injury · traveling

Life as a shark!


I told my massage therapist today that I felt like a shark. He laughed.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve got to keep moving.”

Let me explain.

I hurt my back last week. Now, you might think that was from Aikido. Throwing, rolling! Whee! Thump! Or on the sprint stretch of our Thursday ride. Or deadlifting at CrossFit. But no. I hurt my back flying to Chicago, busing to Madison, and then sitting at a conference all day.

(I struggle with conferences. I really do. At home and at work, I love my standing desks but it seems rude to stand at conferences. Philosophers know me and they’re used to my standing and stretching at the back. But this was a conference of political theorists and I was the outsider. It felt extra awkward to stand. See Academic conferences as sitting marathons for more on this theme. I’ve decided from now on to opt for perceived rudeness over injury. It’s an easy choice.)

At the end of the day when I got up, my back went into spasm. Pain, lots of pain, and the left side of my low back kind of seized up.

For a day or two it was a challenge getting socks and tights on. It was a challenge rolling over in bed, finding a comfy spot for sleeping. It was an extra special challenge busing and flying back home. Stairs hurt. Sitting hurt.

It’s better now. Thanks Aikido, thanks foam roller, thanks lots of walking, thanks not much sitting, thanks massage therapist.

But it made me reflect on the challenge, as a very active, older person, of staying in any one position for too long. Hence the shark analogy. Now not all sharks need to keep moving or die, but it’s true for most shark species.

One of the senseis at Aikido referred to my back pain as “you’re not 25 any more” injury.

I’ve been asking around about what people do when they know they’re going to be stuck in one place for awhile. Dave from CrossFit  said he spends lots of time foam rolling the day before and the day of when he has to fly. Massage therapist advised getting a massage before travel. (I like that idea too.) One extremely fit friend, a life long fitness instructor, doesn’t travel so much these days. She finds long flights so painful that she avoids them.

My partner joked that I need to “train up” for sitting. Get more practice in. Work on my endurance. It’s a bit of an issue since long car trips aren’t my thing any more.

Is this a challenge you face? What do you do to make traveling easier?

Shark swimming

5 thoughts on “Life as a shark!

  1. Thanks for this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I was just saying to dh I need a sleeping treadmill. Unfortunately it’s sitting and sleeping that get to me these days and I’m a person who used to really like doing both. I am more productive no but I’d like to find some solutions.

  2. I spent most of September traveling and sitting too much. Then I came home to surgery and surgeon imposed restriction on moving for all of October. I have been fidgeting like crazy waiting to get moving again after 2 months of inactivity, so I strong sympathize and empathize with the pain you are having from too much sitting. I love your analogy of being a shark that must keep moving!

    For travel and other situations where I have to sit too much, my weightlifting coach has given me some subtle exercises I can do almost anywhere that help prevent problems – I’ll see if I can find an accessible description, if not I’ll do my best to describe them to you.

    On a different topic, I just nominated your blog for the Liebster Award which you are free to accept or not:

    Thank you for your very helpful and interesting writings about being an active woman at any age!

  3. I fly a couple of weekends a month for work….out on a Friday and back on a Monday. I teach the whole time I am gone, so I opt to stand throughout my entire workshop unless it’s yoga. Yoga may not be your thing, but learning to sit comfortably in yoga positions has helped me to sit for long periods of time elsewhere. I’m not much for lounging on the couch (unless it’s time spent with my hubby), but I do try to sit for meditation and other things….on the floor instead of the furniture. I find that the practice of sitting in a strong way (where my core and pelvic floor are engaged) helps to sit any other time it’s necessary.

  4. I always let me workshop participants know they can stand, lean, or even lie down if it helps they stay limber. I also build in a lot of moving around in my workshops so people can move. I have to alternate between standing where I can stretch and sitting (no standing desks for me!) so I can write. The trick is to find a support that is portable. My jackets often double as rolled up bolsters to keep me upright.

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