You may have noticed that I’ve not posted much recently. I’ve had some health problems that have both stopped me from training, distracted me from writing (working, seeing friends, generally living…) and been an all-round pain in the arse. They’ve made me re-focus slightly, and I thought I’d do a post about injuries and illness and the way they suddenly present you with the need to shift priorities in your life.
The illness side, which I have termed the Unmentionable Medical Issue (UMI), for the sake of this public forum, I’m not going to talk about, but it’s had me in A&E twice in the last few months, and I found out the other will also require surgery under general anaesthetic to sort out. Quite annoying, to say the least. The other is tendonitis in my forearms. My shoulder/deltoid, which had been causing me problems from the end of last year to the first part of this, seems to have mostly sorted itself out. I got a few sessions of physio, after a three month wait, by an excellent young physiotherapist at St Georges hospital in Tooting. As long as I carry on with the exercises she gave me and don’t over-do the pushing side of my training (or spend too long hunched over a laptop), it seems to be ok.
I think the forearm problems (which I’ve self-diagnosed as some kind of tendon issue aka. tendonitis) were as a result of hammering both the tuck planche and the back lever. I managed to do a tuck planche, after about three months of three times a week practise (latest progress video here). That kind of progress was good – consistent effort over a long period of time. Exactly what one should aim for in their training.
The back lever, however, didn’t see me employ any such restraint. I discovered at the end of March that I could do a flat-backed tuck back lever, something I attribute to the strength gains from deadlifting. I practised it a few times in April, and carried on increasing the weights on my deads (3 sets of 5, going up by 2.5kg every week). On May 20th I got a straddle back lever, then on May 24th I held the full thing:
Whilst this sounds like bragging, it really isn’t. I still have a lot to learn about strength training and the way the body responds to it, and it’s taken me a long time to realise that although your muscles may be strong enough to do something, your tendons and ligaments may not be, thus dumping you in a whole world of pain if you push it too hard. Going from straddle to full in a matter of days, without taking the time to work on the endurance side – holding it for time – wasn’t exactly smart.
The other problem was that I was practising them using a neutral grip – where your hands are facing each other, as opposed to having the palms facing away from you. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this put a lot more strain on my wrists and forearms, and where I have pain now – on the outside of my forearms and wrists – is indicative of where the strain mostly would’ve been taken up. I was talking to a friend about it, who trains bodyweight too, and he said that whenever I mention it all he can think about are the twisted elevator cables gradually snapping in some movie, as the hero narrowly escapes plunging to his death down the lift shaft.
So, stupid me is now left having to rest off all upper body. At the moment, even after weeks off, my forearms ache when I pick up the kettle! In combination with the UMI, which has seen me unable to train for days at a time and also left me with anaemia, it made me realise that having training as the central focus of your life isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Training is a central part of my life. It defines who I am, it’s what I love doing, my passion and how I fill my spare time. The progress I make gives me confidence in myself in a way that I don’t tend to get from work and other aspects of life. The by-products of training aren’t so bad either – looking hot, feeling awesome and being able to eat what you want. When all those things are taken away, it’s not long before I spiral into insanity and miserableness.
Of course, this really isn’t a good situation at all. Life’s about balance, and pinning your self-esteem and spending the majority of your spare time on something that mostly exists in the physical realm (ok, that’s not true, but let’s not go there right now) isn’t that sensible.
So the past few weeks have seen me trying to re-focus a bit – seeing old friends, relaxing, trying to catch up with Breaking Bad before the final season starts again, and also concentrating more on work. I signed up to a service called Simpleology in an atempt to organise my ever-growing to-do list, been busy working on existing and new projects for my landscape design business. Plus my sister and her extended family have been down from Wales/over from Indonesia (my brother-in-law is Indonesian, and his mother and niece are staying for two months) so it’s given me plenty of time to see them. And on the training side, it’s given me time to do lots of running in order to be fully fit for Nettle Warrior at the end of the month.
Now, although my arms aren’t quite as ripped as they were, I’m feeling a lot more balanced in life, and actually feel like the end of the injury is in sight, and that I’m in a better place than I was when I started. Got a few appointments coming up regarding the UMI, so fingers crossed they will be positive and I’ll have the rest of summer to spend time (but not too much) swinging round in the park.