I took advantage of a beautiful day recently to switch our outdoor yard stuff from summer to winter.
I raked some leaves despite the trees still being about half full of them. I drained and put away the garden hoses, took down the kids trampoline to let dry in the garage for a few days and pruned some overgrown bushes.
For whatever reason, as I puttered around in the sunshine, I had this fleeting thought: Why was I doing all of this?
The leaves would still be there for me to clean up in the spring. In fact, the 50% that hadn’t fallen yet would be waiting for me in a week or two. The hoses I put away and stowed in the garage wouldn’t be used again for months.
I could probably just leave the trampoline up and let the snow fall on it. What could that harm?
Item by item, I answered my own questions. I like to rake my leaves a little at a time because a couple years ago, when I decided to tackle them when they were all done falling, we had heavy snow and I never got to them. I then had twice as much work in the spring to clean things up. I put the hoses away because two of them burst a couple years ago when there was some water left inside when the temperature dropped.
The trampoline needed to be put away because the one year I did leave it out, some rust started showing up on the frame. One year I packed the netting into a box and shoved it into a corner, only to find in the spring that a family of mice had made it home and had thoroughly chewed several holes in it. That’s why I now bundle it up and hang it from the garage ceiling.
So, where is a bi-monthly column about physical therapy going with all this talk of yard work? Great question.
Maintaining your home is a lot like maintaining your body. The work (or lack of it) that you put into keeping yourself strong, flexible, and mobile, will eventually show up later when you want to be active.
The time frame can differ, but the results are similar. If you don’t maintain your health in the short term, chances are good that you could end up sick or injured. If you have a balance issue and don’t stay on top of it, your odds of falling in the future increase significantly. Similarly, if you go dormant for several years, it can take a long time to regain the ground you’ve lost.
I’ve had many conversations with people who stopped taking care of themselves for years or decades at a time due to things like family and work obligations. Once those obligations start to diminish or get under control, that person often finds a large uphill battle to get back to doing the physical things they previously enjoyed.
When I have physical therapy graduate students, I like to use the phrase “do future-(student name) a favor. I try to do future-Jeff favors all the time.”
One example is explaining expectations to a patient when they start a new exercise. I coach students to tell patients to expect a little muscle soreness after the first session or two. Giving the explanation on the front end reduces the chances that a patient will return for the next visit asking why their muscles were sore after the last session. In my experience, people always do better knowing what to expect rather than being surprised.
While “current-you” might not feel like taking five minutes to work on your balance today, future you will be glad your balance is there when your foot slips on the ice in a few months. “Current-you” might not want to knock out a few squats, but you’ll be glad you did next time you go to lift your 40-pound grandchild from the floor.
As you wrap up your seasonal maintenance over the next couple of weeks, I hope you take some time to think about doing some body maintenance this winter.
I promise that “summer-you” will be glad you did.