Anvil or Hammer

Iron and Chrome

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 24, 2008

Last week I didn’t get to the gym real often. This week should go a bit better.

Friday at Dumbarton, I stuck to my general theme:

16 mins Eliptical
Dumbell Press 55lb Dumbbell X 12
Lat Pulldown 120lbs X 8
Circuit X 5

16 min Eliptical
Overhand dumbbell curl 20lbs X 8
Seated dips BW X 8
Circuit X 5
that was a lame circuit, overhand curls don’t work with a dumbell and seated dips are lame

16 min Eliptical
Rolling Thunder up to 75
I wanted to go further but a heavy one handed deadlift seems like a bad idea right now so I passed
Lots of block work, half of a 70 and 80. That was fun.

Aside from the fact that it’s a sort of a lame program that I have on Fridays right now, this was probably one of the more fun workouts in a while. Someone else brought the rolling thunder for me to see. Several of us were playing on the blocks and the rolling thunder. It was a really a good time for us all.

Sunday – Chrome and fern
30mins on the cardio setting on a recumbent bike. I even wiped up after my sweaty self. Although there were small puddles on either side, where the sweat had run off my arms :). Then I went and did their machine circuit. It was kinda lame. I don’t think I’ll do that again. Also, I think I may start doing bodyweight lunges.

The disc is doing well, I’m still doing traction and it seems to help. I’m still on 6 tabs a day but I’ve taken a few doses late because I didn’t notice that the last dose was ending. I don’t yet know what I’m gonna drop to 4. I’m sitting well and stuff like that. In general, I’m doing well, I’m just in a waiting period.

Monday Morning Weigh-in:234.4

Posted in Diet and Bodyweight by Mike on June 24, 2008

I actually did weigh myself yesterday, although I didn’t want to. I feel like I’m in a losing battle right now. That said, the 2/10 pound loss was actually a bit motivating. As my wife and I discussed, as long as I work to clean up my eating,  I seem to do ok. Last week was more clean than the previous and this new week is looking to be more clean than last week :).

Monday Morning Weigh-In: 234.6

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 16, 2008

I was a bit surprised.

I shouldn’t be everytime I go waaaay off diet and then return, that first week I gain nearly 5 lbs, water, protein hiding in muscle cells, different sugars, physiological response to calorie reduction? I don’t know. I’m just gonna let it settle in then start chipping away.

With some vacation time coming and no ability to train, right now, it seems like I just need to focus on maintenance. I’m not going to get to wrapped up in trying to lose weight. I’m just gonna work on keeping it between 230 and 235 and, more importantly, eating clean. Yeah, clean, that’s my goal…

Improved snacking choices

What Gene said was totally right, in the comment. Why does anyone have the grabage at work, it’s not helping them. Well today I decided to the help myself. Near where I work we have “The Market”. It’s like a large open air market you see in major cities around the world. Lots of people, stalls, disorder. The exception is that in Baltimore, they are covered. We have three of them. They are notorious for selling very cheap, very yummy, very unhealthy food.

Recently we took on a new manager and I was showing him around the campus and I included The Market in the tour. Because I was showing someone around, I walked through the entire market, rather than just stopping at the places everyone tells me to go. I discovered that in the very back corner of the market there are three stalls: Fresh fish, Fresh meat and Fresh produce. I was shocked I had never noticed them before.

Today I went back to find those stalls. I looked at the meat and fish stalls and actually regretted not having a stove close by, that was some wonderful looking and smelling meat. Then I headed to the produce stand, veggies, potatoes, apples, oranges, pears, grapes, bananas, peaches and more. Not knowing how much it cost or how good it was, I bought medium sized bunch of bananas and a small group of peaches, about 7 of them. It cost $3. I almost felt bad giving her a $20 for a $3 charge.

As it turns out, both are a hair under ripe. They’ll probably be a bit underripe tomorrow too. By Wednesday, they will transcend mere fruit, well, they should be good anyway :). So I think I’m going to try to make a weekly trip to the market a good thing. I may aim my fruit budget nearer to $5-$10 and invite my office mates to partake of nature’s bounty, or I’ll just buy one of those big old watermelons for them :).

Up Slope

Posted in Rest and Recovery by Mike on June 15, 2008

I went to the MAC, a bit of recumbent bike on the cardio program, felt really good. I was itching to lift weights so I did some pull ups and medicine ball on a wobble board. I did 5 of each of the three grips on the pull ups. Those kinda proved my point to myself about over exciting my nerves too much causing pain in my sciatica. In my vim and vigor to do something hard I over exerted myself a bit and ended up sore and uncomfortable by the end of my pull ups. I did my wobble board stuff, some stretching then a little light cardio. The good news is that cardio always provides a bit of relief. The other good news is that the discomfort didn’t carry on beyond the gym.

Dumbarton, for as warm and humid as it was, was really busy. I kept to my program from the week before. 30 minutes of walking on the treadmill then some stretching. After that I got on their cheap elliptical. After the elliptical I did 5 sets of 12 on the bench with 125 and 5 sets of 12 with 90 on the chest supported row. I tried to alter my grip as much as I could on each one. I did a bit more light cardio then I went and did rope tricep pushdowns and cable curls using 40 and 20 lbs respectively. Finally, I brought in a blockweight that was half of a 70 so call is 30ish pounds. I got that out and did some cleans and a lot of just picking it up and playing with it. I encouraged other guys there to do it. Many of them missed the first try but I think they all got it before I went home. Next week I’ll bring in my half of an 80.

I continue with biweekly PT. At this point they basically have me warm up on a bike and then do whatever exercises I can until the actual therapist is ready. Once she is ready, she does her “Hands on” which seems to be their term for any combination of massage and evaluation. Once that is over, into traction I go. As they strap me in they typically say something to the effect of, when you’re done someone will unhook you, just do whatever stretches you haven’t done today and we’ll see you next time.
The traction takes some getting used to, after you settle into it though, the rhythmic nature is almost relaxing. As long as it’s helping my disc draw back, I’m all for it. It does seem to excite the nervous system a bit, which makes sense. I’ve found z-health to be a nice way to mitigate that.

As i just mentioned it’s really good for calming an angry sciatic nerve as I need to. If I reach a point that could be described as pain, even just uncomfortable, it’s not terribly effective. If I catch it when the nerve is first getting irritated, it seems to help a lot. I’m booking a second session with Mike this week.

Other Disc stuff
I’ve dropped my ibuprofen dosing from 2 tablets four times a day to 2 tablets three times a day. On Friday I took one additional supplementary tablet to get by, it helped. I hope to not need any more supplementary tablets this week. It’s still gonna be a bit before I’m done but I’m working on it.

I give myself a 5 out of 10 this week on eating. I didn’t calculate my calories or anything, just tried to eat clean. Monday was so-so, I didn’t take enough food so I grabbed a sushi roll to supplement. Tuesday I did poorly, I grabbed a burger for lunch. Wednesday through today have been pretty good as far as planned meals. The big weakness in my diet has been that in my slackerly time I allowed myself to go back to the old habit of grazing the garbage my coworkers keep handy. I need to break myself of that habit. I also ran out of decaf coffee at work, unwilling to drink caffinated coffee I have been drinking hot chocolate.
This week, I’ll work on the grazing habit, I’m planning on taking pretty much the same food, two largish romain salads and two protein dishes, last week it was turkey burgers, this week I will probably make chicken strips.
On Tuesday of Wednesday I was surprised when I stepped on the scale and saw 232.4. I don’t think i tacked on a bunch of water weight. I think I underestimated the fat gain in my last post, I said 2-3 lbs of fat and water each from the last good weigh in. I’m gonna bump that to 4-5 and 2-3 lbs of fat and water respectively. I don’t exactly know how fast muscle atrophies but I wouldn’t think I lost a full 10 lbs of muscle over the course of 6 weeks.

Z-Health Session 1: Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 10, 2008

Yesterday I had my Z-Health appointment. I went into the appointment skeptical.

Mike met me my apartment. He’s an outgoing guy, not particularly large but obviously compact. He competed in the strongman contest I had to drop out of. Given the weather we’ve had lately, I think I got really lucky.

He ran me through a long serious of questions. Questions about training, injuries, lifestyle. He was interested in some things that seem odd but had an explanations. He wanted to know about dental work and old injuries, ones that I have nearly forgotten. This is because, as I understand it, z-health operates off the theory that when you have damage to the body, especially damage that does not heal 100% naturally on is own, the believe, the body perceives the scars, dental work or implants as a foreign threat and may still respond negatively to them.

Then Mike ran me through what I will call the parlor tricks of z-health. Now, I’m sure z-health trainers wouldn’t like me calling them that but it’s kind of how I view them. He showed me video of a client who had an injuried shoulder. You see the client struggle with a moderate weight dumbell. Then he told me he did some z-health stuff on the guy and showed me a second video of the guy blasting through the weight. Even the guy looks surprised. I didn’t think Mike was lying or anything, I’m just skeptical and I think perception and the brain are powerful and deceptive tools.

Parlor trick 2 was to have me lay on the ground, Mike placed his hands on the outside of my right leg, then asked me to resist him pressing my leg back to the start position. He easily overpowered my leg. Then he did a little manipulation on my foot and we repeated. I felt stronger but again, I’m a skeptic. We went through the maneuver several times, he alternated between doing the z-health move to strengthen or weaken me. It felt real but I’m a skeptic. I was getting a more positive feeling about this z-health thing but so far I viewed it as just tricks.

Now the real session began. Mike videoed me walking, repeatedly and each time he seemed to gather a little information about what he needed to do next. For the first major portion of the session, he ran me through a full body workover. In z-health this meant doing specific movements with each joint. There were enough of them I couldn’t remember them all if I had to. Some of them reminded me of stretches we all do naturally when we are waking or warming up, not the kind that you are taught to do by coaches but the kind you would see anyone do naturally. Some of the other movements seems to have no real purpose but Mike had specific goals for them and seemed to know what he was doing.

He kept recording me walking. I had to admit I felt looser and lighter as we went on. Still the skeptic, I figured it was just because this was the most thorough movement program I have had in a while. Then Mike came back to a challenge I had offered him. This was about 45 minutes to an hour into the program and I had assumed he had forgotten about it or was trying to not go down that road.

In email I had offered Mike a challenge by which I promised he could impress me. Since before I started getting treatment, I have been unable to cross my left leg onto my right to put my shoe on (placing the foot on the opposite knee). It’s literally been months and it really has not gotten any better with therapy. I told Mike that if he could return that range of motion, I would be impressed.

So he asked that I show him this movement that I couldn’t do. I was able to comfortable go further than I had efore but the top of my foot was still a good four inches from the top of my knee. I told him it was better and he replied that it wasn’t good enough. So we went into about 20 minutes of work that focused intensively on this particular motion. Each time showed more progress. I got to the point that I could momentarily place my foot on my knee. I was ready to call that good. He did a few more movements and sure enough, I could place my foot on my knee. As I had said I would be, I was very impressed.

Having spent over an our with me and having convinced me that Z-health has a place in a legitimate recovery maintenance program Mike went about setting up a program for me. He came up with a few exercises but rather than throw me some exercise names I wouldn’t be able to replicate, he emailed me two pages of detailed text that contained my exercises.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention that the good feeling and calmed sciatic nerve didn’t end when the session ended. As the evening went on I continued to feel relaxed, pain and nerve issue free. We ran some errands, drove around, took the long way home and I enjoyed it. I have to say that after my PT session today, I almost felt like a some of that had comfort and calm had left me. I used Mike’s Z-health to bring it back. The traction is important but seems to stress my body too. The two together are almost certainly more potent than either by itself.

As I said earlier, I was skeptical going into this session. The claims of Z-Health are pretty fantastic at times. I think most of those claims are from the parlor tricks of Z-Health which look cool but can easily be over stated or misunderstood. I do believe that, based on my session yesterday, that there is a place in anyone’s recovery program for Z-health. I also think that Z-health can do a lot to help with those little nagging owwies we all get.

I do believe that real injuries: tears, ruptures, sprains, breaks and herniations, do need medical treatment. Mike would not have been able to do his job three weeks ago. I would not have been able to participate in the session in the necessary ways because of the pain then. I’m glad that I got a proper diagnosis, it allows me to know my limitations as I progress back to normalcy and that is the most important thing. But, I see Z-health staying with me as I continue to rehab my body.

So, yeah, there is something to z-health. I would encourage any “healthy” trainee to look into it. I would also recommend that anyone give z-health their consideration as they rehab any future injuries, after they get to a point that any pain or real physical limitations are manageable on a daily basis.

Monday Morning Weigh-in: 230.4

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 9, 2008

I figure this represent 2-3 pounds of fat gained over the last 6 weeks and probably 2-3 pounds of water.

I ate scrambled eggs for breakfast for the first time in weeks. I’m working on a salad now. I have another for later and some protein. I also brought some blueberries in yogurt, something my wife turned me on to. I have mixed nuts on standby. We’ll see how this goes.

In other news, painwise, I’m feeling great today. I brought ice packs with me, like I have been, but I really haven’t felt any need to use them. There is still some nerve excitement but not pain and I like that.

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doing something

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 7, 2008

I made it into Dumbarton yesterday. Baring in mind my injury I tried to do a couple things.

Treadmill 3.0 mph 30min
Bench – Wide
135lbs 3 X 10
Bench – Narrow
135lbs 3 X 10
Chest Supported Row
90lbs 3 X 10

Treadmill 3.0 mph 15 min
Bicep Preacher Curl (db)
30lbs 3 X 6
Overhead Tricep Extension (db)
30lbs 3 x 6
Fixed Wrist Roller
20lbs X 3
Some playing with plate pinching

I went a lot lighter than I had to on the torso stuff. I was trying to be aware of my back issue. I also know that too much stimulation to my body in general can lead to setting off my sciatic nerve. I feels good to do something again, even if it’s not much. However, the last thing I want to do is put myself back in pain.

Today the strongman contest is going on, it’s awfully hot. I’m kinda glad to not be standing on blacktop doing something that I question each time I do it.

Monday I have my z-health session
Tuesday and Thursday are both physical therapy and, presumably, traction.

The rack!

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 5, 2008

Today I got a new experience. I got traction. The basic idea is that you pull on the body from the top and bottom you expand the space between the vertebrae. In my case, this may cause some of the pressure on the spinal cord to be relieved. My PT has a special treatment table for this. It splits in the middle like a dinning room table with a leaf that could go in it. At either end of table are motors that basically drive a pair of winches. A webbed belt was put around my hips with straps toward my feet and a belt was placed around the bottom of my ribs with straps toward my head. The machine applies tension for 45 seconds then releases for 15. It’s tight but I wouldn’t say it is uncomfortable.

It was a kinda experimental for me but it’s pretty standard treatment for diagnoses herniated discs. I think it helped, I feel like the nerve is more relieved today than it was yesterday and that’s really the only milestone I have to go off of. I’m kinda looking forward to round two on Tuesday.

I just drove in from the doctor’s….

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 3, 2008

and boy are my arms tired….mm, doesn’t work.

So, the big news. No surgery or injections. Now the details.

Yesterday was PT. It went well. I showed her my MRI, she was impressed. She told me she was surprised that I didn’t have more pain. I got the uncomfortable feeling from her demeanor after that, that she was envisioning surgery for me in the future. All she said though was that we would see what the doc said today. The session went well and I went to the gym last night. I did some pullups, some biking, and I got on one of those stability balls and held a medicine ball in both hands and moved it around a bit, not PT prescribed but PT approved, I had asked.

This morning was the big doctors appointment. To some degree I was holding my breath on the one, it’s a big landmark to have the doc pass judgment over the situation. To some degree I wasn’t, Laura and I had talked about the surgery possibility. We had arrived at a mutual decision that my condition has been improving, especially over the last two weeks and my current condition is at least tolerable. Therefore, any calls for surgery would need a second opinion and even then could probably wait for a bit to see if any additional improvement occurred.

I had plenty of time to hold my breath at the doctor’s office though, 1 hour 15 minutes to be seen from the time of my appointment. The good news was that I brought a magazine and I’m getting comfortable enough with sitting again that I could sit for a good portion of it, with reasonable breaks. She whisked in and thanked me for waiting and told me that the summary of the MRIs said that I had a severely herniated disc. She put up the MRI and showed me what you have already seen on the blog here. She had another one, that I didn’t know to look for, that showed where the herniated disc is pressing on the spinal cord.

She explained that 15 years ago, this would have been an automatic order for surgery. She also said that in the last 15 years they have learned how helpful anti-inflammatories and physical therapy can be. It was pretty clear from the way she left it that she favored no surgery but was going to leave it up to me. I was quick to fill in that PT sounded good to me. So she said 2-3 weeks of ibuprofen before I should plan on trying to stop and to continue with PT but that would have to wind down at some point too. She told me that if the sciatica flared up again in a way that I could not control or if I had very frequent small flare ups, to come see her again. Otherwise, “no news is good news”.

I’m pretty happy with that prognosis. I’ve got a long road to walk but it’s better than it could have been. I’m done with the Doc, per her orders. I’m going to continue PT, it’s kind of up to my therapist when that ends. I have contacted the Z-health guy in my area. He’s pretty amenable to the idea of giving me a start and seeing what I think before I over commit. So I plan on doing a little bit with him. If he impresses me, then I’ll do more. If Z-health and I don’t mesh, then at least I gave it a shot. I’m trying to play around with reasonable workouts, like the balance/core type stuff.