Saturday, June 16, 2012

Exercising with Aging Animals & Young Children

Exercise is something I use to do each morning in the mid-1990s. I would walk my dogs at about 4:30-5:30 a.m. Being in a northern state during the winter, it would be pitch black at this hour with the exception of the stars and moon. During the summer, the sun would be rising and the birds would wake up. On many of the walks, I would see or hear wildlife - deer, coyotes, eagles, hawks, rabbits, and many types of songbirds.

As Sydne (one of the dogs) got older, the walks became more difficult for her. I decided not to go on walks with Casey (the other dog) because I didn’t want Sydne to feel left out.

So, I changed the long walks to shorter ones around the pastures, nature trail, and backyard. Because the property is fenced in, and each pasture is separately fenced, the dogs could walk and run off-leash. They seemed happier that they didn’t just have to walk on their walks…now they could run!

In Loving Memory of Casey - April 20, 1995-February 13, 2008
Pictures of Casey with Montague, Sophia, and Olivia.

When Sydne died in 2003, Casey was joined by Montague. By this time, both Sophia and Olivia had been adopted and were both under the age of three years old.

Trying to walk two dogs, a toddler, and baby was way too difficult for me to do. So, the walks around the pastures, nature trail, and backyard continued.

The walks changed focus - from exercise to nature appreciation. They were more relaxed and each of us could discover interesting things - whether it be a bird singing, an interesting bird nest, a monarch caterpillar on the milkweed, or a dragonfly flying in front of us.

Around 2007, I injured my lower back. I couldn’t figure out why my back still hurt after a couple of weeks, and nothing I was doing was helping the pain diminish. So, I went to a specialist who did an MRI and gave me the diagnosis: degenerative disc disease.

He showed me the x-rays. In between three vertebrae, there were two black spaces. Where there should have been spinal discs (essentially a disc is a soft cushion that sits between each vertebrae of the spine) - there was none. Literally both discs were gone.

The discs above and below the three vertebrae likewise were showing signs of degeneration. Parts of them were still there, but they were going away as well.

So, essentially, the vertebrae are directly on one another or close to one another at this point. Any vigorous, high-impact exercise (e.g., running, aerobics, some forms of dance) or even housework (e.g., vacuuming) can result in tremendous pain that can last for hours, if not longer.

At this point, I still haven’t found a good exercise regime that doesn’t cause more pain than is necessary. It’s been recommended that people who have degenerative disc disease can do swimming, biking, and walking.

It seems like I’m walking and/or standing for a good percentage of the day around the house and yard. Sophia, Olivia, and I take the dogs out for walks periodically, but not nearly as often as we could.

Going on a Nature Walk
Taking a walk at a local state park 
during the late winter.

Whenever we go bike riding, Sophia, Olivia, and I are always feel better and say we should go riding again soon. I think I need to create a schedule that I can mark off so we are more intentional with using the bikes when we can (e.g., when there's no snow on the ground).

Olivia and I on the 1st Ride of the Season
Olivia and me riding our bikes in the early spring.

This weekend, I'm looking forward to walking the dogs a couple of times and going on daily bike rides early in the morning. Wonder what type of wildlife I'll see each time I'm outdoors.


Fishcake_random said...

I think that walking with the dogs and biking is not just physically good for you but also mentally.
I understand that you have a medical condition to cope with but I am a big believer that being positive in your own mind works just as many miricles as pills and potions.
x x x

Anonymous said...

When I first saw your post header I thought, "I'm an aging animal!" Exercise is very different now that I'm over the half century mark! We love to bike too - and swim when I can leave enough time in the schedule for it. Praying you can find the right combination of activities for your love of nature, your girls and your back!

The photo is awesome - love the angles and the light!