Far Better and More Efficient

Steven F. Kanter (60-year-old M.D.)

I am a 60 year-old male who has been physically active most of my life, having played multiple sports since grade school and maintaining high levels of aerobic fitness as defined by Cooper et al. (I typically performed >75 aerobic points weekly; my resting heart rate was in the low 40's). The best shape I was ever in was during high school when I wrestled in the 127 pound weight class. Motivated by my love of sports and trying to keep in abeyance my family's history of heart disease, in my adult life I continued to play multiple sports (e.g., tennis, golf and baseball) and stayed aerobically fit by running, swimming and/or bicycling. I also maintained a fairly healthy diet (along the lines of the Mediterranean style). Until I was 56, my physical problems emanated from overdoing my sporting activity and aerobic training, which at its worse lead to a serious case of heat stroke (my urine turned jet black due to the myoglobin protein being excreted from my damaged muscles and my kidneys not being able to filter it) or orthopedic injuries (e.g., bilateral mandibular fracture) and at its best led to numerous 'minor' overuse injuries, muscle cramping and side effects from NSAID medications (e.g., punctuate stomach ulcers).

Two weeks before turning 57, I underwent a 13-hour radical back and pelvic surgery (involving 4 different surgical teams: 2 neurosurgeon teams, a colon & rectal surgery team and a plastic and reconstructive surgery team) to remove a large cancerous tumor that involved the removal of most of my sacrum and all of my coccyx; the severing of most of my sacral and all of my coccygeal nerves; and the excision and then reconstruction of my buttocks (using bilateral myocutaneous flaps). After surgery, I underwent proton beam radiation therapy for 9 weeks with the proton beam usually entering thru my last remaining complete sacral vertebra, my S-1 vertebra. Initially, during and after my recovery, I primarily swam about a mile a day 5 days a week, performed calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups/crunches and pull-ups at three-times the age-adjusted U.S. Marine Corps standards) and curls every other day, and I resumed playing golf 2-4 times a week.

While golfing seven months after my radical surgery (I was walking my course within 3 months after completing radiation therapy), I fractured my S-1 vertebra on a difficult swing (for you golfers: I had a downhill side-hill lie in a steep sand trap on the 18th hole with a litany of bets riding on the outcome). After 4 months of unsuccessful bed rest, I had surgery to repair the fracture, which included the insertion of two large titanium screws. Three months after that surgery, while driving, my car was struck by another car that caused my car to careen into a traffic pole at about 40 mph. My car was totaled, my S-1 screws held but I developed worsening pelvic/back pain and the neurological urologic recovery I had experienced since my radical surgery was completely wiped out.

After several months, I gradually tried to exercise again. My ex-wife had begun to use Jerzy as a trainer and I observed how she was able to positively change her body shape using The Happy Body (while a long list of other programs she had embarked upon had not worked). Ever since I became a physician in 1973, I had constantly followed the medical literature relating to exercise and fitness and their effect on weight and health. I had generally practiced the conventional wisdom by becoming aerobically fit with incorporating only minor strength training. At my ex-wife's request, I read about THB, which made a lot of sense to me. In part because Jerzy had personal experience with his own significant spine injury, I met with him and reviewed with him how a modified THB program might help me improve my physical functioning and help reduce my pelvic/back pain. Additionally, although my weight was in the normal range, my percentage of body fat was high and we both felt I could benefit from being leaner. Jerzy also focused me (actually, he was adamant with me) on not overdoing my exercising and I had to agree to never to more (only less) what he proscribed for me.

Although I had not had a trainer since high school, I decided to work with Jerzy because most of my problems had come from overdoing sports (including my S-1 vertebra fracture), Jerzy had firsthand knowledge of rehabilitating from a serious spine injury and his holistic THB approach made more sense to me (exercise, proper nutrition, relaxation and paying attention to your body's reactions to all three) that what I had been doing previously (by following the 'conventional wisdom'). After a very slow and cautious beginning, I am now (after 18 months of THB) in the best shape I've been in since I wrestled about 45 years ago. Physically, due to my S-1 vertebra fracture, I have been advised to avoid activities that could produce torque on my spine (e.g., tennis and golf) but I am able to lift weights and perform THB program. What I have experienced is that THB works far better and efficiently (I used to spend far more time 'exercising') for me than when I maintained a very high level of aerobic fitness. I have not experienced any injuries or setbacks due to THB. Moreover, at Jerzy's urging, I read The China Study (by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II), which convinced me to adopt a flexitarian (i.e., 'mostly' vegetarian) diet that helped reduce my body fat percentage (and hopefully will reduce my probability odds of a cancer recurrence). Taking less time and effort than when I followed conventional exercise/diet wisdom, THB has made an invaluable improvement in my physical well-being, fitness, physique, and joy in life!

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