Always Reppin’

lunaI recall the January night, 2009, when writing the idea of Full Reps. After putting the kids to bed I sat down and let the tragic news hit. Kyle Ford, a perfectly healthy 15-year old who I worked with, had died suddenly. I was grieving. Honestly, it does not feel like I created that essay. It just dropped in, something like a Luna moth approaching through the dark, landing softly on your shoulder. I simply described what came, having no idea what this would turn into…

…~9 years later…

I sit quietly in the parking lot of Turkey Hill, finishing a podcast before getting out to pump gas. Two young men in hoodies arrive on bikes. They laugh and shove at each other, enter and meander their way through the store. I notice that one of them is “J” a 15-year old athlete who I work with. He is unaware that I’m watching him from twenty yards out. “J” and his friend pay for their Icees before rough housing back out the door. An elderly women approaches. “J” notices her, stops goofing off. He turns back, and holds open the door for her.

At the high school hockey game I notice “R” in the center of a swarm of students two sections down from where I stand. ThE0246408-4023-45E1-8DF2-B6471FED6DC0ey are clapping and shouting for their team. A few choice words and gestures come from the athletes on the ice, directed their way. Many of the students in the stands flip their lids, escalate it ten-fold. But “R” quietly moves back a row.

I come across “Cs” social media account. His followers are tens of thousands. I see some of the comments. They are inappropriate, untrue, and completely uncalled for, when “C” posts even the most benign content. My blood pressure rises a bit. I see nothing on behalf of C, his only response a strong, beautiful silence.

These young men make me proud.

Do you see that Full Reps has never been about distance or degrees of an exercise?

Without developing character, any success, however we choose to define it, will be short-lived and shallow. We represent our tribe, our family, and ourselves in every circumstance and at all times. All athletes (and especially coaches and parents) would do well to remember that we are literally Always Reppin’ 

We will all stumble. Let he who hasn’t messed up a time or dozen cast the first stone. Lean on the tribe. Grow from it. I don’t believe in simple and straight forward formulas for life, spiritual or otherwise. But I’ve witnessed, time and again, that where right priorities are maintained, even grief and failure brings about the good, the true, and remarkable.

 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.      -Romans 5

 

The REAL Reason Why Strength Training & Conditioning “Works”

You thought that strength training and conditioning worked because of the myofibrillary damage that elicits a local and systemic hormonal response, repair mechanisms, and eventually larger and more resilient muscle fibers, bones, tendons and ligaments.

Or maybe you thought that it worked because of the way it literally changes how  in the brain interacts with the environment. Our nervous system re-writes what our series of mechanical levers (body) is capable of; learns more synchronized, efficient, and healthy ways of moving.

Maybe you thought that strength training and conditioning works because it builds confidence and primes our system to burn fuel more efficiently.

All of these are true. But they’re relatively short-term, certainly too short to make lasting and meaningful changestoics in a person.

Strength training works because it makes Happy Stoics.

Productive resistance training is highly uncomfortable. But for years I’ve had men and women, boys and girls, basically lining up to in an average basement and otherwise lonely cul-de-sac do things like 20-rep squats, dead lifts, grinding van pushes, and sprints.

I’m uncertain, but suspect that the magic is in having well-designed programs and an environment that keeps the toil BOTH effective AND fun for a sustained period of time. This is an art and a science and it can be tricky.  By no means am I the only one who knows the formula. I’ve been doing it myself for years.

Either I have a rare and exceptional group of people to work with (and in a way they certainly are), or there’s something about squats and jumps, dead lifts and sprints.

Soon you are surprised to see what your body and mind are capable of.  And you’re rolling that forward to other aspects of life…

Intense and challenging but relatively brief bits of training teach…

Hard decisions now; rewarding time later.

Easy decisions now; hard time later. 

This is life. And it’s the real value behind playing and training for a sport, activity, or aesthetic ideal that you naturally love.

Internet Rx: Common pitfalls of internet advice

Every day I witness the challenges that my physical therapy clients face when they turn to Dr. Youtube or Nurse Google for help with typical muscle, joint, and movement pains. Navigating the vast sea of recommended exercises and procedures requires some context in the basic sciences and insight in the realm of health and fitness.

Of course, the challenges of finding, understanding, and appropriately implementing credible on-line advice is not unique to my profession. Due to lack of insight and context in the realm of plumbing, I recently made a simple issue with the kitchen sink turn into a drywall issue on the basement ceiling. Thanks a lot, YouTube!

Here are three common ways that we fail ourselves by leaning too heavily on the internet. These examples do not mention all the plainly bad information out there. Instead, I’m going to address three less obvious errors that we make even when the information involved is credible and technically correct.

  1. Incorrect Diagnosislucy advice

A patient recently reported that weeks of stretches for the intense pain on the side of her thigh were not helpful. Upon further inquiry I learned that she had searched the internet for iliotibial band (ITB) tendonitis because her sister experienced a similar problem in the past. After evaluating her, we discovered that she was dealing with a pinched nerve in her lower back referring pain to that area of the leg.

Make sure your diagnosis is correct. Otherwise you’re barking up the wrong tree.

  1. Correct Diagnosis, Incorrect Treatment

I’ve had plenty of patients correctly identify their problem but apply the wrong treatment. In the example above, a Google or Youtube search of “ITB tendonitis” will provide thousands of recommendations for stretches, foam rolling, and massage techniques to treat this condition. But many times, the condition improves far more from exercises focused on building trunk and core strength and addressing subtle asymmetry in walking and running. The appropriate exercises are not elusive or hidden. But they do not turn up under a typical on-line search.

Do not assume that having the correct diagnosis is an automatic pass to the right treatment advice for your specific circumstances.

  1. Correct Diagnosis, Correct Treatment, Wrong Timing

Continuing with our example above, the person correctly identifies their problem with an on-line search, and comes across good advice. They proceed to implement exercises like various squats, lunges, and running drills, only to find that these activities worsen the pain. The error here is applying the right exercises at the wrong time. The person in this example will benefit from those exercises only after a period of performing lower level corrective exercises before jumping into full weight bearing movements like squats and lunges. They may need to temporarily rest from running altogether, then slowly build back with altered form.

In contrast, other clients with persistent pain do only the easier non weight exercises like leg raises and thera-band hip rotation, only to have the problem return when they return to higher level activities like running or hiking. These clients need to be challenged with higher level weight bearing exercises to fully build resiliency and strength to bridge the gap toward repetitive higher impact activities.

Give attention to the phase of recovery. Exercises and treatments in one phase of recovery are not optimal in other phases.

The moral of the story is to recognize the limits of internet searches because even good information can easily be applied incorrectly. The above errors are common pitfalls that I witness in orthopedic physical therapy, one realm of life familiar to me. I’m sure this happens in every discipline, and none of us are immune. Don’t not be afraid to seek the help of a specialist where you need it!

The day I become a true fan…

Tomorrow comes the national holiday. Merry Super Bowl! fans

I always look forward to watching the Super Bowl. Even if my team, the Steelers, came up short this year. I’m definitely on the Eagles bandwagon, and looking forward to kicking back and watching them beat the Cheatriots.

Athletics are in my DNA, with my uncles, father, and cousin being professional athletes. I was also born into fairly unique environmental conditions, southwestern PA in the late ’70s, that nurtured this genetic predisposition. My entire world was happily sick with Steeler fever. Surely this profoundly impacted the way that I saw the world. Sports are important; a way of life.

But I have a confession.

I simply cannot get excited about professional or even big college sports. I look forward to watching big games and even more so hanging out with my family or friends. I enjoy having a burger and eating nachos. But the games aren’t that important to me. Long gone are the days when big games would give me a hint of the nervous butterflies. These days, I’m able to enjoy the sitting and relaxing, nearly immune to getting worked up over the outcome.fans

Even thinking about sitting on the couch for three hours on a nice fall Sunday is depressing to me. I would rather not go to the stadium. I cannot afford the time or finances involved with getting in. I don’t really know the players or the people behind the organization. I mean, I love the Roony’s and Juju and Antonio and all. But there’s no relationship, so I just don’t care all that much.

I would much rather watch my kids, friends, and clients getting after it. I love keeping up with the local sports scene. I know the athletes and their families, quite of few of them will realistically make it to a big game. My heart leaps when they’re successful and my blood pressure raises when they suffer hardship or perceived injustice on the field. I rehabbed or trained them. We know each other. Caring about all of their games comes easy.

And so that’s the day when I’ll truly care about a big game.

If I helped you overcome pain or a sticking point…

If in your youth I helped you turn into the kind of athlete who makes it to the big game…

…Then I trust that at some point you may have a ticket for me. That will be the day when going to the big game is worth it to me.

…And that’s when I’ll be there, a real fan, fanatical mad man in the stands cheering for you and your team.