xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: The Confessions of a Jogger

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Confessions of a Jogger

When I was young I played quite a lot of sport and led a reasonably active life. However, the “Life. Be In It” brigade, and its international counterparts, have a lot to answer for.

 Two years ago the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more elderly Americans are getting injured while exercising. It stated that injuries from exercising have risen 54% in six years. At the same time injuries from more energetic activities, such as aerobic gym work, have risen even more alarmingly by a whopping, and painful, 173%.

Even cheerleaders are getting injured. The US National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury (NCCSI) reports that "In the last 25 years cheerleading has accounted for 63 percent of all high school direct catastrophic injuries to female athletes and 56 percent at the college level. Cheerleader injuries continue to increase each year, in part because the sport has evolved into a high-risk activity. Injuries from exercising have risen 54% in six years. At the same time injuries from more energetic activities, such as aerobic gym work, have risen even more alarmingly by a whopping, and painful, 173%."

Similar leisure injuries occur in Australia. In 2014, Flinders University published its report on Australian Sports Injuries Hospitalisations, 2011/12. The report revealed that 36 000 people, aged 15 years or over, were hospitalised because of a sports injury. The report warned that this was a significant underestimate of sports injuries, because many injuries did not result in hospitalisation. The injuries that Flinders University did record amounted to 79 000 days in hospital. That is the equivalent of 216.4 years of hospital care. And why did this happen?  It happened because concerted  television advertising campaigns  enticed perfectly contented middle aged individuals into physical activities that  eventually made them casualties in the Battle of the Bulge, Mark 2.

All over the world doctors continue to report increases in exercise related injuries, such as jogger’s ankle, tennis elbow, bike riders bottom, kite fliers finger burn, frisbee flingers forehead fracture and roller bladers ankle roll. The increase in athletic activities has caused painful outbreaks of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, as well as achilles tendon, calf and pulled hamstring problems

Forty years ago I was an early victim of the get fit cult that lured husbands from their wives and even attracted entire families onto our streets, roads and parks.

When I was Principal at Three Springs Primary School in the early 1980s, a local charity decided to have a Fun Run. Surely, Fun Run is an oxymoron. They are two words that are mutually exclusive. As the school principal I thought I would set a good example by going in this 10 kilometre fund raiser. The idea was to get sponsors to promise to pay so much for every kilometre that I ran, or jogged or even walked. It was an exercise in total embarrassment. As I lumbered and stumbled past the 8 kilometre mark my eldest daughter skipped passed me, much to the merriment of the many onlookers who had taken the easy option of donating money without having to participate.

I quickly foresaw the horrendous human wreckage that was to litter the countryside as sedentary leisure lovers were shamed, cajoled and blackmailed into leaving the comfort of their lounge rooms for the dog eat dog physical fitness jungle outdoors.

It was the dog eat dog aspect of the health campaign that hastened my retirement from the runners' ranks.
Dog eat dog, unfortunately, is not what happened. It was dog eat ME! What started as a pleasant jog would end in an exercise in terror as dogs from near and far came far to near.To avoid this mongrel menace I ceased running around suburbia and took to jogging through the verdant, dew decked bushland of Perth’s fabulous Kings Park.

My fear of snakes was allayed by a certain Mr Harry Butler, who in those far off days, had assured me via his very popular television programme, "Into the Wild", that snakes are actually quite timid creatures. He said they would take evasive action whenever they heard the thud, thud, thud of a jogger’s joggers. (I must say that he described my running style perfectly).

This news gladdened my heart. As I jogged along the bush tracks that lace through the park, I gloried in the knowledge that not only was I getting fit but I was scaring the living daylights out of all those snakes. Macho stuff!

This, I reflected, is what jogging is all about. I actually began to lope along, breathing in deeply the crisp and tangy, aromatic air. Birds twittered musically overhead. My worldly cares dissolved. Life really was something to be in.

This euphoria lasted a full minute.

Bruno, a Doberman Pinscher of gargantuan proportions, suddenly appeared 50 metres down the track. He was headed in my direction. I knew his name was Bruno because his owner was a further 50 metres behind him yelling, “Heel, Bruno.  Bruno, here boy. Bruno, heel. Heel”. Bruno was either very deaf or  a drop out from dog obedience school. He just kept accelerating towards me.

“Don’t worry. He won’t bite you,” shouted Bruno’s owner.

I am sure that Bruno would never hurt his owner, but from where I stood (I had naturally stopped running as soon as Bruno came into view) it seemed that Bruno would take delight in hurting me a great deal.

I had vivid memories of my days as a telegram boy. As a secondary school student I often spent my summer holidays earning an honest shilling, pedalling around the suburbs of Perth delivering telegrams. On far too many occasions I was threatened and bitten by the householder’s faithful pet. Whenever I complained about a dog’s aggression, a kindly old lady would say of her pet, “Oh, but he doesn’t bite, dear.”

"He might not bite you,” I would loudly retort, “but he has just bitten me.” And I had the bloodied fang marks on my leg to prove it.

Anyhow, back to Bruno in Kings Park and me in a Banksia tree, up which I had hurriedly climbed. Bruno skidded to a halt at the base of my tree refuge, mouth agape, huge red tongue lolling over menacing rows of sharp white teeth. He tried unsuccessfully to climb my tree of refuge.

The owner finally arrived and looked up accusingly at me, as if, somehow, it was all my fault. “You startled him,” he complained, as he struggled to prise Bruno from the trunk of the tree. “He wouldn’t have bitten you,” he added.

This may have been true. Bruno might not have bitten me. He could have quite easily  swallowed me whole.

After this experience I decided to confine my jogging to the beautiful stretch of sand between Scarborough Beach and Trigg Island.  As a result I very nearly became the first man to RUN to Rottnest Island.

It was a mottled grey, unmuzzled greyhound that forced me to take to the surf. He chased me through the foam for 80 metres before I ran off the edge of the sandbank, plunged into a deep channel and the dog lost interest.

After that I gave up jogging and became a founding member of Athletes Anonymous. Whenever anyone had an urge to do anything athletic, such as participate in father/son football  or a mother/daughter netball match, they could ring Athletes Anonymous and a trained counsellor talked them out of it. Unfortunately, this marvellous organisation disbanded several years ago because the counsellors' union ruled that answering the phone was actually an athletic activity.  A pity really, because they could have thwarted the Life. Be In It mob’s efforts to turn us in to a nation of Willie Nelson’s...Back On The Road Again!

What followed my "running to Rottnest island" escapade was many years of peaceful inertia. Whenever I felt my lifestyle  under threat of enforced physical fitness, I would read again the sobering words of The American Safety Commission Report.

I hope everyone reads it because the increasing health oriented adverts on television are likely to rekindle the desire for fitness fanatics to again goad the rest of us sedentary soldiers into various undignified positions in the pursuit of  health,  hernias and hospitalisation.

I have seen it all before. It is not a pretty sight.

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