Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Resolutions - 2013


It just happens that the new year arrived at a time when I have decided to make a few minor changes. Quite a coincidence. But these are typical year round changes and adjustments based on "what works, what doesn't" and is really an ongoing process.

1) Stop reading/listening to news. If it is worth knowing, someone will tell me about it anyway. This will also allow people to talk and me to listen.
2) Read more books on Kindle. This is cheaper, easier to carry around and also reduces clutter in my small apartment.
3) Replace vacuum cleaner with a stick, wireless vacuum cleaner. The current vacuum cleaner takes up valuable space for a major part of the month, is not used as much as it should be and is ungainly to use around my small apartment. "Wireless" should be the wired word around my place.
4) Call women rather than texting them. Texting/emailing can wait until after something comes out of getting a number. I am at a stage where I can quickly start applying a change like this. Well, it has already started to happen.
5) Stop using smileys and exclamation marks in text and email messages. Good English is sufficient and faster.
6) Throw more Sunday brunches. That's more practical for my apartment than dinner parties. Don't over think parties. Just do it.
7) Post on Facebook only if I have something interesting to share.
8) At work, talk much less. Listen fully before retorting. Keep wisecracking to outside office.
9) Go out more. Don't wonder about asking others to participate. Just do your thing. Once out, deal with "things" as they happen. Don't anticipate.
10) Then go out some more.

Simple changes. No "reduce body fat down to 10%" stuff. Those are good. But these are such minor changes that can happen overnight but can make an immediate impact in one's lifestyle.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Up in the clouds

This was a particularly great Sunday in late August in 2012. I had scheduled a flight lesson at 8 AM. My first one after becoming an American citizen. I was up by 6. No alcohol the previous night. I felt fantastic. An hour and 15 minutes later, I was humming down 93. Cape traffic had not yet started backing up on route 3. The drive down to Marshfield was steady and brisk.

A nice, sunny morning. A few clouds here and there. Perfect.

Not my photo.

Once I arrive and park at the airport, I tend to sit in my car for a few minutes pretending to be in an aircraft taking off, landing, etc. It helps reset my mind somewhat before I walk into the terminal building and start my wisecracking.

F*cking Indian guy.

Ok, I am just kidding. They really like me down there.

On the tarmac, as I pre-flighted, I observed a light, steady crosswind. The top of the trees that covered the airport's perimeter were swaying imperceptibly. Nice. There were a few birds hopping about on the grass between the taxiway and runway. As long as the buggers didn't get in my way...

Several other small aircraft took off. Lazy like. It was a day for flying and everyone wanted to be up there with ole blue. A body could already start to feel the day's heat creep up on him.

Before I turned the engine on, I had to warn anyone near the aircraft through a tiny window set in the window on my side by shouting....

"CLEAR!"

My god. What an accent. Pervert.

The takeoff was smooth. As soon as I lined up on the center line,  I opened up the throttle and the Piper responded instantly. Not bad for a 30 year old bird. At 40 knots, I pulled the stick back slightly and held it. At a tad over 60 knots, the aircraft rotated and started a gentle climb. I applied a touch of right rudder. Mmm. Very professional.

One hour later...

We were flying back to home base from Norwood. Norwood had been my first flight to a towered airport. Very insthructhive, Misther Bhondh.

Oh, boy. Clouds.

To port, a few miles away at 2000 feet below, Marshfield airport peeped between the clouds. The glare from man made objects and moving vehicle traffic in the town center right below us hurt my eyes a bit.

Big, billowing clouds. They were moving steadily to the north-west. We were heading south-east. I loved it.

It was a strange experience being in the clouds. I had flown through clouds before but not while I was in the driver's seat. We would be in one cloud and I would start looking at my instruments. There was nothing else to look at. I would flex my quads and see them ripple through my jeans. Interesting. Then we will be out of the cloud. I would then look outside to check where I was in relation to the airport. Then we would be in another cloud.

I made a descending turn to port to start the descent toward the airport's traffic pattern. There were two other aircraft near Marshfield. And the radio snapped, crackled and popped non-stop. It was a busy day. A fascinating day.

The landing was right on the numbers. As I tethered the aircraft, my instructor took off to the terminal building...gangnam style (he had been nursing one of those American sized iced coffees before the flight). I stood for a while observing the scene around me. Very nice. I made a mental note to book two classes back to back for my next lesson.

As always, I stopped at a Starbucks in Marshfield on my drive back to Boston. As the beaming, perfectly toothed smile glared at me from behind the counter, I briefly panicked. I wasn't sure if I had enough on my prepaid Starbucks card. Screw the grande mocha. I will get something real cheap.

"Tall bold, please".

"There you go. Would you like to know the balance on your card, sir?"

You could have just told me.

"No, thanks".

"You have a great day now".

I already did, pumpkin.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Injury Management

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? Here is my list of injuries over the years:

Later 2003 - Left lower back strain while squatting. First ever visit to a chiropractor revealed two subluxations in neck, one in upper back and one in lower back. More on these later.

Summer 2005 - Significant lateral meniscus tear in right knee from playing Tennis on a hard court while wearing worn out sneakers.

Fall 2006 - Forced subluxation in upper back when barbell slipped during heavy isometric squat hold. This in turn started pangs of pain in left shoulder that has recurred a few times a year since.

Early 2009 - Left elbow tendinitis (Tennis elbow).

Spring/Summer 2010 - Right elbow tendinitis (Golfer's elbow) first instigated by a lapse in concentration while chinning during spring 2010 and later worsened by heavy farmer's walks that summer.

Early Summer 2011 - Right thumb inflammation (DeQuervain's Tendonitis?) from moving up in my overhead pressing weight quickly. I was also military pressing six days a week. I eventually pressed 165 lbs (the equivalent of my bodyweight) but it came at a price.

Summer 2012: Right thumb inflammation recurred after a particularly intense set of seated dips; right extensor muscle strain from a particularly intense set of reverse barbell curls (this put a complete stop to all my lifting).

The subluxations discovered in 2003 were fixed after a few months of weekly chiropractic visits. The lower back subluxation had led to one of my legs being "longer" than the other, which, in turn, resulted in the lower back strain while squatting. Between monthly chiropractic visits and several sessions of back extensions a week, I have not experienced a lower back strain since.

The meniscus tear lives. Smooth, straight-line activities like sprints and squats don't bother it. Snowboarding and other high impact activities do. Surprisingly, the breast stroke doesn't bother it either but then I don't "whip" my legs during the kicking phase (I squat horizontally through the water). My ortho had suggested surgery back then and I am glad I decided against it. Eventually, I will need it.

The upper back subluxation has recurred in a rather severe manner twice, once during an isometric squat hold and once as I turned my head while front squatting 265 lbs, and both times caused my neck to really stiffen up for a couple of weeks at a time. Now I am very aware of this particular nuisance and seem to have it under control.

The right elbow tendinitis never healed fully and I still experience soreness there today. The soreness became deeper after the extensor muscle strain this summer. That strain itself was caused because I got to holding the barbell "gingerly" when doing reverse curls because I didn't want to worsen the "residual effect" I was still experiencing from the right thumb inflammation (from the previous summer).

Lessons learned

1) Pause and take stock if any discomfort is experienced anywhere. I am not a professional athlete and it would be idiotic to injure myself because I wanted to be hardcore. It is better to come back another day and train with full intensity.

2) Accept that an injury may still occur. If so, stop the activity that caused the injury. Icing and workarounds are fine but I have found that there is absolutely no substitute for complete rest.

3) Chiropractic care has been valuable, if only to serve as a calibration tool.

4) Seek active recuperation. Don't wait for an injury to happen. Monthly deep tissue massages and weekly steam baths have proved beneficial. Myofascial release and acupuncture do not seem to have had an impact. On a side note, I did ask my acupuncturist out and was pleasantly rejected.

5) Extend the warm up. There should be no clear line between when the warm up ends and the actual workout begins. As Dan John put it once, the warm up becomes the workout.

6) Do not use barbells for all my lifts. The barbell puts my wrists, elbows and shoulders in an unforgiving position. Dumbbells allow much freer movement of those joints while also forcing each side of my body to work hard (that is, prevent one side from overpowering the other).

7) Mix up my set/rep scheme. Most of my injuries occurred during a phase when I was lifting heavy weights for low reps in every workout. While I packed on muscle, absolute strength and my metabolism skyrocketed, I also experienced the most amount of injuries. Going forward, think in terms of mobility, energy systems and strength. This means doing both heavy weight, low rep and lower weight, moderate rep training. I like high reps for only core, calf and grip work.

Next few months

I hate cardio. Other than the occasional brisk swim or all-out sprints, I don't see myself doing slow, steady-state cardio anytime soon. Just the way I like my sex: hard and fast. I love hiking weekly in the blue hills and am looking forward to snowshoeing this winter. I have no idea when I will get back into rock climbing as my elbows still don't feel 100%. But I am literally twitching thinking about putting on my snowshoes, my legs pumping to the heavy stillness of a surrounding, black forest and feeling a frosty breeze on my face. As for weight training, it is still numero uno in my book. The squat has been a faithful standby, keeping me sane during all this time as it was about the only lift I could do with any intensity. It has helped retain lightness in my feet and kept my heart and lungs in decent shape and (gulp) I am very grateful to it. I am back in regular training now. Three days a week, one heavy barbell exercise (usually the squat) followed by several light to moderately heavy dumbbell exercises should not only do the trick for now but also lend structure to an otherwise dreary week.