Banged Up

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe

At this point it’s virtually impossible to find someone that hasn’t read or heard this quote from Rippetoe, and for good reason. There is a lot of truth found in those words. In a recent social media post Ryan of Full Contact Runner on the subject of injuries Ryan talked about the frustration experienced when folks act as if the cause of our injury or illness is related to, and made worse by this lifestyle. As if we are somehow more susceptible to injury, and illness than someone that spends those same hours sitting on a couch. While we are definitely more likely to be injured, (as this lifestyle is a contact sport), it is still preferable to any other way of life. Most importantly, and something these critics fail to realize, is the simple fact that this lifestyle sets us up to recover from any injury or illness much faster, and with less complications. Because of this lifestyle we are strong therefore we are harder to kill, harder to knock down, and when knocked down we’re harder to keep down.

  • Using myself as an example; in 2007 I shattered my kneecap on a gig. It took surgery, and 8 months of therapy to get back in the saddle. I was told there were things I wouldn’t be able to do again, to include key aspects of my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2010 I injured my lower back doing extensive damage to the discs and vertebrae at S1, L5, L4, and L3. I was told I would need major surgery, and would have to medically retire from my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2011 I was hit with intense abdominal pain that went on for months. I ultimately ended up in the hospital with acute pancreatitis. I was in a bad state, and it resulted in surgery to repair the damage. I was told this is probably going to be something I would live with for the rest of my life. I’m able to manage this because of my lifestyle.
  • 2014 I had a brain hemorrhage with intra-cranial pressure/swelling. It was awesome. Probably the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. I should have died. I didn’t. I was told I would have permanently altered gait, and other issues. I don’t.
  • During training cycles I’ve broken ribs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, teeth, my jaw, nose, and a metric ton of soft tissue injuries.

You’re probably wondering what’s the point of listing injuries and illness? To make a point which is; the common theme in every injury or illness was at some point, often multiple times a Doctor or other medical professional would tell me that the reason it wasn’t worse, and my recovery was faster than expected was because I arrived at that crisis point strong, healthy, and in great condition. I’m not alone in this, every one of my friends that have gone through any type of injury or illness relate the same story. Doctors and medical professionals telling them they made it, or they will recover because their strength levels when it started were so high. That’s the other side of this injury/illness coin the couch surfers don’t understand. The injuries we suffer in this game aren’t as bad as they would be if we were weak. The illnesses we go through in life, (by the way, both of my health crisis were unrelated to my lifestyle), would be much worse, and maybe even unsurvivable if we didn’t have a reservoir of physical and mental strength going into the situation.

So remember that the next time a critic points out that you’re “always” hurt, or you seem to be more susceptible to injury or illness that “never” seems to affect them. First, their perception might be skewed, to say the least. Second, while the injury part might be true since if we never get punched in the face what are the odds that we’ll get concussed? However, illnesses which is to some degree genetic hit all of us regardless of whether we follow a healthy lifestyle or not. Folks that never smoke a day in their life are diagnosed with cancer, and folks that never drink a day in their life come down with liver disease. It’s just the cards we’re dealt. The difference is a strong body gives the physicians, and other medical professionals more to work with to fight the illness, or even a traumatic event that landed us on the hospital bed in front of them. Get strong, stay strong, and ignore the critics.

 

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A powerful depiction of our role in helping the doctors and medical staff help us. Give them something to fight with, get as strong and healthy as possible. Thanks to Ryan of Full Contact Runner for sharing this photo. If your not following Ryan on social media check out his Facebook page at Full Contact Runner as well as his excellent blog of the same name.

 

Mental Game

Some folks refer to the mental side of this pursuit as mindset, and we like to add a little heat to it by adding the words; combative, or tactical, or maybe even killer. That’s cool stuff, and I dig it yet I still prefer to refer to this as mental game simply because I approach this aspect just like any other piece of the multi-disciplinary endeavor; we can build it once we have a plan, tools, and materials.

First ask yourself if you see this endeavor as something epic? You might be thinking c’mon dude, this is just jiujitsu or just shooting or just lifting weights. That’s the first issue we have to address. You have to see this as your personal hero’s journey because that is exactly what this endeavor will be. You will fail. You will be injured. You will want to quit. You will be frustrated. You will see friends surpass you. You will lose, maybe more than you win. Did I mention you will want to quit? You will want to quit, sometimes daily. If you have read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell this is familiar to you. If it has been a while since you read Hero’s Journey then I would recommend reading it again, and put it into your rotation of books to be re-visited at least once a year.

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A cool depiction of The Hero’s Journey from the Buck Institute for Education. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campell.

Okay, so maybe you still don’t buy into this being a hero’s journey. That’s cool however, I think you will come around to this way of thinking, and once you do everything else we talk about regarding mental game will be easy to digest.

I want you to think about the aspects of your life that have been made better by this endeavor. I routinely meet or hear from people that have lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off, after years of struggling with this issue. People also share with me about putting on muscle, and dedicating themselves to healthy eating practices that allow them to be in the best condition to date. I hear from people that struggled with substance abuse, never able to kick that habit until they began this journey. Eating disorders, body image issues, folks that were severely traumatized by events in their life, these are all people I have talked with and were kind enough to share with me their stories of overcoming these challenges through the lifestyle changes that come with this endeavor. This wasn’t the only thing that helped folks get to a better place however, this was a key component in helping folks get to a better place.

We all know this practice is about falling, getting up, falling, and getting up again. Each time we get up we’re armed with a little more knowledge then we had before we fell. Now we have a little more understanding of what to do, and what not to do. We’re a little better. This is your hero’s journey. Get that in your head. Start seeing it as epic. What you’re doing here in this endeavor will affect everything you do outside this endeavor. You might never need to fight a malevolent attacker. However, the skills you build in this thing might be exactly what you need when it’s time to dust yourself off, stand up, and go at life one more time.

Mental Game

Some folks refer to the mental side of this pursuit as mindset, and we like to add a little heat to it by adding the words; combative, or tactical, or maybe even killer. That’s cool stuff, and I dig it yet I still prefer to refer to this as mental game simply because I approach this aspect just like any other piece of the multi-disciplinary endeavor; we can build it once we have a plan, tools, and materials.

First ask yourself if you see this endeavor as something epic? You might be thinking c’mon dude, this is just jiujitsu or just shooting or just lifting weights. That’s the first issue we have to address. You have to see this as your personal hero’s journey because that is exactly what this endeavor will be. You will fail. You will be injured. You will want to quit. You will be frustrated. You will see friends surpass you. You will lose, maybe more than you win. Did I mention you will want to quit? You will want to quit, sometimes daily. If you have read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell this is familiar to you. If it has been a while since you read Hero’s Journey then I would recommend reading it again, and put it into your rotation of books to be re-visited at least once a year.

c9464c0d90
A cool depiction of The Hero’s Journey from the Buck Institute for Education. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campell.

Okay, so maybe you still don’t buy into this being a hero’s journey. That’s cool however, I think you will come around to this way of thinking, and once you do everything else we talk about regarding mental game will be easy to digest.

I want you to think about the aspects of your life that have been made better by this endeavor. I routinely meet or hear from people that have lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off, after years of struggling with this issue. People also share with me about putting on muscle, and dedicating themselves to healthy eating practices that allow them to be in the best condition to date. I hear from people that struggled with substance abuse, never able to kick that habit until they began this journey. Eating disorders, body image issues, folks that were severely traumatized by events in their life, these are all people I have talked with and were kind enough to share with me their stories of overcoming these challenges through the lifestyle changes that come with this endeavor. This wasn’t the only thing that helped folks get to a better place however, this was a key component in helping folks get to a better place.

We all know this practice is about falling, getting up, falling, and getting up again. Each time we get up we’re armed with a little more knowledge then we had before we fell. Now we have a little more understanding of what to do, and what not to do. We’re a little better. This is your hero’s journey. Get that in your head. Start seeing it as epic. What you’re doing here in this endeavor will affect everything you do outside this endeavor. You might never need to fight a malevolent attacker. However, the skills you build in this thing might be exactly what you need when it’s time to dust yourself off, stand up, and go at life one more time.

Veggie Might! Part II

In Veggie Might! Part I I shared the motive for moving to plant based approach to eating. In this post I’m going to share some of the resources I’ve used to make this as painless as possible. There are quite a few apps, websites, and cookbooks available that have made my transition to plant based eating fairly easy.

Let’s start with youtube channels;

When it comes to cookbooks I look for recipes that make hearty, tasty meals. My favorites are;

One of the biggest challenges is eating while on the road. Fortunately there are more veggie friendly restaurants than ever before. The Happy Cow App is an excellent resource when I’m traveling or even if I’m at home and want to go out for a plant based meal. However, sometimes that’s not an option. Rather than force friends and family to eat at a plant based restaurant when all they really want is a steak, I’ll find ways to make do. Most regular restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu now. If that’s not an option I’ll order side dishes. There are always vegetables in the side dish menu as well as rice or something similar. I should say that my objective in eating this way isn’t to take the moral high ground or brow beat friends and family into eating my way. I want my friends and family to enjoy their life and if that means they eat a steak, so be it. Rather than make an issue about eating at a steak house or BBQ joint, I’ll treat it as a challenge! 

So whether you want to go all in on a plant based diet, or simply try one of the various approaches to vegetarianism to see for yourself if your health improves, these are a few of the resources I have used and continue to use. For me this has been a fantastic decision. I’m healthier, I eat foods that cover a full spectrum of flavors, colors, and textures. I meet my nutritional objectives everyday, and never feel like I’m missing out on anything. I will admit to missing a good cheeseburger on occasion, particularly in the summer time at events with friends and family. However, I’ve found other forms of burger such as black bean burgers or portobello burgers that taste great and are a fantastic substitute.

It’s as easy and as hard as that, after a few years of eating this way it really isn’t that difficult any longer. When I contrast my medication free life now with a life spent taking medications that were correcting one issue while creating a host of others, I can live without the cheeseburgers.

 

Veggie Might! Part I

Despite the title this post is not about the disgusting Australian food spread. Nope. We’re talking about my journey into the vegetarian world. Some folks have asked me about my approach to vegetarianism and how it has affected my performance. I thought I would share with you why and how I got started on this path.

On 11/09/14 at approximately 4pm I drove myself to the hospital with what I thought was a killer migraine. I anticipated a shot of something to mellow it out, going home to have some alone time until it went away. Here is a link to a description of what happened to me; http://www.bafound.org/subarachnoid-hemorrhage  Needless to say, I was dealing with a little more than a migraine. After a staying in CCU for a few days I was finally allowed to go home. The docs agreed that being strong and healthy played a major role in my recovery. I left the hospital optimistic, thinking this was no big thing. I was still strong, and healthy so the attributes that saved me would continue to work on my behalf. I’ll knock out this recovery period without issue… little did I know I was about to be stuck in my house for almost four months as I had migraines almost 24/7. I went on a roller coaster ride of medications that screwed my system up seven ways from Sunday. I don’t want to go too far into that aspect but I’ll say the pharmaceutical nightmare is real, and motivated me to find a better way to deal with the issues. My diet prior to 11/09/14 consisted of almost 90% meat, and eggs. My diet mirrored my strongman training partners diets with a heavy emphasis on protein and fats. Eating a dozen eggs for breakfast was routine, followed by a pound or more of hamburger or steak 90 minutes later. I ate some form of protein every 90 minutes throughout the day. Bags of chicken breast, fish, and pounds of meat were consumed weekly. This was a great diet for strength, and someone training for and competing in strongman, highland games, or powerlifting. My bodyweight fluctuated between 270-290 pounds, at times going up to 305 pounds. I was still able to maintain an 8 minute mile pace during 5k’s and would run a competitive race on average once a month. I had blood-work done every 3-4 months and my numbers were always great. On the surface I was healthy, and had no reason for concern. My neurologists have said numerous times my diet, lifestyle and training  history were not a factor in my brain trying to kill me. To quote one neurologist, “This is a once in a lifetime event. No one could have predicted this. You survived. Don’t play the lottery ever again because you used up every bit of good luck you have with this event.”

With that in mind as soon as I could get back to eating my way I did however, on a much smaller scale. (Eating that much protein is something you have to build up to, John Parrillo recommends we approach eating the same way we approach conditioning, or mobility, in a progressive overload manner). This time around things were different, the headaches got worse. The side-effects of the meds got worse. Life started to suck in a major way. My neurologist had recommended a vegetarian diet every time he saw me, as in once every three weeks when I went in for a checkup. I refused to listen. I really believed my body would just snap back into the groove and everything would be okay. My blood pressure was out of control, I had a hard time breathing. In short, there was more going wrong than going right.

I finally gave in, and cut out red meat, and chicken. I didn’t eat pork products before so that was a non-issue. I increased the amount of vegetables, and fruits. Within a few weeks I noticed a difference. I stopped eating eggs every morning, and started eating more beans, legumes, nuts, and other plant based protein sources. Within a few more weeks I was feeling even better. I was starting to notice a trend. My neurologist noticed as well, and I was forced to admit he was right, a vegetarian eating plan was exactly what I needed.  Fast forward to 2017, and I’m no longer on any medications. I can’t remember the last time I had a migraine, and my blood pressure has stabilized. It was as easy and as hard as that, simple yet complicated, difficult yet not impossible. I simply stopped eating meat. I started eating veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, and beans. My health continues to improve.

In part II we’ll take a look at sources for recipes, how I view the protein issue, and recovery. I’ll also share some hacks I use when dining out, or on the road.