The Joy of Throwing
by Michael G. Goldstein
In response to Zhen’s request to share a personal story about living and coping with a MPN, I thought it might be fun to write about my experience with throwing. As you read this, you may be asking yourself, “what does he mean, experience with throwing?”
I won’t keep you in suspense. By throwing, I mean throwing the shot put, discus and javelin. During my high school years, I put the shot and threw the discus and was fairly successful, especially at putting the shot. I was my high school record holder for the shot put, served as a co-captain of the Long Beach High (NY) Track and Field Team, and was even recruited by a handful of colleges.
I ended up at Penn and immediately joined the track and field team for the indoor season. However, I quickly learned I was literally out of my league. My high school coaches hadn’t emphasized strength training, so moving up to a heavier 16 pound college shot was a huge challenge for me. My coach at Penn, after watching me struggle during with a bench press during one of our first practices, loudly proclaimed that I was “the weakest shot putter in America”. I felt humiliated.
For a while, I worked hard to try to prove him wrong. Many days, after a grueling practice, I had to literally lift my legs up the stairs to make it to my dorm room. I collapsed into bed, too exhausted to study. As a pre-med student, that was a big problem, and after some soul-searching, I hung up my throwing shoes at the start of the second semester.
At the time, I didn’t appreciate all the things that I would miss about throwing: the physical pleasure from producing a solid throw; the satisfaction that comes from throwing a few inches further than my personal best; and the camaraderie and bonding that develops among throwers.
For a brief time, in my early 30’s, I decided to try Master’s Track. Because I lived around the corner from the Brown University Stadium, I had access to the track and throwing circle and participated in one Master’s meet. It felt good to compete…but then I tore my achiles tendon playing basketball and my return to throwing was sidetracked…..for 25 years.
Though I had to give up throwing again, I continued to work out regularly and participate in a variety of sports. Exercise was an important part of my life even before I developed PV in 2005. Since then, however, exercise has become essential to my wellbeing.
For me, vigorous exercise is a fabulous stress reducer and, like Jeremy, I am convinced that exercise helps me to combat MPN-associated fatigue. I believe it also slows the seemingly inexorable muscle wasting, loss of strength and reduced endurance that has accompanied aging, my condition and my treatment with interferon.
As I approached my 60th birthday this winter (my birthday was April 6th), I decided it was a good time to set some new life goals. In my April column in MPNforum, I shared 10 empowerment strategies that I strive to use to help me cope with PV and the effects of aging. Last month, I wrote about an 11th strategy, getting fitted for hearing aids. Taking up throwing became strategy number 12.
I started thinking about returning to throwing a couple of years ago, after my 40th high school reunion where I reconnected with several former teammates who were still running and competing in road races. Then, last winter, I read a story in an airline magazine about a fellow who had started throwing the shot and discus in his 60s and was now a national Master’s champion. The article also included information about the US National Senior Games which are held every 2 years. That was the final stimulus.
I set a goal to qualify for the National Senior Games in 2013, which meant I had to place in the top 4 in a state-level senior games in 2012. The good news was that, because I was turning 60, I could qualify in the 60-64 age bracket and therefore throw lighter implements (e.g., shot, discus and javelin).
Because I realized that throwing would place a strain on various parts of my aging body, I signed on for personal training at a local gym. I found an online supplier of track and field equipment and outfitted myself with shots, discuses, throwing shoes, implement carrying cases, a tape measure and assorted instructional books, dvds and subscriptions.
I also found several online resources for throwers including Facebook pages (e.g., Twilight Throwers, Throwholics) and sites for USA Track and Field Masters Track and the US National Senior Games . I spent countless hours reading, viewing videos and began throwing at a local high school, sometimes in near freezing temperatures.
My first meet was the US Track and Field Eastern Region Masters Championship in Rhode Island in January. I was much more nervous than I imagined I would be, but was warmly welcomed by the other competitors, who somehow seemed to have avoided the loss in muscle mass and tone that I had experienced. I placed 6th out of 7, managed not to injure myself, and came home more committed than ever to my goal of qualifying for Senior Nationals.
After participating in another indoor meet in Connecticut, I began training for the Connecticut Senior Games which were held in mid-May. This was a well attended meet, and during warmups, it was clear that I would be challenged to place in the top 4 in either the shot or the discus. Again, I was nervous, though I felt very supported by other throwers at the meet.
I placed 6th in the shot, but because I was in the top 4 among Connecticut residents, I qualified for Senior Nationals in 2013!! As you might imagine, I was thrilled!
Not only did I qualify for the Senior Nationals, my wife, Rebecca, a very active and fit woman, was inspired by the CT games to register for the 1500 meter race walk at the RI Senior Olympics. We trained together for our events for the last several weeks. On a beautiful June day, Rebecca took first place in the 60-65 age group race walk, while I placed third in the javelin (0ut of 3), so now we have both qualified for the National Games in Cleveland in July, 2013!
Throwing again has been more empowering than I ever imagined. When I throw, I feel strong and vital. Once again, I have experienced that wonderful feeling of the shot springing forth from my hand after a well executed throw, my voice bellowing as the shot is propelled through the air, landing deep into the sector with a resounding thud. I love that sound and am thrilled that I am able to produce it. I am thankful that my PV is well controlled, allowing me to have enough energy to work on and achieve my goals. It is also wonderful to be able to share my joy and success with my wife. I hope many of you will consider setting similar stretch goals….so you too can experience the feeling of empowerment that stems from reaching them.
Take me back to the Contents
© Michael Goldstein and MPNforum.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Goldstein and MPNforum.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.