Where Have I Been? 196


National Indoor Championships March 2018

I know. You have been wondering where I have been. No journals about tournaments since the 2015 National Clay. Well a lot has happened. I moved to Colorado. I didn’t want to leave this amazing place. Even for a tournament. Even to spend time with my buddies who I have been competing with since 1983.

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I was just loving life with Jo Ann, looking at the Rockies, hiking and biking and just being.

Then my book hit the market and I had lots to do to get it out there. Marketing a book when you are a first time author meant calling everybody I ever knew and begging them to buy the book and to tell all of the people they knew to buy it. And then having to follow up because people tend not to act on the first ask. I was not very happy spending my time doing that.

As for my tennis, I needed to retool my game. I had to adjust to playing tennis on hard courts, the surface I played on the least. I needed to adjust my game to deal with the altitude where, for about a year, my forehand would, mysteriously, land ten feet long and my serve would rarely find the box. The altitude contributed to me being late in setting up and, often, late to the ball. And these Colorado hard court players would attack fast and early, taking me out of my game of developing a point. It felt like every time I won a point I was reacting. I rarely felt like I was controlling the point.

So I wasn’t happy with how I was spending my time. Instead of feeling the excitement of being published I was not in control of my days. Add to that I was frustrated on the court while trying to maintain a good attitude while playing out of control and losing a lot. Outwardly I talked to my hitting partners about how much fun retooling my game was while, at the same time feeling impatient in the process. I was living a bad story.

So I skipped the National Grass, Clay, Hard and Indoors for all of 2016 and 2017. And then the unimaginable. My back started to seize up on me. I would play and, when done, I couldn’t straighten up. I was climbing up the steps at night using my hands. I would wake up in the morning so stiff that I actually, for the first time in my life, felt my age. I couldn’t play without two days of recovery. I got scared. I thought I was done competing. How can I compete if I can’t play consecutive days.

My team of orthopedist Mark Austerlitz , muscular skeletal expert Phil Wharton, healer Helen Grigg and accupuncturist Ting all told me that there was nothing really wrong. Sure my lower lumbar discs resembled pancakes but the speed with which I went downhill made no sense. I hadn’t jumped out of a plane. I wasn’t doing anything different. This went on for months. Just going for a walk would land me on my back. The fear kicked in. Maybe something is really wrong. I reread Dr. John Sarno’s book about back pain. I felt a little better. What is the stress? I couldn’t get a handle on it. Then I did. The stress was that I was not comfortable being at such a good place in my life. With my work. With my wife. With my family. My relationship with time. My relationship with money. I realized that all was good and I had found contentedness. What I always wanted. But I had always aspired. For more. To win more. To have more. To do more. Strange I was stressed out because things were so good. And with that awareness my back started to loosen up.

Phil told me that I was overly focused on my back and the pain. He said, “Bob, you know how to detach, to create distance from thoughts that don’t support you. Do it.”

And I did. I had a better story. In the space that I created flooded realizations and solutions. I am happy. I am young. I can do what it takes to strengthen my body. For years I used tennis to be fit and, though I worked out in the gym, I never really addressed doing the exercises right. I was often hurting myself by using the wrong muscles.

I found trainer Kirk at the gym that I had been going to regularly. He taught me how to build strength in my glutes, my chest, my upper back and my core. I trusted him. Twice a week with him and three times a week on my own. Training like I never had. My posture changed. My shoulders moved back and down. My chest built up. My shoulder stopped bothering me. My core, the holy grail that I never wanted to work on turned solid. Crunches became easy. Planks that I couldn’t hold became my friends.

In October my dear friend and doubles partner of many National titles and Cup teams, Brian Cheney called and said, “where have you been? You are coming into the 70’s in January. Let’s play the Indoors.”

When Brian asks to play doubles, you don’t say, “let me check my calendar.” I said sure, still not knowing if I could play consecutive days. I figured I could get to a point where I could just play the doubles so I felt ok saying yes.

By December I was feeling stronger and more fit than I had felt in years. I was playing consecutive days. I was running into the corners and recovering. I could play and then work out in the gym. I was playing well.
By January I knew that I could not only do the doubles but that I would be ready to do the single and doubles by the March start date.

When I was 69, I felt 75. When I hit 70, I felt like I was 50.

That’s where I have been. This is where I am.

More coming later this week as I will share my preparation.

So happy to be sharing this journey with you again.


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