Owowowowow – Injuries Are No Fun

Straight out of the gate, this is not a post about how Crossfit is the enemy of healthy bodies and joints.  If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m a big fan of Crossfit.  That being said, it is not a training method without the risk of some pretty serious injuries.

I’ve been pretty active my whole life.  Not that active does not equal being in good shape.  But I grew up playing sports, and when I got to college, I did make an effort to go to the gym and run.  I’d put the motivation back then at 30% for better health, 20% to impress the ladies, and 50% guilt if I didn’t do it.  And I think that recipe for motivation stayed with me until 2009 when I hurt myself in a serious way.  

I was at the gym, doing squats (most likely with horrific form) and when I got to the bottom of the squat, by back exploded in pain.  I tried to walk it off, stretch it out, but no good.  I thought I had a back spasm, which I had experienced in the past.  Probably just take it easy for a couple weeks, and I’d be ok.  Nope!

After I gingerly walked home and showered, I sat on the couch to plan my next move.  My girlfriend (now wife) came out and when I went to get up, I was pretty sure a ninja had stabbed me in the back.  For those of you who have not experienced nerve impingement pain, I’m not sure I can adequately describe the sensation.  Maybe sort of like the getting a shot, except that needle is six inches wide, rusty, and on fire.  I literally collapsed to my knees, and for the rest of the day, transitioning from sitting to standing would require using my hands to climb up a wall while tears of pain would run down my face.  I consider my threshold for pain to be pretty high, but I couldn’t handle this.  

Turns out I had herniated two disks in my lower back (L4/L5, L5/S1 for all you medical geeks out there), and would require surgery to repair it.  Back surgery sucks.  Six weeks of being unable to lift more than ten pounds.  Next time you go grocery shopping, try loading and unloading your car ten pounds at a time.  It’ll take you halfway to forever.

Then came the physical therapy.  After so many weeks of essentially doing nothing, it was relief to start doing SOMETHING!  I did the prescribed therapy for about 10 weeks, and then I was “cleared” to go back to my normal life, as long as I didn’t go crazy.  But now every time I went to the gym, I was terrified that I might hurt myself again.  I didn’t do back squats for years.  And worse, I convinced myself that this was a good idea, that I was protecting myself.  In retrospect, it was a very poor decision.  I suffered from various lower back pain for the next few years (exacerbated by my cubicle zombie style job), and it wasn’t until 2011 that I started to get better.

I started meeting with a trainer, and he started working in heavy lifting with squats and deadlift.  I voiced my concerns, but he convinced me to give it a try.  And it made a world of difference in my back!  The pain level went down (although it has never fully disappeared) and it made me a believer in lifting not only for strength, but for health.  I’ve been told that the insane strength exhibited by NFL running backs is less about helping them gain yards then it is about keeping their bodies in one piece as they are pummeled by very large men moving very quickly.  One might look at Adrian Peterson for a prime example.  Going from a season ending knee injury to missing the single season rushing record by 8 yards in a little over a year?  Insane.  Also, he’s just a freak of nature in terms of raw athletic ability.

I still worry about my back when I lift.  And there are WODs where by back kills me afterwords (usually from lots of deadlifts and/or cleans).  But I consider that to be mostly my fault.  I get caught up in the competition, and I trade technique for speed.  Don’t trade technique for speed.  Or weight.  Or cupcakes.  It’s not worth it.  Believe me, I know.  Sidelined for a week or two because it hurts to bend over and tie my shoes.  Yeah, totally a fair trade for one more round on that AMRAP.

So this post has kind of meandered from where I thought it would go, but I’ll try to sum it up here.  Take care of your body.  Ask questions about lifts.  Make sure you have your form perfect (or at least as perfect as you can manage) before you up the weight or speed.  Swallow your stupid pride and do less than Rx until you know you can do it safely.  Coaches really don’t want you to hurt yourself.  And the other people in the gym don’t want to see it happen because they are either nice people, or they’re overly competitive assholes who would rather see the annotation that you used a lighter than Rx weight anyway.  And if you have time to work out, you have time to stretch.  Budget in an extra 5-10 minutes after your workout to stretch.  I’m paying dearly for YEARS of ignoring my flexibility, and it is a slow path back to where I want to be.

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Strong is Sexy

I’ll admit, I like pump up music/videos.  Something that makes you want to get up and hit it.  Hard.  Here’s my current favorite:

I’ve been watching this a lot.  Seeing the power, skill and determination these athletes are demonstrating helps me suck it up a bit at 4:30 am when I’m rolling out of bed to go to the gym.  It doesn’t make it entirely ok to be up at that ungodly hour, let’s not be crazy, but it helps light a fire under my butt.

And watching this, I’m reminded that strong is sexy.  About 53 seconds in, you see a group of athletes heading to an event.  Those legs, those shoulders, but more than that, the SWAGGER.  These women know that they are badass.  I’m quite certain that any of them would easily kick my ass at any WOD.  And perhaps this frames me as a very shallow person, but I love seeing women with a bit of muscle.  I think it makes them look strong, confident and (to me anyway) more interesting.  These are people with passion, and who like being active.  Add to that the fact that they can help me move a couch up a flight of stairs, and you’ve got quite the appealing package.

If you can’t use cream, use butter – Butter Titration Cupcakes

I’m not dead, I’m lazy.  And busy.  But mostly lazy.

This post got started back in May when I actually made the brownies.  And by started I mean I had written the title (nailed it!).  Then I guess I just got kind of distracted and forgot about it.  But the photos I left on my desktop have been nagging me to write the rest of this post, so here goes…on to fudgey brownie goodness!

Not sure where the original recipe came from, but here’s a link.  Warning: this is not diet food.  1 POUND of chocolate and 1 POUND of butter.  The title of the recipe comes from the idea that you’re saturating the batter with as much butter as possible.   I like where this is headed.

One trick I’ve learned with brownies, or really anything that you might cut while in a pan: save your pan and knives the wear and tear and line them with parchment paper.

First, put your pan on top of the parchment, leaving enough room on each side to come up the sides of the pan.
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Second, using scissors of a sharp knife, cut the paper from the corners of the pan straight out to the edge of the paper (only one cut per corner)IMG_0032Finally, spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray, and place/fold the parchment so that you get continuous coverage around the pan.  The spray will help keep the parchment from flopping around too much.IMG_0034

Once the brownies have cooled, you can lift the whole thing out of the pan and cut it on a board.

The brownies start off like a ganache, except that instead of using cream to melt the chocolate, you use melted butter.



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IMG_0040IMG_0043Like I said, not exactly diet food.

After that’s made, you mix together the wet ingredients, and then add the chocolate mixture:
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Then comes the Nutella and the dry ingredients:IMG_0053

The batter gets pretty thick:IMG_0055

Then you pour and bake:

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I would add a picture of the finished project, but then I got distracted eating them.  As you might expect, these end up being very dense and very rich.  While I enjoyed them, for me, they weren’t good enough to take the title of “BEST BROWNIE EVER!”  But they are worth trying, if for no other reason than the spectacle of adding a pound of butter to a pound of chocolate.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go running, as I’m still burning off the calories from May!