“I told you exercise was bad for you,” Mr. R called out as my wife wheeled me into the clinic.
Busted. “I’ll never live this one down,” I thought.
Early that morning, I stepped off a curb while running and felt a sharp pain in my foot. X-rays showed a 5th metatarsal fracture. No weight-bearing for 6 to 8 weeks. Boo.
I have been physically active as long as I can remember. My parents enrolled my brother and me in every team sport our community had. While my lack of hand-eye coordination made basketball and baseball challenging, I loved to swim and play soccer. When I discovered running in high school, I found my true love.
After 28 years, 11 marathons, and 5 ultramarathons, I suffered my first running related fracture. Overuse caused my previous injuries, but this one was random. I ran that route every day. I have stepped off that curb a thousand times.
So I put my foot in a walking boot and bought crutches. Having never used them before, I had no idea how hard using your arms and one leg for locomotion was. I lost 5 pounds and had to stop wearing my usual long-sleeved shirt and neck tie. Forget the white doctor’s coat, that was like working in a sauna.
My patients got a real kick out of my predicament. Everyone I have nagged for years now had the perfect counterpoint to my pleas to increase their activity.
“You’ll lose weight, your blood pressure will drop, and your blood sugar will plummet”
“Yeah, but look what happened to you.” Touché.
The words of a colleague came back to me: “But you LIKE to exercise. Most of your patients don’t.”
So how do I motivate someone to do something she doesn’t like to do that might hurt her? Scary statistics about heart attacks don’t motivate you to head out the door when it’s raining. I have to find out what motivates you: losing weight, looking better, or reducing stress. I have to help you overcome your barriers: the weather is too hot / too cold, the sidewalks are bad, my knees hurt, my neighborhood is not safe, my appearance embarrasses me.
So for Mr. R, I know we connected as doctor and patient because you are comfortable busting my chops.
And you know that I will keep trying to get you out that door and down the sidewalk.