Friday, December 16, 2011

Why are we all such shitty failures?

"I'll start exercising on monday", "I'll quit next month", "I'll eat healthier after Christmas", "I'll just do it this once", "I'll break up with him soon", "This pizza has spinach on it so it's healthy and that means I can eat the whole thing even though I'm a celiac and I'm lactose intolerant..."  Sound familiar at all?  I find it hard to believe that anyone on this planet has not been engaging in some kind of activity or behavior that is harmful to them, promises to stop, but never does.  Self destructive behavior can be a really subtle thing and it's hard to control.  Especially when it comes to your absolute favorite thing in the world, or the coping mechanism you've used since you were 5, or a habit that you don't *really* feel like changing even though you know you should. 

Lately I've been feeling like I'm treating my body with respect, by not ignoring any red flags (pain, stiffness, etc.) that it sends me.  I've been working hard on my alignment and have been seeing real results.  I've been patting myself on the back, going to bed thinking "yup, good work.  It's been a productive day for your health".  Then I start to dig a little deeper and realise that I'm actually a self-destructive crap sack just like everyone else.  My favorite vice: PIZZA.  A lot of research is being done on people who are sensitive to gluten, and the results are really scary.  For people with a sensitivity to gluten (moi), there is a 70% increased risk of premature death due to freaky diseases.  That's 70% less respect I give my body every time I eat gluteny garbage.  Not only is it a long term risk, it actually makes me feel really awful right away, like I've got a meal of thumbtacks moving through my GI tract.  So, why don't I just stop?  That's the question I've been trying to answer. 

I knew someone when I was younger who ended up getting cancer and having to go through some really rough chemotherapy.  The person was in university at the time.  Oddly enough, during treatment, they excelled in their classes, made most assignments on time, and did some really exceptional work.  Then the cancer went into remission, the treatments stopped, and so did the progress at school.  They worked harder and did better when they had a reason to fail.  The cancer was a safety net, a real reason for failure, so no one would fault them personally for anything.  Without the pressure to succeed, success was achieved.  When the responsibility for failure returned, the sucess was lost.  Fear of failure is a bitch, and it manifests in all sorts of ways. 

I've known about this gluten thing for YEARS now, but guess what I did last week?  I bought a thin crust spinach pizza and ate the whole thing.  Not over 2 or 3 meals, I mean I ate it all at once.  And it was so good, omg, I can't even tell you.  However, a few days before that I ate pizza over at family's house, because it was "just this once".  But it's never just this once.  That's why those excuses don't work.  EVER.  I think that because I've never had to control my diet, I really don't know if I can do it or not.  I KNOW I can do well with alignment, because being active and physically fit has always been an important and rewarding part of my life.  Now I'm faced with a new challenge that I don't know if I can overcome, so I've never really tried my best to do it.  I also don't enjoy saying no to pizza as much as I enjoy saying yes to a 2 hour walk.  I've finally decided to give it a real shot though, and I'm trying to respect my body 100% all the time (trying, no one's perfect).  

My new tip for success is to envision of the worst possible consequence of your stupid behavior, whatever it may be.  And dont' just say "oh, I could die".  That's too vague.  For me, the worst would be chemotherapy.  So every time I eye a chocolate chip cookie at Starbucks, every time I am tempted to duck into Pizza Pizza for a quick fix, I picture myself bony and frail, stuck in a hospital, hooked up to a bunch of shitty machines, knowing that the medication I'm taking is destroying my insides.  Grim, I know, but effective.  You never know when the backlash from your poor habits is gonna hit you. I assure you that when the backlash comes (and it will) you're gonna wish you could change the past.  It's really time to suck it up and stop whining about not being able to eat pizza.  I'm not a ninja turtle for god's sake.  Anyway, there's always thai food, right?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What does walking feel like?

I went for a walk the other night and tried really hard to implement all the things that I've learned thus far in my alignment program.  The results were amazing.  I started landing on a straight leg, using my glutes to level my pelvis so I could clear the ground (instead of bending my knee a whole bunch) and I started using my hamstrings to push myself forward instead of my quads.  Never having walked with a relaxed knee before, it was really shocking, and cool to find out that I could even do it.

I tried to share my new walking knowledge with my spouse later in the week, and I realised that it is not an easy feat to accomplish.  For someone who hasn't been spending a lot of time rotating their thighs, holding their weight up with their lateral hip muscles instead of their quads, it's almost impossible for them to understand how it is done, what muscles to employ, what parts to relax, etc.  The first thing he said to me was that it felt lazy.  When I looked at him, he looked somewhat stiff, but also smooth.  So I've decided to break it down in a way that I think it makes sense.  This is what walking feels like for me.

First, I'll address the "lazy" feel of the walk.  When you stabilize your joints and stop flailing your body around, swaying back and forth like a metronome, it really feels like you're using less muscle.  And to a certain extent, it's true.  When you are stabilized, you no longer have to spend so much energy changing the direction of your upper body with every step.  When your body sways to the left, at some point you have to actively stop the motion, and direct your torso to the right.  Just try it.  Sway back and forth and see how much energy it takes.  Even if you're only swaying a little when you walk, the energy expended adds up in the end.

Next, there's the issue of feeling stiff.  I think that's because of the pelvic listing, where you use your lateral glute muscle to stabilize your pelvis, lifting it slightly so you can let your foot clear when it moves underneath you.  What feels stiff to a person used to flopping around when they walk is actually the sensation of having your joints stable and not moving in all kinds of crazy ways they're not really supposed to move (at least, not while you're walking).

The smooth feeling comes from using your leg like a gondola pole, pushing your body forward while it remains up right instead of falling onto a bent knee over and over.  You glide along without bobbing up an down, without your ankle rocking back and forth, without your knee constantly absorbing the pressure of every step (if you land on a bent knee), without your pelvis tipping from side to side.  It feels controlled and smooth as butter on the joints.

After walking like that for a good 20 minutes or so, I switched back to my old style of walking.  That's when I REALLY noticed a difference.  All of a sudden I could feel pressure in my knees, my quad flexing, I could feel my hips wiggling, you know that sexy lady walk?  (Not so sexy when it lands you in a walker or a wheelchair because of hip fracture :P ).  I could feel my body hitting the ground over and over, a shock wave that travelled right up to the base of my skull.  I never noticed it before because that's just how I've always walked.

The best part  is:  You can't unlearn.  Once you discover what walking is supposed to feel like you can't go back!  That's a comforting thought, considering moving in any way but the optimal way is damaging to your body.  It's really easy for me now to notice when I'm not holding my body in a good position, or when I'm walking in a way that is damaging to my joints.  Speaking of damaging positions, I've been seated for FAR too long and my back is starting to get angry.  Time to get up off my butt and get something to eat.  Happy walking everybody!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who's got the freakiest spinal curvature of them all?

A horrifying thing happened to me the other day, just horrifying.  Before I tell you, I'm going to give you a little back ground info on myself so you can put this into perspective.  When I was in grade 8 I was teased and tortured all the time, and I was freakishly thin.  My hateful concerned schoolmates would sometimes come up to me and say "What's wrong with you?  Are you anorexic or something?" or "You look sick.  You're emaciated.".  Thanks guys!  So, as a result of my pals helpful urgings, I started working out and trying to bulk up, Cartman style.  I started biking every day, walking or running before school in the morning, lifting weights and doing other exercises in my room at night.  Before long, I had a sweet set of guns, the most muscular back I've ever seen on a 16 year old girl, and my rack felt like it was made of steel.  Good times!  (For the record, it didn't stop the teasing.  They just hassled me about other things)

I've always really enjoyed being active and healthy, and then I got pregnant.  I kept walking the whole time and had a pretty decent pregnancy actually.  Then came the delivery...eugh.  Long and painful, and my mal-aligned body made it really difficult for me to get the baby out without some interference from my friend Scissors.  :(  That's when it all fell apart.  I couldn't stand for almost 2 weeks, let alone walk.  I was in pain for over a month, which severely limited my ability to move.  Then childcare got in the way of self care.  Fast forward to a year later, and I'm carrying a 20lb toddler on my right hip like she's fused to my body (ie, all the time.)

So, back to the original story.  The other day, I decide to take a look at myself in the mirror.  I mean a really good look.  I've been having an extreme amount of pain in my lower thoracic spine on the left side for some time now, so I wanted to see if I could see a problem..  The first thing I notice is that my waist has more curve on one side than the other.  The right side, of course, b/c that's where Myriam lives.  So I get the hand mirror and turn around, and my life is CRUSHED.    All I see is bone.  My spine, my ribs, my scapulae are all pronouncing themselves for the world to see.  Then I look closer at my ribs.  The left side is bulging out.  I mean BULGING.  And the muscle on the left (hurting) side is twice the size of the right.  I'm all "WTF IS THAT?!  RIB SLIDE?!".  When I took in the whole picture, I could see that my whole rib cage was no longer centered over my pelvis, but was slid over to the left of my body. I'm not sure if you guys have ever had a moment like that, where you realize something is really wrong with you, but it is not fun. 

After coming to terms with the fact that I am NOT 16 anymore, I got down to business and started coming up with a plan for myself.  First I took a day to really think about my habits, because one's body does not rearrange itself into a deformity over night.  I noticed that when I sit,  I  always sit on my left cheek, tuck my legs to the right, and let my ribs slide on over.  Too much sitting.  When I'm standing, I put my weight on the right leg and let my ribs slide on over to the left.  That's craptastic.  When I nurse Myriam, I lay on my left side and let my ribs fall to the level of the bed, and my right hip is lifting into the air.  All of these things feel super comfortable to me, but it's because I've been training my body for years into a very unnatural position.  Now that I'm not compensating as much with other parts of my body (alignment exercises and being mindful about my body), and carrying Myriam more instead of using a stroller, it's starting to really stick out like a sore thumb. 

I can't believe that I've got a problem with my back.  After taking so much care to work on it over the years, I've been sabotaging my own health the whole time.  Wild.  Tonight is my first appointment with a massage therapist to help me with the pain while I transition back into alignment.  I'm really surprised about the amount of pain I have while I retrain my muscles, but as another alignment junkie said to me "You didn't think they would give up without a fight, did you?"  Yup.  I did actually.  I thought it would be easier, I thought I was in better shape.  It just goes to show that anyone can be thrown out of alignment, it's sneaky and subtle, but in the end it WILL cause you a serious problem.  We need to remember to always be mindful about what position we're in, and not to stay in one position all the time.  Our habits, no matter how insignificant they seem at the time, can greatly impact our health over the years.