By Tim Sullivan

“39 is the new 40.” I heard these words come out of my mouth a couple of weeks ago as I tried to explain how my body feels these days. My New Year’s realization is that 2012 will be the year I turn 40 and I can only blame so much on having two young children. My friend Tony mentioned the other night that, of all of our friends, I have taken the longest to turn 40 and this will be the year that I will put his confusing sentiment to rest.

Don’t let the fresh faced photo next to my byline fool you. Like most columnists I had that taken back in the 1980’s when I was singing backup for Dexy’s Midnight Runners…  No, the 2011 me was hobbled by chronic calf injuries which was a bitter pill to swallow whilst chronicling the accomplishments of the incredible amateur athletes I’ve featured in this space.  I’m not saying my days of buying green bananas are over, but I can bid a fond farewell to any road race PR’s and my basketball techniques will involve less athleticism and decidedly more cheating.

So back to the calf injuries. As they consistently resurfaced throughout the year I felt like not only was Father Time showing up but he was ticked off and looking for an overdue rent payment. Being that the injury was in both legs foretold a particular doom.  It wasn’t just the calves.

My physical therapist Carl is a bald, goateed, giant of a man who probably should be availing the Atlanta Falcons of his pain-inflicting services but for now he seems to be content with me. According to Carl (who I tend to agree with because I’m afraid not to) the muscle tears in my calves are just a manifestation of a general body malaise, kind of like the “brain cloud” suffered by Tom Hank’s character in the movie Joe versus the Volcano. Like Joe, I prepared myself to be shipped off to a remote island where indigenous people led by a painted up Abe Vigoda would sacrifice me to an active volcano in return for a lifetime supply of orange soda.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, Carl has deep-tissue massaged (or “Rolfed” for the initiated) every muscle in my lower body. I’ve even undergone a couple of sessions of “Dry Needling,” which is a last resort effort to get a tight or aggravated muscle to release and it involves a huge man sticking a needle deep into the offending muscle. It hurts.  Sadly, the Rolfing hurts even more.

According to Carl, it was the tightness and underperforming leg muscles that have led to the calf injuries. The calves were being asked to do too much when I was running or performing the various boot camp-like exercises I subjected myself to and they’ve staged a revolt I’ve termed “Occupy Tim.” I don’t know exactly what their point is but I’m pretty sure they are right.

My Gluteus muscles have been designated by Carl as the most guilty in the grand landscape of my failing, soon-to-be-40 year old body. They just aren’t holding up their end of the bargain so he has me doing a series of exercises stolen from a Golden Girls episode to wake those butt muscles up. I do them at work. Some people stare.

Unable to run off calories I’ve taken a hard look at my diet. After a particularly gluttonous Thanksgiving weekend I decided to give this gluten-free diet a try.

It must make sense, right! In a nutshell (because nuts are ok) this diet called for eschewing bread, pasta, cereal, beer and crackers. These are perhaps my five favorite items on the menu. I thought if I could really avoid these things for a month, I’d be so wafer thin that Christian Bale would be shadowing my every move to play the guy that got wafer thin on the gluten-free diet in a blockbuster movie coming soon to a theater near you.

I lost about four pounds. Turns out they make all sorts of gluten-free products for folks who actually have a gluten intolerance that pretty much fills up the space you left behind by not eating Cheez-its. My wife Kristen has offered that perhaps I should avoid “Nut Thins” and the like and to stop eating deli ham by the fistful.  At least I get wiser as I get older.  And that’s what I’m looking forward to–enlightenment (and tweed jackets with elbow patches)! At least until dementia sets in.

Happy New Year, folks!  More amazing amateur athlete stories to come.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.