rotator cuff, if done incorrectly. This is the biomechanics piece.

When you and I have a pain in our shoulder or bicep or whatever, and we think we know what's wrong but don't get it diagnosed, Plummer explained that we can do serious damage. We might just switch to another traditional exercise. That exercise might feel better in the short term, but we might be further tearing our joints in the long term. Unless you and I have a solid understanding of biomechanics, and most of us don't, we're guessing.

Gorilla Freak for Unsplash

Let's discuss the shoulder, as this in particular is one area where both Kevin and Ryan are seeing all manner of issues with their clients. Your shoulder, my shoulder, Kevin's shoulder and Ryan's shoulder are all vastly different. Age, gender, use, overuse, training, injury all play a part. Any old exercise won't do, especially as we age, and the culmination of decades of either abuse or overwork (or work avoidance for that matter) all come into play. Each member of my team, from my trainer to my chiro to my surgeon, has a piece.

If I do this right, by the time I see the surgeon, I have not only prevented worse damage, even better, my body is much better condition to heal once I have the surgery done. I do that by getting professional help in building the smaller muscles in the shoulder that so many of us ignore because we wanna be HUGE, as opposed to a combination of functional and strong. Every joint, especially complex joints like shoulders, have lots of small muscles that can be critically important for stability. A good crew makes sure you're working everything that needs work for total joint health, not just for show.

If you and I are coming out of quarantine with all manner of complaints due to sedentary habits, weight gain and very poor posture, we may not understand the pain's source. That's precisely what Dr. Bear, Ryan and Kevin are seeing. People are in a terrible hurry to get back in shape, and they don't know how to read the injuries and pain they are feeling. I strongly suggest building a coordinated team similar to mine, but made up of people you've vetted and can trust. For me that's a chiro, a trainer and a trusted surgeon for when I inevitably need repairs.

If you're considering a chiropractor to bookend work with a trainer, here are some things to consider:


I've worked with chiros for at least three decades, and they are not all equal. Those with strong sports backgrounds, who are committed to ongoing education, the latest modalities and who are utilized regularly by the local sports teams are my go-to choices. That isn't for everyone. But those folks reflect my lifestyle and values, and are going to appreciate my work ethic.

Photo by Max Winkler / Unsplash

You don't need to be my age or an elite athlete to want to invest in professional advice. I sure feel like an elite athlete with that excellent care. But here's why it works to have a pit crew for your one-of-a-kind chassis: they balance and cross-check one another. That way there's consistency of care and your instructions are validated. Few things feel better than to know that some top people agree on your course of action.

Here's how that works:Kevin checks Ryan's instructions based on what he knows of my history and what he sees every week. Ryan's got a solid reputation in town for being very well-versed and knowledgeable, which I've seen for the nine months we've worked together. So when he says that I need to turn my hand fifteen degrees, or lean back or forward during an exercise, I know that he's focusing on getting the most out of a workout but also in the best form. I run that by Kevin, Kevin blesses it. That not only validates my trust, but these two men also know that the other is giving me solid advice.

They haven't met, but they trust each other to give me solid care. That's a good team to have, especially in a world where far too many aging folks have far too  many physicians who fail to coordinate.

One serious end product is polypharmacy,  among other horrors, and care that can go off track. That's why you and I need to be a lot more directive and engaged with you cares for us. While it makes no sense to be terrified by a stubbed toe, if things pop, grind, you've got acute or chronic pain, it's no time to self-diagnose.

It can be expensive indeed to have a personal trainer, a sports chiro and a gym membership and or multiple sports. Of course it is. However, consider the options. If your health goes sideways, and you can't take your kayak out on the McKenzie with the kids, would it have been worth it in retrospect? If your health deteriorates for lack of upkeep and regular professional help from folks outside your local clinic, are you likely to regret not putting an investment in the one thing that has the greatest impact on our quality of life?

I can't speak for you, but this body's the only one I have, and unless I have a  doppelgänger hanging around for spare parts, I might want to invest in my own upkeep. The commitment you and I make to our long-term health (as opposed to just how we look) will help keep us out of the operating theater unless absolutely necessary. The best pit crews will require that to the best of our ability we exercise right up to the day before a procedure, for a healthy body heals faster. They know our attitude about health and healing have a great deal to do with how fast we return to max potential.

Matthew LeJune for Unsplash

Here in Eugene, the big Slocum Complex is full of physicians who are tapped for our Mighty Ducks. Given how passionate my fellow Oregonians around here are about Duck teams, you can rest assured that the medical care is the best. I've made sure that my orthopedic surgeons are both sports doctors and athletes themselves, which again underscores the point. You are born to be an athlete even if you don't feel like one.

You may never play a down for the Ducks, but you might play a down in your back yard with your ducklings. It would be terrific to keep right on being tackled by your tykes well into your eighties. Developing a good care team is one way to do it.