For the last two and a half years I have had problems along my left side neuromuscular chain, from neck to my shoulder, through my elbow, forearm and wrist. However, that is now turning around. I have been lifting heavy in the gym (in a programmed way) and things seems to be improving.
For a long time, I had avoided lifting heavy bench,and over head. But for the past several months, I’ve been following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 programming, and the weights are now in territory I’ve never been. This has been challenging for my shoulder, elbow, and forearms grip strength. It is to the point sometimes that I need to buck up just to shake a man’s hand.
I have had to take a week off from shoulder work here and there–well not a week off, but a week with careful shoulder work. For instance, only the major lifts which engage my shoulder, and dropping any minor or assistance work that may challenge my shoulder.
At night I wasn’t able to sleep on my side, I’ve only been able to lay on my stomach or back without pain.
Well what about the rehab part?
This past week I’ve noticed considerably less pain at night, and have even been able to tolerate short periods on my side.
I completely believe this is due in large part to careful progression through flat barbel bench, incline dumbbell bench, strict overhead press, cleans, and clean & press. Progression to PR level weights for me in every lift. The cleans and clean & press are PR level, but I have not really pushed them and have sacrificed them on those dodgy shoulder days.
Flat bench. The key for me has been to really dial in my form, and to vary my grip width as the weights move up.
Overhead press. This can be challenging, but it is largely a form issue. Overhead press has, I feel, greatly improved my range of motion
Incline Dumbbell Press has been helpful because it is a less compromised position, and the dumbbells allow you to rotate your shoulder position to be more stable.
Clean, Clean & Press. Cleans are Push Press are an inigma in that they engage and involve the shoulder and upper body, while simultaneously the lifter tries to minimize upper body engagement in these lifts. This seemingly contradictory situation has been helpful for my shoulder rehab, as I can tell when my form is breaking down as shoulder pain sets in. Also, it has helped teach better should mechanics through minor adjustments which either hurt more, or hurt less.
There you have it–my dawning revelation and thoughts regarding my shoulder pain subsiding in recent weeks (week or two).
I have taken some planned, and some unplanned, time off since completing (read: finishing) Ironman Florida. In that time, I have had time to reflect on what I want to explore in this blog. My focus isn’t going to change so much as it is going to narrow. Heretofore, my focus has been on Warriorship, and in the past 12-18 months or so, specifically on the training aspect of Warriorship. However, it has occurred to me that all of that really begs the question.
The question seems to be more accurately–How do we actually make things happen? or What is the mechanism of Manifestation? These seem to be the questions that go the heart of Warriorship. The Warrior’s key role is to act. The question then is, What does it mean to Act? How does one actually Act? What is it to transform a Thought, Concept, Idea to an Action? and What is involved in Action impacting the larger Reality?
Training and Warriorship remain ideal forums for exploring these questions.
Join me on this new leg of exploration.
To start, it was a great race. The weather was virtually ideal (for the race portion, at least). Had some great camaraderie on the run, and after the race. The hotel stay was decent, though sort of far. And, most importantly, I met my goals in relation to prepping for Ironman Florida.
- The weather was ideal, partly sunny to overcast for most of the race, with moderate temps. Whereas last year the temps were hot, and then it rained off and on for the run. It did rain this year, but only after the race (for most of us).
- I stayed in the Comfort Inn on the west side of town–somewhat far from the venue, and not the hotel I had hoped to get initially. But they did a good job, and it worked out well. As it turns out, the hotel I wanted, that did such a great job last year, didn’t do quite as well this year (some friends ended up in that one)
- Evidently Augusta is becoming a popular race, and all the cheap rooms were gone early.
- On the run I linked up with a football coach from the Atlanta area and we helped pace each other through the second half. In the final three miles or so, we linked up with another fellow from Florida, whose legs were still fresh, and he helped us with the final push for the finish.
- I finally linked up with my training partners, who it would seem, had put me on ignore going into the race. Ran into them on the shuttle back to get our stuff from transition. Was certainly a boon over last year, where I flew solo the entire event.
- Goals: My main goals were to practice pacing for Florida–primarily to not let the bike hurt.
- I also was able to confirm my nutrition strategy for Florida. Nutritionally, with “Special Needs” bags, I should be good to go.
- My cardio was bullet proof this race. At no point was I sucking wind.
- The area of weakness was muscular endurance. On the bike and the run, it was my muscular endurance that was a limiter, not my cardio.
- This is a good thing (I think) as it would seem that muscular endurance is an easier fix in the weeks before Florida.
- Another piece in the nutrition/endurance aspect was my emphasis on muscular hydration. I had zero cramping issues–Success!
- Flexibility and too much plasma hydration remain limiters, especially on the bike.
Some quick thoughts on the race. I’ll sit down and pound out a more thorough race report in a few days.
There is no purpose to my training. There is no real end-goal to all of this. People ask why I train. Last night the question came up with one of our surrogate daughters (as I call them). This time it was in the form of “Why do you triathlons?” We were discussing Ironman. The answer was “Because it was the next step”–Which doesn’t really answer her question.
The question of Purpose implies in part a practical purpose. My training and competing does have some practical side benefits. There are several very real real-world reasons I train. However, these are not compelling enough in themselves to justify what I do. Therefore, in honesty they are not Why I Train.
I have asked this question before.
Training has many practical benefits. I have actually needed it in the real world. Survival is a huge one. General health. Improved mental functioning. Ability to keep up with my kids. Respect amongst my peers. Social outlet. Fun. Improvement in my other purposeless activities (rock climbing, camping, hiking, fishing). It is a tool on my spiritual path. But none of these, even surviving the coming apocolypse, is really compelling enough.
I’ve been reading the “E-Myth” Series of books, by Michael E. Gerber. In E-Myth Mastery he tackles this question of Purpose, Passion, and Vision (his distinctions). Gerber concludes that once something is reduced to purpose, practicality is attached, and the original vision is killed. This is something experienced in business all the time. Artists talk of how earning a living from their art, killed their art. I am going through this in my business right now. My artistic vision has been compromised by the practical needs of operating a business. Consequently, I find my passion waning.
Walking back to the soccer fields last night, approaching from above, I was able to look out over the whole complex spread out under the lights. I was struck by the sheer numbers of kids working hard at something, which, for most of them, will yield no practical results. There will be no soccer scholarships for most. Most will not play on the top state and national teams. Even for those who play on top teams, or make their competitive high school squads, the real practicality of it all is hard to define. There are much better ways to finance a college education than pouring all the time and money we do into sports. We put a massive amount of effort and resources as a society into sports. All of which only yields “practical” results for an improbably narrow slice.
Why do we do this?
I believe it is a primordial longing that compels us. Our obsession for sports embodies a longing for a Human state lost thousands of years ago. I’ve talked about how the Warrior class developed as human society became more organized. How the Warrior class is an embodiment of some of our most powerful Human evolutions. The Warrior is a link between Civilized man and Natural man. We long for this connection.
There is no Purpose to my training. I am compelled by a calling from time before Reason, a root deeper than Purpose.
Neurogenesis. The process of the brain producing new brain cells. This was believed for decades to not exist–Despite case-study evidence to the contrary. At any rate, this is the first step in reprogramming your brain.
For the Warrior, neurogenesis provides a unique opportunity to reprogram the brain. Exercise contributes to neurogenesis–it induces the growth of new brain cells. This is great because we are already training and exercising. New brain cells are already being generated. However, this is not enough.
New brain cells alone will not make things different. These are raw cells that need to learn stuff. They can learn what you already know. Or you can program them with new information, habits, behaviors, reactions.
Bottom line: New brain cells need to be programmed with something–this can be negative habits or new, positive behaviors.
Your move. You’ve got these new brain cells. What are you going to program them with? You need to consciously decide what learning, what habits, what behaviors you’re going to expose these new brain cells to.
You can pick up a new book. You can take a class. You can Meditate. Meditation, with its own effects on the brain, seems like a great way to double-down. You can continue your old, bad habits.
Scott Herrick, talks about the necessity of keeping your supply train running smoothly during training, especially for Ironman. Here, he is referring to all the myriad activities which are necessary just so you can show up each day, ready to train. Washing training gear, washing water bottles, buying food, preparing homemade concoctions, resupplying worn gear, shopping, scheduling training, bike maintenance–the list is long–and then, doing all these things well in advance.
There is a training effect from wrestling these decidedly non-training tasks into place. Whereas, being in the best shape of my life is definitely a boon for my general health, well being, and balanced mind-state, the supporting activities are also a boon for the pure organization of my life and my mind.
Simply being forced to think about fitting all the pieces together, and the ensuing effort to fit them together, has made my life in general more organized and simplified.
This has been a progressive adaptation. Much like muscular development: I started out small, adapted, increased intensity, adapted, and progressed. Beginning years ago with a gym program, then getting increasingly back into running, then layering on triathlon, then longer distances of triathlon and more races, now Ironman, which I consider a separate category due to the unique pressures of its training.
I am more thoughtful about my commitments. I am more organized. My day-to-day activities are streamlined and simplified. I have been forced to actually abide by my MIT task-management philosophy. My mental state is clearer. Not to mention, my laundry not only gets washed, but even folded.
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Confession: I weigh myself on a scale several times per week.
The scale, or more specifically, body weight, is something of a loaded subject in our modern ego-driven, hyper-sexualized, glamour driven, air-brushed, before -and-after culture. Most people associate its use singularly with weight-loss. Weight loss being about as pervasive, yet non-specific a topic as can be found in health discourse.
I do not weigh myself with the aim to lose any weight. A few things I am looking for:
- Significant fluctuations, and corresponding behaviors
- Ensure my nutritional intake is in line with my training volume: specifically to stay in a certain range above what I’ve determined to be my best racing (fighting) weight.
- As a figure in calculating body-fat percentage. Again monitoring body-fat for significant fluctuations, and to stay in a certain range.
- To keep my training weight a couple of pounds over my race weight. My race weight being that number I was at when I felt the strongest in a race. Not sluggish, and not depleted. This is only known by tracking weight against performance, along with some other numbers, and adjustments for other impacts on weight like detox and cleanse.
What I don’t care about is the number for its own sake. I don’t care about height weight charts. I don’t care what other guys at the gym weigh (many are bigger and weigh more, but can’t lift more). If the FDA or USDA said it, I probably don’t care about it, and will likely do the opposite, knowing how wrong they are. I don’t care what some guy in Men’s Health looks like, as he probably can’t out-lift, out-run, out-swim, out-survive me, especially once the airbrush work is done. (Wow, how’s that for some vanity)
I track body weight in correlation with several factors, and have determined what is healthy for me.
For example, after Augusta last year, I noted a significant weight loss. I also discovered I was overtrained. The low body weight began before Augusta and also accompanied an increased resting heart rate for a few months post race. My deduction from all this was that I had overtrained going into Augusta. It was likely the result of injuries a month or so ahead of the race, and then my push to compensate for the lost training time.
Lesson: Carefully monitor my training volumes against my recovery times and nutrition, using several measurements to augment my own intuitive sense.
Another use for body weight it determining my hydration levels. If my weight is low, and my body-fat numbers are screwy, despite how I feel, I’m likely dehydrated. It could be my plasma hydration is fine, but my general electrolyte levels are off, affecting my muscle hydration.
Low body weight (below my training weight), can indicate I’m not taking in enough calories, or maybe my protein intake is off. Each of which can cause training to be a negative, or can lead to overtraining.
As mentioned a couple of times above, I track body-fat composition and use that as an indicator for several things.
A pop in body weight, especially after an out-of-town trip, can indicate I was eating too much crap on the road, and am now bloated. Time to flush my system.
Almost all of these indicators are accompanied by a feeling, that if I tune into, my body will tell me what is going on. However, one of the things about being an athlete, is ignoring certain signals our body sends us, despite how loud they may be screaming.
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