Calf Update

I’ve told you before the story of my life of running from 11 years old to, ahem, near 50. One day, my left calf seized up one-half mile into a run. I was preparing for a 50K race at the time. I let it rest a little only to find the same problem. I can barely even walk on it when that happens. So I’d let it rest long, like a month. Then longer. Eventually it was a year. It made me so sad that something I’ve done all my life was now gone. This past year, I’ve used Thai Yoga Massage to get myself back out there. I would last longer before having the seizing problem again. It helped, but not enough. I needed a solution.

Truth be told, I work out a lot. I do Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, calisthenics, and lots a yoga, all as part of my CrossFit regimen. But in all honestly, my journey into functional fitness somehow trimmed away the need for calf-specific training. Of all things, I thought the calf work would cause more problems for my running. Boy was I wrong.

So I’ve been on a calf raise kick lately. I mostly do singles with a dumbbell in hand on a 4×4" block. I focus mostly on eccentric contraction. Then I’m sure to stretch a lot afterward. The other day, I programmed sets of 20 with both feet as part of a CrossFit MetCon. I really think its working. My calves felt stronger and less susceptible to strain.

I end up giving a lot of advice to people with all the experience I have and the yoga and Thai yoga massage background. But sometimes, I don’t abide by my own advice. Eccentric contraction along with contract and relax type stretching (PNF) can be very healing for muscles and tendons that have problems. I’ll paraphrase that by saying there isn’t such a thing as tendonitis since its really a muscle problem. Tendons don’t often cause us problems unless they tear, which was a muscle problem in the first place.

Eccentric contraction is the lengthening of muscle. It is usually the lowering phase of a lift that lengthens muscle. Your little myofibrils both like it and hate it since eccentric contraction is where most soreness arises. But if soreness is an indicator for your growth, then so be it. Its a win-win in that case.

For any pain symptom in your skeleton, try eccentric contraction along with stretching and lots of heat (before and after). NEVER ICE! Haha, sorry to yell. But even health professionals will tell you to ice. Don’t do it. It will totally slow your healing. Yes, it feels good. But morphine numbs too, so numbness isn’t necessarily a positive characteristic. Instead, use heat to heal.

Misnomers About Lifting Sports

If you ever wanted to see uneducated comments about sports, look at YouTube comments. They are flush with people trolling videos they know nothing about. When, most likely, they are people who spend most of their time on their parent’s old couch in the basement pilfering wifi bandwidth.

I posted a picture of a hook grip not long ago. I borrowed the picture above to show how to get into a hook grip. Most Olympic weightlifters tape their thumbs to get an even better grip. So I got a lot of concern from people thinking I injured my thumbs. Haha! Since you have to use an overhand grip with both hands in this sport, it helps to hold onto the bar. At first, its quite uncomfortable and doesn’t make sense. But after you use it for a few years, you realize how indispensable it is. Its not controversial; just a bit odd looking.

The Continental Clean is another one that gets a lot of flak on the interwebs from so-called "experts". The pic above is Hafthor Bjornsson, one of the strongest men in the world, doing a continental clean. A strongman axle is much thicker than an regular barbell. So you deadlift, or really high clean pull, it with a mixed grip (one hand overhand, one hand underhand). You try to pull it to your chest or belly with your first pull. Then you flip both hands to overhand while its resting on your belly. You inch it up from there until you can clean your elbows underneath. Then you press overhead. But you see people (especially CrossFit’rs) get ridiculed for poor form and technique doing this lift. The uneducated among us are always the loudest.

The other movement that is mercilessly shamed is the kipping pull-up. For some weird reason, lots of people hate CrossFit. I think CrossFit’rs post a lot on the internet, so they are subject to public debate. But I see just as many people skateboarding, waveboarding, juggling, and yoga-in on the internet too. To be honest, I think the hate against CrossFit is the coverage it gets. They have been on ESPN when other lifting sports are rarely if even on mainstream sports channels. I think bodybuilders are the ones who dislike kipping pullups the most. Even my own brother, a former amateur competitive powerlifter, ridicules this move. But if you watch bodybuilder’s form in movements, they don’t have much to talk about. When you are only bench pressing 6 inches down and calling those reps or curling massive amounts while jerking your hips, you can’t really talk much. But there is a purpose for that too and I totally understand. I just wouldn’t call them strict movements. The truth is, CrossFit’rs didn’t invent kipping pullups. Kipping is a movement that is used beginning with pre-teen gymnasts. And you see it in high level gymnastics when they mount a low bar to get themselves high on a bar. When you talk about performance for reps, you do all you can to meet the requirements. Its not the same as when you are doing basic fitness. But the uneducated among us are oblivious to these facts.

Probably the most controversial (yes even more than kipping pullups) is the high arch while bench pressing for powerlifters. Its one that I probably won’t be doing anytime soon. But then again, I’m not a competitive powerlifter. However, it comes back to bodybuilding critiques again. A bodybuilder doing bench press has a different goal from a powerlifter. A bodybuilder is building mass in their chest, so they lift it with their back flat on the bench. A powerlifter is eeking every muscle of their body, not just their pectorals, to get the weight up. They end up using a strong leg drive and actually pulling with their latissimus dorsi when they lift. It becomes a totally different lift when it comes to performance.

For the commenters on YouTube and elsewhere; I’d think it wise to just stay in your lane. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then leave it alone. Its usually those 20-somethings or old has-beens who haven’t touched a barbell since high school football who are the loudest. But you also hear die-hard promoters of their gym or style who are threatened by something that can take money out of their own pockets. If you decide to make a comment, at least educate yourself on a wide range of subjects. Education goes a long way.

Yes, Climate Does Change

I know that climate changes. I see it every week. Right now, I’m seeing cool and wet weather. Two weeks ago, it was super hot and dry.

But then you say "climate isn’t weather". Oh yeah, I agree. Climate implies trends over a long period of time. So while you would say that I can’t call climate what happens over the period of weeks, why can’t I say climate happens longer than 100 years?

Greenland was once green. Maybe several times it was green since we don’t clearly know. We weren’t there and the ice cores don’t always show everything.

"Woolly" mammoths in Siberia (which is usually perpetually cold) had tropical vegetation in their guts and surrounding their bodies. So why tropical vegetation? Because it was once very warm. Many think that extinctions, including the dinosaurs, was due to a drastic climate change. And like we often do, we speculate, often without proof. So the mammoths were supposed to have woolly fur, like a yak, but they didn’t find fur. It was just graphically depicted like that because that is their hypothesis. When, in reality, it could have looked more like an elephant or a rhinoceros with a thick, mostly-hairless skin.

We see extreme rising levels of the Great Lakes this year. But we don’t have glaciers that melt around these lakes. Instead, it was a snowy Winter and a very wet Spring. In fact, in some places in Michigan, it was the 5th wettest Spring on record. Haha!!! So this brings me to another point. When you see the 5th wettest, or 2nd hottest, or whatever rank in history, often you look at the previous record as 1896 or 1910 A.D. That means first of all it was recorded. But, often these hottest, coldest, wettest, driest times were before the industrial revolution (early 1900’s). So if humans causes global temperature change, then what caused these changes in the past?

Cause and effect. They say people in France live long because of their diet. However, recent evidence shows that high levels of Resveratrol from red wine may cause an increase in longevity "despite their diet". In other words, they eat crappy, but the Resveratrol counters their excess. The scientific method states that we develop a hypothesis, one or more alternates hypotheses, and a null hypothesis. Then you test all of these hypotheses, not just the one that supports your supposition. Instead, non-scientists tend to only find a way to support their theory to call it a fact. When, in fact, this is not the case.

Want to know a secret? When I was part of the research faculty of a large university, I had to find problems. Or I had to create problems that weren’t problems. Then, I would propose research to solve those problems. So if I want money, I thrive on problems. The more you can convince the government and the public there is a problem, the more support you’ll get. Most research is biased toward continuing a research area with a perpetual problem and solutions that only you can solve. So if global warming is your expertise, you do everything you can to make this forefront in everyone’s minds. Its how research works.

Climate changes, but what is the true cause? To a toddler walking with mom down the street–they see a garbage truck go by and see smoke coming out of the exhaust. The elementary hypothesis they devise is, all pollution is from garbage trucks. But that’s how a toddler thinks.

I listened to a show on the radio yesterday. Some guy called in decrying plastics and ocean pollution caused by the U.S. When the real fact is that by a huge margin, many developing countries are responsible for a majority of the world’s pollution and plastics in the ocean. To some, its only greedy white people who cause problems. They can’t find it in themselves to look at facts. Everything is driven by emotion. And the science of emotion is futile.

Both myself and my wife got sick in Thailand from air pollution. We started to track our days and locations and even times of the day by how much air pollution there was. There are apps that show the Air Quality Index (AQI). If you look globally, nearly all of Asia, including China and India, are perpetually in the red (dangerous zone). The AQI in Thailand when we were there was near 700 at times. They closed the schools and universities the week before we arrived. We almost cancelled our trip. A research report shows that respiratory problems of native Thailanders is at epidemic levels. The same is likely true of most of Asia. When Thailand had an AQI of 700, back home in Illinois the AQI was 35, which is almost nil in comparison. So when we start pointing fingers at pollution at a global level, you need to point in the right direction.

Of course, you aren’t going to get this kind of education in colleges or the media. They are biased toward their research endeavors or books they write. Instead, its our fault. Everything is our fault. The first thing I’d do is start to really educate yourself because the education taught in schools is lacking. Its actually not that hard to find. You also need to learn the scientific method and a basic understanding of statistics. Its a better way to develop a framework for thought than solely abiding by emotions. All I see on social media and mainstream news is emotion. Emotion doesn’t pay the bills.

Climate is changing. It always has. But it will change whether we are here or not. Its much more complicated than a solely anthropocentric self-centeredness.

What’s Up?

I was watching a report on the news this morning and it made me wonder. Young people these days don’t get married, don’t own a house, don’t have babies, don’t seek a pension, and don’t have a savings. The report said that these people are selfish. They don’t have an altruism outside of personal causes that they can swipe into social media. They most certainly don’t give to charity. They don’t believe in a higher power and resist authority. Men are becoming less men. People want co-ed bathrooms. Kids are becoming more passive. There isn’t a desire to expect more out of themselves or their country. They’d much rather have the State dole out what they need. But then they end up in want. They envy those who have, but mask it in hate of greed. When, if given to them freely, they’d happily take free money and free things. Except they would rather not have to work for it or compete for it. Its all a mixed up world.

As bad as all of that sounds to me, it makes me wonder where we’ll be in 10 years.

Manmakers

https://youtu.be/BmURazyCWkw

As part of a long WOD (workout of the day) last night, I did Manmakers. My version is a pushup with a side plank using dumbbells. Its similar to what you see in this video.

For me, the pushup was really easy. But the posterior deltoid work from the side planks was killer. I could totally feel it as I did it. More importantly, I can feel it today. I was trying to do some wall work rotating into a backbend. But my rear delts and infraspinatus kept cramping so badly. So I know they were worked really hard.

Add this amazing exercise to your workouts.

Antireligiosity

Is that a word?

Its amazing to me that I live in such a worldly community. Many of us practice yoga and many types of healing arts. Yet I often see people, yes even friends, who become very anti-religious at times. I say that tongue-in-cheek. They are anti-religious when it comes to their various causes. But when it comes to getting presents at Christmas, partying during Mardi Gras (an inherently religious tradition), wearing green during "Saint" Patrick’s Day, giving thanks during Thanksgiving, and playing Easter with bunnies and such, they are all over it. Personally, I don’t celebrate things that I don’t believe in.

When I went to Thailand, it was during a Buddhist holiday called Makha Bucha. For the day, they didn’t serve alcohol, many businesses were closed, and all the State offices were closed including banks. I really wanted to go to a Buddhist temple just to observe the culture of this religion. But I’m not Buddhist. I wouldn’t partake in observances in any real way. Its not that I’m anti-Buddhist. Its just that I believe differently.

What amazes me about antireligiousity is that people can openly decry my beliefs. At the same time, they don’t decry Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or other beliefs. One exception is Judaism. They tend to bash Judaism at a heart beat. And while most of my fellow believers honor Judaism and other religions, many of those religions bash mine. Its strange how that works.

So my yogi-types decry my religion. Yet in many yoga studios, you’ll see Buddha statues, Ganesha and other dieties, and other religious imagery. Yet if I put a cross in there, a Jewish star, or other symbols of faith, people would freak. Talk about acceptance and tolerance. NOT! Most of these people don’t even know what any of that means. If you truly abided by Buddhist or Hindu beliefs, you’d find restrictions even greater than what the church believes down the street from you. Its a lack of knowledge that baffles me. I would even call it ignorance. If you look at the word "ignore", and then you ignore vehemently, that’s ignorance.

I’ve seen friends on social media say prayers (as in "thoughts and prayers") are meaningless. But in saying so, they are bashing what I believe. When nearly all religions in the world pray. Prayer is something that means something to people who believe. It is communication with the God we believe in. To say that is meaningless says that you don’t acknowledge our beliefs.

And as mystical and hokey as prayer sounds, people believe all the other little superstitions that hover in our every day life. I can’t fathom the number of non-believers I hear say "God Bless You" when somebody sneezes. Its so silly. They believe in crystals and beads and astrology and other metaphysical concepts. But they belittle something like prayer. Its such an amazing hypocrisy.

To me, antireligiosity is a religion unto itself. You have to actively focus and truly believe in anti-religion. You even see signs on billboards and the sides of buses that celebrates and promotes anti-religion. To lack faith in something greater than you and to not have hope in anything other than the physical world is defeating to most of us. In every primitive culture of the world, there is a reference to a God’s eye. We see it on our dollar bill in the USA. Its a part of all of history. Yet that isn’t enough for us to believe. It baffles me to no end.

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes!

"If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain."

Most people falsely attribute this quote to Winston Churchill, but he never said it. Actually, variants of this quote were translated from Francois Guizot (1787-1874) and later John Adam quoting Thomas Jefferson in 1799.

But not truer words could be said more than 200 years later.

When we are adolescents, we seek freedom and independence in things we do apart from our parents. We want to chart our own course and find an idealistic view of society. Its kind of opposite day to our parents. Most of us love our parents, but at the time, some of us didn’t.

When I was a kid, I always looked up to my parents and thought they knew everything. I always did, so maybe I was in the minority. When I went to college, I would debate ideas from philosophers I read and other questions I had about life. Eventually, I started to think I knew more than my parents. They wouldn’t let me own a car. They wouldn’t let me move in with my friends. There was so many restrictions that I didn’t want to have. I still obeyed, but I wasn’t happy about it.

A few years later, I was married, I was renting an apartment, and I was working while in graduate school. Let me sidetrack to graduate school. When you are writing a thesis or dissertation, you are supposed to delve into a topic that nobody else in the world has ever considered. It was supposed to be original research. So to do that, you have to pigeon-hole yourself into a specific category. What you realize when you do this is, you are very smart in that little crack in the sidewalk, but there is so much more in the world to be known. The smarter you get, you come to the reality that you know nothing. Through this process, I found I was always asking my parents for advice. I started to realize the wisdom they have. Its that reality that makes me take back ideas of independence and freedom.

When you are living in your parent’s basement, you don’t have to pay homeowner’s insurance, utilities, property taxes, and, for me, I ate their food. I had the right in my mind to be free. But when I finally got out on my own, freedom isn’t what its cracked up to be. Instead there is Responsibility. When you are responsible, you have to pay your taxes, you have to vote, you have to take care of kids and pets, and a huge mortgage that will take a lifetime to pay off.

There is a good book that says, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded". When I was a kid in high school, all I had to do was study and take a test. I had very few real responsibilities. But today, the amount of responsibility can be amazing. Even overwhelming.

A metaphor for life is your home. Since you spend a lifetime to pay it off, you want to maintain the value of your investment. Renters can’t possibly understand this completely. You replace your roof, you keep the paint from chipping, and you maintain or improve its curb appeal. If you don’t, the value of your house goes down. This includes the quality of your neighborhood. In fact, you don’t buy a house, you buy a neighborhood. If you live in a good neighborhood and it becomes over-run by gangs and drug dealers, the value of your house greatly depreciates. So you care about your community.

Now, imagine I don’t lock my door and someone goes inside and takes my hard earned belongings. They take my cute little doggies. Or they just destroy the memories I have inside. Maybe I don’t have a fence and someone decides they want to take my babies. Maybe someone decides to put a pile of trash in my front yard. Maybe someone even decides to camp out in my yard. Nobody wants that kind of invasion into your home.

I won’t spell it out for you, but now think about a country under the same expectations I have for my home. That’s where a little wisdom and real knowledge takes place. Thailand just two days ago arrested 1,800 foreigners who were working jobs illegally that are meant for the Thai people. They deported 1,500 of them. When I travel, I always have a passport. I need a visa in some cases. I haven’t been to a country where this is not required. It isn’t about hating someone, or being racist, or being heartless. Its about common sense. I can’t budget to feed and house a complete stranger in my house. There has to be a lot of trust and payment on their part to do that. Otherwise, I’d go broke. Its common sense.

I still make mistakes at my old(er) age. And I keep learning from my mistakes. When you think about 50 years of doing stupid things, you end up trying not to make those mistakes again. Its monumentally more experience than a 20 year old. You can afford to be idealistic at a young age because you have no responsibility. Just wait. It will come. And then you will see clearly.