When Nothing Else Matters

There are many lessons to take from Michael Leahy's "When Nothing Else Matters," not the least of which is the importance of retaining “fast-twitch muscles."

A friend emailed about a book he’d read recently about Michael Jordan called “When Nothing Else Matters.” It was written by Mike Leahy, one of his college roommates.

Jordan has been in the sports news lately with “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary on ESPN about his final season with the Bulls in 1997-98.

The book was about Jordan’s less-than-legacy-polishing two-year comeback with the Washington Wizards when he was 38 and at the end of his career.

“His orthopedist talks about how, during his three-year retirement after the Bulls, he began to lose fast-twitch muscles,” my friend wrote in a group email.

“Are you guys doing anything to preserve or develop fast-twitch muscles?”

Am I doing anything “to preserve or develop fast-twitch muscles?

I laughed. I had to laugh. There was nothing else to do but laugh.

“Fast-twitch muscles.” That didn’t ring a bell. If it did, there was nobody home to answer the bell.

Fast-twitch muscles made me think about a man I’d seen running on the bike path recently who was probably 20 years my junior. I watched him run. His gait looked painful, hard and I couldn’t believe that running, something I’d done for almost 40 years, was something I had done for 40 years.

Same with fast-twitch muscles, which, according to Google, meant, “support short, quick bursts of energy, such as sprinting or powerlifting.” I wasn’t convinced I had ever enjoyed a period where I was either blessed with or known for having them.

Better to dissect the phrase and treat each word on its own. Start with “fast.” If not a problem, that was a stretch. A stretch then, now and when now becomes then. If there had been a fast, fast was in the past.

“Twitch.” That sounds like a stroke. If not a stroke, someone inclined toward being nervous. I have had the latter and am probably headed toward the former.

“Muscles.” Depends on who you ask and you don’t want to ask fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne, who once looked me up and down and said, “Have you ever thought about working out?’

I had and I was and evidently, it wasn’t translating. When I think about muscles at this stage, goals include not getting stronger but getting less weak.

This is not to say that people in my peer group do not have fast-twitch muscles, they’ve just morphed into something else. Something more useful.

Take the cocktail hour. Want to see some fast-twitch muscles? Watch a thirsty guy fix a drink, down it and then pour and down another. Nothing slow about those muscles.

Want to see fast-twitch muscles? Go to Hodel’s and watch the staff refresh the cinnamon roll station after they’ve run out. People will move. They’ll hurdle small children dressed in their best church clothes to get ’em while they’re still warm and melty.

When a beautiful almost-4-year-old granddaughter runs down the street toward her grandfather or her 5-year-old cousin calls his grandmother to the phone on FaceTime, you’ll see fast-twitch muscles at work.

The answer to the question “Are you guys doing anything to preserve or develop fast-twitch muscles?” is yes. We are picking our spots. When we do, we are trying to make it count.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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