Scared To Death & The Drop.

Saturday I was doing deadlifts, form was good, weight was only 185, well within my limits when I set to pull and something popped in my back.

Those of you who have paid attention will know I have a long history of back pain and issues along with 2 major surgeries. I am very familiar with pain and what kind goes with what issue and I instantly knew this was nerve pain. That could only mean one thing, a disc herniation or some form of impingement. The surprising thing was that this was on the left side of my back, the opposite side from normal. I froze in a combination of pain and fear, knowing that the future of this kind of injury has only one logical conclusion. I searched in vain for my “back pills” a miracle fix me up called Arthrotec but I had none. My last back issue was before my last surgery around April of 2013 so even if I had some they would probably not be much good. I knew the only thing I could do was lay down and allow my back to rest, trying not to let the whole rear chain seize up in sympathy. This was where there lay a glimmer of hope. When I used to have problems the first thing that would happen is called a list, your whole body from your hips to your shoulders takes a sharp right turn. Oddly in the 20 years I have had back problems I have just one single picture of this event. back out again sep 13 05In the picture I am standing as straight as I can. As you can see, the list is severe, moving my entire upper body 6 inches across to the side. On Saturday there was plenty of pain, but no list. I knew the pain was nerve pain so this was confusing, adding to my paranoia and fear. Oh, and a rage that exceeds all reasonable bounds of human decency.

It’s at that point that I started to bargain with my body and promise that if this would just go away that I would promise no more heavy weights, no more body weight over 250lbs etc etc. I spent the next 2 days in a hazy pain killer induced fog popping anti inflammatories like candy in the hope that I would magically (and against all logic) make a full recovery. It was Easter, my health had died on the cross and the atheist karma finally came to fruition when on the third day it didn’t magically rise from the dead. However, it did make a significantly better recovery than I would have ever expected.

This was going to go one of 2 ways, either I would be significantly better, pointing to a possible ligament / tendon issue rather than a disc herniation or I would be crippled and pencilling in my third back surgery. I am fortunate to be able to sit here in chronic pain but with mobility rather than laying on the floor unable to move. Things could definitely be worse.

But it’s time to pay the ferryman.

I have been ambling towards a vague weight goal, my cut was more of an avoidance tactic for hitting 265lbs than a specifically targeted loss strategy.

I had increased during my fall strength / bulk and although I don’t have my stats sheet here I would think that as some point I was cruising around +30lbs or about 262lbs. My cut as it stands had me around 250lbs at one point right before I started with the creatine again and now I think I am about 255. But the time is a factor and I would like to see a 20lbs drop in about 2 months from now. That would put me back at 230-235 which is a weight I can live with. But I need to get this done ASAP in order to get as much unnecessary strain off my back as I can. 20lbs doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s a ton when it’s on your body.

So for the next few weeks it will be maintenance workouts, cut style diet and a firm eye on 235lbs. In 3 weeks it’s the Orangeville gymnastics competition, I would hope that I can make it to 245 before then, maybe even 240 if I push a bit.

Let me just state for the record, the last few days I have been scared out of my mind over what may happen. Regardless of how many times this has happened to me, it’s still a terrifying ordeal when your body betrays you.

Forced Rest. Ten Days From Hell

I hate rest. I hate having to take time out to recover and recharge. I know the value, I just don’t enjoy it. So you can imagine my state of mind now after 10 days of forced rest due to my back being uncooperative. I am still not sure what it was that caused the problem, I am guessing it was something I did during bootcamp with the med balls but whatever it was really did a number on me. I still have what I would consider significant pain in my right hip capsule which may or may not be directly related but may also be coincidental and a factor of not beign able to stretch. Whatever the case, the next couple of weeks are going to be critical as I try to ease back to action and prevent any further damage.

I can’t remember the last time my back took this long to mend, I can only say it was a VERY long time ago and I am thoroughly unimpressed to the point where I have considered voluntary fusion surgery to prevent any further issues. Whatever I do, I still need to get back into action and that is going to be a delicate mix of activity, rest, stretching, mobility and sensibility.

Betrayed By My Own Body – Or Reminded Of Humble Beginnings?

This morning my back went out again.

It’s been since April of 2010 that my back has been OK. Not to say that I haven’t had the occasional bout of soreness but it hasn’t debilitated me like this for nearly 2 1/2 years. I guess that’s a pretty good run but I was hoping that now I am down to around 230 that this would be a thing of the past. The irony of ironies is that today is the first day for Canadians to register as Beach Body Coaches and since I always tell people that BeachBody changed my life I have been waiting for this day for a long time. It’s just funny that one of the major reasons I have for initially doing P90X which was to help with my back should be the reason I was able to register online as soon as 4pm hit. I am sure I will be fine, I think even now after only 12 hours or so and a few sessions on the inversion table that I feel like the morning will bring good news. I will probably have to take tomorrow off and be careful during bootcamp on Wednesday but hopefully this week won’t be a bust for workouts and I can get back on track.

In addition, I am hoping to get another site up and running for a more general interest than just my workouts. I would like to put something together that reflects my breadth of interest so I can give back as much as I have learned over the last few years. Here’s to the turning of the page and another new challenge.

Don’t Tell Me You Can’t. Don’t Tell Yourself You Can’t or You Won’t.

I presently have difficulty with… says Tony. I tend to say I’m working towards it…

Some things are going to be harder than others…

It’s not just the rope jumping either, it’s the handstands. But I guess if you don’t have something to challenge you and to work towards then what is the point right? A simple double under would do for starters…

However, there is no accounting for life. I have been laid up with back pain for the last few days unable to do much of anything. I did try to get through both Strength and Speed and Agility but had you seen me you would have thought I was doing Suck and Stupid and Awful instead.

It does however put me in a position to be going into Game Day and maybe (at last) a shot at relief. Tomorrow is the final weigh in for Biggest Loser at work and so I really have to do something tonight to get into the ballpark to make this profitable.

Day 43 – Stop! This Ride Is Over.

Injuries are a fact of life. Some people have bum shoulders, sore knees or dickie elbows but me, I have the Holy Grail of injuries, a back injury. I have mentioned it many times before, sometimes at length other times as a reason to whine about my progress or make excuses for not doing a workout. However there is a serious side to my injury which for the first time in many years raised its ugly head today.

I had a serious back injury as a teenager, I had a rugby scrum collapse on me and being a prop that meant the strength of all 7 people behind me and all 8 of the opposition contributed to folding me in half. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc, a condition now referred to as a herniated disc. I wore a back support (read corset) for a few weeks and was cleared as fit. My injury never affected me again through an additional 11 years of rugby at an elite level, 14 or so motor vehicle accidents and numerous other athletic and potentially lethal endeavours. However, being the typical egomaniacal male athlete, after I stopped playing competitive sports I threw myself into the gym and pounding hundreds of thousands of pounds of weight around each time I stepped into the gym. I am not certain of the first time my back went out but I do remember the first significant time especially since I didn’t know what the hell was wrong or how to fix it.

Normally at this point I would expound on the huge weight I was lifting however the relevance seems to pale in comparison to the injury. All I will say is that I was on an incline leg press that I was unable to finish. The stack came down and although there are safety stops, I had them set too low and again, I was folded in half by the machine. I remember laying on the floor of the gym, breathless, in disbelief that my body had betrayed me. The next thing I remember is not being able to reach my feet to put my socks on and being in excruciating pain. I am not sure if I went to the doctor or if I took a few days off and recovered on my own. What I do recall is that after that point, my problems increased in frequency and severity. The one great thing about keeping a journal, online or not, is that you can solidify timelines with alarming accuracy and for the most part will surprise yourself at how fast time really does fly.

Flash forward approximately 5 years and you would find me on a gurney in the emergency department, my third visit in 3 days, being wheeled into the MRI and screaming bloody murder as they try to straighten my legs to get me into the machine. Being the size that I am getting me into the MRI is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube at the best of times. This time I was in so much pain that the nurse popped two tiny blue pills into my mouth and I woke up 2 days later with an 8 inch scar on my back and a chunk of spinal disc in a plastic cup by my bed. I spent the next 4 months getting back on my feet, trying to rebuild my right leg that lost 30% of it’s mass due to the nerve impingement and trying to deal with both the psychological damage that the injury had done and the addictive effects of the painkillers. Fortunately I had a vacation in Australia that broke my dependence on the painkillers and since I was never one for taking painkillers anyway that was a narrow miss for me. The rest of the recovery wasn’t so easy.

It’s now 8 years later and my leg is still only about 85%. The history of time spent recovering from “back pain” is vastly down. For a long time, regardless of my weight I would intermittently have an issue. I found that a really good anti-inflammatory (arthrotec) and a good muscle relaxant (cyclobenzaprene) work wonders but the most effective tool I have found is actually my Costco inversion table. A couple of minutes on that will take days off my recovery time. So I was down to 2 days to recover from the pre-op of almost 2 weeks. However, the back still bothers me from time to time. This time however, has been the first time since the surgery that the pain has radiated down my leg again. That fact alone has scared me to death. I realized when I turned 30 that the time was approaching that I would have to stop wandering the earth at 275lbs plus and for the last few years I have had varied success in getting below that figure. I was 255 when I got married 2 years ago and although that is pretty good for me I can’t shake the idea that if I was 220lbs at least some of my pain would go away. My point is that I think in part my injury has been aggravated by my weight but also that I may in the long term be looking down the barrel of another back surgery. This time, to fuse the bones and get rid of the troublesome disc issue for good.

So what do I do now? I was off my feet for 4 days, which in this day and age is unheard of for me. I am walking with a cane again just in case my leg decides to give out on me (in reality I am sure it won’t but I am not going to gamble with that) and the pain is still causing cramping and a weird stiffness throughout my quad muscle. I have to admit that my first reaction was to walk, then jog then run to drop the weight as fast as possible but the PT in me just can’t give up that weight training piece even if it is only with bodyweight. So the solution for now, get my back better, stretch the quad and the lower back to get rid of the cramping and get back into it as soon as possible. I am looking at almost 12 days of complete rest, not an ideal situation, but I think ti quit now would be a massive disservice. Maybe the smarter thing to do would be to take my diet seriously for once and put the 270’s, 260’s and 250’s behind me for good. You see, just like most people who use exercise as their primary method of weight control my lack of control over my diet is my failing. Ask anyone who had purchased a beachbody product and they will probably lament you with tales of “loving food too much” or being “addicted” to food and being “unable to control” themselves. It’s a common theme that I see on a daily basis with people at work who participate in our Biggest Loser competition but let’s just be really honest for a second… If your life or the life of the people you love depended on you controlling your diet and you could keep that reality in front of your face 24/7 they anyone, and I mean ANYONE could lose the weight. The problem is that we get distracted and fail to realize the importance of what we are required to do.

Simply stated, we fail to pay attention to what should be our priority. In reality you should treat your weightloss like a Harry Houdini escape. The sooner you get out, the sooner you can get back to life, and if you don’t, you die. I guess people (myself included) don’t realize that weightloss isn’t about quality of life necessarily, it’s about length of life and if you were asked to trade 10 years of your life for a year’s supply of pizza would you really do it?

I’m thinking that I probably wouldn’t any more…

Thanks for letting me vent and if you made it down this far congratulations… Have a cookie! 🙂

Round Two, Day 32 – Pure Cardio, Pure Hell

Pure Cardio is the epoch of everything that is wrong with the Insanity program. Well, let me rephrase that, it represents everything that is wrong with the way I am approaching these workouts. I am so used to Tony giving us breaks and time to recover before again blasting the bodypart that my feeble brain is trying to comprehend the logic to Shaun T’s method. You see, Insanity is not the same, not by any measure. The fact is that it will take you at least one run through of each Insanity DVD before you get the hang of it. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to know where the end of the workout is so I can focus on it and work towards it. I can’t push myself hard not knowing when the break will come, it’s just not rational for me. So I end up taking breaks in various places and ending up not having worked at my optimal rate. However, now I know what Pure Cardio is like, the next time I do it I won’t be taking breaks because I will know that there is really only 18 minutes or so of pain to the workout.

Last night, regardless of my back pain, I worked through the Pure Cardio DVD and was happy with the workout as a whole with the exception of the timing being difficult to manage. What I did realize at the end is that unless you really push yourself as Shaun encourages you to, you may not get the workout you were expecting. It is easy to underachieve during these sessions if only because they are so short. As long as you go in knowing that the counter on the screen indicates the total time left minus about 4 minutes you will be fine. Work as hard as you can for as long as you can and then take a break. But… if the counter is sitting at 8 minutes, push through. You can do anything for 4 minutes or so can’t you? For me, the workout was a little frustrating. I was tired, I was pushing but I was in pain. It was not a pretty site. By the end I was left wanting more, only because I had neglected to heed the timer. Had I realized what little time there was left, I would no doubt have pushed harder. Next time…

Pure Cardio, then, is in fact everything that is right with the Insanity program. It is truly a High Intensity workout with only around 18 minutes of lung busting cardio as long as you don’t include the “warmup”. Learn to manhandle that 18 minutes and you will learn the joy of Insanity. It may not be for the faint of heart or the “fat burning zone” treadmill losers but in order to get what you can out of it you should be prepared to push yourself harder than you have done before and that, my friends, is no joke.