Let The Games Begin!

Part 1 of 3
I’m not signing up for the actual CrossFit Games Open this year like I’ve done in years past, but I do plan to do all the workouts on my own. What makes CrossFit different from many other fitness endeavors is that its a community. We all are doing the exact same workout. Its why I love Ashtanga Yoga too. Somewhere, someone is doing the exact same sequence I’m doing. So when I’m doing the CrossFit WOD and I’m struggling with something, I know there are thousands of others feeling the same struggle. I know I don’t have to feel pity on myself even though I’m doing this by myself. And, since years of teaching yoga, I’m not fraught with comparisons anymore. But I’d still like to know that my effort is comparable and that I’m on track with my fitness.

Part 2 of 3
Since I am a Master’s athlete, I am strongly considering doing the Festivus Games (for real). I honestly struggle with some CrossFit movements, so actual competitions would be difficult. But this is made for the novice-intermediate athlete. And I’m sure I could work with the Rx weights and movements of the intermediate athlete, I’ll probably do the Master’s options. Yes, I can do lot of pullups, but I’m not going to be shy with only doing ring rows. Being a yogi means that I’m OK with whatever I do. No judgement, no self harm.

Part 3 of 3
I am signed up for the Wanderlust event in Chicago this May. I used to be an ultramarathoner. Going out for a 6 hour training run wasn’t a big deal at all. And a 50K race was my jam! But injuries started to creep in to where it was difficult to run a half mile without my calf going haywire. In the old days, a 5K was a warm-up for something bigger. Now, that’s going to be my race. But you know what? Even in the little things, we should strive to do well. So I’m using the Festivus Games training as my training for this race. I can shift to more specific running in the few weeks prior. My muscles and heart will be strong already.

So that’s my plan and should keep me occupied until Summer. Then I’ll be ready for swimsuit season — haha!!!


Thai Yoga Anatomy

thai-yoga-massage (1)

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t super excited to take my required Thai Yoga Anatomy course. I had two-semesters of human anatomy, comparative anatomy, gross human anatomy (yes, dissections), and kinesiology (I think it relates in this context). I had numerous courses in biology that covered aspects of anatomy. I studied cell biology where we went into detail of muscles, fibers, sarcomeres, blah-blah-blah. I knew I’d learn something, but I didn’t know how much.

Boy was I wrong!!

It started out with 12 hours of online instruction. The videos were well done and involved not only the rudimentary topics of names, origins, insertions, etc…. It also had sections on palpation, range of motion, and other tests of muscle function. When I arrived for the on-site training, we built heavily upon the online portion. Most of our time was spent feeling the muscles and doing various tests. It makes a huge difference from seeing something with your eyes or looking at inanimate models of bones and muscles, to actually evaluating muscles on different bodies.

So instead of poo-pooing the idea of learning more anatomy, its all I think about now. Mind you that in early Thailand, and maybe today, human dissections are not considered. In the West, we always seek a scientific reason for why things have worked so well for thousands of years. Yoga is 5,000+ years old and Thai Yoga Massage has roots to more than 2,500 years. They worked fine without human anatomy. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t raised as a child being around Thai healing and having decades of innate knowledge at our fingertips. We have to catch up with less intuitive studies and more scientific reasoning. But its all good, right? In a sense, we greater legitimize the practice by bringing it into mainstream science.

We had similar training when I did yoga teacher training. The focus was different in that it was solely about human movement. I think there is great value in taking this in depth course. It is actually listed as training for Yoga as well as Thai Yoga massage. There is a lot that was missing in my initial yoga training, not to mention the years of college anatomy. Not only has my Thai Yoga massage cranked up many notches, but also my yoga teaching. I had a yogi come up to me last week asking about pain in the back of her knee during wide leg forward folds. Before this training, I wouldn’t have been able to tell her confidently that it was her gracilis muscle. Now I know! And I gave her tools to work on to heal it herself.

If you’re interested, look up Thai Bodyworks in Evanston, Illinois. They have a lot to offer!



Peaceful Thoughts

I  have more peace in my life now than I’ve felt in weeks. I put on a joyful face and try to have a good attitude at all times. But underneath, a cauldron often boils. I’ve had work woes for months, but things are now back on track. I just finished a yoga workshop yesterday that I’ve been fretting about for a while. I had a lot of good ideas but I didn’t know how I was going to put it together into something coherent and helpful to others. But I really think I accomplished my mission and I hope I helped greatly in the healing process. For the past two weeks, my Sleep Cycle app told me that my sleeping was sub-par. I average in the 70-75% range in sleep quality. Saturday night, I was at 59% and I felt it throughout the day. But last night, I hit a whopping 92%! I am almost never above 90%. My resting heart rate was lower too. I’m pretty sure if I had one of those brain wave devices, I would register in the Good Mood mode! Its a good feeling to feel at peace. But I still have work to do and I have a mentoring session this Friday where I give a 90 minute Thai yoga massage to one of my instructors. I’m nervous but feeling confident about it.

I wish you all peace and happiness. Find milestones in your life that says you are OK and on the right track. Then begin toward the next one.

Oh Not That Again!

crossfit hspu

I had a back injury (non-CrossFit) that kept me from working out late last Summer. Then I did my own rehab for about a month. When I felt I could start taking a load again, I went back to CrossFit. I started with the daily CrossFit.com WODs and eventually shifted to my own programming. Then the holidays kind of derailed all my good intentions. I ate a lot and sat in a car for hours to and from family visits across the country. Good habits can be broken.

So at the New Year, like most people, I vowed to make some changes. I don’t do resolutions because I think resolutions are made to be broken. I wanted to get back to a strong deadlift. And I wanted to make some body changes. So I start programming for those things. Lots of powerlifting and bodybuilding were thrown into the mix. And just because I know I need to control my bodyweight, I did some cardio as well. I was rowing, ski erging, and running. But all of that gets very boring. I started skipping workouts. I didn’t have time to get through all I wanted to get through and then would just not do it. It just wasn’t working.

So last night, I look at my sheet that has all my tasks for the day; the same things I’ve been doing since the New Year. I glared at my sheet and threw it in the trash. I programmed a triplet of trap bar deadlifts, dips, and wallballs. Nothing crazy, just something simple. Three rounds only took me 4:50, but it gave me that air sucking, nerves tingling into my fingers and toes, wanna lay down and die kinda feeling. But when the waves of pain goes away, you know you’ve done something. It combined all the things I had been doing for an hour into 5 minutes. Did you hear that? 5 minutes!!! That’s not all I did, but that’s all I had to do. I’m lightly sore this morning and its all good.

The key is: do a little warmup (something fun: I do hula hooping, pole dancing, trampoline hopping, BOSU ball balances). Then set up a wod. Make it something DO-able. Don’t make it crazy. Maybe add a moderately heavy movement and a bodyweight movement. Optionally add a cardio component like box jumps, burpees, or double unders. Then that’s all you have to do!! If you feel you have more energy, do some heavy work or bodybuilding. Olympic weightlifting is my Go-To since its mostly concentric (i.e., it doesn’t make you so sore). But the Oly’s also test mobility, balance, speed, and power. That’s it. Just do the WOD if you don’t have time. Then you’ve already done a lot!

I’m back baby!!



The Bubble Wrapped Life

bubble wrap baby

A friend of mine posted a picture of her stretching on an airplane while waiting to fly. She was doing the splits with one socked foot on a head rest. Most people enjoyed the post. But one guy was severely offended. He ranted about how many germs her foot carries and how disrespectful it was to have a foot on a headrest. I wanted to write “Lighten up Francis!” (from the movie “Stripes”).

I hear this kind of rhetoric a lot. Some lady at my yoga studio made some antiseptic comment as well with her cleanliness hysteria. Do you know there aren’t any laws or health code violations for being barefoot in a restaurant or grocery store? A private store owner can do what they want. But the “No Shoes, No Service” idea is without merit. I’d be barefoot everywhere if they’d let me.

Do you want to know the truth? If I step on dog poop with my shoes on, it gets into the crevices of my soles and I carry it everywhere. If I don’t smell it, then I don’t even know its there. Yet, you’d let me walk into any store with those shoes. But if I am barefoot, 95% of the time I’m going to know I stepped in dog poop. And for me, 90% of the time, I won’t do anything about it. The bare soles of my feet are much better at self-cleaning than shoes are. And the cells of my epidermis slough off routinely and I get a fresh batch of cells deposited non-stop.

Once, I was walking barefoot to the Yoga studio, which is attached to a small mall. Some girl showing off for her two BFFs yelled out that I’m going to get a tapeworm. They all had a good laugh about that. Truth be told, I’ve never gotten any infection from bacteria, fungi, or nematodes since adopting barefootedness. I used to get Athlete’s foot all the time when I wore shoes too much. Shoes are perfect humidors that stay nice and moist for bacteria and fungi to grow. Believe me, my Ph.D. is in Microbiology. I did read the other day of a guy who pulled a 5 foot tapeworm out of his body because he ate raw sushi on a daily basis.

But people always claim they need boots for hiking. They need a special shoe to workout in. I used to go the CrossFit box and did all my workouts barefoot. Two sisters hiked the entire Appalachian trail South and back North barefoot. You don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!! You also don’t need a wrist brace. Or any kind of brace unless you are completely disabled. Frozen shoulder is mostly caused by being immobilized for too long. When you get a hip replacement these days, they have you walking within 24 hours. Don’t bubble wrap your life. You have to keep moving and being exposed to life. You don’t need clothes or a mat to do yoga. You don’t need a gym to do a workout. Just do it!

In the old days, if a kid came down with Chicken Pox or other communicable disease, parents would put their other kids in the bed with the sick one so that they’d get inoculated and thereby immune. We essentially do the same thing with vaccines. But vaccines are inert and won’t hurt you. Yeah, you’ll hear celebrities yap about the dangers of vaccines (and their Ph.D.’s are in what?). Most celebrities dropped out of school. I never listen to celebrities. Or people who tell me to put my shoes on.

People nowadays carry hand sanitizer. They are hypochondriacs living a Howard Hughes existence. They should pick up a book on Immunology. The human body has an amazing system for battling things. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a single kid with a food allergy to anything. We were farm boys. We worked with cattle and ran barefoot through the woods. When we got a boo-boo, Dad said “rub some dirt on it”! When I was in the Army, we sat in foxholes for days eating and doing all of our bodily functions. I never got sick from being in a foxhole.

Yet society wants to be bubble-wrapped. They coddle their kids to the point of being completely incapable of dealing with their environments. They never know how to deal with feeling cold or hungry. Everybody needs a food FAST now and then; its good for fat burning. Everybody needs to sit in the hot or cold without reprieve so they can develop heatshock proteins in their bodies. You can’t bubble-wrap yourself all the time with all the comforts of excess.

And coddling is not just physical, its mental too. If they are never exposed to hardship, they won’t be able to handle the world. They’ll need “counseling” and “safe spaces”. They don’t know how to fight for themselves. They get “triggered” by the smallest offense. They expect someone else to change their car tire when it goes flat. They will wait many minutes for the police to save them, when most offenses happen within the first 1 or 2 minutes of an altercation. If you know how to fight for yourself in any arena, you’ll be more confident. Mental and physical confidence breeds a kind of beauty unto itself.

Don’t bubble-wrap yourself, your kids, or anything you love. Instead, a little tough love goes a long way. Let them carry a bruise as a badge of honor. My parents were actually proud when I came home with a black eye from a wrestling match. I think they wanted to parade me in front of their friends to see the fighter I am. Kids at school said “I’d hate to see the other guy”. I know this sounds like a lot of Neanderthal machismo. But I don’t apologize. I know tough women who thrive in the mountains. I know kids who don’t cry when they fall down. I have a little dog that ran face first into a concrete step and didn’t feel sorry for itself one bit. These are the tough creatures that rise above it all.

Do me a favor. Lose the bubble wrap!

bubble wrap dog cape




Thai Yoga Massage Jan2018

cheri neal yoga thai massage
{picture from Cheri Neal Yoga}

I’ve only just begun this journey, but it seems like a lifetime already. I took the level I Thai Yoga Massage course last November. I started practicing on my fellow yoga teachers and eventually students and friends. The response I’ve gotten is what pushed me to take the leap into getting certification. With my first course, I learned a basic sequence that is grounded in the original sequence that everyone learns in Thailand. I was starting to feel so good about it. I watched videos to learn the nuances of flow and intensity. It is a poetic dance that is graceful and purposeful. I started to add new poses that I saw and started integrating them into sessions. Despite being so new to this, I was feeling like a Pro.

Then, the rude awakening is when I went back for more training. The format for the school at Thai Bodyworks in Evanston, IL is going through a slight transition. And I benefited greatly from these changes. So what I learned the next weekend was additional poses for the original sequence. It helped so much to already have practiced that sequence a lot. But it was still a steep learning curve. We had two instructors as well as very experienced students who critiqued my work. I rushed my pace at times. My thumb pressure was all wrong. I use too much muscle in my technique. And I realized I have so much more to learn about trigger points, assessment, and clinical techniques. I love to be humbled that way. You train what you know, develop mastery— then you erase the whiteboard and start building all over again.

I’m working on the new techniques and poses with my student practice. And I had my first semi-clinical session. Although everyone comes to me with different needs and pains. My first goal has been to do no harm. So it is complete icing on the cake when I hear that I’ve actually made a dramatic improvement in someone’s life. And the proof in the pudding is what my instructor did to me:

When I was in training, we were doing shoulder and pectoral work. It was the last segment of the training. I tore a pectoral muscle pretty badly a few years back and it has been painful and tight ever since. But in one 5 minute demo followed by an intense session of focused work on it, my instructor opened me up like I haven’t been in years. I was able to bench press and press overhead with a barbell without any pain at all. My yoga has improved too. I am more open in upward bow and other poses. I’m hoping I can do more binds now that my chest is open. This stuff really works.

I have a clinical assessment checkout with one of the instructors this Friday. And then more training. I love when my fellow Thai students ask if I am a trained bodyworker already because it feels so natural. It is becoming more instinctive for me with every practice. But not only for my Thai Yoga practice, but in my yoga teaching as well. My adjustments are becoming much more refined. I’m not afraid to get exactly where I need to be to effect a change in a student. It feels like I’m winning at life.



Coffee and Cashews


Some of my earliest recollections as a child was remembering the smell of coffee and pipe smoke. I find that super amazing today that my Dad was a pipe smoker. I remember seeing pictures of him in the Navy with a pipe. It always had this sweet smell to it. He gave that up a long time ago. But the smell of fresh brewed coffee lingers as well. It is something that resonates with me many years later.

One thing I really loved as a child was the times when my Dad would come home from work late at night. I think my Mom was always a night owl, but maybe it was in part because my Dad worked late. Dad would come home and sometimes we’d wake up and run to hug him. He’d pick us up and throw us in the air. And then he’d rub his whiskers on our faces, which would make us squeal with laughter. I didn’t like it that much, but it was all part of the fun. My Mom would be watching Johnny Carson and sometimes we’d get to watch for a bit. She’d make all of us chicken and dumplings.

My Mom was always a big-time shopper. She loved to browse the stores at the mall. She loved thrift shopping the most; and still does. I would remember getting dragged to the mall and we’d park on the South side at the entrance to Macy’s (or was it JC Penney?). We would walk through the riding lawn mowers, pools, and kids battery operated cars, you know the ones a kid could ride. Only the rich kids ever got those things. We’d sometimes go to friends houses to play with their toys that we didn’t have. As we passed through the women’s clothing section, this one corner was strategically placed with gourmet treats like chocolates, caramel corn, and nuts. Mom would always order cashews. They were warm and placed in a paper cone. Oh my!!! They were SO heavenly.

One morning at church during Sunday school, a missionary to Brazil came to speak with us little kids. While we were talking, I smelled these wonderful aromas. I had a strong sense of smell back then and still do. I’m part bloodhound. I recognized both smells, but not both smells together. Definitely, the coffee. Surprisingly, the cashews. After the talk with lots of neat pictures, we were able to partake of the treat common in that part of Brazil where many kinds of nut-like trees are found.

I’ll say “nut-like” since cashews are “drupes” and not true nuts nor legumes. Coffee beans are actually fruits or berries in the category of stone fruits. Sorry, the botanist part of me came out there.

Regardless, there we were with coffee and cashews in front of us. The coffee was heavily laden with milk and sugar. I probably wouldn’t recognize it so much as coffee today, though I know many like it that way. I prefer black coffee because I love the taste and wouldn’t want to diminish all that goodness. But believe me, the combo of this café com leite with cashews was overwhelming. It had a profound effect on the rest of my life. I’m having this combo as we speak.