Are you limping? Is your hip at you? Does it take you a few minutes to get going after sitting? Do you have lower back pain? Worst of all, do you have pain in bed at night across your lower back that sometimes goes down one leg or even both? I know some of you can answer yes to those questions! These are all questions relating to skeletal health which we rarely talk about.

Attend your doctor

Recently I attended a few farmer-related functions and I was shocked at how many men and women in my age group were not moving so smoothly. Lack of sleep and pain are two things that make us cranky and maybe not so nice to be around.

I asked all those questions above, because six months ago I could answer yes to all of them. In truth I was in daily agony. Of course, I’d niggling pain in my back over the years if I overdid the gardening or was feeding a calf in a certain position. I’d take myself off to the chiropractor or osteopath and get sorted.

Having abdominal surgery over two years ago definitely compounded my problems. I could not exercise, recovery took time and my skeletal health went awry. I felt old.

Eventually, I presented myself to my doctor. The first step was to know what was going on. I had to have an MRI of my lower back followed by a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon. Long story short; I have osteoarthritis, which is not arthritis at all but wear and tear and degeneration of the spine. It’s called ageing.

I would need surgery to correct it or at least injections in the short-term. I was horrified and could not face surgery again. It was not the surgery that scared me but the recovery part. I said an emphatic “no!” Back to the GP, she said “physiotherapy is worth a try.” I headed off to Shane Hennessey in Ballincollig.

Find exercise that suits you

Meanwhile, I was a member of Fitz Fitness in Ballincollig since John, the owner of the business, went out on his own five years ago. I have huge admiration for this business. I had to drop out of the exercise programme during the surgery time.

John was always supportive, encouraging me to get back at it slowly. The messages would come home via my friend Eileen. She’d say: “John was asking for you today and wondering when you’re coming back.” Then he rang me one day. A simple request. “Come in to me and we’ll have a chat.” I did and I started back. That first day he put his hand on my arm and said: “The important thing is you’re here.”

Instructors at Fitz Fitness; Maggs Murphy, Dave Finn, Patricia Browne, Alan McCarthy and John Fitzgerald.

My friends and I often talk about how lucky we are that we discovered Fitz Fitness. It is certainly a gym with a difference. John and his team of instructors welcome all shapes and sizes and all level of fitness. There is no pretention and no judgement.

There is one goal, improve your fitness through strength and conditioning. In other words, lift some weights and do a lot of stretching exercises with a bit of cardio work thrown in. We work as a class of max 16 and the instructors make sure we are doing all our movements safely. This is so important. Anyone who is not trained needs to do stretching and weight lifting under supervision.

So today, I have spent six months of periodically attending Shane, my physiotherapist, whose mantra is “your recovery is in your own hands.” I know that my continued fitness is in my own hands. I have to do my daily exercises to keep improving my mobility. It’s no easy fix but it is better than surgery. Meanwhile, I try to go to class three times a week.

Get moving

I couldn’t praise Shane enough for his guidance and direction and likewise the team at Fitz Fitness. Your health is in your own hands. Find yourself a good physiotherapist and exercise that suits you. It could be walking or golf. For me it’s Fitz Fitness. Just get moving.

Meanwhile, I want to congratulate Fitz Fitness for reaching five years in business, adapting to COVID-19 restrictions and taking us outdoors and then inventing a whole new regime. I am improving daily. You can too.

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