Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category


My son took a course last spring about traumatic brain injury, and we were discussing the mind-body connection. He now has some definite ideas about the brain and the mind.

Synapse. Tweaked version of Image:SynapseIllus...

Synapse.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s a silly expression,” he said, referring to “mind-body.” I gave him my “Qua?” look.1 “Thought is a physical act. It’s about the flow of electro-chemical impulses between synapses.”

On some level, I’d known that for a long time. A family friend, a doctor, explained my father’s illness to me that way–that the synapses just weren’t making the right connections. When I repeated my son’s to my mind therapist, she said, “That sounds like a physicist.” However, I found it helpful in understanding myself and my past.

The past. A dreadful word. I’m trying to write past it.

For about eight years of my life, I was defined by the circumstances that started shortly before I was thirteen. After I got married, I tried to refer to them as infrequently and as clinically as possible. Even here, I don’t want to get into an emotional recounting, but it was ugly: my much-admired father was medically retired for what we later found out was an infarct (dead spot) in the basal ganglia, but which manifested itself as what the shrinks at the time, before the imaging equipment now available, as atypical paranoid schizophrenia (in other words, the closest thing it came to was paranoid schiz, but it didn’t quite fit in the box). At that time, the “polite” way to refer to it was “nervous breakdown,” a term I still abhor because it sounds as though things just got too rough and the sufferer simply couldn’t hack it. That was not my father.

I was asked in the fall of my eighth grade year, by the most popular girl in school, “Did you drive him crazy?” The carload of kids laughed. I tried to join them, but anyone with a sympathetic nature can imagine the pain such an attempt at wit caused. It was a very public tragedy, and was soon to get worse. By March of that school year,  my 3-year-old sister was hospitalized when she went into a coma with grand mal seizures. She lived in the pediatric ICU for the next eight months, dying less than a month after her fourth birthday. She wasn’t diagnosed until autopsy; hers was as odd as my dad’s: encephalitis, which is rare enough, but instead of being widespread, it was confined to the hypothalamus, making it even more bizarre.

No Me Mireis!

No Me Mireis! (Photo credit: El Hermano Pila)

This brief history of my past is not meant to engender sympathy for me, but to illustrate that everyone walks around with problems or challenges that they may not share. It is also to talk about the injuries to the mind, which, as my son pointed out, are just as much an injury as a broken leg, just far more difficult to see. it’s been hard to think of my difficulties as injuries to the mind when I had two immediate family members die with injuries to the brain. I’m talking about my own with the hope of helping some reader to face theirown mind injuries.

So posted here is more info here than I generally share with people, although I’ve found myself talking about it more over the last year. My theory is that we delay working through certain events in our past until we’re ready. These events have broken through to affect my life ever since they occurred, but I wasn’t ready to consciously address them; I had other things to deal with: marriage, career, child-rearing. It’s not until the crises are over that you can deal with deeper mind injuries. Most of us are just trying to survive today.

The first time I was diagnosed with depression, it was treated as if it were the flu. It’d go away after a course of antidepressants. The short course helped, but it was merely a band-aid. Most drugs for mind injuries are treating the symptoms. But the classic symptoms were predated by what was then called psychosomatic illnesses, now just somatic., mostly because the precise mechanics of how they work aren’t really understood, although mine all seem to do with serotonin production (as do most of my laundry list of chronic ailments). There are subtypes of serotonin that affect different receptors, for one thing, and then there’s the surprisingly common  genetic defect which makes it difficult for some of us to get sufficient folate into our systems. This is a problem because folate is among the building blocks your body uses to manufacture serotonin. Sadly, most insurance doesn’t cover the drug that will give you this important building block.

It makes sense to me why you have weirdass symptoms for mind injuries. Think about it this way: Your body is always trying to communicate with your conscious self. It gives you pain and swelling to tell you to get the hell off that ankle you twisted and give it a rest if you’ve injured it. But mind injuries are harder for the body to talk to you about, so it comes up with novel ways: unexplained stomach aches and nausea, headaches–all those illnesses now linked to stress, a mind injury.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was in my late thirties before I started to get more or less continuous care for my mental injuries. More in that I’ve been constantly drugged ever since with something or other; less in that I’ve floundered through several mental health professionals and only sporadically gotten therapy. And the diagnosis has changed, evolved, and is still a bit uncertain, because diagnosis of injuries to the mind aren’t about the chemistry of your brain, which is probably where the physical injury lies, but about a given set of actions, all of which can be normal unless carried to the extreme.

The first diagnosis of the era of semi-continuous care was bipolar II (what used to be called manic-depressive). Sounded right: I have two speeds, normally: full go or full stop. Then it was clinical depression plus ADHD. I’m definitely both of those things, although the depression is in waves; the ADHD is a permanent state of being for which I’m rarely medicated. And then I was diagnosed with PTSD.

All of them can co-exist. It’s the PTSD that was both scary and vindication of the trauma of those early years. I spent years with screaming nightmares. I can be triggered to the point of incapacity by certain things that unexpectedly flash that period into my brain as if Scotty transported me into those past situations. People from that era do a great job of doing so, mostly because they want to keep me the victim of my family drama, not seeing the overcomer I try to be. When I’m not, I tend toward taking refuge like an anchoress, walling myself into the house, or, when it’s really bad, into my bedroom.

What to do about mind injuries

You’ll be shocked to know that exercise helps. My daughter-in-law told me that if you watch animals after a flight/fight/freeze moment, they will “dance it out”: jump, run, shake, shimmy and jive. They get rid of the bad chemicals generated by stress encounters of the bad kind, not having the prefrontal cortex bullying them into behaving like responsible adults. Nope. They deal with it then and there.

As I’ve said many times before in this blog, I’m a big mess physically. Much of it can be attributed to a sedentary life, but a larger toll has been taken because of the mind injuries. Untreated, they only get worse, just like any other injury. Yet people still act as though it’s a character weakness. They are wrong, ignorant of how the brain works. They might as well say diabetes is a character weakness–if you just had the right attitude, that pancreas would make you some insulin.

I’m not a wuss, although I can talk myself into believing I am lazy, gutless, and weak. But I survived my personal war, which isn’t at all like the most frequently recognized form of PTSD, combat survivors. The fact that I have scars and need treatment is not weakness, it is reality.

Get help. Drugs are useful, and so is cognitive therapy, but studies show that the combination of the two is the most effective treatment.

Educate yourself. Check out Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unnquiet Mind, Edwards M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey’s Driven to Distraction, or Joseph Le Doux’s The Emotional Brain, all of which are excellent resources.

Also check out SuperBetter.com, part of what has made me decide to gut up and go to a real CrossFit box as soon as my PT says it’s okay. I’m scared, but avoiding what I fear just makes the fear stronger. It’s no longer a question of if, but when. SuperBetter is a game developed by Jane McGonigal, as she describes in this TED Talk:

Hope your mind injuries improve, too, because that’s the good news: They can!

Footnotes:

1, Stolen from Eddie Izzard in “Dress to Kill.”

2. I know there isn’t number agreement between the referent and the pronoun. Don’t care; I predict it will become standard American English within fifty years.


English: WPA poster warning cancer patients to...

WPA poster warning cancer patients to be wary of persons claiming to be physicians and promising to cure cancer. Check with your internist or oncologist before beginning any particular exercise program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s post is from guest poster Melanie Bowen, a regular blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Although this is not a cancer-related blog, I don’t know anyone whose life has not been touched by cancer, whether as a patient or as a loved one of a cancer patient.

Exercise has all kinds of benefits and can continue under unusual circumstances. I’d say cancer qualifies as “unusual circumstances,” although, sadly, not a rare one.

And, with that introduction, here’s Melanie:

In the past, patients with a cancer diagnosis were often advised by healthcare professionals to avoid any kind of physical exertion in order to preserve as much energy as possible.  No longer.

The medical community is finding a wealth of evidence showing the importance of exercise for the cancer patient to maintain weight and maximum health, endure short- or long-term medical interventions, and to improve their quality of life. All exercise programs should have well-defined guidelines and approved by a physician. Each person and diagnosis is unique, and therefore should have an appropriate regimen to follow.

Maintain strength and fight fatigue

Cancer patients may receive long-term medication, chemotherapyradiation therapy, or a combination of treatments. Although cancer itself can induce fatigue, cancer treatment itself  often increases weakness, lack of motivation and immobility.

Steps can be taken to help counter and cope with the side effects of cancer treatment. Daily walking, for example, can increase the drainage of toxins from the body and stimulate circulation to renew muscle tissue with oxygen.

In addition, research has shown that immobility restricts the lung function and may cause pneumonia as a complication. Patients with mesothelioma are especially prone to decreased lung function and may only tolerate exercises performed in bed. It is important to find physical activities that you enjoy: walking, weight lifting, yoga, water aerobics, CrossFit or something else.

Chair yoga, for example, is a form of yoga that helps compensate for health issues. Look for things that sound like fun and which emphasize meeting you at your current state rather than competitive exercise programs. If you are interested in CrossFit, it can be tailored to your situation. Whatever choice you make, be sure to find an experienced coach.

Maintain healthy weight to complete cancer treatment

Physical activity can promote appetite and help the patient maintain a healthy weight. Many cancer therapies and procedures are particularly difficult for the body to endure, and as patients lose weight and sometimes struggle to stay nutritionally balanced.

Patients with serious weight loss and nutritional problems may find their therapy postponed until they resume a healthier weight. The main goal of being physically active is to keep your body in a healthy overall state, which may not always entail losing weight — especially when battling cancer.

Maintain healthy immune system and avoid cancer complications

The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is a network of vessels similar in structure to the veins and arteries of the body. Without a healthy heart to circulate and cleanse the lymph fluid, this system uses the activity of muscle and skeletal movement to cleanse the body of toxins and fight off the bacteria and viruses that enter the body. Simple movement and exercise of the body boosts this process and provides the cancer patient with a vital immune system.

Exercise increases survival rate for cancer patients

More cancer patients are surviving than ever before. With evidence-based research* in exercise and fitness, patients are successfully completing cancer therapies and prolonging their lives. Not only that, patients are reducing the risk of recurrence through healthy activity.

As always, consult with your doctor to find the most beneficial exercise plan for you and to ensure you maintain a healthy weight during and after treatment.

*[Ed. note: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park is an excellent book for non-scientists about evaluating medical claims (and other scientific theories).]


Crystal Mayhue, a 35-year-old massage therapist and SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mom), balancing her part-time business with raising two young sons and  hanging out with her husband as well as CrossFitting, contacted me about her CrossFit experience. I loved what she had to say, and want to pass it along to you.  Crystal, you now have the floor (or screen…whatever):

From Crystal’s Pinterest board

I started CrossFit recently and I am so addicted. I refer to myself as “Chunky Girl Works Out.”

I started referring to myself as “chunky” after my first pregnancy. I’d developed a serious B12 deficiency which triggered a case of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) of epic proportions. The baby came and the RLS never went away. Baby number two was also a fan of B12. Lets just say RLS is here to stay.

As a result, I am constantly sleep-deprived which has resulted in weight gain. I would never have called myself an athelete, but I spent years weight training and doing cardio. As long as I kept an eye on what I ate and made sure I was physically active, my curvaceous body was kept in check. The minute the RLS hit and sleep was something I could not accomplish, the curves turned to “CHUNK”! I even have a Pinterest board (http://pinterest.com/massagemomma/chunky-girl-works-out) named for it.

I waited two years to get into CrossFit for many reasons. I found out about CrossFit by way of Facebook, of course. I had reconnected to an old high school friend and she was always talking about going to “CrossFit.” I asked her about it.

I have what I lovingly refer to as “Exercise A.D.D”. I get bored so easily. I find running boring so I started doing mud runs like the Warrior Dash and the Merrell Down & Dirty. I got bored weight training on my own so I started taking BodyPump.

So, when my friend tried her best to explain the beast that is CrossFit, I was very intrigued. I turned to Google to find out more. Thirty minutes into my research I knew that sooner or later I was going to start CrossFit! The idea that it was mix of cardio and weight training and could happen indoor or outdoor and then you throw in kettle bells and a garage type atmosphere … I was in Exercise A.D.D heaven!!

One of the reasons for delaying my first CrossFit experience was “Super Fit Girls + Super Ripped Guys= WTF stares at Chunky Girl Works Out.” I had the itch to try it so bad I even had thoughts of setting up a backyard CrossFit.

I turned to my dear friend Google and his girlfriend Pinterest to see what it would take to create a “box” in my own backyard. I found I could do it on the cheap. But, honestly, I still didn’t totally grasp the whole of what CrossFit was and felt like I needed more instruction. And, quite frankly, I run a house and family and I am constantly in charge and making decisions. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do and how to do it so I don’t have to think about it. I know, sounds lazy. But I’m a Mom, a wife, and I have a part-time Massage Therapy business. I don’t want to have to come up with my own workouts. I want someone to tell me what to do for once.

I have two boys. Very. Busy. Boys! My oldest will be seven in November and is in the first grade. My youngest is four and now attends all day PreK at the same elementary school as my oldest. I was overwhelmed at what the heck I was going to do all day. The idea that my baby was going to start school totally knocked me down. I knew that I was going to have to find something to do that would excite me or I was going down for the count.

We are a “traditional” family, I guess you could say. My husband works and I, for the most part, stay at home with my kiddos. The idea that I was no longer going to have my little buddy to take care of all day still brings me to tears. So, I set my sights on CrossFit. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see if it was as awesome as I had made it out in my mind to be.

So, I found a CrossFit box and signed up.

Finding a CrossFit box in my area wasn’t easy. When I first looked into CrossFit, there was nothing close to me. One day, I happened to be talking to a nurse in my doctors office  and she mentioned she did CrossFit. She raved about her box. She said the coaches were awesome and the members were like family and that she was in the best shape of her life. So, I went to the official CrossFit website and looked it up. Two CF boxes had opened in a somewhat close proximity to my home.  I only visited one of them. My nurse was so passionate in talking about her CF box, CrossFit of Locust Grove (Georgia), that I never doubted that it was the one for me. When I met the owner, Todd Springer, I was impressed with how he continually talked about CFLG being a family.

I started on a Monday morning. There were about twelve people in the class. There were men and women ranging in age from early twenties to late forties in a spectrum of fitness levels.

The first day I almost puked because I knew these people were going to die when they saw Chunky Butt walk in. But, you know. I have never met people more eager to help and guide and cheer a person on. I have belonged to many gyms…Gold’s, local athletic clubs, YMCA…. never have I ever had people so willing to help me catch on and want me to succeed.

The first person to speak to me, other than Todd the owner/coach, was a very fit, thirty-something woman. During each part of the WOD she made sure I knew where the equipment was, showed me what to do, and gave me encouragement. I was shocked. I tell you, I spent hours at my local Y before anyone ever even spoke a word to me. But, during a WOD that consisted of way too many push ups and box jumps, I had people that I had only laid eyes on that day telling me not to stop, to push through and that I could indeed finish the last round.

Since that first day I have attended morning, afternoon and evening classes. Each person I come in contact has been as helpful as the first. We have a Facebook group for members. People are always posting about getting together to go to events, or telling another member how great they did during the day’s WOD or just posting life stuff. They are family. We are family.

I have been apart of CrossFit of Locust Grove for two months. And, when my Dad was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, the outpouring of understanding and compassion from my CrossFit family rivaled that of my church family. Sometimes when you are mad at the world and feel like you have no control over anything—you just need to drag a tire across pavement, do a hundred burpees and seventy-five squat jumps and then hear someone tell you just how beastly you are because you finished.

CrossFitters, for the most part, really seem to have a passion for athleticism and really want for others to feel the same euphoria they do when finished with a WOD.  But, believe me, I know the fear of walking into a crowd of super fits….YIKES!!…..but I strongly urge everyone that is curious about CrossFit to visit their local box. The outpouring of support and  camaraderie that you get being apart of a CrossFit family far out weighs the nervousness you feel when walking into your first CrossFit class.

You can contact Crystal Mayhue by email at massage_momma (at) att (dot) net.


 

It’s often said that information is power. But in our everyday lives, information is more likely to be a source of pain and

private school punks

Private school punks, keeping it secret? (Photo credit: pugetive)

conflict than of power. I’ve been thinking over the distinctions, so please indulge me in some hair-splitting.

Confidence: Someone else’s private information shared with you for you to help them.

Secret: Your private information that you don’t share with either someone who can help or someone directly affected by the information.

Gossip: Spreading private information to increase your image of “being in the know” or to damage others. In some Christian circles, it often wears the label of prayer request (seen this happen too much to be able to let it go).

Private information: Information that a reasonable person would not share with acquaintances or strangers, such as the pin number for your debit card, hemorrhoids,  or your sex life (unless, of course, you’re an adolescent male — it’s my understanding that in some cultures, it’s almost mandatory, although often fictitious). Broadly, you could characterize these as financial, health, relationships and other random embarrassing facts. Or, more succinctly, any information that could damage your finances, relationships or reputation if shared with the wrong people.  Once it’s in the news or you’ve made the mistake of posting it online, it gets harder to say it’s still private.

Keeping confidences is healthy. Keeping secrets is not. Gossip is destructive. Having healthy boundaries about with whom you share which confidences is wisdom.

It’s fairly easy to figure out which is which by asking yourself the following questions:

Am I dying to share this information? It’s probably a juicy confidence and, particularly if you learn of it in the course of helping someone, you should not share it.

Do I think I might die (literally or figuratively) if someone in particular or people in general found out this information? Then it’s probably a secret, and keeping these kinds of secrets can destroy you or others involved. The first presentation I ever went to about incest referred to it as “the family secret.” and I’m sad to say that my experience in working with victims of sexual abuse, particularly incest, it’s often true that everyone in the household knows, but they don’t want to speak it, as if saying it makes it more real. Find someone you can trust to keep your private information safe and tell them.

Sometimes the “secret” is innocuous to most people, but the insistence on keeping it secret gives it disproportionate power. One of the Big Secrets in my family was that my grandmother was older than my grandfather. I still don’t see what the big deal was, but they didn’t want anyone to know. In this case, the secret was transformed from private information into a secret because of the power conferred upon it.

Does sharing the information provide help to the person whose information it is? If not, then it’s probably gossip, particularly if it’s something that would damage the reputation or standing of the person in the shared community. If it’s private information that was given to you as a confidence, stand on your tongue before sharing it with anyone without the individual’s permission.

EXCEPTION: If the example can be used to help others and can be described without giving any information that could identify the person to whom it applies, then it may not be gossip. My main experience of this is in the context of legal education; often explaining a situation helps clarify the problem.

If you’re asking why this is showing up in a blog mostly dedicated to fitness, motivation and CrossFit, you’re not alone. I’m not entirely sure why I’m including it here. I can come up with a justification (perhaps that people sometimes are emotional or become emotional working out and so you may learn information you should keep confidential). But, if I’m honest, it’s because it’s been on my mind, it’s important in all walks of life, and I felt compelled to write it … and it wouldn’t fit in a Facebook post.

 


Today I’m turning over the blog to Rick Martinez of Transition Possible. As the daughter of an Air Force fighter pilot, the niece of an Army Ranger and Green Beret, the cousin of an Iraqi War vet from the Coast Guard, and the mother of an EOD tech, living in a world populated with active-duty servicemembers, reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents, I know too many individuals and families who bear a heavier burden than the average American for the various armed conflicts our country has been involved in. No matter how you feel about the politics behind the conflicts, the intrinsic honor and sacrifice of our servicemembers are not diminished nor tarnished by performing their duties. 

My name is Rick Martinez and my mission is Transition Possible. I am a retired Army nurse, an entrepreneur, the head vision-keeper of the Fitness Porvida movement, the owner of two CrossFit gyms and the founder of an organization that allows us to support and celebrate our nation’s heroes. It’s my moral obligation and I believe it is one that we all have.

Picture from Transition Possible

The parents of SPC Tracy Willis, who was killed in action in 2007 in Afghanistan. Transition Possible held a fundraiser in Willis’s honor and named the WOD “Tracy. “(Photo Credit: Transition Possible)

Transition Possible’s mission is four-fold:

  •  To positively impact the lives of our nation’s heroes
  • To encourage them to continue living and achieving through sport and functional athletics
  • To show the world that the warrior spirit can thrive no matter the circumstance
  • To bridge the gap between wounded heroes and citizens

As I post this, we are one day away from the launch of the world’s first non-profit whose vision is to create mentorship and leadership programs through which wounded heroes and adaptive athletes can find a new path or career in the world of sport. Think entrepreneurial boot camp for heroes.

On Saturday, October 6, 2012, in San Antonio, Texas, we will host the Warrior Summit II, which will bring together the nation’s best coaches, U.S. Paralympians and adaptive athletes to prove that CrossFit can be for everyone. In the evening, we will be hosting a special fundraiser (tickets available here) with keynote speaker Kyle Maynard — an ESPY-award winning athlete and one of the most motivational individuals in this world. “An Evening with Heroes” will celebrate adaptive sport and our nation’s heroes and will raise funds to support Transition Possible.

Why does this vision, this launch and this cause matter?

Let me share Mike’s story:

How a daisy-chain IED is set up. (Photo credit: GlobalSecurity.org)

Mike Gallardo is a Tribe Member and he is an amputee. His dream was to become an elite trooper, “Delta Force,” he says, to serve his country. The events of February 7, 2008 had a different path for Mike. That’s when his platoon was hit by a daisy-chain IED. That’s when he, for lack of better words, became broken.

Folks, that’s when Mike’s hopes and dreams were radically changed because he made the choice to serve. To protect us. Mike came to us some time ago, buy us I mean Fitness Porvida, and it was evident that though broken physically, mentally he was not bowed. He attacked the program and embraced CrossFit as a means to a new end. The Tribe was his new platoon.

Mike Gallardo at work … or play? (Photo Credit: Transition Possible)

The WODs were his new mission.

But where does it go?

How does that fulfill a destiny?

Even more, how does that offer a life of fulfillment where a man can support a family, start a career and be a productive citizen?

Mike was integrated into the Tribe (as we call it at Fitness Porvida), accepted as a regular Joe and soon he started a 90-day internship pilot program to test the efficacy of making a coach/trainer a viable career option.
Here are his words:

The internship helped me in many ways people can’t see. It has helped with my PTSD because I did not like to be around lots of people. The Tribe made me feel at home and that I can trust people once again. It helped with my TBI because before I could barely remember my own birthday, now I can remember over 50-100 members names. It also helped me be a little more organized because I have to plan my day and keep a daily planner for my tasks.

WOW!

Soon after, Mike was offered employment as a coach at Fitness Porvida. He’s one of the finest coaches
we have EVER had. In his words,

Fitness Porvida has been very helpful because they have set me up for success. They helped me make goals for myself and accomplish them ahead of time. They helped me become a good coach, but they still are in contact with me to make me a great coach. Not only did they treat me with respect, they treated me as part of the family.

Now imagine doing this ten-fold, folks

Transition Possible exists to make this transition possible.

Today it’s Mike.

Tomorrow … well … tomorrow depends on you.

Be a part of making the transition possible.

~ Rick Martinez


While I live in what’s arguably the most military-oriented major metropolitan area outside of the D.C. area, nothing blew up. I had to hit the ground for internal reasons.

Over the last week my workouts have been limited by cold sweats and light-headedness. The fatigue has been bad enough that I’ve had several days when I fell asleep reading for pleasure, which almost never happens (technical or high-concentration reading is a whole ‘nother kettle). This presents a problem when you need to  keep working out as consistently as possible, but you want to, well, not die in the attempt by falling and hitting your head on hard and pointy things, like the edge of a weight stand.

My current issues were brought on by a combination of ridiculously high pollen counts, fluid behind the ears and a possible reaction to the flu and TDAP shots I got. Your causes may vary, but the solution is the same. Know your limits, but go to them.

That’s when I go to the ground: WODs built around things I can do on the floor. Here’s my list of options; please suggest any others.

The Concept 2 Model C, no longer in production.

Rowing: Up to 20 minutes; I use the rower to the right. Upside: It’s a great all around workout, and you’re sitting down, so it’s pretty easy to avoid any real problems (although I’d keep the area clear on either side if I’m particularly unbalanced). Downside: It’s a great all around workout, so you can be exhausted pretty quickly. If I get all 20 minutes in on a bad day, I feel like I did a good job.

Sit-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Yes, they’re better at working your hip flexors than your abs, but you’re still on the ground. Downside: If you don’t have someplace to hook your feet (see our contraption, below right, attached to the garage wall), you’d do better with crunches.

Push-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Great for those arms. Downside: If you’re overweight and/or you’ve got a disproportionate amount of fat deposited on your derriere, you need to either do “knee” push-ups or be very careful to keep your abs tight (stomach to backbone) so you don’t overload your lumbar spine. (You can also substitute planks.)

The sit-up do-hitchy welded and well-attached to our garage wall.

The following exercises were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers, and when you just need to lie down while working out, they’re better than nothing.

Theraband chest pull: 3 x 10. Grasp the theraband appropriate to your strength (probably yellow, red or blue) in each hand, extend your arms full length (you may need to adjust your grip; you’ll want the bit between your hands not to sag at all) and parallel to your chest. Pull your hands apart until they’re at your sides (you look like a “T” at this point). Usually this is done standing, but you can do it lying down.

Straight leg raises: 1 x 20 each side. This, like the preceding, were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers. Upside: My quads still find them challenging because I have a built-in weight set. Downside: None I can think of. Boring?

Hip adductor raises: 1 x 20 each side. I can’t seem to find one that matches the one I do. Lie on your side and cross the upper leg over the under so that you’ve made a triangle with your leg and the floor with your lower leg as an anchor of one corner. Raise your lower leg, keeping it in a straight line with your back as if you were standing on it. (If that torques your knee, you can use a pillow or rolled towel to prop up the top leg. You just need to get it out of the way.

Supine bridging: (It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page)1 x 20 each side. I use an 8 lb sand-filled fitness ball between my knees.

Abdominal squeeze and your friend, the hip flexor: 3 x 1 minute each. Lie on your back, pressing your lumbar into the ground, with your knees up and feet braced on the ground. Put your arms to your sides, and when you start the clock, pull your belly button into your  spine (well, try). Focus on pulling in tighter each time you exhale — but don’t hold your breath. I alternate these with each leg doing its abductor/adductor workout. You straighten out one of your legs, and then lower and lift your knee to the ground, still trying to keep your ab tight and without losing control of the leg. Don’t rush; form and control are more important. Do these for a minute per leg.

I then conclude with a bunch of stretches: gastroc, supine hamstring, supine piriformis, upper trapezoid and thoracic mobilization.

I’ve got more I can do on my back on what Gary has dubbed “the scaling machine,” but more on that in a future post.

 

Breathe. Exhale. Inhale.

Posted: September 26, 2012 in CrossFit, Exercise, Motivation

Exhale

Exhale (Photo credit: roychung1993)

Everyone keeps telling me to breathe lately.

When I’m learning a new form and concentrating, Gary tells me to breathe.

When Stephanie is working on a particularly sore spot during a physical therapy session, she tells me to breathe.

When I have a meltdown, as if I’d turned into a special effect that puddles up and slides under the door, Neesa puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me to breathe.

When I have difficulty reading something I wrote because I’ve carried it all inside long enough that it chokes me like the proverbial fishbone, Anne and Maureen both have told me to breathe.

“Exhale on the push,” says Gary. “Inhale on the way back. Breathe.”

Stephanie told me a while ago that the body thinks it is helping you when you hold your breath during pain or exertion. Apparently your body thinks it is under attack and reacts to “help” you. Or the breath-holding may activate the flight or fight (or freeze) response.  I’ve read both theories.

It’s amazing what the body does on automatic pilot, trying to help you out.

It overreacts to innocuous small particles, thinking it’s helping you, but really flooding you with histamines that have nothing to attack.

It swells your tissues to immobilize injured parts, but causes pain and additional damage by doing so.

It releases a flood of neurochemicals to get ready to run or punch someone out. And if you don’t get those chemicals out, and you keep encountering stress, they build up. And they affect your brain chemistry. And then you can end up like me, a tossed salad of syndromes and symptoms that will make you miserable but won’t kill you.

So why do we have so much trouble believing the mind can make your body sick?

I believe my body knew for years I was accumulating emotional injuries and trying to ignore them and the coping strategies that were slowly making things worse, even when I was not able to fully articulate the problem. So it finally shut me down to the point of reclusiveness. Perhaps it knew what it was doing. Or maybe God did. I don’t know, I can only speculate. But it seems like a lot of things had to happen to get me to the point of converting to the belief that exercise was necessary.

And now I’ve figured out some more of the puzzle of my life. I don’t need to just write here; I need to write out a lot of the pollution in my mind. I’ve known it before; I just didn’t believe it enough or was too afraid to pick up the pen. I think I’m over that.

Foo Fighters perform a song. “Monkey Wrench,” that has a line that always seems louder than the other lyrics when I hear it, perhaps in part because the lead singer (and the writer of the song) pretty much screams it:

I still remember/every single word you said,/And all the shit/ that somehow came along with it!

Pretty much captures the feeling that almost everyone has about some pain that enters their lives, whether brought on by words or actions.

We all need tools and teaching to overcome our collective and individual past. For me, the tools I needed were exercise and writing. The former was difficult and avoided because I never was any good at it and always subject to ridicule; the latter was easy and avoided once it came under attack — it was no longer a refuge, but yet another place on the firing line.

But thanks to some very good people and an excellent method, I’m better now. May you find your tools as well.


Peanut Butter Cookie Batch

Peanut Butter Cookie Batch (Photo credit: Greatist): I can’t stand peanut butter, but maybe some of you crave it.

I love Greatist. I encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and weight loss to subscribe to them. No, I have no financial or personal interest in them, so feel free to take it or leave it with my blessing and no effect on my pocketbook:

  1. How to foam roll like a pro
  2. Can you be too sore to work out?
  3. 10 interval training mobile apps to download right now
  4. News: Talk to yourself to stay motivated
  5. Schedule your day to reduce stress
  6. Give in to cravings to avoid binges
  7. Ultimate guide to good posture at work
  8. Develop a routine to improve sleep
  9. Why do I eat when I’m not hungry?
  10. How to handle criticism like a pro

There seems to be a “routines” theme in my list. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something. I’m not even touching the word “pro,” given that I’m a woman old enough to remember that as a euphemism.


The Illness/Wellness Spectrum

I’ve thought about illness to wellness spectrum (above) a lot lately. Whenever I think about it, I recall civil defendants’ attorneys describing “a preponderance of the evidence” as meaning the plaintiff has to push a boulder over the top of a peak before a jury can conclude that the plaintiff has won the case. (Plaintiffs’ attorneys, on the other hand, will start out like an Olympic diver at the top of a platform with outstretched arms, but with more clothes, and begin see-sawing to explain that the scales just need to be tipped.)

Pushing a boulder up a mountain is not a bad metaphor for getting fit when you’re already chronically ill. Or, better, climbing an icy slope with a backpack. You gotta push up that slope, and any time you lose your grip or your balance, you start sliding back down that damn mountain, with the load of the past dragging at you.

And now I think I may have found an ice axe, which you use to stick into an icy slope to make sure you don’t slide any farther. The maneuver referred to as a self-arrest. I like that term: You stop yourself before you start picking up speed on your way down. From Wikipedia:

 The longer the delay of the climber before he/she starts to put weight on the axe’s pick the longer s/he freely accelerates down the slope.

Ariel Bravy learns to self-arrest with an ice axe on St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado.

In the past I’ve worked out and thought, gee, I feel better now, but when I stopped, I had to think about it before I realized I kind of missed it.

That’s not the case any longer. These days, at the three-day no-workout mark I start declining and find myself in increasing pain. That’s when I use the ice axe. It is something that makes me say to myself that there is no more time for delay, no excuse, and that if I don’t do something now, even if it hurts, things will just get worse.

I’m not talking about the stiffness and pain of the morning. That’s one of the reasons I hate waking up. I start out sleepy and warm, and then the fog dissipates and, like a morning glory, my pain opens to the sun. But those creaks tend to even out (or at least recede into the background) as the day goes on and I warm up.

Nor am I talking about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the sore you get from breaking down and rebuilding muscles. (I almost like that pain; it means I’ve done something to push myself.)

No, the pain that is the warning arrives at night when I try to go to sleep that tells me I’m starting to fall. No anti-inflammatory will make it go away. I can’t reposition my body to ease it. Ice nor heat will beat it into submission. It’s a bone-deep ache that generally affects me from the hips down. And when it happens, I either have to be so sleepy that I could fall asleep while someone was amputating my leg, or I have to get out of bed and at least stretch in order to get the pain level down to the point I can sleep.

On those nights, I wake up knowing that no matter what is hurting me, I’ve got to do *some* sort of exercise. Time for the ice axe.

I’ve crawled out of bed, ate a little something and hydrated, then exercised, and crawled back to bed, completely spent for the day. I’ve exercised with a night mask and ear plugs (on better days, inside with sunglasses) because of a migraine (and had it get worse during the exercise). I’ve exercised with twinges in my knee that I jammed. I’ve had nausea and dizziness while working out (when light-headed, I try to make sure I don’t do anything that involves standing with a heavy weight). I’ve sneezed, hacked, coughed, wheezed and otherwise been an allergy queen during my workouts..

I’ve had a lot of what I’ve come to call fibro spasms (more intensely during workouts; they seem to lay off once I stop): the closest I can come to describing it is that an area along any muscle fiber of about 3 inches long and a half-inch wide that suddenly hurts as if someone pushed into a particularly tender bruise. It lasts for less than 30 seconds in any given spot, then wanders to kick a different muscle.

But none of that deters me once the three-day ache kicks in; it makes me  use all my will to plunge my imaginary ice axe into the side of the friggin’ mountain and say to myself, “Yeah, this sucks, but do you really want to hit the bottom of this slope at full speed?”

And I work out. It may be modified or scaled because of whatever is going on, but I get out of bed and move and lift and stretch.

Someday I’ll get over the top and let the backpack coast down ahead of me and spill out a million fragments. And then I’ll walk down the other side.


The first time I saw Stephanie for physical therapy, around six years ago, she told me there was “no time off from good biomechanics.” At the time, I was seeing her for a sacroiliac joint (SI joint) problem, and at some point I picked up my purse off the floor by bending at the hips. She stopped me and said something to the effect of “What are you doing?” and made me pick it up correctly, with the admonition “There’s no time off from good biomechanics.”

Clearly, I haven’t forgotten it. Just as clearly, I don’t necessarily heed the warning.

It’s easy to think about form and injury prevention when you’re in a workout; after all, that’s what you’re concentrating on. During the rest of the day, though, it’s easy to get distracted and do things that can end up injuring you. And sometimes it’s really frickin’ stupid things, like “watch where you’re going.” (Not so much biomechanics there, but the failure to look may end up in some funky movements.) And when you’re injury-prone, older and/or obese, you are more vulnerable than other springier, younger or lighter people.

Yep, there’s a reason I’m bringing this up.

My husband and I went to see “The Fifth Element” on the big screen last night. We’ve periodically been annoyed that we missed it when it was released, as it’s a favorite. Alamo Drafthouse, also a favorite, was showing it. The particular location has a big flight of stairs as well as escalators. I opted for the stairs, and was quite pleased with myself for getting up them without being winded or leg-dead.

When did I get hurt? In the dark-ish movie theater when we were trying to figure out where to sit. I stepped down without looking and jammed/twisted my knee because the step wasn’t where I thought it was. Ergo bad biomechanics.

So I’m now icing my knee after my workout (which was modified to keep from aggravating the injury) and seeing Stephanie in the morning. And guess what she’ll probably say? Yep, see title of post.