Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Starting Over

I’ve started training again. I’m going to try 2×1/2 hour sessions of lower body work until I can resolve my nerve problems in my arm. Things feel like they are getting better but I’m trying hard to avoid over doing it.

Sunday I did a half hour. Body weight squats, step backs from a stool and an ab exercise (lay down, arms above head, legs flat, bring up arms and one leg to touch directly over waist, reaching high, go back down, repeat with other leg) were the first rotation. The second rotation was stool cross overs (start with left leg on stool and right leg on floor, stand up on stool, hop from left foot to right foot and step down with the left leg to the floor, reverse, repeat) and the sideways crouch walk, down and back. The first rotation seemed easy but my concentration and balance were way down. The second rotation sent my pulse into the stratosphere. I hope we incorporate some weights on Thursday. I’m not doing cardio work outs right now as I think capoeira will more than make up that particular need and it is much more fun. I might try some capoeira conditioning if I can’t make it to class some nights.

Capoeira, Make Me Strong!

Last night was my third class. It was my first “beginner” class. My first two classes were mixed with advanced student and beginning students intermingled. At my conditioning level, the beginner class was harder than the mixed class. This seems counter-intuitive but let me explain.

In the mixed class, when I feel overwhelmed, I stop and I don’t feel too bad. I think to myself, this is the hard stuff so it is ok for me to stop. This reduced mental block on stopping makes it easier for me to give up mentally, before I’m forced to give up physically.

In the beginner class, I feel much worse about stopping. I think to myself that I should be able to at least do it, even if not well. If I stop in this class, I feel I am letting myself down. This gives me the motivation to push through pain that would otherwise shut me down. Even when I do stop, I start again as soon as I feel I might be able to, sometimes only seconds after I give out.

In last night’s beginning class, my legs were totally destroyed. At least twice I collapsed on the floor because my leg gave out. Even when I collapsed, I was back up and moving, trying to keep up, in probably under 30 seconds. I pushed so hard to keep the pace. By the end, my ginga was horrible but I was determined to just keep moving. In the brief pauses, I tried to stay standing and when I stood I had to focus on keeping my lower body slightly tense to keep the blood from pooling in my legs and leaving me light headed. I swallowed bile and used mind over body when I thought I might puke. I had very little awareness of the rest of the class and my vision went partially black several times. The only exercise I was asked to do that I completely skipped was push-ups. Until I resolve my nerve issues in my left arm, push-ups are completely off limits. Sometime during class, I left a piece of myself on the floor. I ignored the pain in my feet through class and cleaning the open blister on my right foot wasn’t much fun when I got home.

Today is the eye in the storm. My muscles in my calves, front and back thighs, lower, mid and upper back, shoulders, abs and sides, and in between my ribs all feel weak and like something I can’t quite name, almost jittery or rubbery. My whole body is screaming that while I don’t hurt yet, just wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a long day but another class awaits and I won’t let my body conquer me. Capoeira will make me strong. Capoeira, make me strong!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Poncho Safe

My mother's brother's wife's brother Poncho was kidnapped from his vehicle in Mexico a couple weeks ago. I asked several of my friends to pray for him and his family. I just received news that Poncho is alive and on his way to rejoin his family. Thank you so much for your care and support.


I love when my interests dovetail into each other. I want to learn to play hand drums. I even have a doumbek that I am almost capable of a few rhythms on. Now, I am trying capoeira and one of the musical instruments they use is a hand drum. Time to learn a little capoeira drumming. I translated the rhythm they were playing tonight into something I can understand (te-ka doum tek rest, repeat). A little practice and I’m sure I can play the base rhythm while someone else embellishes and that is the first step.

Running Optional

It is hard for me to stay motivated to run. On a good day, running is great, energizing and satisfying. On a bad day, just getting out the door is torture. I’m going to replace running with capoeira where I’m much more motivated to push myself and where I’m intrinsicly having fun instead of occasionally exalting in the feeling of my body functioning.

First Class

I went to my first capoeira class tonight. It was tremendously challenging, far beyond my expectations. I spent most of the night sitting on the sidelines trying not to pass out. I also enjoyed it more than any other martial art I’ve ever studied. The culture and music associated with capoeira is motivating and the controlled acrobatic movements are so exciting. I might not be able to climb out of bed tomorrow morning but I can’t wait for my next class. In the mean time, I’m going to read a bit and try to get a handle on a smooth, balanced ginga (pronounced jinga). Oh, and I’ll probably try to learn to count to 10 in Brazillian Portuguese.

Positive Progress

The slump has been very hard. Doctors recommending surgery on my elbow and forbidding me from continuing to lift weights was a lot more difficult to respond to in a healthy way than I would have expected. I think I’ve been in mental hibernation for a couple weeks, through several tests and constantly worsening symptoms. I stopped doing nearly all cardio and of course I wasn’t doing any lifting. My weight stablized but it has been hard to resist bad habits without the recurring reminder of a training session to focus me on my goals. I’ve been moody and hard to get along with.

Tuesday, I took the day off to wait for the dishwasher installer. I took the morning off to mope and learn how to tie monkey fists. My obsessive personality of course suggested that I take the rope in to work and I’ve tied quite a few of these decorative knots over the last couple days. I don’t know if it is related but for the first time since my symptoms started, they have gotten a bit better instead of only getting worse. Maybe working my hands is helping. For a couple days, my hand has been mildly numb, there is almost no tingling and the pains have dropped almost to the point that I can’t feel them.

To top everything off, I had an amazing lunch today with my wife. I really wish you could have been there. Morels are still in season and Cafe Balabans makes them into the most amazing pasta I’ve had in ages.

Oh, and I think I might start studying another martial art tonight. Have you heard of capoeira? It is a Brazilian style, looks a lot like dancing and looks like a lot of fun. I think we will be going to class tonight. Maybe I’ll get a post up about how it goes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bad Times

For over a month, the ring finger and pinky finger of my left hand have been numb. After about 4 weeks, I saw my doctor about it. He seemed concerned and scheduled me for a couple tests. The X-ray of my neck was normal but then last Wednesday, I had a nerve conductance and EMG test. The nerve conductance part was interesting. They taped or hooked electrodes to different parts of my hand and wrist and then administered shocks of various strengths to different places.

The EMG part of the test was not fun. For that, they stuck needles in different parts of my hand and arm, apparently to measure the strength of the electrical signals my nerves are producing. The needles were very small but a couple of the placements were quite uncomfortable. Also, after getting a baseline (by twitching the needle she just stuck in my arm, I mean WTF?!) the doctor would ask me to tense a muscle in a particular way. One time, I did so much too quickly and too hard and believe me, it wasn’t a mistake I repeated twice. It really didn’t feel good when that happened. And finally, the needle she put into my tricep felt like being stung continuously by an angry bee. It also left a visible bruise. I suppose that needle was more painful because of the extra fat it had to go through to get to the muscle.

The whole test changed what was a mild day for my numbness to a bad day and my hand felt worse the rest of that day and the next. It also left aches, similar to arthritis, I think, in my wrist and elbow for the rest of the day. The result of the test, the testing doctor told me there is a problem with my ulnar nerve (duh) and it is causing damage (did she just say damage? I’d like to know what that means.) to the muscles it feeds. She also said we should take it seriously and my doctor would tell me more about what that means.

So now, I am waiting. My doctor didn’t call me on Thursday or Friday. The not knowing is gnawing at me inside. Fortunately, my wife is a saint because she has had to put up with a miserable spouse for a week and a half now. I don’t know how she does it.

When I saw my doctor about it the first time, he told me to stop lifting weights until he finds out what is wrong. As much as I’ve been looking forward to, and enjoying my lifting sessions, not lifting has been very hard on me. My mood is way, way, way down. I started the Couch to 5K running plan with my wife but it hasn’t felt like much exercise yet. Maybe if we do it on treadmills we can set our own pace.

The days when Michele meets with her trainer are the worst. I barely want to get out of bed. Today, I did cardio while Michele met with her trainer. Facing the gym, knowing I wouldn’t be lifting felt like my spirit was being buried alive. I think it might have been the first time I went in since I talked to my doctor and I can’t believe how hard it has been.

Anger and frustration do make good fuel for working out though. I managed an average heart rate of 159 for an hour. My peak heart rate was 184. I spent 20 minutes doing speed intervals on a step mill and I was apparently working hard enough to impress one of the trainers. I spent another 20 minutes on the treadmill trying some silly program (forest walk I think) but at the end I cranked the speed up until I spent the last 3-4 minutes running at 6mph. Despite that being when I hit my peak heart rate, I could have kept going. I only stopped because Michele was done.

At the tail end of my workout, I found a theme song for my last couple of weeks. It got through to me strongly enough that I listened to it twice. Stabbing Westward, Crushing Me. “I’m feeling the weight of the world and it’s crushing me. I’m feeling the weight of everyday life and it’s crushing me. How much more will it take? How much more until it breaks me?” Today would be a great day to take up a fighting sport, well, great for me, not so much for my partner.