Silk Pajamas

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Hall of Fame Boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler  said “It’s hard to get up at 5 am to do roadwork when you’re wearing silk pajamas.” I always thought this was a funny quote, just something a fighter said to talk about the heart of his opponent then I started to realize that these words rang true for so many situations.

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I’ve been a Doctor of Physical Therapy now for 15 years and just looking back on this morning it’s so much easier to just hit the snooze button.  In 2004-2005 I was struggling to stay in school, keep the lights on and food on my table. It didn’t matter because I had a goal to achieve.  Just about everyday I’d get up before dawn and do a quick workout. I would then take the almost hour long bus ride to get to campus from my apartment on the southside of the city. Riding the bus was free to the students then and that meant I could save on parking and gas. Then I wake up early on the weekends just to make it to my job that paid me barely above minimum wage. Now I struggle to get out of the bed at 6:30 most mornings and I haven’t seen the inside of a bus when buck was a calf.

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It’s not that I’m trying to glorify the struggle but that struggle brought me to the place of stability, of relative safety. This would be a good thing if I didn’t let myself become complacent. I developed a Que Sera…Sera  type of attitude. The hard work, the early morning and late night studying and workout sessions that got me to the big dance became anathema to me. After opening my own clinic. It was hard embracing that grind again. It was so easy too  many times to count for me to say “ I can just go make $95,000 here or I can go there and run a clinic.” After all those years of saying that I wanted something of my own, something better, why was it so easy for me to look back with fondness to a life that did not bring me joy.  Mr. Hagler’s words ring true “It’s hard to wake up at 5 am when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”

I see it with my patients all the time. When we sit and talk and they tell me about the lives that they led, the things that they’ve done. Inevitably there comes a point where they got comfortable and stopped for some reason. Then they get comfortable and that nagging annoyance of pain gets serious and they’re having more problems than not. The notion that I’m retired now and I don’t need to do anything has allowed many people to become complacent on the couch and then with that sedentary lifestyle comes pain, weakness and loss of function.

Look at it another way. As children most of us are squatting, pulling, pushing, jumping, stooping all the ING  words that your therapist or trainer tries to get you to do now you almost certainly did all the time as a child. As a child a lot of people were proportionately stronger than they were then. We all hung on the monkey bars and pulled ourselves up and in circles. Do you know how hard it is to do a pullup now as a 40 year old man and I can do more than most people nowadays and the sad part I can’t do a lot right now. Somewhere along the line we stop being children and putting stress through our bodies via play and for those of us that don’t find an active alternative to this the pain starts. A few years ago there was a big movement to move like a child/baby. It’s not that we should necessarily move like our toddler selves but we should still be doing some of the same things. The thing is try to get most people to get down on the ground and crawl. It’s hard getting some of us to get up to change the t.v. I understand, you’ve had a hard day or you’re tired  but spending too long not putting stress in the joint, not lubricating your body by moving is a disaster waiting to happen. 

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I’ve seen it happen in relationships where a guy has been doing everything he could to get a particular girl. Then when they get together he stops doing those things gradually and the relationship becomes different. He no longer buys her flowers or opens her door. Maybe he went out of his way in his life. The guy or girl gets complacent and is first attracted to that person and because having the girl of his dreams with him is no longer a dream and is the norm. So they stop doing the things that helped them get the love of their life. Then that’s when problems can begin to arise and then heartache and pain.

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Marvelous Marvin was talking about how hard it was to train  once a fighter became champion or got that big purse they were gunning for and the difficulty in trying to make yourself do the things that brought you to that point in the first place. Most of us will never be a champion prize fighter but the situation is the same. We get to a point where it gets harder to do the little things  that got us to the peak. 

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