Category Archives: health

Its Sad, But True

So, I’m ashamed to say as a fan of the music of Alice in Chains, I didn’t know a lot of the history of the band. The reason for my renewed interest was a group that has popped up in my Spotify feed now and then. It is the band Mad Season. I was thinking, “that singer sounds just like Layne Staley of Alice in Chains”. Well yeah, one in the same.

So as I read about Layne, its sad but its true. He fell along a predictable path of some of the grunge rockers of the Pacific Northwest. One of my favorite rock icons was Jimi Hendrix who probably paved the way for the success and untimely death of rockers from the Seattle area. I once visited his grave and memorial site a few years back. Layne died on the anniversary of the suicide of Chris Cornell. I think Chad Bennington left us a year after Chris too.

Layne was raised as a Christian Scientist. And before you pigeon hole me as a radical, Bible thumping kind of person (which I am), hear me out. I understand the heartache many people feel when they feel disenfranchised from organized religion. If you never understand the true principles of those beliefs, then it always seems fringe. But of the mainstream religions with deep rich histories, Christian Science is a more modern idea without a lot of roots. But it doesn’t really matter. I know people who were raised in Christianity and have now pushed it away. They are the most vocal anti-Christians in the world. I feel for them sometimes because there are some people in this world who are not to be followed or believed. But that’s the point. Don’t make your beliefs about people. People often fail us. You have to seek answers for yourself.

There are some traditional denominations that discouraged people in the past of reading scriptures. In olden times, scriptures were not readily available. Only the priests read them and shared them orally with others. With the advent of the modern printing press, the scriptures became known to more people. People like Martin Luther started reading for himself and started to question what the Church was doing at the time. So then you are guided by the opinions of Man (and Woman) and not by your own self study, systems of beliefs often fail us. People are not perfect. And when you put all your eggs in the People Basket, you can always be let down.

I feel the same as a yoga teacher. I really honored my yoga teachers when I first started; I still do. I saw them as untouchable, other worldly, and wise beyond reproach. I never considered them as gurus, but as someone who deserves respect. We have a teacher’s room at our studio. Its a place where teachers can place their mats, receive materials from the studio owner, and some will even prepare for classes in there. It kind of sets us apart from our students. But the minute we start to place people on a pedestal, its when bad things start to happen. People start to believe in the hype and start to wear their crowns and tiaras with lots of pride. They want their feet kissed and much more. Its sad but true; people let us down. Never lift anyone so high that they can’t see below the clouds.

Back to music. I really love music. When I listen to music, I’m in total bliss. I’m such an audiophile that I can get lost in the syncopation. I have a childlike curiosity about music. It is always innocent in the beginning. But sometimes, I get curious about a lyric that I just heard. Sometimes its blatant enough that I have to remove it from all my playlists. If it is just vulgar or unjustifiably abrasive, then I remove it from my playlists. And if it turns out that a song goes against my beliefs, then that gets removed as well. I usually try not to think about it. But sometimes its right in your face and you can’t do anything but turn from it.

Personally, I find my foundation in my beliefs. Its what keeps me living and in complete hope for the future. It keeps me from getting too down when I see a world in peril. Its because of my faith that I can live. But when I read about Layne Staley, I realized he would have been just two years younger than me today if he would have lived. He was very outspoken against religion. Many of the rockers of old were the same. Yet their depression and addiction showed they had no hope for the future. They could have had anything they wanted. They could have managed their finances to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. The American Dream could have come true for them. But their disbelief in something higher than themselves puts all their problems on their own shoulders. They can have all the money and friends and accolades the world can give them, but its not enough.

I feel bad for people who end up making the decision to end their lives. Some of it is made slightly easier by being blinded in addiction. Layne of Alice in Chains at over 6 feet tall was estimated to be 85 pounds when he died two weeks prior to being found. He was alone at 34 years old. Very alone. He said in one of his lyrics “Deny your maker”. And that’s what he did. Addiction is such a terrible thing. But its preventable. If you were raised in a loving home by a mother and father who loves you. If you have hope for the future and hold firmly to that belief. If you have friends who don’t try to take you off your path, but instead support you and hold your hand as you walk, then you can’t fail.

Its a choice to take a drug. People say that our vices, no matter how mundane and seemingly harmless, lets us to open up to more illicit vices. When you’re high on weed or alcohol, who knows what next step you will take. When all your friends push you to take the next step and you’re having a good time, then why not? Its always a choice.

My grandpa was a smoker. He was the only smoker in my life. So sometimes we would “play” smoking. We would buy those candy cigarettes and act like we were smoking. There was this funny tree in Oklahoma that would give off flowers that looked like a cigarella. So we would even try to light them and act like we were smoking. I believe the more you are around something that’s not good for you, the more you justify what it is. When everyone does something for the first time, its to fit in. Its peer pressure. Its an intense curiosity about something. And for most of us, its weakness. We are weakened by peer pressure, by escapism, by pain and depression, and by more moderate highs. When I had my first beer, I could barely keep it in my mouth. But I didn’t want to look like a nerd in front of the two people with me. I was like, how do people do this? I couldn’t even drink a whole bottle. Now its an acquired taste that I enjoy now and then. But that’s my vice that I control. Its because I’m a responsible husband, mentor, teacher, and member of my community. I would never want to let anyone down by abusing something that can make you do something stupid. But you see it all the time.

Its Sad, But True. Some people don’t have guard rails in life. Anything goes. They don’t have something that is bigger than themselves. Life occurs randomly for them—there is no creator. Just “bang” and we’re here. We are all “accidents” in the womb that can be discarded at will. Instead of treating like the miracle that it is, we are all products of random chance. That’s what’s sad about some people’s lives. There is no hope. There is no future. Life is optional. Its sad, but true.

I hope you find hope in this New Year. For some people I know, its yoga. It can change your life. It connects mind and body in a different way that’s tangible and you can see progress. But mostly, you feel progress. You can feel yourself grow. And you start to ask questions about your being. Not just your well being in your body, but in what you believe in your mind. It is not religious, but it IS spiritual. It will connect you with whatever you believe is true. It is a gateway drug that has helped so many people. Maybe its not yoga. Maybe its running or hiking or reading books. But find hope for the future. Find something that is bigger than yourself. Don’t be afraid to lean on people, but lean more on your own understanding of a bigger life. The bigness is the hope. If you’ve ever been on the ocean or on top of a mountain, you can feel this. You feel how small you are and how life is fleeting. That’s when you start to know that you need help. Its so huge and wonderful. Believe in something. Now that part is not sad at all. And it is all very True.

Knocked Silly or Body Reset

 

2014 08 21 14 56 53
2014 08 21 14 56 53

My back has been finicky for going on 3 weeks. I have chronic back pain, but it is usually held off with yoga. Most times, I can go into a yoga class not feeling very well and leave feeling amazing. I was actually feeling better on Tuesday and thought a hot yoga class would take me to the 100% mark. But it didn’t take despite enjoying the class and the teacher. The next morning, I woke up with even worse pain. I took AcroYoga last Sunday thinking the same thing. When you lay on your back and you fly someone on your legs, its really therapeutic to my back. But I really felt terrible afterward this time.

So I taught a Rocket yoga class on Weds and wasn’t feeling good. I went into teaching Power Yoga last night and left feeling amazing! I mean, like almost 100% healthy. I had tons of fun. And while my back is still sore this morning, I’m amazed at how much better I felt.

I’ve read stories of Ashtangis who were practicing at the Shala in Mysore, India. They did their 6 day a week practice starting very early in the morning. Some days, they were sick, sore, or injured and asked Pattabhi Jois “Guriji” if they could take the day off. They would ask to do the Primary Series instead of a higher series. Or they’d ask to sit out on part of the practice. Guruji would smile and say “You Do”. Yoga Chikitsa, the primary series, is called the healing series. It really has that effect on people.

Sometimes, I would go into lifting heavy squats or deadlifts against my better judgement. But quite often, my sore back or sore whatever would feel fine. Firing all those muscle fibers to a hard effort is kind of like greasing an old, rusty gear box. You often have to force it into working properly. I know that sounds Neanderthal, but it really works. Like last night: I was doing locust pose and bow pose with the class knowing my back hasn’t been in good shape. But it actually felt better totally engaging into those muscles. I forced my muscles into submission and, in the end, it was therapeutically healing.

There are times for rest. There are times for healing. But sometimes, there are times to push through and move your body. I think most times deserve the latter. Even when you’re sick, increasing your circulation and moving your lymphatic fluid around can only be a good thing. Listen to your body; but also don’t listen to your body. Sometimes if it tells you to stop, thoughtfully and carefully do what you’re gonna do anyway. You may be surprised by the results.

The Army runs on Diesel

immersion heater germany

I stumbled on this pic from my old unit in Germany. When you pulled KP (kitchen patrol) out in the field, it was an all day gig. They’d wake you up at like oh-dark-thirty (~3am) to start getting chow ready for the field site. We often worked to about 2100 since a lot of the field doggies would come in late. We would fill these huge trash barrels with water, usually by dragging two 5 gallon jugs to and from the water buffalo. That got old fast in the snow. You’d need at least one can for washing and another for the rinse. Sometimes, we’d make an extra can for a nice hot tub bath later. We usually worked through chow so we didn’t get to eat until after everyone else did. And leftovers were kinda gross.

The heaters are fueled by a big can of diesel on the side. It would drip fuel in at a slow rate to keep it burning. But you had to be super careful. So I started a drip, I lit some paper and dropped it in. You have to keep you head far from the opening or it could blow in your face. Well, I dropped in the lit paper. I waited a good 20 seconds and nothing seemed to happen. So I peek in to see and BOOM it blew up in my face. It blasted my head up and I just turned and fell face first into the snow. I wasn’t sure what I had just done to myself. I managed to burn all my eyebrows and eyelashes into crispy, burnt-end curls. My buddies got a big laugh at how it looked.

Other fun chores we got in the field was guard duty. I almost forgot my birthday one year. I was standing at the entrance to our site on top of a snowy mountain in Germany with my Mickey Mouse boots on and my parka hood cinched down to about a 2 inch opening. The snow was coming down hard. I was standing there wondering what day it was, so I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight, 16 Jan 1984; my birthday. Oh well. I did get some candlelight that night. A few hours later, I was startled by a bright light. I look over and one of the tents caught on fire. Each tent had a diesel burning stove. Its pretty safe unless it overheats, turns to cherry red, and then something close by or the stove pipe catches fabric on fire. That’s what happened. They were yelling, I was yelling, it was mass chaos. Fortunately, everybody made it out alive. But they lost a lot of their gear.

We also got to pull 60K generator duty. We had to keep it filled with diesel to make sure all the communication rigs were kept running. We also started all the backup 5K generators that were on trailers once a day. I drove for a lieutenant, so among all my other duties, I had to drive him/her around to different field sites and HQ to receive orders and missions. But I also had to set up their tent and attend to their needs. Then we sometimes went on foot patrol to check our perimeter. Sometimes we had a unit of Infantry guarding us. But most times we were on our own. They said if the balloon ever went up, we’d be alive for about 7 minutes since they’d target communication links first. So our outside perimeter was the least of our worries. Such good times.

Overdoing Warm-Ups

Is it possible to warm-up too much?

It was so funny when I ran ultra-marathons. They’d announce 5 minutes to start time and most people are still sitting in chairs or just gabbing with each other. These are usually trail races that extend past the normal 26.2 mile marathon. They last from 5 to 24 hours and beyond. The goal is to expend the least amount of energy possible for the long haul. So warming up is really a waste of energy.

During this time, I signed up for a 5K or two. It was hillarious because you’d see people running and sprinting all over the place. I mean, its a 5K right? I really think they ran a 5K before they even toed the starting line.

So is it possible to warm-up too much? I think it depends on what you are doing. For a very low-intensity exercise of extended time, your workout is basically your warm-up. Say you are on a rowing or elliptical machine. They are low impact so you can start slow and work into a sweat. There isn’t much worry at all about getting hurt. Well, unless you are a very out of shape person who has lived a very sedentary life. But that excludes most of us who are working out.

Now, picture a Top Fuel Eliminator dragster that is doing a quarter mile in under 5 seconds. It pays to have the engine up to full temperature. They also do an intense burnout to heat the tires before they go. This also tells you that your engine is ready. So for an Olympian doing a 100 meter running sprint, yeah they are going to do a serious warmup of movements and stretching. The wheels can come off so easily with that intensity. The same for a heavy CrossFit workout that includes heavy deadlifts. Or maybe a Strongman competition where intensity is through the roof. These are the times when you warm-up in a very precise way.

Just about the time I was getting ready for my CrossFit Trainer certification, I was watching a lot of videos and reading as much as I could. One video was a road tour with Spencer Hendel and James Hobart. They would visit CrossFit boxes and join in on a workout wherever they went. They were so funny because they called their most intense efforts as going HAM (Hard as a mother *censored*). They always seemed a bit tired since they were on the road a lot. So they often skipped a dedicated warm-up. They called it going JAGUAR. I love that term. They just jumped in and got down to business.

I used to go to a CrossFit box in town. The hour flow always went the same way. You do a warm-up, often a run, row, or calisthenics. This led to mobility that related directly to the Workout of the Day (WOD). And then a strength segment that was also related. At the end, you’d do the WOD. You’d be totally smoked and then go about your day.

The problem I had with this idea is often you were doing a benchmark workout where you wanted the best time you could get. Say you were doing Diane with heavy deadlifts and handstand pushups. But you already did deadlifts and handstand holds in the strength portion. Yeah, it warmed you up, but maybe it took a lot out of you too. Then you can’t go 100% in the WOD. If I were the coach, I would program a specific warmup to the WOD, and then go right to the WOD. Then you guarantee success for your athletes. It would be perfect to do a burnout session after with an EMOM or strength with deadlifts or presses overhead.

TBH, I go JAGUAR in most of my workouts. I don’t do any warmup at all. I might do a rep or two or something that relates. But otherwise I jump right in. A WOD is an amazing warmup for a strength portion. I often blow my wad so badly with strength, I wouldn’t have energy for a WOD at the end. Another way around a warm-up is to have a buy-in and buy-out. So as part of your WOD, you tack on a 1K row or 800m run or something before and after the AMRAP or couplet that you have prescribed. Then you have the best of all worlds. Sometimes, I even add the strength into the WOD. So if you do a Deadlift workout, it could look like this.

500m row buy-in
WOD 5 rounds for time:
deadlift 285 pounds x5 reps
20 burpees
20 situps
rest 1 min*
500m row buy-out

Then you have everything covered. And the little rest keeps your back safe during a heavy WOD.

So to answer the question, it is possible to warm-up too much. A majority of us doing fitness don’t need much of a warm-up. Maybe for some of the Top Fuel people out there, yeah, its smart to warm-up. But don’t overdo it to the point where you end up with poor performance.
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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!!!

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!!

 

 

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.