Fitness and Risks
By Don Otis –
This past week has seen me in the ER twice for activities related to fitness.
I reached the summit of 14,005’ Mt. of the Holy Cross near Vail, Colorado recently, but ran into trouble on the way down. I fell on a steep ridge while descending and split my head open. God in His mercy had two EMTs there within minutes with a triage kit to stop the bleeding. What are the odds of such care well above 13,000 feet? Seven stitches later I was ready to board a flight to Spokane the next day. Within 48-hours of landing I was completing a 12-mile mountain bike ride in North Idaho. Then, unexpectedly, I was attacked by a pit bull. A second trip to the ER as the dog bit deep into my calf muscle.
If you run, walk, hike, or ride you know the risks posed by dogs that protect their territory. In general, they are territorial and will leave you alone after you pass their property. You learn to avoid certain breeds, not the least of which is Pit Bulls or Rottweilers. You would be foolish not to. But the majority of risks we face are not from falls or dogs.
There is an old saying about life, investments, and relationships. I have quoted the adage, “No risk, no reward,” many times. Still, there are risks every time we venture outdoors. We also risk injury each time we get in our car or take a flight. We accept the risks as part of life. We also accept certain risks if we want to remain healthy and fit. If we are wise, we do everything we can to mitigate risks. Sometimes, no matter what we do, something unexpected happens along the way.
Nancy is one of my clients. She is 69-years-old. Nancy and her husband were ranchers in Arizona before she was thrown from her horse and partially paralyzed. It happens. She is now doing what she can to remain healthy. She says, “I hope one day I can throw these crutches away!” I like her attitude. She doesn’t give up in spite of the trauma she faced that changed her life.
When I was first learning to drive, my dad used to tell me to drive like a coward. Driving defensively is something we learn. We don’t really expect to put ourselves at risk by walking or riding through our neighborhoods. If you venture out, wear protective clothing that makes you easier to see. Avoid dusk or after dark if possible. Be aware of your surroundings. Unless you are at a gym, don’t wear an iPod or other music device. You put yourself at greater risk by doing so. If you are hiking or biking a longer distance, carry an emergency kit. Even if you are running, walking or hiking in a nearby park, avoid dogs that are off leash. Stop, move off the side of the trail or walkway and give them plenty of space.
As I think about the attack, I should have dismounted my bike and used it to shield me. In general, dogs like to chase. Avoid neighborhoods or parks where dogs are off leash or vicious. Call your local law enforcement or animal control to report loose dogs. You may be protecting a child or elderly person by doing so.
We can stay inside the safety and comfort of our homes, but it is so much more fun to get outside and enjoy nature. Finally, if you do you exercise outside; it is always best to have someone with you. Stay safe. Stay smart.
Don S. Otis is am ACE Certified personal trainer, the author of Keeping Fit after 40 and Whisker Rubs: Developing the Masculine Identity. He is the president of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity agency based in Canon City, Colorado. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.