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Update 2020

I can’t believe its 2020. When I’ve written it out, I have to double check myself. I wish you a Happy New Year if I haven’t already.

I finished Physical Therapy feeling a little beaten up. It was a wonderful experience that taught me a lot and I gained a lot of new strength. I know how to stabilize my shoulder better and will incorporate the exercises I learned into my workouts. However, I also lost a lot of strength in my chest and frontal shoulders. I was supposed to rest those places, so no bench presses, pec flyes, or overhead work. I still haven’t done much of any of that. I’ve done like 20 rep dumbbell bench presses with 20 pounds, which is super light. I’ve don’t light overhead work without going into full extension. And I’ve done more lat pullldowns where I stretch a bit at the top. Actually moving in those range of motions have helped tremendously. At the end of PT, I didn’t feel like I would heal and would end up needing surgery. But now I think I can actually heal.

I did I could with CrossFit during physical therapy, but wasn’t really feeling it. Now, I am totally feeling it. I scale way back on the exercises. The workout "Fran" is 21-15-9 reps alternating between barbell thrusters and pullups. I can’t do either of those exercises right now, so I modify. its been great: (21-15-9)

wall balls + lat pulldowns
plate or dumbbell thruster + ski for calories
goblet squats + ring rows

It is such a good feeling to feel the CrossFit burn without hurting myself. I have also been doing some of the other CrossFit girl wods. Instead of the regular (Rx) prescribed workout, I do (21-15-9):

back hyperextensions + light dumbbell presses
Romanian deadlifts with kettlebell + cable muscle ups (like a pulldown to tricep pressdown)

I also have spent a lot of time with Squats and have recently added more deadlifts. I was worried most about Deadlifts since my injury involves the long head of the biceps tendon connection to my shoulder labrum. But I’ve focused hard on deactivating my bicep when I pull. So heavy deadlifts have been nice. I just can’t bounce off the bottom; that hurts like crazy.

I’ve also set weekly goals. I pulled the entire stack on my close grip row machine. That makes me feel good. I’m also squatting heavier. My goal this week is a 10K row, which is going to hurt a lot. I’m really feeling good about my strength.

I still take it easy. Despite my aversion to cold treatment, I’m embracing the PT reasons for it. And since I can’t take ibuprofen or tylenol right now (another story), the cold numbs any pain so I don’t have to use medication. The other story is I’m flushing out my kidneys to get better numbers on my labs.

My biggest problem right now is Yoga. I teach yoga and its a problem when I have to demonstrate certain poses. I’m getting closer and more open, but my shoulder takes its toll. The rule from PT is don’t do anything that hurts. And some poses still hurt. I’m excited that I think I’ll be back to normal in a few months.

Pushup/Chaturanga

Don’t do this!!

I don’t mean to rip on anybody and I wouldn’t post this blogger’s name, but this is the perfect example of a poor pushup.

In my many years of life, I was once an Army Drill Instructor. I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of troops come into basic training who didn’t have a clue about a proper pushup. Now, mind you, my pushup has changed slightly over the years with yoga. But the principles are the same.

And yes, chaturanga dandasana (four limbed staff pose) is not a pushup. But for me, it is. When I do a CrossFit workout, it looks exactly like my chaturanga. Why develop a movement pattern and then change it for something else? Its just like my squat is the same across modalities. My Olympic weightlifting squats look very similar to a chair pose or goddess pose in yoga. Your movements and body alignment should be the same all through life. You don’t exercise or do yoga with an intention to be different.

So back to a pushup. In yoga, we talk a lot about external rotation of the shoulders. But its true for all of lifting as well. Mark Bell is an accomplished powerlifter who I’ve seen do a 900 pound bench press. He sells a stiff, flexible band that you wear around your arms just above the elbows. It draws your elbows together so they don’t flare out. Its exactly how I do chaturanga.

One of the oddest bones in the body is the scapula, the shoulder blade. It kind of floats out there on its own without many attachments to another bone. But if you’ve studied how many muscles connect to it, you’d be amazed. Most of our shoulder problems start with the scapula.

So what’s wrong with this pictured pushup? Almost everything. But if we start with the scapula, we call the problem "winging". If we had a 3D animation to pan around, we’d see her scapulae totally winged up. This means she isn’t engaging any of the muscles around the scapulae. The primary considerations are the serratus anterior (and other serratus muscles), rhomboids, middle and low trapezius, and the numerous rotator cuff muscles that protect the joint capsule. This leads to impingements, grinding of bone on bone around the shoulder, and too much pressure on the prime muscles involved. This can eventually lead to ruptures of any of these muscles, but especially tears of the labrum, rotator cuff muscles, and pectoral muscles.

What you also notice tangentially is her elbows flared out. I see often with new CrossFit athletes and yogis is tendencies to find more stability when they are weak. In bridge pose or upward bow, yogis will turn their feet way out and knees collapse to find strength. But I see this picture over and over when it comes to chaturanga. Another indication is how her palms turn outward. This is key in all yoga. Again, its a weakness issue. We encourage yogis to press into their hand, especially the palm of the forefinger and thumb. Its just like our cue to press into the ball of the foot. It encourages a midline strength.

Another major problem is head looking down. Actually, head looking down on its own isn’t inherently bad. When your head is in line with your spine, you are usually OK. But here, you can see it as a sign of weakness. In yoga, drishti matters for everything. Drishti is where you look in yoga. In Ashtanga Yoga, every pose has a drishti. Where you look matters. It tells where your spine should go and, in higher levels of yoga, where your energy is directed. For instance, when we squat, we don’t look down. Looking down encourages rounding of the spine. Instead we look up to counter the force of the bar on our shoulders encouraging a well-aligned spine. I find that when you do a pushup, its better to look forward or at least a few feet in front of your hands. When you look down, it can cause everything else to collapse.

This picture of me is of Phalankasana, or plank pose. Its an example how looking forward affects your alignment. Also, pointing biceps forward, elbows back, fingers straight forward, palms pressed into the ground, and engaging through the midline (uddiyana bandha). As you lower down, elbows hug toward the body. I read an article where someone said that’s not a good cue for yoga. But I strongly disagree. It follows every principle I know about good alignment.

I would encourage you to take a few pictures of yourself at different angles of plank and pushup. Ask yourself if you are broadening your chest, pulling shoulders back, and depressing your scapulae. It will save your body in the long run and you’ll find more strength. When you learn proper body mechanics, it transfers into all aspects of your life. And this quality of life carries you well into a ripe old age.

A New Year of Working Out

Despite my shoulder still healing, I have had some amazing workouts over the holidays. I’m so excited for this year. Its going to be the best year of my life for many things; but for my fitness as well.

I’ve already started integrating goals every week (see my recent post). I know far ahead of time what the goals are so I can prepare months ahead. But I’m starting to bring back old exercises and introduce new exercises.

Last night, I did a workout for 4 rounds that included farmers walks with a kettlebell in one hand. I need to do more asymmetrical and lateral work as much as I can. It wasn’t really hard because I used a relatively light weight. But once I get to longer distances with heavier weight, I know it will pay off. Asymmetrical work is so important for general fitness. We do so many things in the power sports symmetrically and for good reason. We are stronger and safer with bilateral movements. But for back health and functional fitness, its doing things one sided that really makes a difference. It helps us cope better with what life throws at us.

I am also going back to my heavy bag. Mine is very old and beaten up (literally). So I may be looking for a new one soon (maybe for my birthday? Hmmm?). Last night, I just did 50 push kicks without any break. It was nice to get into a rhythm and find power with each kick. But the payoff is in the hip flexors, psoas, and abdominals. Kicking also increases flexibility, balance, kinesthetic awareness, and rotational strength.

Another oldie that has been haunting me is wood chopping, like with an axe. For those of you in the know, this is a very tiring functional movement. And I need to chop my wood anyway. I picked up a cord of wood over a year ago and it has sat in a pile ever since. So I started chopping the other day to see if my bad shoulder could handle it. It went surprisingly well. And it sure gets your heart beating. You can mimic this with a sledge hammer or steel mace to a tire as well. Its such a great full body workout. I’ve made some nice fires in the fireplace too since then.

I am also ramping up my Animal Yoga practice. I’ve been working on midline stability anyway so this fits right in. I’m actually considering making an "Andy Yoga Method" that is a hybrid of my life’s learning. I’d love to integrate Rocket, Animal, Capoeira, Tai-Chi, Aikido, Karate, and other ideas into a single routine. When I develop a few sequences, I’ll share on my YouTube channel.

I hope you have dreams, hopes, and well-thought out plans for the New Year. If not, take one step. Don’t talk about it, actually take the step. It may be a physical step with your foot, or it may be a few minutes on a yoga mat. But take the step. Don’t linger. Do it now!

Happy New Year!

I had my last day of Physical Therapy yesterday. I had a good session and the PTs at Impact are super amazing. I am still restricted on what I can do and I trust their knowledge. But to stay on the positive, there is a lot that I CAN do. A torn labrum in my shoulder means I have to limit all pressing movements, overhead work (pullups and presses), and anything biceps related. My particular injury involves the long head of the bicep where it attaches at the labrum. So I have to be careful there.

My new workout in December and beyond includes setting weekly goals. It looks like this:
Week 1: Do one long/hero workout a month
Week 2: Set goal accessory movement lift
Week 3: Set a goal for LSD: run [treadmill or outside], ski, row, bike
Week 4: Set goal for major lifts (squat, bench press, DL, Olympic)

I did a max rack Squat on Saturday. I didn’t actually go to 100%. But I went near it and felt good afterward. The last thing I need is to get injured. But it gives me the confidence to add 10 kg and try again this Saturday.

Yesterday, I did my goal Long CrossFit Workout. My initial intention was to do "Michael" outside. But the feel like temperature is 11 degrees F so I didn’t feel like going outside. And, unfortunately, treadmill miles are so much longer than regular miles. So I didn’t want to do the entire workout on a treadmill. So here is the prescribed (Rx) workout and my modification.

Michael: (3 rounds for time)
run 800 m
50 situps
50 GHD back extensions

My Modification: (20 min AMRAP)
Round 1. run 400 m, 2. row 400 m , 3. ski 400m, repeat
25 situps
25 back extensions

I ended up getting back to the 2nd run. But my treadmill is upstairs and I only had a little over 4 minutes left. So I went back to the rower on my last round. Overall, it wasn’t a super difficult workout. That’s not to say I wasn’t straining hard on the situps and I couldn’t pull with power on the last row. I’m a little sore the day after, so that’s good. If I do this again, I may set it up for 30 mins instead (note to self: go ahead and mark it on my calendar for a few months from now).

Since I’ve been hesitant to work unilaterally with only my good shoulder, I haven’t done either. But I’m about to add just one side for a while. And I’ll also work very light bilaterally as well. My instructions for working out, yoga teaching, and life is to never go where I feel pain on my labrum. So that’s what I’ll do. Before PT, I was doing a lot, but I think I was in pain most of that time too. That’s not a good place to be. There is never a "no pain, no gain" mentality with injuries.

Happy New Year!

Goal WOD & PT checkout

I had my last day of Physical Therapy yesterday. I had a good session and the PTs at Impact are super amazing. I am still restricted on what I can do and I trust their knowledge. But to stay on the positive, there is a lot that I CAN do. A torn labrum in my shoulder means I have to limit all pressing movements, overhead work (pullups and presses), and anything biceps related. My particular injury involves the long head of the bicep where it attaches at the labrum. So I have to be careful there.

My new workout in December and beyond includes setting weekly goals. It looks like this:
Week 1: Do one long/hero workout a month
Week 2: Set goal accessory movement lift
Week 3: Set a goal for LSD: run [treadmill or outside], ski, row, bike
Week 4: Set goal for major lifts (squat, bench press, DL, Olympic)

I did a max rack Squat on Saturday. I didn’t actually go to 100%. But I went near it and felt good afterward. The last thing I need is to get injured. But it gives me the confidence to add 10 kg and try again this Saturday.

Yesterday, I did my goal Long CrossFit Workout. My initial intention was to do "Michael" outside. But the feel like temperature is 11 degrees F so I didn’t feel like going outside. And, unfortunately, treadmill miles are so much longer than regular miles. So I didn’t want to do the entire workout on a treadmill. So here is the prescribed (Rx) workout and my modification.

Michael: (3 rounds for time)
run 800 m
50 situps
50 GHD back extensions

My Modification: (20 min AMRAP)
Round 1. run 400 m, 2. row 400 m , 3. ski 400m, repeat
25 situps
25 back extensions

I ended up getting back to the 2nd run. But my treadmill is upstairs and I only had a little over 4 minutes left. So I went back to the rower on my last round. Overall, it wasn’t a super difficult workout. That’s not to say I wasn’t straining hard on the situps and I couldn’t pull with power on the last row. I’m a little sore the day after, so that’s good. If I do this again, I may set it up for 30 mins instead (note to self: go ahead and mark it on my calendar for a few months from now).

Since I’ve been hesitant to work unilaterally with only my good shoulder, I haven’t done either. But I’m about to add just one side for a while. And I’ll also work very light bilaterally as well. My instructions for working out, yoga teaching, and life is to never go where I feel pain on my labrum. So that’s what I’ll do. Before PT, I was doing a lot, but I think I was in pain most of that time too. That’s not a good place to be. There is never a "no pain, no gain" mentality with injuries.

Happy New Year!

Protect Yourself

"When seconds count, police are only minutes away"

We’ve heard this saying and its true. Now, for most of us law-abiding citizens who live in cushy suburbia, this doesn’t mean as much. But for people who live on an island in a sea of lawlessness, it means a lot. Some people are broken in to on a regular basis. For these people, they know what it means.

I am still horrified by movies and shows I’ve seen of a young person who comes home alone after school to a distantly, remote farm house. A vehicle pulls up the drive and two men come knocking at the front door. To be safe, the young person doesn’t answer the door. One man pulls open the screen door and jiggles the door handle. The other begins peering into the window. If this young resident called the police, it may take 20 minutes for them to arrive. They could call a neighbor, if they are home, and maybe it would take 5 minutes. But then you’re putting your neighbor in danger too.

I’ve been to places where rules aren’t followed. Traffic lights mean nothing. Stop signs are just street decorations. I’ve accidentally stopped at hotels that turned out to be brothels. I put towels under my hotel room door to cut down the noise and cigarette smoke. I once rented a room that was on the ground floor and had a window that wouldn’t lock shut. It was my only option at the time. So I called the front desk, and the front desk person came with a screwdriver and a screw to keep it shut. Huh? I’ve had people bang on my car window asking for money. What do you do when seconds count? Do you cower in the closet and hope for the best? Do you think about hiding under the bed and hope that nobody finds you?

When I do Ashtanga yoga, I know once I get past the standing poses, my body will get to relax a little bit. I’ve run trail races where I know the last few hundred yards of the final stretch are easy, I just have to get there first. I’ve seen MMA fights where a fighter is getting beaten badly, but knows if he can make it to the 3rd round, he has the advantage with endurance. But you have to get there first. How much do you think you can take before the police arrive? Because that’s what you have to do if you don’t have a means to protect yourself. You have to outlast your offender until the Calvary rides in to save the day. Do you think you can make it?

Even worse, what if you are protecting someone you love. Maybe its your wife or husband. Maybe its your kids or pets. Maybe its a family heirloom, the last remembrance of a loved one. But instead of being a protector, you are one of the sheep. You are huddling under the desk with your loved ones with no recourse whatsoever. All you can do is hope to not be found.

Everyone has a right to protect themselves. Everyone should learn basic aspects of self defense. But remember, criminals don’t fight fair. They want to overwhelm with the least resistance possible. So whatever means you have for defense, it better be substantial.

Short story– I’ve carried bear spray as a repellent against anything or anyone that might hurt me while camping, backpacking, and backcountry fishing. I’ve even flown into places and found the nearest outfitter to pick up a new can of spray since I couldn’t carry it on the plane. And when I don’t end up using it, I sit it open at a campground for someone else to use since I can’t take it with me. Then one day, a family of raccoons brazenly started to raid the back of my open pickup truck while I was sitting around a fire. I tried to shoe them away, but they were determined. So I broke out my bear spray. I pulled off the safety cap, pointed it at them, and pressed the trigger. Haha! It shot out a weak trickle of fluid about 2 feet. If it was an attacking bear, I would have been dead. And even if I did blow the whole can on a bear successfully, what would I do about the next bear on that trip? I can’t carry a half dozen cans of bear spray.

When seconds count, help is minutes away. Sometimes more than a few minutes. What are you going to do? Answer, not from the seat of your cushy home in Pleasantville, but from some place where danger lives. It actually lives everywhere. Some day, someone high on drugs is going to break the rules. They’ll do something unconventional. They’ll be someplace where you didn’t expect them. Then what do you do? Do you rationalize with them? Do you use deflecting language to deter them? Hmmm, I hope that works for you. Intellectuals always think you can rationalize with irrational people. That’s usually not the case.

Be safe my friends.