Miracle Cure: The Story of Jim

[The name has been changed.]


“Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

-CS Lewis

Jim came to the office nmiracle-3early six weeks ago for what he described as a pinched nerve in his neck. The neck and radiating left arm pain was getting worse and he had not slept well in months. Jim displayed impairments in shoulder, neck, and hip range of motion. You may call Jim a stiff-necked person. With strength and general health well above average for his age, Jim’s movement patterns were poor, especially given his high activity level.

Over the next few weeks, I performed some hands-on work (light manipulation) to his cervical and thoracic spine. Jim completed specific stretches to reinforce this hands-on work, and general postural strengthening. Soon, Jim was sleeping much better. His neck and arm symptoms decreased drastically except for after golfing or working with his arms overhead. Jim then experienced an intermittent but sharp pain near the left shoulder blade. This problem proved to be relentless and difficult to solve.

At this point, here are some other things you should know about Jim.

Having worked hard all of his life, Jim is highly educated and connected throughout the mid-Atlantic region with what you may call national “Higher Ups.” He’s now semi-retired, but works as an advisor, writer, and he remains active. Jim is the kind of guy who will let you know where to find fine things of good taste. Jim was willing and compliant with my instruction to him. But he was uncomfortable when I challenged him with something counter to his current fitness routine and beliefs. Perhaps being successful and in charge for most of his life made it difficult for him to be a beginner. There was a certain degree of obstinacy and pride. Jim, like me, is a bit of a stiff-neck person.

In our conversation, Jim and I talked mostly about fitness training, sports, and history. He let me borrow a few of his books. Jim was optimistic and only slightly sore when he left for a two week golf and business trip.


This backdrop to the rest of this story required more words than I intended. But it’s important for you to know that we both gave physical therapy some consistent time and effort toward solving a mechanical neck issue. It’s also important for you to be tuned in to Jims personality. Some people talk big God words with little to show in their lives. Other people declare every cross-shaped Cheeto and open parking spot at the mall a miracle. Jim did neither.

Probably not miraculous. But what do I know?


After his trip, Jim arrived to his appointment with a countenance previously unseen by me.

“I’m healed, Bob, I could not wait to tell you.”

“That’s great! Were you able to golf?”

He went on to describe the details of how his symptoms severely returned after the first few days of golfing. Jim said he performed poorly and for a few days felt sorry for himself. One day on the way back to the hotel, he struck up conversation with a paraplegic man working in the parking area outside of the clubhouse.

The conversation went something like this.

“I see your veterans hat. Where did you serve?”

“Yeah, Iraq.”

“Well I just want to thank you for your service to me and this country.”

Jim shakes his hand, hands him $100 on the sly.

The war vet looks down at the ground then smiles at Jim.

“Thank you so much sir. I can really use this right now.”

The veteran reached up, gently shook Jims hand again, now on the left side.

“Thank you sir. God bless you.”

Jim eyes beginning to well up as he recalls the story.

“Physical therapy has done me well. But with that hand shake, I felt different. The pain was completely gone from my left arm and shoulder blade. I golfed two more days pain free and have slept without pain since then. Never saw the veteran again.”

– – – – – – –

Did God cure Jim’s cervical radiculopathy? Jim certainly thinks so, and he’s really the only one with insight into how this happened.

Do I think God cured Jim’s issue? I don’t know. I hope so. I think traditional type miracles do happen. The immediate and dramatic turnaround is the fast work of God. But it’s obvious that this happens infrequently, and not on demand. How would mere humans learn and grow in a world where every problem could be cured in an instant with the “correct” prayers and beliefs?

Definitely a miracle.

The normal, everyday healing that I witness at work is the slow work of God. Slow miracles are facilitated by knowledge, effort, and two-way personal interaction. Though less dramatic, slow miracles grab our attention in other ways. They quiet the loud and lay humble the proud. They cause our body and soul to grow in impossibly holistic ways.

When someone claims they were healed of a chronic, incurable condition like Lupus or arthritis, should we ALWAYS assume this was simply a matter of misdiagnosis? Does the mechanism of healing really matter?  Did God “remove the Lupus” or did the immune system simply have a renewed and redoubled effort? I don’t think it matters. All healing, organization, structure, and beauty ultimately comes from on high.

Whether it occurs immediately or over three sets of ten reps, to God be the glory.

Fitness Like Fondu (Fitness Catalog Hater)

I love the idea of minimalist strength training and conditioning. I have avoided the commercial gym scene for fifteen years, the primary reason being convenience. Throw in a handful of supportive, like-minded people, and the home gym is simply all around awesome.

Except for the part where you vacuum every three days and there are holes in your drywall.

Anyway, there’s another huge reason why I love the idea of working and working out in my basement. In some regards, this seems like one way of Sticking It To The Man.

Exactly who The Man is I’m not so sure. But I feel that in this day and age, there needs to be a big fat official, insurance or government approved toodoo about every. little. iota. And I have enough of that in my day job. At home, we use the equipment and space that I would use for myself anyway. We make do with gear that serves the purpose just fine.

If you don’t want to jump up to the picnic table, you can go over to the rock, which is 4″ shorter. If you need a 40lb dumbbell, you’re currently out of luck. You may adjust the adjustable dumbbells, which involves twisting on and off some weight plates and metal collars. But this is not recommended. Just do the 35lb dumbbells for more reps or move up to the 50lb dumbbells for fewer.

You would be startled at how people out-do themselves and make better progress when options are limited. Being forced to narrow your options and simplify actually HELPS you reach the desired outcome.

And that’s why I laugh when thumbing through fitness catalogues, the Williams Sonoma of the rehab and fitness world. These offer nearly limitless overpriced and/or plainly unnecessary items, and specialize in fads and misguided alternatives to What Matters.

Take, for example, a 6″ hurdle. Why would you ever buy these ($18 each) when there are plenty of foam rollers, cones, baseball hats, and other small objects like old pillows and used books sitting around? Sure, the catalogues offer  some great gear as well; equipment that’s critical for accomplishing What Matters. There’s nothing wrong with buying a set of plyometric boxes for $500. But you can also find a used picnic table, a rock or bench, and a few yoga matts.


From the outside, these catalogues look legitimate enough.


The Perform Better Catalogue has a number of items that are like the Williams Sonoma $180 Fondu Pot of the training world. Here is a sample of the ridiculousness within.



For $85 plus shipping you can have this mat with 5 non-fading dots on it. You wouldn’t want to put a few pieces of tape on the floor, or have to retrace a dot.



If you need this Elite Stride Trainer to run faster, you should REALLY consider taking up chess. Or hiring a new strength/speed coach.



Here’s a weight sled that’s not a sled. Wheels necessitate stacking up more weight plates, and makes this a $400 wagon.  Looks a lot like a “car push.” Transmissions and stuff are heavy!



This guy in the catalogue is performing a nice set of squats…in running shoes. In my world, this is a fairly major issue in terms of What Matters. ; )



This padded squat and jump box can be yours for $300. At my house we use a floral pattern ottoman that once sat alongside our driveway awaiting the garbage truck.

And many more…

– – – – –

At my home gym, we have plenty of equipment to do What Matters (know-how and context). Things like showing up to train in community, refining movement technique, establishing a rhythm of stress and recovery, and objectively tracking progress in a few key variables that are tailored for individual body type and fitness goals. Truly, it’s not about the gear. So much of the gear at typical commercial gyms is fluff that doesn’t really make a difference.  People get stronger, faster, healthier, and more awesome when they know and consistently do What Matters.

And I get it. Most people WANT a gym where they can simply show up and use the gear. Normal gym managers need to make a living and will not carry a decent reputation by putting tape on the floor and using ottomans for squat boxes. There are major challenges and problems with the current status quo in the fitness/gym industry, but that’s another essay.

The fact remains that many people have trouble finding the time, the finances, and sustainable methods of achieving their health and performance goals. The majority of them feel that the latest shiny and crisp, use-as-intended training gear is really important to them.

But that’s not me. And those are not my people.

Bicep Truths

The title isolates biceps because guys be lovin’ them some bicep training. Among bro-sciency meat head weight routines, training for ginormous, mountainy biceps comes in second place only to chest training. The old “Chest and Bis” is the Monday of every bro worth his weight in protein canisters.

Somehow, this trait is passed down through the generations. Most of the young guys I deal with STILL want to include loads of bicep curls. So to connect with them, I’m going to attempt to communicate in their style.

Biceps are always small. An entire training day, devoted to THIS??


Truth is…

Even this guy has small biceps.

Your biceps are small. And that’s okay. Technically, the biceps are ALWAYS small. The triceps and the brachialis muscle deep to the biceps are what really fills out the arm.

Hitting your biceps with 3 sets of 5 variations of bicep curls is complete overkill. I don’t care what you read about long versus short head of the biceps, we are talking about a VERY small amount of tissue here. I assume that you’re already performing heavy rowing type movements (chin-ups, lawn mower rows, etc) and exercises involving gripping. If you want to grow and get better, you probably should be doing another set of deadlifts, squats, or farmer walks (loaded carries).

Truth is…

Having huge biceps truly does not impress most ladies. Most of us should be working on our ability to pay attention, our sense of humor and humility FAR more than our biceps.

Truth is…

You probably don’t really want huge biceps anyway. As an athlete, having strong arms is important, but having huge arms (or huge anything) can work against you. If you are interested in moving body segments or your entire body with speed and precision, you want peak power, not peak size. I challenge you to show me one fast and spry athlete with huge calves or arms.

Arnold will always be the aesthetic ideal to men. He could out-lift you. But you could probably easily beat him in a race to the water fountain.biceps-2

Truth is…

It’s okay to train your biceps. Just don’t over-do it, because you (hopefully) hit your arms with heavy back and grip type work. Throw in two to three sets of direct bicep work toward the end of the workout.

You want in on a little bicep secret?

If you DO want size and strength added to your arms, (whispers) bend…your…elbows. Yeah, imagine that. Bicep curls!  Take the arm from a straight to a bent position. Add weight. Quit messing around with 30 lb dumbbells and add some weight just like you would any other exercise. See the video at the end for a stunning performance of this highly technical [sarcastic] move.

You want to train biceps?

“Okay then here ya go.”

I invented the “Bicep Curl 3-Step” to break out for the occasion that an athlete repeatedly asks about training their arms.

Fine. Do some bicep curls. While walking with a heavy weight ; )

Jake here was not pestering me about bicep training. But for demonstration purposes…

With this exercise, it is obvious to the athlete that he’s “hitting” the bis. Curling the weight every third step effectively causes the athlete to perform the lift on alternate legs, balancing out the intense stress through the core and lower body.

So you STILL feel like you need to train biceps?

Here are a few of my favorite things that hammer the biceps. Try them-try them-you will see. Check the video for some bicep training that is actually worthwhile and seriously beneficial to developing a complete athlete.