I decided I would start off easy and then slowly progress down the path to physical fitness. I dug up an old beginning yoga video on VHS (yes, I still own a VHS, but I'm proud to say I gave up my Betamax over six months ago) and began a strict stretching routine every morning before breakfast. I had dabbled in yoga throughout the years (mostly as a way to meet chicks), but what I soon came to understand was that if you go as long as I had without stretching your major muscle groups, it can be a rather painful endeavor. I had always heard the expression "no pain, no gain" and like so many other great athletes before me, I decided I would just tough it out and play through the pain.
I quickly found myself becoming bored with yoga alone and decided to ramp up my daily regimen by adding a little cardio. Under a deep pile of tried on but not worn on that particular day woman's clothing, my amazingly well-equipped girlfriend had hidden a stationary bike that she had purchased on the last day of an exercise equipment convention many years earlier. I developed my own exercise plan that I like to call "The Jon Stewart Spin Class". It consisted of playing the previous evenings recording of The Daily Show while riding the bike. The trick was that during the actual show, I would keep an even and steady pace from a seated position, but as soon as the commercials started I would tighten down the resistance, stand up and power through until the show started up again. That's when I started to notice a growing pain in my neck and shoulders, but being a bit naïve to ways of working out, I just shrugged it off as par for the course and continued to play through.
My next bright idea was to add "Decline Pushups" to the mix. I started off with ten, then twenty-five, then fifty and by the end I was doing one hundred pushups every morning. I was losing weight and my pecs were firmer than they had ever been. The only problem was that as I increased my repetitions, my pain level increased exponentially. Finally, the constant pain started to become practically unbearable and it was even affecting my sleep patterns because I couldn't find a sleep position that didn't hurt.
At that point, I decided to take a little break from my workout routine and figure out just what the heck was going on. As it turns out, with all that enthusiasm to transform myself into middle-aged Adonis, I had unknowingly inflamed a herniated cervical disk injury I had suffered ten years earlier as a result of a traffic accident. My doctor recommended that I start going to physical therapy twice a week and I soon learned that my problem wasn't the exercise itself, but the way that I was going about it. You see, I was so intense about my work out that I was tensing up every muscle in my body, even the ones I wasn't working on.
When I figured that one out, it forced me to examine how I was approaching other aspects of my life and what I found surprised me. I've always considered myself to be a pretty laid back guy, but when it comes to things like driving or typing or working out, I'm a pretty intense dude. For instance, I discovered that when driving, I hold the wheel in a G.I. Joe Kung Fu Death Grip, not to mention the fact that I have the posture of a Neanderthal. Through physical therapy, I'm learning new exercises to gently strengthen my muscle tissue as well as to take notice of situations where I'm tensing up or practicing bad posture. Every day, I'm getting a better handle on how to control my pain and if I get off track, I always fall back on the advice of The Dude. "Take It Easy Man".