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If it's broke -- Fix it


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Labor Day has come and gone in the blink of an eye and there are but a few scrappy weeks before the summer we yearned for is gone. We pick at the remaining days like leftovers scattered on the picnic table in the backyard. Where did the food go, the festivities, the good times? I should have chosen my yummies more selectively and savored each bite. Rather, I ate like a hog. I grabbed, chomped and gulped, splattered, snorted and snoozed.

And now it’s my time to dash off an encouraging and informative newsletter to
high-flying bombardiers across the wild blue yonder; better buckle your seatbelts, crew, this is gonna be fast. Got helmet, will travel.

Excuse me? What’s that you say? Recovery? Oh, yeah, that... I forgot all about it. Between studying for the Bar, finishing my degree in neurology, counseling General Patraeus and training for the 2008 Masters Mr. Olympia, I put all recovery efforts aside till the spring of ’09. I only have two hands. I will say this: Recovery is a long and lonely trail unless you’re mean and gutsy.

“Larreee... Larrreeeee... Laaarrrreeeeee... I need my blanky and Mister Goofus, my stuffed skunk... Sit by me... Can I have a cookie?”

Today is the third week since my dramatic lower back debut. Had my second weight workout yesterday, Tuesday -- 22 sets in and hour, upper body only. Not bad, considering the assortment of meds have me wiped out big time.

Walking is enough for the legs right now. If the gym wasn’t so darn far away with freeways and crowds in between, I’d go more frequently. As it is I set up plastic deck chairs 100 feet apart in the front yard and walk between them with deliberation. I walk seeking correct posture and muscle engagement, and sit for 10 breaths -- set one; walk with focus, sit, breathe -- set two. This I do for 10 sets to regain strength, breath and proper gait... AKA, recovery. Next thing ya know I’ll be tossing the caber with Dan John. Step aside, Son.

I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m learning. I’m growing. One thing stands out as I proceed down the narrow and dimly lit halls of injury, repair and recovery (beside the fact they are endless): Much of the pain and malfunction we lifters experience in our skeletal-muscular system is not so much from ‘overload’ as we know it, but from chronic imbalance in our bodies, limited hip mobility and stability or from tightly bundled nerve formations, or trigger points, and none of these imbalances or trigger points are necessarily apparent or easy to determine.

Oh, no! The last things we need are mysteries to confuse the simple, hard-training musclehead. I’m not writing a 100-word thesis on recovery, rather a 100-word hypothesis on discovery. Gotta write about something and get some thoughts stirred up. It’s Thursday and I’m a day late and 100 pennies short.

A pain or weakness or numbness in the elbow and wrist, for example, might very well be traced by a knowledgeable therapist to a lack of hip mobility from a high school injury or unreleased trigger points from years of walking with a stoop. The first places we muscleheads look for originating sources are preacher curls, hyper-extension, excessive weight, sets or reps engaged, poor form, insufficient rest, lack of concentration... and the list goes on.

I mention this not-exactly revolutionary or ground-breaking idea because my skillful scalpel-wielding doctor never mentioned my squatting or deadlifting or heavy standing curls (gee, they sound good) as past or future problems. He recommends some physical therapy for administrative exercises, but never warned me off nor attributed the performance of the tenement-demolishing movements to my stenosis. And I never directly hurt my back under the stress of the earth-moving exercises. Good form prevailed. Or good luck.

What would I have done differently had I known I was bound for stenosis? Not a thing in my workouts, but I would have sought to correct a walking problem due to challenged hip mobility. My tough-guy saunter as a youth was in fact a dorky reflection of a slightly elevated left hip, which caused my structure to respond to the functionally longer right leg. I heaved my left leg around an out-of-level hip and in time bore the burden in the form of arthritis and eventually disabling stenosis.

The symptoms are all around us -- tilted heads, toes pointed outward, slumped shoulders, stiffness in gait, shortness in stride -- and they eventually lead to structural disaster, pain, immobility, poor systemic health and other aggravations.

Had I caught the problem early on and performed corrective exercises to amend the distortion, I would be a dancing with the stars today. I’d be rich and famous. Instead, I fly crop dusters over corn fields in Kansas. Just kidding. This is really a B-29.

Look out below. I’m coming in for a landing. Which one of these switches lowers the landing gear?

This is your captain speaking... DD

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