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getting it back

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The improvement in the left shoulder is helping with motivation. It’s a bit depressing to find out that I had lost a lot of deadlifting strength, but on the other hand, it is wonderful to pick up a weight that feels heavy and not feel anything weird in the shoulder joint. So I’m trying to see this as opportunity — first off I will get to enjoy the rapid strength gains that one sees when the nervous system gets to remember how to recruit muscle fibers. Second, now that I know I’ve made a fair amount of progress with hip mobility and that I’ve loosened up my hamstrings some, maybe this is an opportunity to have better form when I deadlift and that better form may eventually translate into better strength gains. Maybe not either. That’s just speculative.

Right now the plan is to try to lift 3x a week, and alternate between a workout with deadlifts and a workout with zercher squats. With 2 of those workouts, the Tuesday and Saturday ones, I will also throw in some dumbbell swings, and a few dumbbell snatches. I can’t snatch yet left-handed because my left arm won’t get vertical enough yet, but I just want those explosive swing and snatch movements to help with how fast I can fire my hips. They might also help with regaining some of the power I’ve lost in my golf swing. I really hope that if I put the work in on this, that the strength and flexibility gains will show up in better distance with how far I hit golf balls.

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I saw The Adjustment Bureau for the first time recently. It’s a curious movie, maybe not as good as it could have been, and I didn’t feel that Matt Damon gave all that charismatic of a performance. He seemed very flat somehow to me. But I suppose the most interesting aspect of the movie to me was the conceit in it, one which I suppose I sort of dream about although my cold and rational side realizes it is purely fantasy, is the idea of a love meant to be, one so transcendent and fundamental that it can’t be stopped, that nothing can get in the way, not even an Adjustment Bureau trying to make alterations to keep individuals from getting off-plan.

I don’t really think there is any such thing. Or fate. Or destiny. We’re just kind of accidental along with being inconsequential. But the idea of a love that fundamental, that strong, it’s a seductive dream, isn’t it? I think there aren’t that many that don’t dream of someone they can love without reservation, without fear, without worry. And have that love given back. I imagine that there haven’t been that many couples of who loved another from early on after first meeting til death parted the two of them. Life’s too complicated for us to be perfect and life is too imperfect for us to be perfect.

But the eternal love idea is deeply embedded into our myths, our fictions, our stories, tales, movies and music and so much more. It is used to sell us products. It has been written about so many times and yet we don’t get sick of it. At times we might feel rather despairing over it, maybe especially if we have a breakup from a relationship that had once seemed and felt like it might be that one amazing transcendent love, but sometimes we get suckered into watching another movie about it or reading another story.

Perhaps the lesson is that as human beings we are suckers for fiction. And that drives our thirst for stories and movies. In fiction, we can sometimes see our better selves, the ones who don’t fail, the ones who persuade a bureau officer to lend him his hat and give the ability to jump from place to place and find the woman he loves. The one he was destined to love in spite of the interference by beings with powers that approach godlike.

Of course, in real life, it ain’t God or anything creating that interference. It is our own imperfections, our weaknesses, the fictions and lies we repeat to ourselves, the dreams we think ought to be real, but will never likely be because we just aren’t that amazing or that good. I sure ain’t amazing and I sure ain’t good. I’m too tightly wrapped up into my own self and that makes lots of people uncomfortable with me and also means that I really don’t interact all that well with others.

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Today’s one of those dreary winter days. A light snow/rain mix is falling. I woke up around 4 AM and only semi-dozed til the alarm went off at 5:30. Then I got up and went to make coffee along with dropping a roast beef in the crockpot along with potatoes, onion, carrots and celery. So hopefully that will make for a good hot meal when I get home after work and after I do my planned workout with zercher squats, some swings, and snatches.

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that thawing shoulder

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

I just found out that I can put a barbell overhead again. Well, almost. I can’t quite get my left arm back far enough that my head gets through my arms, but I did lift a 50-lb barbell up. And that’s a far sight farther then what I could do with the left arm a year ago, or even 6 months, or 3 months ago. It’s such a relief to feel the shoulder coming back that I could almost cry about it. External rotation is still the worst with the shoulder, and I remember it being like that with the right shoulder when it froze up and then thawed out years ago. Still, overall I feel very much like the shoulder is getting into the home stretch now and 4 to 6 months from now I should have back almost all of my range of motion.

Also I noticed the other morning I can get both hands on my hips. The left shoulder still lurches forward on that, but a few months ago I couldn’t do that, couldn’t get my left hand on to the hip.

In addition to the shoulder slowly coming back, I’ve also been making progress on hip mobility. I’ve been working on the various stretches and can definitely reach a bit better than before, can turn my trunk a bit more, and maybe feel a sense of freedom there which has not been there for a long while.

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Still haven’t matched that 80 I shot on the golf course back in October. But I’m still pleased with the progress I’m making in understanding my swing, plus I’ve gained some better insight on the effects I suffered while playing through the frozen shoulder. One aspect I understand now and have to work on keeping out of the swing is that restricted left shoulder hurt my followthrough. I had a tendency to shorten up on it to avoid discomfort in the left shoulder, and that sometimes caused me to spin my hips in a circle and when that would happen, I would pull the ball well left of the target.

But now that the internal rotation of the left shoulder is getting better, this past month I’ve had another little glitch creep into the swing which was driving me crazy some for a few rounds — I began having trouble with a shot that was blocked to the right. Way right. Terrible. I finally figured out what was happening when I asked myself, “Okay, so how does the ball go that far right?” The answer of course has to lie in the direction that the clubface is pointed towards. So if the ball was going right, the clubface had to be getting opened way right. And then I finally felt what was happening in one of my swings. I pulled the club back, tried to maintain a sensation of the back of my left hand to the target, but on the transition I would lay the club off. I lost the flat left wrist and bowed it back some along with the clubhead dropping towards the ground. I would then pull the club through on a nice inside path but with the clubface wide open the ball would balloon out to the right. Or sometimes I tried to unconsciously save it, maybe make clean contact or maybe overcorrect and hit a duck hook to the left. So the lesson was pretty obvious for me, stop laying the club off. I’ve focused on that the last couple of times out and I’m getting much better contact again.

And now with the ways I’ve improved how I think about the swing, how I select targets, I’m almost always having at least some shots which go almost exactly like I imagine, I will have a couple of shots which go firing right at flagsticks that are open to being aimed at directly. I’m gaining an increased confidence that I can aim at things on a golf course and hit the ball to them. Especially now that I’ve identified how that laying off move had set me back some.

Of course, I still don’t make perfect swings every time, but I’m getting closer to removing most of the bad ones, getting closer to where I won’t string together a series of bad shots. There will still be bad shots, but I feel more and more like I can get back on track quickly.

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I got a haircut last week. There’s nothing amazing or unusual about that, except for one small detail. During the haircut, while the stylist used the clippers on me, she would put her left hand on my left shoulder. That brought back a flood of memories about the few times I have had women who I would allow into my personal space like that. It was almost sad at how much I enjoyed a sort of voyeurism into my own memories about how good it would feel to be touched by someone who wanted to touch me. I’ve seen stuff that says that people who don’t get much physical touch from others can be deprived in some ways and that it can influence them in negative ways. Has that happened to me? Has it always been that way? I don’t know. How can I know?

It doesn’t really matter in the end. No one is guaranteed happiness, and maybe there are some who are disadvantaged in certain ways to find happiness only in fleeting moments or instances. I hope I’ve tried and done my best when I’ve had opportunities. But maybe I haven’t. Who knows? Is it possible for me to answer those questions? Or anyone else really? There are no hard and firm answers there, and a grave difficulty is that in a world where people can lie, they can lie to themselves just as much. You can’t escape the problem of self-deception, it’s always there, it’s always in how we look at ourselves in the mirror — it is never a true portrait.

Oh well, maybe tonight I’ll sleep okay enough, will feel warm in a cocoon of blankets and find tomorrow to be fair enough.

cocoons, chili, wine

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Maybe it was a month or so ago that I woke up middle of the night and found that I had kicked off my blankets and I was only under a single sheet, nearly shivering. I retrieved the blankets and felt a sense of relief as they trapped my body heat, eventually giving me a nice cocoon of warmth that I, for a while, didn’t quite fall back asleep inside of, instead I sort of drifted along in a half-awake and self-hypnotized state. Staying warm like that has become a bit more imperative this year. For unknown causes, there’s been a shift in how I perceive temperatures this year. I noticed it beginning over the summer when I began finding it uncomfortable to sleep without a shirt and bare legs too — my legs and feet would get to feeling chilled.

This change also led me to buying an additional blanket for the bed at night. We’re getting some colder nights now and when I woke up during the night Saturday into Sunday, I found that the cocoon wasn’t quite enough, that sensation of my legs and feet being cold. So I bought a blanket yesterday and it made the difference last night.

Getting older.

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I tried a couple of wrinkles with the chili I made yesterday. In keeping with my recent experiments using wine as a recipe ingredient, I put in a cup of petite sirah wine to see if it would pair off with the flavor of the hamburger. Other ingredients included honey, peanut butter, dark chocolate, onions, celery, a green pepper, a cubanelle pepper and pinto beans along with spices, seasoning and tomato sauce. I put it enough spices to give it a bit of zing, but I was more interested in creating a sweet kind of chili. So there was a fair amount of honey added to it.

I think it was pretty successful and you can catch a hint of the red wine in the flavors. The little bit of zing from the spices go nicely with the sweetness from the honey, dark chocolate and petite sirah.

Later, I went googling to see if there were other people making sweet chilis. Most sweet chili results were about sauces from Thailand. There isn’t so much about sweet chilis which are soups or stews.

I suppose though if this experiment taught me one thing, it’s that raisins in a chili recipe might not be so crazy as I first thought when I heard of the idea. Raisins will carry much the same flavors that a red wine would, obviously. But I still couldn’t bring myself to use raisins in a chili I would make — I’ve never liked them much as kid because of their texture.

Besides, I can be all snobbish and talk about how I can create an amazing chili with wine. You just can’t be snobbish with raisins. They’re wrinkled food for kids. Wine is for the adult palate, and even someone as unrefined as me can appreciate their nuances sometimes.

new toy

October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Fairly inexpensive new toy as well. I picked it up for 20 dollars and it’s been interesting to carry it around in my pocket for the last week and a half. It’s also been an interesting motivator.

It came about from something my brother said a couple of weeks ago, about how many steps a person takes a day. It seems that according to a 2004 study, American men take around 7200 steps a day and American women 5200. The average number of steps has probably been declining as the world has become more technologically advanced — many stand up and move around jobs are now done by machines, we’ve got cars to carry us places, we’ve got a lot of games that can be played in front of television and computer screens, it’s becoming a world where you can sit down almost all day.

To add on to this, earlier this week a study out of Britain was published in which a very strong link was found between how much sitting a person does and how likely that person was to be overweight/obese, to develop type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. That effect isn’t entirely offset by doing the 30 minutes of exercise 3x a week or even by a near-daily exerciser: the problem seems to be prolonged sitting. The important thing may be for a person with a sit-down job to stand up every hour and move around some — provoke the body into a more physically alert state.

Anyhow, about 40 years ago, an idea that got big in Japan was that a person should try to get 10000 steps per day, which is a little less than 5 miles if the length of an average step is about 2.5 feet. I’ve been trying to do that since I got a pedometer Tuesday afternoon last week. I came up a little short the first full day with it, about 9750 steps. But since then I’ve been over 10000 every day and have a high mark of over 34000 last Saturday when I took a walk in the morning, then did a fair bit of walking cutting and hauling some wood for winter, then golfed in the afternoon (the round of golf was worth around 13500 steps).

It requires some commitment to get to 10000. To do it during the week, I need to do 3 short walks spaced throughout my workday. I also in between those walks use the bathroom, just as a way to have me at least stand up and move every hour or so. Then I need to do a walk after work to push me over 10000.

More anyhow, this seems to be inspiring me to work again at recovering the fitness and strength I’ve lost over the last 2 years. I find it somehow more relaxing to look at the pedometer and think, “Let’s get to 12,000.” Then it doesn’t matter how fast I do it, just take me and my thoughts and walk with them. It seems to have helped my insulin sensitivity too. Before the pedometer, I was using 22 to 24 units of Lantus for basal. I’m now down to 17 units. There also may be another metabolic effect happening too — when I first got going, I was having some trouble with my blood sugar plummeting during the walks. I would have to consume 20 to 40 grams of carbs to fuel walks of 30 to 60 minutes. But last evening I only needed around 10 grams to fuel a walk/run that went 1 hour and 15 minutes. That’s still more carbs than I used to need a few years ago, when if I had thing right, I could run for almost 2 hours without needing any carbs. But it’s a move in the right direction, if last evening was an actual change and not just some sort of weird outlier. I really hope though it is a sign I can get back to where I was a few years ago, feel good that I could go out and do a run and not have to worry that my blood sugar would plummet.

I also need to get that back if I do ever get myself motivated enough to put the training in for a marathon. It would just make it a whole lot easier if I’m not having to dump carbs into me for the whole 26.2 miles, but only need to do it over the last 10 to 13 miles or so.

As a point of comparison to how much a pre-modern era lifestyle person would walk, a study was done with a group of Amish in Ontario. In that study, the Amish men averaged around 18000 steps a day and the women averaged around 14000. An Amish person would be averaging over 6 miles a day on foot.

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Ahh, the shoulder. Still not fully healed, but slowly making progress and maybe the progress is picking up in pace. Earlier this year, I was able again to do a pull-up, although from the top I couldn’t lower myself, I would have to let go of the bar and drop to the floor. To hang on and drop would cause too much discomfort in the front of the shoulder. That has gone away and this week I found I can again do 2 pull-ups in a row. Nowhere near as many as I once could do, but it’s improvement. Still can’t do chin ups because there is too much discomfort, although I can now grasp the bar in the chin up position and gently ease myself down towards the bottom position. So that’s progress too. Maybe I’m in the home stretch, maybe inside of 6 months it’ll nearly all be forgotten. Pretty much only those who have suffered frozen shoulders will understand and know just how much I look forward to the day of having a fully functional arm and shoulder again.

shoulder progress

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

It definitely feels like the thaw of the shoulder is getting better, more consistent, more optimism inducing. For a long time now, I’ve been unable to put both my right and left hands on their respective hips. I don’t suppose in any way it’s a necessary function of life, but it’s a bit annoying sometimes to be standing someplace, waiting, and realize that I can’t put my hands on my hips. I have to settle for right hand on the hip and left hand in front pocket. For a long while, I genuinely couldn’t even put my fingers on the front of the left hip and the thumb behind. But now I’ve gotten to where I can do that. It still isn’t right and doesn’t look right because my arm can’t rotate enough to allow the elbow to stick out to the side, or if I do make the elbow stick to the side it’s by making the shoulder itself lurch forward.

But that is progress. I try to work on the shoulder some when I’m in the shower in the mornings. The heat and warmth give at least an illusion of greater pliability with the flesh and joint — although that may be a lie to myself. Still, it feels like I’m making progress with how much I can pull the left arm behind my back and across to the right side. I can hold it for longer periods of time too. When I first would try to do it, the discomfort would grow too great in about 10 to 15 seconds. Now I’m stretching it farther and can get it to the edge of the range of motion and hold it there for more than 30 seconds.

Am I finally reaching the home stretch for it? Am I reaching a point where the adhesions in the shoulder capsule are beginning to crumble, where the tissues have finally lost nearly all inflammation that there is no real pain anymore, just a more tolerable sort of discomfort? I hope so. I’m tired of not having full use of both arms.

I sometimes wonder why this one’s frozen stage has lasted longer. It’s not been for lack of trying to keep active with the arm. I have done a lot more to try to stay active with the left shoulder and arm than I ever did with the right side back in 2003 to 2005. That right shoulder took about 2 years. I first noticed twinges in it late in the summer of 2003 — in August of 2005 I started golfing and was pleased by how much range of motion I had — not full, but very close. This left one started in Feb. 2010 and now it’s August 2012. 2.5 years, and the shoulder is not nearly so thawed out. Why? Is it just because I’m older and my body can’t heal as fast as it once could? Is it just some sort of random variation? Is it because I try to stay active with this shoulder, unlike the right one? By that last question the thought I’ve sometimes had is what if using that shoulder caused a tougher sort of adhesion to fill in the capsule space? Is that possible? What if because I didn’t use my right shoulder so much in 2003 and 2004, the adhesions that developed weren’t so tough or dense or something? Then when the pain had subsided, the adhesions broke up more readily?

There is no evidence or definitive answer, and there never will be.

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I’m going to be in a bowling league starting next week. My brother suggested I might like to try it since I bowl fairly well whenever I get roped into going to a bowling alley. And if I play every week, I’ll probably see some improvement with the practice. I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as golfing though. Golf is more interesting in its variety of challenges.

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I’ve been working again on improving flexibility. For a while this summer, I had slacked off on the stretching: there was frustration about how I had seemingly gotten stuck, even though I felt rather sure I ought to be able to get more. Then I came across something about PNF stretching or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, and it’s making a difference. It’s a cool idea. First you stretch a target muscle as far it can go passively, then you contract that muscle, hold it for some time, relax it and when you do that, you stretch it out some more. Go through a few cycles of that and bam, the muscle has been stretched farther than it ever has been before. It’s like playing a little trick on the nervous system. Of course, you still need to be careful about things, but it’s a useful tool in the toolbox and I wish I had known about it earlier.

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I had tried to start running again back in March, but that didn’t stick. Some frustration about how my blood sugars would drop very fast. I’m trying walking now. There’s still some trouble with blood sugars dropping too much. But I want to regain some aerobic fitness. But I may have to go back to bedtime Lantus shots if I want to be able to do extended cardio without huge drops in blood sugar. Which means I’ll have to go back again to bumping my blood sugar higher before bed and dealing with occasional nighttime hypos. If there’s one thing I’ve really liked about morning Lantus shots is that I didn’t have nearly the worry about nypos (nighttime hypos). But if I think about things and if I do decide at some point again that I want to do a marathon, I will have to switch back to nighttime Lantus.

That marathon idea is the idea with the walking. Back in the early part of the 20th century, a lot of the great Finnish distance runners did a lot of walking during the wintertime. That was their slowpaced cardio work. Then as it got warmed up, they’d start running. I’ve been thinking that. Get in the habit of walking briskly 4 or 5 times a week, then when we get to March next year, start running and build my way to a marathon.

I believe I can do the physical part of that. I’ve done it before. And I could probably do it better if I have a better cardio buildup with the walking over the winter to come. I worry some about the emotional challenge to it though. The marathon I got myself ready for in 2009 was fueled by an emotion which has been a rare occurrence in my life. One which I may never know again. There’ll be a lot of thinking to do if I’m running, a lot of memories to run with and run by and run through and run around and run for and run against.

Ça suffit.

bodyweight

It feels like I’m finally feeling good enough, physically and mentally, to work on regaining the strength I’ve lost. Even if I can’t really do a lot of pullups yet, there’s still other bodyweight stuff I can work on.

It began last Friday when I did some pushups spread out through the day. A total of 50 or 60. Sadly enough on Saturday and Sunday my muscles were sore from that. But I went back to them on Monday and did 100 pushups. No soreness felt on Tuesday, and on Tuesday I switched over to bodyweight squats. A total of 150.

I felt a tiny bit of soreness in the right leg yesterday and today, Thursday. On Wednesday it was back to pushups and I cranked out 160 during the day. Now today, there is a very slight sense of soreness in the lower back area, muscles which stabilize the torso when doing pushups. Anyhow, I’m squatting again and aim to do a total of 200 squats today.

When I took a look in the mirror this morning, it looked a bit like it’s already helping to make a difference from how soft I had taken to looking. I still don’t look anywhere near as strong or fit as I did when maybe I was at a peak of sorts back in 2010, but at least I’m not sliding anymore into a deeper softness.

I suppose I should consider doing barbell rows for the back, for a pulling strength motion. The only problem with that is I can’t bring my barbell to work and do them at spaced out intervals like I can with pushups and bodyweight squats. Still, that makes sense, so I’ll figure out a way to work something with them.

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Se arbo falas en arbaro kaj neniu ĉeestas por aŭdi ĝin, ĉu ĝi faras sonon?

a full pull

After a long long time, I’ve finally done a full pullup again. I had been getting closer, earlier in the week I had gotten to having my mouth nearly level with the bar, but lacked that last little bit of strength. This morning there was finally enough and my chin cleared the bar.

I’ve also begun working on pushups again. For a long while, there was just too much of an awkward feel to the left shoulder when doing a pushup. Some awkwardness still exists, but it’s not so wrong feeling and it might be helping to break up more of the scar tissue. So maybe the shoulder is well enough again that I can work on regaining the strength that’s been lost.

It’s a bit dismaying to remember how I used to be able to do 10 or more pullups easily, no awkwardness to the shoulder, being strong. Now I’ve got some work to do to rebuild the left arm and shoulder which sort of withered during this time of impairment. And I’m still a ways away from the arm being fully functional. Yeah, it’s a lot better than it was, but that just shows how horrible it had gotten. Frozen shoulder is miserable business.