I’m in Philadelphia right now, enjoying all that the city has to offer. A couple days ago, I was going down a long flight of stairs to the subway, heading out for more fun. It was a little damp that day, though, and on the way down my left foot slipped right off of a step. Though my reflexes are generally very rapid, this slip was so fast that I didn’t have time to react quickly enough, my foot was in mid-air, and I went down hard on the concrete steps.
My right leg, sort of left behind by my flying left foot, ended up folding under me and to my right as I fell, sort of like doing an old-school hurdler stretch, but 100 times faster than normal in order to hit the concrete more effectively. The inner edge of my ankle took a hard hit, and received enough pressure to flatten the metal lace guide on my boot. I bounced a bit and stopped, and my whole lower body hurt. It was a shock, I was worried, and I tested things to see if anything had gone seriously wrong. Though my bell was rung, and I was sore all over my legs and butt, I gradually realized that nothing was gravely messed up, and I limped off to continue the day’s activities. Soon I was walking normally.
During the subway ride, I was very thankful that nothing worse happened, and as time went on, the shock wore off, and the pain mostly went away. I thought I would at least be sore the next day, similar to the aftermath of a hard workout, but there was nothing worse than a little stiffness of the ankle and slight bruising in the right ankle and knee areas. Whew.
Two days later we went to the Philadelphia Museum with friends. It was a cold but very sunny day, and naturally I had to be a tourist dork and run up the steps like Rocky did in the movie! Philadelphians actually have a verb for this, “Rockying”. After having a look at the Rocky statue at the bottom, I ran up the steps fast, taking 2 steps at a time at first, then 3 at a time about halfway up, and finally the last 4 steps in a leap to reach the top. Then came the requisite jumping up and down with my hands raised in victory, while being photographed by my wife. It was so much fun, I walked back down the steps and did the same thing again, this time doing more ludicrous posing at the top! And I almost forgot to mention that this was the day after dancing to Brazilian music at a New Years Eve big bash. None of this goofy fun would have been possible if I had messed up my leg two days before.
First, I’ll give credit to my LL Bean hiking boots – they’re very sturdy, and they may have helped prevent my ankle from getting more injured than what actually occurred. Beyond that, I have to give credit to being in top shape. I can’t be 100% sure, as I didn’t get a chance to do a two-month scientific study on my one second fall, but I am nearly certain that my fitness level allowed me to get up and walk away. Going down that fast on a long concrete stairway and forming a kind of awkward half-split position, could have resulted in a variety of injuries: possibly a sprained ankle, or beyond that, maybe a pulled hamstring, knee injury, hip injury, or even broken bones for someone really out of shape. Curiously, my recent regimen of one-leg-squats may have been the best possible way to strengthen my legs enough to handle this fall. But I believe that other lower body exercises and stretching could have been similarly effective.
Pro athletes get very clear results from exercise when they win games and perform at their best in meets. We regular people don’t necessarily have such obvious payoffs from working out regularly. But I’d say that being able to do wild fun things like dancing, running up those steps without getting seriously winded, and all this 2 days after taking a pretty hard fall down some concrete stairs, is very gratifying. When you’re, ahem, really well past 20 years old, being fit enough for this requires some work. And it’s worth every minute of it. Food for thought, no?