Opinion » Editorial

Warren Miller

Is there a pill for getting in shape?

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For the first time in my life, winter has arrived and I am 100 per cent out of shape. The first day on the chairlift, I only had enough strength to ski about 10,000 vertical feet. I have been doing a lot of sitting around since September 12 due to radiation treatment for prostate cancer. So, I’m happy to be skiing at all and even happier to report that I now have a 100 per cent cure in my resume.

My complete cure is a result of the radiation and fabulous medical care I received, not to mention the pills from the Chinese herbalist. This Chinese herbalist has a dozen or more shelves of dust-covered, one-gallon glass jars full of mystery contents. I started out drinking musk-ox-hoof tea twice a day, but then graduated to even tougher stuff. My wife Laurie faithfully fed me my special pills on a daily basis throughout my treatment. I was willing to try anything, even Chinese medicine, to get well. It has been an interesting experience.

During my last examination, the herbalist pointed out some obvious defects in my facial characteristics that I have always just attributed to old age, genetics and life’s occasional disaster. According to Chinese medicine, the slight bump in my nose (which has been there since I broke it surfing at San Onofre in 1942) is actually an indication that I have some kidney problems. When the herbalist connected some of the dots in my bald head, he discovered that I was born at the wrong time of the year in Southern California. However, my right ear lobe is a little longer than my left one, which he said "indicates that I am very tall for a person of my weight, age and height."

I don’t want you to think that I am selling Chinese medicine short in any way. I just finished my 11 pills for today and hopefully, I will have enough self-control to swallow another 11 tomorrow. The pills come in all shapes and sizes and I can’t even begin to tell you what it says on the outside of the jars. Swallowing the 11 pills every morning is the last thing I do before I head out for first tracks in the powder snow. Between Chinese herbs and radiation, my goal is to pound my body back into shape so that I can ski all day long and not be tired during my next 65 days of skiing. If Chinese medicine will help me get well and enable me to continue skiing, then I’ll do whatever the herbalist tells me to do.

In fact, during that last visit, the herbalist gave me some exercises to do on a daily basis. These exercises are kind of like the feng shui of yoga. It’s "soft aerobics." I learned the hard way that I have to be careful where I do these exercises because the first time I tried them, I fell asleep in the chair, tipped over, fell to the floor and hurt my shoulder.

The Chinese soft aerobics might just be the most difficult component of my treatment because I feel so strange sitting there slowly moving my arms back and forth without even working up a sweat. I can’t imagine how these exercises performed at about one-eighth the pace of a snail can possibly be doing me any good.

The pace at which I am supposed to do these aerobics is about the same as taking a half hour to do one push-up. Speaking of push-ups, the last time I tried to do a few of those to get in shape for a winter of skiing was five or six years ago. The second day of push-ups, I tore my left rotator cuff. At the time, I didn’t think that a Chinese herbalist could have helped me so I resorted to the old standby surgical procedure of cut and sew back together with a little bit of crazy glue here and there, applied with the talented hands of Dr. Richard Hawkins in Vail, Colorado.

Maybe if I take some crazy glue to the herbalist, he could glue a dozen or so different things into one giant jawbreaker, flavour it with a little Sweet and Low, sell it on the Internet, retire and come ski with us in Montana at the Yellowstone Club.

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