Sounds like Bubble-Wrap, Feels Like the Back Going Out (Part 1 of 2)

This summer in the span of  one month I had made a nice jump in deadlift from 335 to 350.  However after hitting 350 my progress stalled.  I tried all sorts of different routines and nothing seemed to make a difference.  I tried low reps, high reps, rack pulls at different heights.  None of it seemed to matter.  I decided to seek the help of a fellow powerlifter, someone who had a wickedly powerful deadlift and who had been around the industry much longer than myself.  I had given him the nickname “Dr. Deadlift.”

To protect the innocent I will refer to them as Mark.  I say this because this injury that was about to take place was entirely my own doing.  I do these lifts with the known risk that something could happen, that I could get severely injured.  That is the chance you take when you try and push yourself.

Now, I had taken sessions with this person before.  With Mark’s guidance I had gone from 335 to 350.  I felt confident that they could get me past this plateau.  I felt like it was mostly a mental block but that there was something physical that I was not seeing.  Maybe I was sitting too high, maybe my shoulders were rounded.  I was sure Mark would spot it, correct it and we could move on.

We began to warm-up as normal. Shoes off. I made my way to the platform.  To lift in socks is something I had recently picked up.  That slight quarter inch your shoe height adds can make more of a difference than you think.  Unlike bodybuilding where you are looking for the greatest range motion, with powerlifting you are looking for the shortest bar path, the shortest range of motion. Taking the shoes off reduced the distance of the bar and I was looking for every possible advantage.

I make my way to the platform.  No anxiety here as I know the warmups will not show much until I make my way into the 300 lb range and get closer to my maximum.  At this time the most I had pulled was 370.

First, the bar for 10 reps.

Then 135 for 8.

225 for 5

275 for 1

315 for a single.

Mark explained, “Everything looks good. The only thing I would recommend is you’re sitting back a lot, almost like a squat.  We want to use our low back and hip drive more. Obviously we do not want to arch the back and put yourself into a weak position, but pulling more upright and squeezing your glutes at the top to drive the hips should bring more power.”

I made the adjustment and also pulled with the bar slightly in front of me.  The weight went up fairly quickly.

“That feels really awkward. Felt like it moved super slow.”

“Not at all! Good bar speed. Lets move it up some and try 350” Mark recommended.

We move onto 350.  I chalk up, grasp the bar and pull.  It gets to my knees and does not move an inch higher.

Mark looks at me with disbelief.  “There should be no reason that should not have gone up. From the floor to your knee was super fast. Lets try again.”

Again I pull and again it goes to my knee and stops abruptly.

“Shoulders, low back and head are all in good position. Sorry, Dan this is just baffling.  Lets do some pause deadlifts later tonight, some Romanian deadlifts and really try and work on that top portion of the lift.  Alright. Ready to try one more time?”

I nodded.

Again I got over the bar.  I did not feel at all confident but I decided to try again.  I really wanted to get this so I gave a good jerk to gain some momentum before I pulled. I felt the dramatic stop at the top again but held tight, straining to finish the lift, lock it out. And then I heard what I can only describe as the sound of bubble-wrap and it was coming from my lower back. I dropped the bar and walked away. My first thought was “Did I just hear that? Did anyone else hear that?”

I could stand up and I could walk with no problem but I had the feeling that something was out of place.  I thought it was just a slight muscle pull, I had felt something in that lower right side a couple weeks back when I was doing rack pulls.

“I did something to my lower back with that last attempt. I don’t think I have another one in me,” I said with the sound of defeat and frustration in my voice.

I then tried pause deadlifts with 135.  The pain in my lower back was intense. I reached around and touched the spot that was hurting and I felt a noticeable lump in my lumbar spine.

“Nope. I can’t do those either.”

Mark looked at my back and pressed his thumb into the fleshy protrusion.  “Yup. You definitely pulled something. Take a week or two off and rest. Get it checked out if it continues to bother you or gets worse.  Get healthy and we’ll try again.”

Part II will be out shortly.  In part II I go into more detail regarding the injury and rehab

 

RGD

 

 

3 Breaths to Let Go of Worry | anxiety,workout anxiety, pre-workout jitters, anxiety relief

As a personal trainer, as someone who powerlifts, as someone who is very physically active, I know the importance of proper breathing.  It should be simple, right?  After all, its not something you have to concentrate on in your daily activities.  You just do it.

But there is a tremendous power, a tremendous visualization that can happen when you sit down in quiet and concentrate on your breath. With deep and focused breathing there is a oneness and awareness with you and your surroundings that takes place that can take you from panic to peace in a matter of minutes.

As someone who has battled anxiety for all of my adult life I have used the technique below with great success.  Do not let the simplicity fool you.  It is powerful and just like a new exercise at the gym you are unfamiliar with at first, the more you practice it the better you will get at it.

  1. Find a quiet spot, free of distractions, free of noise.
  2. Sit comfortably straight with your feet on the floor.
  3.  With your eyes closed, breath normally, focusing on your breath.  Breathe in through the nose and out the mouth. Pay attention to the sensation of air coming in and then going out of your body. Pay attention to the space you occupy and where you are right now.
  4. First breath – As you breathe in we begin to ground your own energy.  Some people choose to breathe normally, I choose to breathe in more deeply.  It is your choice.  Simply saying your name in your head to yourself or thinking about the person you truly are or want to be can be very centering.  Take a moment and think of just you and the energy you bring to the world.
  5. 2nd breath – As you breath out think about an issue that has been bugging you, draining you of focus, distracting you from functioning optimally.  Maybe it is a problem with a boss who is not understanding or maybe that boss chewed you out the day before for no reason.  Maybe you had a fight with a loved one or spouse and said something you regretted.  Find something that you feel a need to let go of.  While breathing out, imagine this problem leaving your body through your breath.  With each breath out the issue becomes smaller, weaker and less significant. I often picture my breath leaving me in color. Sometimes its red, sometimes its blue or some other color.
  6. 3rd breath – This one was the most difficult for me.  Here we think of something we want and “breathe it in” to our body, our whole being.  This could be more time to do something you love, a weight loss, more money, a new job, etc. Think of this item and how it will make you feel to be in possession of it.  Do not feel guilty for wanting it, this is something I battled with for years.  You are worth it and are deserving.

My personal preference is to practice each breathe individually first.  At the end I will go through all three in sequence.

Example – First breath, I concentrate on just the grounding piece.  I do not concentrate on the exhale.  I do this 5 or 6 times or more and then move onto Second breath.  On the second breath I just focus on the exhale. I do not pay attention to the inhale portion.  I do this 5 or more times and move onto Third breath and do it in the same manner.  After I have done all three and bring it all together. I breathe in and ground, breathe out and let go and breathe in again to ask for something I aim to achieve.

Feel free to practice it any variety of ways and make it your own.  The adaptability and freedom of creativity make it a favorite of mine.

Try and practice this daily.  It might be a struggle at first but with time the issue you are battling should seem less worrisome.  As your anxiety goes down your creative juices will increase and you will find yourself most likely coming up with more solutions than you had otherwise realized.  Give it a shot, let me know if there are any questions and I am eager to hear if others have had similar success with it.

 

RGD

You Don’t Need To Wait For Next New Years To Change

I think the absolute hardest thing to do when it comes to changing your body is simply starting. You know you are not happy with how you look and more importantly are not happy with the way you feel.  You’ve made the discovery that a change is needed and you may even know what type of change that is; lose fat, increase strength, gain confidence, etc.

Everyone including trainers are guilty of postponing that very first step, that very first attempt at going into a new direction.  With New Years just around the corner whordes of people will make getting fit their New Year’s resolution.  Deciding you are ready to make a huge change such as this is a huge accomplishment, but it does not have to wait until New Years.  If you are ready, by all means, get moving!  Here are some of the reasons I have run into in why people wait until that magical New Year to start.

  • I want to start the New Year with a clean slate. This is great!  Who doesn’t appreciate a chance to improve themselves and a fresh start.  The thing of it is though, you will start this with the bet of intentions but you will make mistakes. We all do it.  You will run into things that do not work. Several times during the upcoming year you will have to “wipe the slate clean” and try something different.  Do not give up, do not let this take your thunder.  Your body will adapt, you will make changes.

 

  • I want to enjoy the holiday food. I have used this one myself and for me it translated into “I want an excuse to eat everything that I see. Come January I’m going on a diet so it doesn’t matter.”  In the past I could gain 5-10 lbs easy from Thanksgiving through New Years do to my love of simple sugars which lead to some massive water weight. Why make it harder on yourself by adding weight to a weight loss goal you already feel is going to take an enormous effort?

 

  • I made a pact with my best friend that we would start working out next year.  The “I don’t want to let my friend down” routine.  A workout partner is great, but again, if you are ready do not guilt yourself into stopping just because it will make your friend feel bad if you start before they do.  You will not progress the same and will not hit your goals at the exact same time so the fact that you started a little earlier is irrelevant.

 

  • I’m too busy getting ready for the holidays to start working out.  Do a five minute non-stop circuit of burpees, push-ups, sit-ups and dips every morning and you will burn a ton of calories.  Add more, add something different when things slow down.  You have time to watch Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation 50 times over the holidays, you have time to workout.

 

  • It takes away from family time.   Family is important but this is still a poor excuse.  You don’t need to spend all day working out.  I don’t think taking 30 minutes for yourself is being selfish. If you take care of yourself better you will be able to take care of your family better.

 

There are other reasons of course but these are what I most run into.  The point here is that if you are ready to make a change than make a change.  Do not rely on some arbitrary date to tell you that its time.  If you start early you can accomplish your goal early.

 

Take care and happy holidays to all!

RGD

 

 

Cheat Meals Not Cheat Week(s) | Cheat Meals, are cheat meals ok,types of cheat meals, healthy cheat meals, are cheat meals good, are cheat meals a good idea

Cheat days. Should you or shouldn’t you. What is a cheat day?

 

Cheat day – Most often preceded by several weeks of intense diet.  It is a day where all bets are off in regards to your diet and you indulge in whatever you want.

 

Who isn’t a fan of cheat days? Who wouldn’t want that? Pop, ice cream, pizza, cookies, it’s all there for the taking, it sounds fantastic, it sounds like heaven until you overdo it.

 

Why would you use a cheat day? It’s used to let yourself have those things on your cravings list, things you want but know they have little to no nutritional value. It’s often seen as a reward for being true to your diet. It’s a way to keep your sanity while on a diet by occasionally dipping your toe in the pool of indulgence.That all sounds well and good and very logical, but it’s a very slippery slope if you are not prepared beforehand to look at that demon food you had been avoiding for months and suddenly are enjoying. This is unique to almost any other old habit you are trying to change. Think about it:

 

You quit smoking for a month and decide to reward yourself by sharing a smoke with a friend.

 

You’re a habitual cusser, have worked extremely hard to change the way you express yourself and decide to reward yourself by spending a day telling everything and everyone to go fuck themselves.

 

I could even use my own old habit here. I haven’t had a drink in about 12 years. I then decide I’ve been so good for so long, I deserve a drink.

 

I hope these sound less and less logical to you. They all try to reward oneself with the very thing they were trying to change. It can start off good. It can start off in control but unfortunately that usually doesn’t last.

 

Let’s break down what can happen and let me preface this by stating what I am going to illustrate is not based on client encounters, this is something I have done myself. I am not trying to pick on anyone. I want this to be a learning experience and not a shameful one. Here we go:

 

You start your program. Your motivation is sky-high. You want to make nothing but good, healthy decisions. You want everything to be perfect and to a large degree they are.  Four weeks go by and changes are starting.  You’re down 10 lbs and your energy is up.Seemingly nothing can stop you.  Time for a reward.

 

Internal conversation – “I’ve been on this program a month and never have felt better. I’m treating myself to an indulgence day, but I won’t go super crazy.”

 

(Insert cheat day)  A first instinct may be to grab that pint of Ben and Jerry’s you’ve been trying to kick since you started. You take a bite or two or three or more. You may go well above twice your normal calories, quite easily actually.  And it’s not just simply calories.  If you’ve been restricting calories for a while and mostly reducing carbohydrates, you will get bloated when you have a large carb meal.  That bloat is water and we all know how heavy water is. It’s a lot of water weight, but when you wake up and the scale is 5 lbs heavier, seemingly overnight, people will go into panic mode.

 

But you’re strong. You have your indulgence and move on.  The next day you start working out again. Another week goes by:

 

“Well, I haven’t lost any more weight, but I haven’t gained any either so I’m having a little cheat snack. I have proven that I can have what I want and not gain weight.”

 

You may have gone way overboard on your cheat day and did not even realize it. It may take you a few days to burn off the extra carb intake you consumed so you’re left with actually half a week of fat burning instead of your usual full week when you were on your plan.  This is perfectly fine, just be aware of what is going on. However, you see the scale not moving and you begin to get worried. You take an extra couple days off to re-evaluate things. Again, self-awareness is so huge and it is a lot harder than you thought. It takes a ton of practice and everyone can improve on it, we’re all human and will never get it perfect.

 

This extra time off can easily turn into procrastination.  Are you really looking for answers or just looking for a way to add extra time between you and that next workout?

 

Three weeks go by and you feel ready to workout again. You do half of what you were doing to ease back into it. You complete a mostly full week of your reduced exercise goal. Maybe something came up at work or with your family that has added stress at this time as well. You believe you have earned a reward.

 

“I worked out for a week, I earned this day of eating whatever I want.”

 

No, you have taken a great step in the right direction but you need to keep going. This is not a straight path to where you want, you need to allow yourself to make mistakes and learn to make adjustments. Don’t give up on yourself yet.

 

You look at the calendar and you’re not as far as you’d like to be. You notice its been two months and no change. You become frustrated and want comfort.

 

“I haven’t been on-track with my meal plan but today I was good all day, so I am getting myself some ice-cream.”

 

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was at this point I basically felt so worthless and ashamed that I did not have the willpower to continue to move forward that I began to sabotage my efforts.

 

If I went back to where I was it was adding confirmation that I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be in terms of health.  I could then convince myself there was no point in trying.

 

From here you may find yourself doing less and less in terms of fueling yourself adequately and working out and adding more and more of the “reward” food you had been trying to reduce in the first place.

 

It’s human nature to not want something so indulgent once you receive it over and over.  You overdo it and give yourself easy access. Now it’s not forbidden to you anymore, it loses its exotic nature and becomes commonplace.  You think to yourself, “Why did I want this to begin with?”

 

Am I saying go nuts and indulge in everything you know that’s bad for you? Absolutely not.

 

I believe the reason this bombardment of pleasure does not work is because by the time you get to the point where you are actually sick of whatever food item of your choosing you’ve already established a deep pattern of turning to this item when you are in need of comfort.  People will turn to comfort food when they are happy, sad, upset, angry, lonely and everything in between.  It can provide an instant change in mood, but that quickly passes and when it does that space is usually filled with guilt and shame.

 

So what can you do?

 

*After 30 days on a diet and exercise program begin incorporating 1 cheat meal per week. Nothing more.

*Choose this cheat meal carefully. What have you been craving? What sort of modification can you make to this cheat meal to reduce calories or change the calorie makeup? Example – Add sliced almonds to ice cream instead of adding brownie bits.

*Allow yourself to have this meal. Do not feel guilty! You worked hard for it!

*Watch the portion size and walk away.  One serving not two servings or three.

*Immediately do something active afterwards. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Feel good about what you have accomplished during the week in terms of your fitness goals.

 

You can have your cake and eat it too. Just be mindful of your actions.

 

RGD

The Pre-workout That Almost Killed Me

Please be careful what you put in your body.

 

Almost everything we put in our body is essentially a drug of some kind. Some drugs require a prescription, some can be found over the counter, and some are added to or are naturally found in our food, but all of them have a risk/reward aspect to them, including common food. Something as simple as a peanut can turn deadly to someone who is allergic. Even some of the more dangerous and easily overdosed drugs can be taken safely for a short period of time, under the right guidelines and supervision, but of course there are always consequences if they are taken incorrectly. The safer drugs such as Tylenol or multivitamins can be taken with relative ease of concern, but rest assured there is absolutely no drug out there that is 100% safe and free of consequences if abused or misused.

The drug of this discussion, caffeine, is cheap, easy to obtain and is used daily by a very large percentage of people out there. This drug is also not immune to consequences if you abuse or misuse it. I have had recent, firsthand experience with the dangers of what can happen when fail to read the instructions correctly on using this simple, seemingly harmless drug.

So what? I got the jitters?  I had too much energy? How dangerous could it be?

What’s the big deal? You get really wired and then crash later. More energy is a good thing, right? So your heart races a little. You clean the house 3x top to bottom and move on. You probably have stories of your own where you took 3 Red Bulls back to back to back or had double espresso followed by a 5 HR Energy shot. Those wouldn’t be a good idea either, but my experience even kicks that up a few notches. Let my story of ignorance be a lesson learned for everyone.

 

This wasn’t just a couple cups of strong coffee form of caffeine. In retrospect that would have been a much safer alternative. This was pharmaceutical grade, pure caffeine powder that I had purchased online. Why was I taking caffeine and more importantly, why was I taking a pharmaceutical grade, highly concentrated form of it? Ironically I was trying to make my pre-workout more healthy. I was trying to cut out the fillers that are added to a lot of pre-workout supplements. I wanted a pure form of caffeine that would last and save me some money.

I am a certified personal trainer and I do have some experience with supplementation and diet, but I am not a dietitian. I am qualified to give suggestions, but not qualified to design a meal plan. It’s a very gray area I live in. I know a lot about some things and a little about others and sometimes that gets me in trouble when I don’t admit it, especially when it comes to supplements.

 

I felt I was lacking a little in gym intensity and had gone online and studied how to make my own pre-workout cocktail. I know, I know, you shouldn’t believe everything you read online. Anybody can write anything out there and there’s just too much room for error. However the cocktail I was making consisted of things I was familiar with: beta-alanine, creatine, caffeine and Gatorade. Beta alanine, a non-essential amino acid and creatine were added to boost endurance and muscular output, Gatorade was pretty much added for flavor and a little caffeine was added to get me “jacked” and pumped up to workout.

 

Please do not try this at home, but below is what I thought I was ingesting:

Beta-alanine: 10 grams

Creatine: 5 grams

Gatorade: 1 serving

Caffeine: 200mg

Everything above was correct with the exception of caffeine. I had it in my head that 200mg was 2 teaspoons; 1 teaspoon was 100mg of caffeine, or so I thought. I am certain I had read that online. Ugh, I know. Don’t believe everything you read online. I should have double checked the measurements somewhere else or better yet, have read the label on the bag more carefully.

Now some of the events I do not remember, but with the help of my wife I can piece together parts of what followed:

 

7/16/2014

The date is easy to remember, it’s my wife Belinda’s birthday.

9:15 AM – Package arrives from UPS with my supplements. I eagerly begin making my first (and only) home-made pre-workout drink. I tear into the package, half reading the instructions for measurement on the caffeine. I think, “If I take a little extra, I’ll get even more jacked. This couldn’t possibly hurt me, could it?” I drink it down and it tastes like shit. It is the most bitter thing I have ever tried. I add more Gatorade, but it seems like nothing is going to make this taste any better.

 

9:30 AM – I REALLY begin to feel the effects. I am focused but have a slight nauseous feeling like I had taken several No-Doz on an empty stomach.

 

9:41 AM – ” Wow, this is really fast acting”, I think to myself. I text my wife Belinda,”Made my first pre-workout..nasty but effective. Super bitter. Needs more sweet..maybe honey?”

I begin to get dressed for the gym, but something does not feel right. The feeling of being super charged and ready to move mountains quickly passes and morphs into this new feeling that I have never experienced before. There’s a tingling feeling all over my body, I begin to sweat but do not think much of it. I think to myself “maybe I didn’t have enough food in my system prior to taking my concoction.” After all, I had run into that before where I’ve either eaten too much or too little before a pre-workout supplement. If you eat too much it will mask the effects. If you eat too little your pump and adrenaline kick is short lived. I undress and lie down, thinking a nap will make it a little better. I’ll nap and then eat something. Then I’ll be ready for the gym.

Now from roughly 10 AM until 5:15 PM I really have scattered memories of what happened. I remember trying to lay down and sleep it off somehow, but I could not get comfortable. My legs were restless, I was disoriented and I ran to the bathroom to throw up at least 5 or 6 times. I do remember feeling like this was all a dream and hoping I would wake up and snap out of it.

I repeat, this is also the day of my wife’s birthday. Good job, Dan.

I toss and turn in bed for what I think is a couple of hours, tops. I’m working nights and need desperately to try and get some rest. Normally I have my phone ringer set to silent with just the alarm set to wake me up at 4:30 PM. However, I do not hear the alarm. Lucky for me, today I have my ringer on.

5:15 PM – My wife is contemplating going out for a drink or two, but decides to call him to chat for a few minutes before I leave for work. I do hear the phone ring. I pick it up but according to my wife I don’t make a lot of sense. I look at the time and think to myself, “I need to get ready for work! I work at 6 PM!!”

 

My wife recommends I try to eat something or at least drink something. I try in vain but it comes up immediately. She comes home to the sound of me by the toilet, puking my guts out. She asks me what I took and she finds the ingredients of my formula still on the counter. Upon studying the contents of what I bought and asking me how much I used she quickly comes to the conclusion I have overdosed on caffeine.

 

I’m slumped over on the bed and call work at 5:45 PM stating something to the effect I’m sick and can’t make it in.

 

I cannot walk for more than a few steps without getting dizzy and feeling like I need to vomit. The room is spinning and just talking feels like an enormous energy expenditure. I need to go to urgent care but I’m 250 lbs and obviously too big for Belinda to carry.

 

** WEEE-OOOO WEEEE-OOO WEEE-OOOO** Here comes the ambulance.

 

This part is patchy. I remember the EMT talking with me on the step. I do not remember the words exactly, but I do remember telling him I had a hard time with my balance and/or nausea. They were trying to see if they could get me to walk or if they had to get a stretcher or whatever, but according to Belinda I got my second wind and just got up and walked out to the ambulance without any warning.

 

I’m in the ambulance with an I.V. On to the hospital.

 

So now I am in the ER. Belinda had done some math and estimated that the bare minimum I ingested was something around 11,000 milligrams of caffeine. The Dr. on hand had a different estimate. He had figured it was more like 60 odd cups of a large Starbucks..which can contain as much as 400 milligrams each…so his estimate was around twice as much as that or more. My estimate of 2 teaspoons might have been a little underestimated. At the very least they were slightly rounded teaspoons because my levels were off the charts. This type of powder is so fine and hard to measure they recommend using a micro scale. A slightly rounded serving can make a tremendous difference. I come to find out later that people have died from using this same powder by ingesting less than half of that amount. Scary stuff.

 

I stayed the night in the hospital to monitor my heart and get some fluids. EKG results showed I needed to be monitored for a little while until my heart rhythm became more stable. Around mid-day the next morning I am cleared to go home.

 

They told me the first 48 hours of caffeine withdrawal would be hell and I thought, yeah right. How hard could that be? I’ve had headaches from caffeine withdrawal before, big deal. Oh, this was an entirely different beast. I was heavily medicated with anti-nausea drugs and slept a lot those first couple of days and honestly did not feel completely “right” for a good week. With the help of Belinda I got through it, but I will not lie, but it did cross my mind “Is Belinda nursing me back to health only to kill me herself for being so dumb?” Luckily she wants me around for a little longer and did not kill me.

 

Please let this be a lesson to you all. Know what you are putting into your body at all times, especially when it comes to supplements. There is no regulation on supplementation. It needs to be proven dangerous before the FDA will do anything. One simple mistake can lead to something you cannot undo.

RGD