Life

Firefighter Fail – Lesson in Detachment

1550_10151240073931647_175648707_n

My intention was to become a firefighter.  Come March I’d walk with my academy mates to shake the hand of the fire chief moving from firefighter recruit to full fledged firefighter.  Alas…that’s not what will happen.  Firefighter will not be part of my resume.

CrossFit, strongman and weightlifting prepared me physically for the academy.  Upon entering the academy I felt physically strong and ready to put my body through the demands of training to become a firefighter.  The physical aspect of the academy was definitely a challenge and my body took a beating to say the least.  However, feeling like I was doing something physically was quite rewarding at the end of the day.  Looking back at what was accomplished in such a short amount of time – running 2.5miles as a warm-up (who does that?!), for example, was a win in my book.

Yoga prepared me for the mental challenge of the academy, sort of.  I have never been in the military, nor do I ever want to be.  Imagine my surprise when faced with the militaristic style of the academy!  To say I hated it would be an understatement.  It was a complete shock to the system to also find out how intensely phobic I  initially was of the SCBA.  This all boils down to some fairly deep rooted patterns within me, namely the fear of loosing control or letting go.  My very basic breath practice helped to get me through most of this, while the awareness of this pattern has pushed me to work with it so that I can hopefully one day move beyond the fear.  Interestingly enough, I learned the power of meditation during this time as well.  I used to be of the “this is too woo-woo” camp and was resistant to the idea.  When faced with the challenges I encountered the week+ I was in the academy, meditation became a necessity to maintain presence.

The combination of all the above gave me the confidence to quit the academy.  Crawling through the maze in full turnout gear on day 6 of the academy I realized that had that been an actual burning building I would’ve wanted no part in that whatsoever.  When I exited the structure I pulled of my mask and told my instructor and Lieutenant that I was done and would not be continuing.  That was the last moment I would be a firefighter.

  

The View

10418340_10203926579988754_41964546757882178_n

 

My current full time position in the hospital is not as active as my most recent full time position in the ED.  It’s very easy to get in a tunnel of fitness articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, etc and not get outside or walk around when stuck in a small office 36 hours a week.  Today I decided to take a few pictures on my walk around the hospital campus that is shared by a level one trauma facility and a medical school.

Some things that I observed while on my 30-ish minute break:

  1. It is HOT!  Wow – the humidity of the East Coast is no joke on a 90+ degree day.  Seriously like thick soup.  However it was amazing to feel the warmth of the sun, despite the fact there was absolutely NO breeze.
  2. I walked by three people taking a smoke break.  Our entire campus is smoke free requiring anyone that chooses to smoke to walk to the neighboring areas away from campus to get their fix.  Observation – they were outside enjoying a break from their jobs just like I was, only they were quietly standing still under a tree.
  3. Quite a few people were out and about and I took notice of how many people actually acknowledged my presence.  It’s amazing to me that you can walk by someone close enough to touch them and smell their laundry detergent, but they will act as if you do not even exist.  By example, my parents taught me to make eye contact, smile and acknowledge anyone close enough to do so.  I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone waved as they drove by, or at least smiled.
  4. It was enough to change my outlook on my 12 hour day to sweat a little and move.  So, uh, just do it.

What kinds of things did you see today?  How did you move around your environment?

Milestones, PR’s and Acceptance

PR on the Gripper!

PR on the Gripper!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  EE Cummings 

In our society we tend to  measure life’s successes by certain milestones.  There are many names for these milestones depending on what, when, where and why we’re working on improvements.  In relationships it seems as though we look towards marriage, and we aren’t fully successful in our relationships until we are married, have children, buy a house, have a dog, buy a car….etc etc etc.  At work we always look for advancement, a raise, a promotion.  Crossfiters measure our successes in PR’s (personal records), faster times, bigger numbers, heavier weights.  In the yoga world (especially in western culture) we look towards deepening our asana expression, becoming more flexible, having better breath control, just having a consistent practice.   

Practicing my wrist curls in physical therapy - week 2.

Practicing my wrist curls in physical therapy – week 2.

I attacked my physical therapy in full force once I was out of surgery.  Not only did I want my surgery to be a success, but I wanted to get back in the gym, get back on the mat, walk the dogs, cook, get my independance back…hell just live life.  The adaptations that come about after loosing full access of a limb I had 100% access to prior was quite a culture shock to say the least.  And I more or less had a choice in getting this surgery, I didn’t lose the abilities of my left arm having it shot off in battle, a car accident, illness, etc.  I lost mobility because I chose to fix a tear that was partially limiting my choice of lifestyle.  And talk about adaptations – try figuring out how to get in and out of a GHD with one arm for the first time…sorry there isn’t a video of this hilarity.  Or figure out how to teach an asana class in a sling, or when the arm barely lifts off the side.  It’s an interesting experience!

Rehab Wod

Rehab Wod

As of today I am currently six months post surgery.  PT was cut off in March because insurance thinks that that’s all one needs to rehab post a major surgery (let’s not even go there).  I’m been back in the gym and I’m back to teaching and practicing on the mat.  And from what I’m hearing from PT’s, friends that have been through similar surgeries, yoga students, doctors, etc. – I’m doing really well.  

Want to see some PR’s?  That’s good…because I’m gunna give you an overview!  And the list of what I can do has finally surpassed the list of what I cannot.

  1. Range of Motion – Almost 100% with one little sticky spot right at full extension over my head close to my ear.  (So no presses yet.) 
  2. Strength – I can actually do a few full push ups (crossfit standards), however I still perform them in workouts on my knees.  Have pretty good pull strength.  Can hold downdog, planks, forearm planks without pain.  Can actually grocery shop on my own (that’s a BIG one).
  3. Stamina – Can work my full 12 hour shifts, walk the dogs, cook, and generally not feel pain in at the end of the day.

 Bad News:

Apparently there comes a point after surgery where you tend to regress.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this phenomenon until it happened to me.  At about the five month mark my shoulder felt worse than it did pre-surgery.  I was in a ton of pain and even had to take the good drugs a few times to get some relief.  Sleeping became a bitch again (I was actually sleeping through the night finally).  Depression was definitely a reality.  My usual motivation to do anything was quickly fading in to nothingness, and I was completely beginning to regret having the surgery.  For those of you who don’t know me, regret is a word I don’t use lightly – I don’t believe in regretting  anything since there is always a lesson to be learned and an experience to be had.  This surgery came really close to my first regret EVER.

Acceptance:

Rotator cuff surgery is not only a test of letting go of my ego, but of accepting what it is and doing with what I’ve got.  I’m not getting paid to be a crossfitter, damnit.  Although, I was training like I was getting paid before surgery.  Missing WODs was like flipping a switch turning me in to a bratty toddler that would throw tantrums and pout.  Add taking almost five entire months off from basically any physical activity that I had become accustom is a big lesson in how to breathe and take a break.  It is increasingly important to take some quiet time, miss a wod, just sit still for longer than two minutes.  Listening and actually hearing what my body needs is no longer a foreign language.  No overhead presses, no snatches, no kettle bell swings – yet and no chatarangas (maybe ever again).  And while I would’ve been a grumpy toddler about it, I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.  I’m only six months post surgery for Pete’s Sake, and only out of the sling since Christmas.  

Teaching yoga with only use of one arm was a definite challenge, however I believe that my teaching improved dramatically because I couldn’t demonstrate.  Using my words in an effective manner so that others may hear and understand them hasn’t always come easy.  Stumbling over my words and forgetting which is left and which is right is what I like to do.  I believe it also helped to show my students the importance of moving beyond current limitations and still having a practice and a life.     

Physical therapist become therapists on all levels when dealing with rehabilitation of loss of mobility.  After spending as much time as I did/have with my group of PTs it’s impossible to not form a relationship and it’s impossible to not trust them.  I’m getting a referral to go back to see them, not only to improve my shoulder, but because I truly miss hanging out with them and learning how to be a better athlete.

What I will NOT be doing...

2012 Crossfit Open
Pre-surgery

Simple Advice for Peace

chkd logo

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Many of you who know me personally know how passionate I am about children – their health, welfare and education especially.  And, if you’ve paid attention to my bio you’ve maybe noticed that I work as a Paramedic in a Children’s ER.  In my line of work I have been conditioned to separate and distance myself from the inherent chaos that this position brings.  I have taught myself to not create personal attachments to my patients beyond the short time that they are in the ER.  I see sick babies, some of them die, some of them are hurt, some of them have been abused by the hands of people they thought were taking care of them, and some hurt themselves because they can’t cope with the world any other way.

Occasionally a patient tugs strongly at my heart-strings and I cannot help but let my walls down.  Tonight was one of those nights.  A young man came in to the ED after ingesting a lot of pills in an attempt to harm himself and take his body out of this life.  Part of my job is to sit – or babysit – for these patients.  This is not only for their safety and the people around them, but also for their medical care – especially if they are in a critical state.  In this case I form a different type of relationship with the child and caretakers that are present.  I am present for deeper family interactions making it nearly impossible to not form a longer lasting relationship with them all.  This case was no different. 

A young, visibly depressed, withdrawn man entered quietly and compliently.  Initially he had no desire to converse or make small talk nor did I force it.  Taking care of his immediate requests to make him comfortable lead to only short two or three word responses.  With stable vital signs, my job was only to keep him safe and comfortable.  Then his family arrived.  He refered to them as his parents – his mother and grandmother.  Neither of them greeted my young patient.  They came in, sat down quietly and did not engage in any sort of introduction to me or the patient or begin any type of conversation.  During the few hours I sat with this young man his grandmother was the only one (other than the clinical staff) that entertained any sort of chatting, generally my patient was the one that was looking to receive the attention of his caretakers and not the other way around.  His mother did not speak one word to him and stayed engaged in her tablet the entire time – unless it was to complain about how it was late and express her adamant desire about not staying any longer that necessary to the nurses and doctors.  It became increasingly obvious that this young man was reaching out in a serious way and needed to be heard. 

“Thank you for being so nice.”  This is what my young patient said to me when I dropped him off in his new room for the night.  His family was reluctant to even accompany us up to his room and threw quite the fit about having any involvement in this child’s care.  They did not even say goodnight or goodbye to him – just walked away (not before leaving a very memorable impression on the floor staff).  My young patient said that it was difficult to relax with “all that was going on with is family”.  This was apparent by the physiological effects – measurable by his elevated vital signs and abdominal pain. 

We all just want to be valued, and heard, and loved. This young man went to extremes to be seen. This was not his first attempt and unfortunately it’s likely not his last at such an intense level.  I don’t believe he actually wanted to die, but he has no other means to communicate his need and desire to have a relationship with his family who seems to have given up on him.  The pain in this young man’s heart was impossible to not feel. 

Relationships teach us a lot about life, each other, ourselves and foster growth.  People are put in our life for many reasons.  Open your heart and listen to the people you truly care about, see them – really see them for who they are and what they are asking for in a relationship with you.  Be honest about your needs and don’t be afraid to say “I love you” and “No” and “Yes, I can”.  Realize that you are not alone, there is someone out there (and maybe more than one) that love you just as you are and hears everything you say and that you are that person to at least one other person as well. 

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
Buddha
 

Snake!

Sea of Moss

Got your attention didn’t it?!

Run?

Before I started crossfit in 2009 the only time I ever ran by choice was when I was playing softball and volleyball in high school.  I graduated in 1996 if that tells you anything.  Sure I attempted to start running a few times, but it never stuck consistently.  Enter crossfit.  I could not even finish a 400 meter run in a warmup, let alone an actual WOD!  I despised running out the door of the gym, ugh.  And then something magical happened.  I started to actually like to run!  WODs that had 400 meter intervals didn’t scare me any more, and I even started to run on my own.  WTF?  I wouldn’t say that I am good at running necessarily – I heal strike (especially when I’m tired), I sometimes have a SUPER long stride – but overall I can hold my own and even managed to run an entire 8k, yes run the whole thing!  By choice I don’t think I’ll ever run more than 5 miles in one stint though, I’ll leave that to the marathon professionals.

Have your cuff repaired much?

Have your cuff repaired much?

No mo’ runnin’

 After surgery I actually thought running would be one of the first physical activites I would be able to do.  Practically the only one I thought I’d be doing.  I was sorely wrong.  Go figure, you need your arm to run!  Turns out it’s practically the last thing to come back (overhead movements being the very last).  Dr. B told me it would be months before I’d run again, and when I did start back it would be very slow.  Boy was he right!  It HURT a ton!  All those little muscles had no idea what hit them.  And in hindsight I probably tried to run too soon, even though I waited until the exact day the doctors said it was ok.

NEW SHOES!

NEW SHOES!

Need an excuse?

So, I got new shoes.  I knew I’d eventually run again and my BareFXs weren’t going to cut it for my sweet running style.  February was the first month I added short, slow runs in to my WODs, March is when I got those pretty Inov8s over there.  Prior to that I was legs only on the Airdyne (aka “death cycle”) which I actually started to like.  Then March 26th I attempted my first distance run since surgery (which I will remind you was in November).  That run was HELL!  The first mile or so was fine, and then…then…my legs turned in to cinder block pillars that no longer felt as though they were attached to my body.  They felt so heavy I just wanted to stop.  That was the longest 3 miles I think I’ve ever run.  And I did NOT run the whole thing, in fact I likely only ran the first mile and that was IT.      

Run partner = Life partner

Run partner = Life partner

Intervals!

After that first run I made the executive decision that I needed to run intervals and NOT run for distance.  My body was so out of whack after being off for nearly 6 months.  My fiance, Lisa (over there on the left), states that she “hates to run” and yet I can still get her to go running with me once a week.  And, now that we are training intervals she actually says she likes to run!  Don’t tell her I told you her little secret.

Running intervals has not only improved my conditioning, but it has kept me motivated to keep running.  It has taken the “oh god, how much further do I have to go?” out of the weekly runs.

What are intervals, you ask?

Crossfit Endurance has some great workouts involving intervals whether you run, bike, swim, ruck or all the above.  Basically you run for a specific amount of time, rest for a specific amount of time (all variable) and toss in percentages (jogs, full out sprints).  Not only does it improve your time trials, but it really improves overall conditioning.  Probably why I like crossfit so much – it’s constantly changing and adaptable.

Really?!

Really?

SNAKE!

Patience is a virtue…or something…so, why did I choose to tell you all about this running business?  WELL!  On our last run, Lisa and I literally almost ran in to a snake at First Landing State Park, where we do most of our runs (so much better than running on pavement!).  While running down the Long Creek Trail (one of our favorites) I completely soccer armed Lisa (with the reconstructed shoulder mind you) before we came face to face with the specimen to your left.  Look closely…it’s the only shot we could get before it slinked back in to the brush.  That sucker was HUGE!  It definitely saw us, checked us out while we paused to check it out, and then it casually turned around and went on it’s merry way.  Another testament to how aware one needs to be of their environment!  A cool sighting none-the-less, and one of very many reasons why we enjoy running off the pavement.  Nature is everywhere if you just keep your senses open to the possibility!  Now, get out there and move!