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 Post subject: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:26 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1730
Once one persists in this avocation long enough, one encounters the loss of old comrades, through attrition, infirmity or their time with the reaper.

It seems that in the past, professional railroaders had horrible health habits, outside of the physical activity of the job. The other night, I was watching one of the John Pechulis videos and the narrator, Mike Bednar spoke of having a stroke in 2006 and quipping that the doctor asked what he ate, and the response almost induced a stroke in the doctor.

It seems poor diet, little physical activity, smoking and drinking were just part of the railroad culture back in the day, and still somewhat persists.

Whether you do this professionally or as a weekend warrior, I'm curious what, if anything, others are doing to extend their ability (to the extent that it can be done) to maintain their fitness for duty. That is, working out, ensuring that one's diet has enough carotenoids to maintain healthy eyesight etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:46 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
superheater wrote:
It seems poor diet, little physical activity, smoking and drinking were just part of the railroad culture back in the day
Yep, and those guys rarely lived to their 50s...

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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:18 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:20 pm
Posts: 443
Perhaps a bit off topic -
I used to work with a guy who said, "you never see any old welders." Is it true that welding is an unhealthy occupation that leads to an early death? I know some weekend welders who are old, so maybe it's only long term exposure that is unhealthy.


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:40 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5250
Location: southeastern USA
Most of the old heads at Spencer back in the 80's when i started there are gone now, and all of them remembered the boiler shop having a constant cloud of asbestos fibers in the air due to the removal and installation of lagging. Most smoked, all drank to some extent, and were banged up from decades on the job when railroading meant hard physical labor.

On the other hand, my generation (boomer) was probably the last to not have been protected from things like childhood diseases that served well to jump start the immune system, were sent outside to play in the dirt and traffic, got cut and injured in play on a regular basis, and healed up just fine with minimal interference....... I think it did make us stronger.

It's a constant trade off between things that make life less bleak, like BBQ and good beer, and a certain amount of not being stupid about smoking, addictions of various sorts, and the type and extent of chances we take as we find ourselves getting progressively slower and weaker as we get more decrepit. One of those aforementioned old heads in his 70s tried boarding a car during a slow wyeing movement in the old Southern Steam program back then, and fell off in front of me one day, thankfully rolled away from the wheels. I try to anticipate those kinds of mistakes so I have less potentially fatal things to learn the hard way instead.

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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:45 pm 
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Dave wrote:
On the other hand, my generation (boomer) was probably the last to not have been protected from things like childhood diseases that served well to jump start the immune system, were sent outside to play in the dirt and traffic, got cut and injured in play on a regular basis, and healed up just fine with minimal interference....... I think it did make us stronger.
The ones that survived it, maybe. I have plenty of friends in your age range and all of them knew of at least a couple of kids they went to school with who died way ahead of their time.
I can't recall anyone my age who died as a child with the exception of one I knew of who was in a horrific car crash...

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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:55 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1730
"Most of the old heads at Spencer back in the 80's when i started there are gone now, and all of them remembered the boiler shop having a constant cloud of asbestos fibers in the air due to the removal and installation of lagging. Most smoked, all drank to some extent, and were banged up from decades on the job when railroading meant hard physical labor. "

As I recall, the late Bernie O'Brien (always accompanied by a cigar), told a story about men in the roundhouse (Colonie, NY, I believe) throwing asbestos snowballs and other "old heads" told stories about washing tools and hands in toxic stuff (PCB's?)

I think we all know these stories-but I'm interesting in what people are doing today to keep themselves "in the game" and to keep the reaper at bay. It seems if you are fortunate to avoid stuff like bad arthritis, dementia, stroke and the like, you can still do a little railroading into your 70's or 80's.

I generally go to the gym four times a week. Two days weights, two days mostly cardio. Being a desk jockey, I try to keep up my strength, wind and flexibility. I no long concentrate on an attempt to bench press a Buick, but to have the ability to climb steps, hang off equipment and carry a grip at the end of a day even when its 95 or 100 degrees.


I eat and supplement with a focus on three family bugaboos: Macular degeneration, diabetes and heart disease. I don't smoke, and even when Rule G doesn't apply, limit my alcohol intake. I'd like to drop a few pounds to ease the impact on knees that still work well without pain, but are subject to change.

Obviously, one must be mindful that even the most diligent efforts at health can result in being the healthiest guy at the Shady Acres Nursing Home or the cemetery.


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 3:14 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:08 am
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Superheater - Sounds like you have a great plan.

I used to scoff at guys who hit the gym but, as I get older, I have grown to appreciate the importance of regular exercise. Shop work gives plenty of motion and loading, but it is often not the controlled motion and loading that one gets with proper weight training. This is important to avoid injury and maximize muscle mass increase/retention.

Keeping body weight down helps mobility and endurance as well as the ability to get into all those tight spaces, but as we age our bodies shed muscle mass so staying the same weight is not enough. Regular weight training to maintain and/or increase muscle mass is important, especially when it comes to maintaining core strength. A strong core will help protect vulnerable skeletal areas, such as the spine, and reduce the load on the upper body when lifting or otherwise applying force.

“I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” - Woody Allen


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:08 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:24 pm
Posts: 102
I bike to my organization, 16 miles away. And then the 16 miles home.
I do this about 1-2 times a week, on top of riding to classes.

It's certainly cheaper and healthier!
At least until you wreck....


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:20 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
superheater wrote:
I don't smoke, and even when Rule G doesn't apply, limit my alcohol intake.
I once asked a doctor what he'd suggest to people to do for better health if he could only suggest one thing.
Laying off the booze, he said, was an easy choice for him. He said he couldn't think of any other single decision that leads to better health potential overall. And, he said, unless you're a raving alcoholic it's really not that tough to implement. He also said, "Yeah, I know some people hang with folks who drink all the time, but I ask them, is that even such a great idea?" In other words, hang with people who don't promote stupid decisions. I made the decision to hang around only people who can make positive impacts to me, many years ago, and its a decision that has served me well.
Frankly, I've never understood the appeal of booze. I drank in the Army like many soldiers do, but even then never to excess. I have a drink on the anniversary of losing some people under my command, but other than that, I can go an infinite amount of time without alcohol and never miss it.
Heck, I hate the feeling of being out of control and not being as sharp as I can be, mentally.

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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:05 pm
Posts: 114
I've dropped about 45 pounds. EVERYTHING feels better now - keeps you healthy.

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Jim Lundquist, Director of Museum Services
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
Campo, CA (San Diego County)


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:58 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:58 am
Posts: 728
After dropping dead on the side of the road three years ago, spending a week in a coma after being revived from a cardiac arrest, and spending two months in hospital, I'm feeling much better...

Things like that serve as a great wake-up call, as long as you are lucky enough to wake up.

Definitely, guys, take care of yourselves and work/ play safely!

Steve Hunter


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 448
Location: Byers, Colorado
Speaking as a railroad retiree, the statistic I heard is that 40% of us croak before getting that first pension check. Out of that 60%, many are too sick to have a beer with me or go to the strip joint. I hate to say it, but they might as well be dead, too.

It's also a joke that so many old heads died of asbestosis --- in their 80s.

One fella I worked with always showed up to work on time, never laid off, always went to Sunday School, ate healthy, excercised and stayed in shape, never smoked or drank --- He fell over dead a few weeks after he retired. BORED HIMSELF TO DEATH, I say.

Of course you guys are right that you shouldn't rot yourself out with vices or gluttony, lay around 24/7, or take stupid risks. But, overdoing the goody goody lifestyle can kill you, too !!! I'm with Dave & others who say it's better to just get over things as you go through life, than it is to run to the doctor every time you get the sniffles or stub your toe, and then explore your feelings about it. (Did you say that, Dave ???) There have been plenty of cases where one of our oldtimers decided to start living clean, quit everything unhealthy all at once, and then keeled over from the shock to his system.

Whether or not you agree with me, PLEASE consider the advice my doctor gave me --- Do not try to change all your bad habits all at once. Your chance of success will be much greater if you concentrate on changing one thing at a time. Let yourself readjust to that one positive change, before making another one, and good luck.

Take Care & WORK SAFE

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Sammy KIng


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:23 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 448
Location: Byers, Colorado
And, there's one more thing that works real good for a lot of single, divorced, or widowed rails --- ADOPT A PET. Maybe two or three.

My cats have kept me from cracking up ever since I was on the extra board 35 years ago, and I credit them for my relatively good health. I also care for the neighborhood strays. Dogs are great too, but I might suggest that cats are the traditional railroader's companions because 1) They can take care of themselves if you're gone working crazy hours 2) They are nocturnal, like we are 3) They appreciate being treated well, unlike many people 4) they won't borrow money and forget to pay it back 5) THEY EAT RATS.

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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:35 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:53 pm
Posts: 130
I would suggest volunteering on your local track gang.

We have a small group of mostly-desk-jockeys who volunteer one night a week, changing ties, and doing other miscellaneous M of W work.

Personally, I get a lot of positives out of it
1) You get to be around the railroad
2) Camaraderie of working on a like-minded team
3) Fresh air
4) (Very) good exercise
5) Perhaps most importantly, for me, the satisfaction of making a tangible, long-lasting improvement to the museum. You leave tired, but it's a "good" tired, with the knowledge that you've made it a better place.

It's not easy to find an activity with so many positives.

JR


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 Post subject: Re: Preserving... Ourselves
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5250
Location: southeastern USA
I don't think I've ever recommended exploring feelings, Sammy...... it's the gateway to a life of constant searching for other reasons to be unhappy. Life throws more than enough at you without looking for more. I second the cats idea - nothing is more pleasantly soothing than a cat purring and dozing in your lap, or more amusing than a kitten playing. Dogs are naturally obsequious, but if a cat loves you, you know you have value.

To some extent, we're captives of our own genetic predispositions to various conditions - if you know who your parents and grandparents were, and what they had to deal with in their health, you kind of know what you need to watch out for, too. Nature is a given - nurture is what we can control to some extent. If you're like me and you don't it's more a crap shoot.

Of course, you have to accept that unless you make a life of worrying and working out, you are probably going to be like most of us, just avoiding the worst habits a lot, the middling bad ones mostly, and taking the occcasional lapse under specific circumstances as a given you will live with. The healthiest guy I worked with died running in yet another marathon. He was a few years younger than me, and showed no signs of trouble, until the last one. OK, there's a lot worse ways to die than fast, but who's in a hurry?

Supe, for me, the best I can do is not start smoking cigars or pipes again, keeping alcohol down to a glass or two of wine or a beer with dinner, walking a lot during the course of my work, having work that includes more physical activity than a desk job, and the additional effort of being the caregiver in my family - which includes cooking, so I try to cook what we like using things like Olive Oil instead of lard, and don't fry anything any more. I also prefer a bit of salad with a meal, and whole grains to white flour if I bake. My recipes are not health foods, usually based on whatever kind of meat we like is marked down on its sell-by date along with sides that go well with it. It's working so far; I suffer more injuries from my innate lack of physical grace and bad vision than from organic diseases, and keep my weight between 150 and 160 which at 5'10" isn't too bad. If there's one thing I'd work on harder, it's portion control - I have improved as a cook way more than I should have.

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"Techies never minded eating bits and jots of their work. They were grit and grease inside and out and could turn a pile of junk into a magical kingdom."

Andrea Hairston


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