Just Another Day at Elev8 Wellness
Parkinson's is a disorder typically associated with Lewy Body formation on the substantia nigra in the brain. It affects muscle control, movement and balance among other abilities. According to most experts in the field, it is an impossibly degenerative disease.
This client, Jeff, came to me shortly after his diagnosis about six years ago. At that time, he was in crippling pain on his right side, through the neck, trapezius, shoulder and arm. His right side was the primary showcase of his Parkinson's. He had a number of other telltale signs; but his main concern was with doing his best to slow the progression of the disease.
Within about a month we had ameliorated the pain and a lot of the right side rigidity. Through Active Isolated Stretching, some muscle activation techniques and various movement work I've learned over some 40,000 hours of experience in the field, I was able to help him accomplish something that no therapist had been able to do with him. Since then I've witnessed him move through speed, agility and quickness drills like a high school athlete on his best days.
Parkinson's has such an affinity for severe muscle imbalance side to side; and I generally think structural lifts and overall conditioning with the lower body and core which are focused on good movement are the most important factors in helping clients of all kinds, especially those with movement disorders. Thus bench press places very low in what would be considered important or functional. That notwithstanding, Jeff's control had so IMPROVED (a supposed impossibility with this disease), that just for the hell of it I joked with him in July 2015 that we ought to go after a 200lb bench press. He looked at me like I was insane.
His response was warranted, especially given that the first attempt was solely with the bar (45lbs) and he was tremoring slightly and rocking all over the place. However, ever so gradually, his control and strength improved, like it has with anything else on which we put our focus. In September he was stuck at 150lbs for most of the month. That weight was just not budging. We tried a variety of program alterations and he broke through that plateau. As you can see here in this video, he now smoothly, controlledly and easily reps out 155lbs.
What you don't see here is the prior set: 200lbs. Jeff did what was an insane notion less than a year ago. And he got the 200lbs about a week before his birthday, his 60th birthday. That had become one of his short term goals; and he just knocked it out of the park. It's a feat he had never completed even as a young man. And he's just beaming because of it.
By no means am I alone in the fitness world, performing mini-miracles in the face of allegedly incontrovertible disease pathology. To the contrary, many of my colleagues over the last 12 years in this industry have become increasingly knowledgable about how to progress the seemingly fixed, how to reverse the deterioration, how to soldier forward despite overwhelming challenges. There are many great stories like this. And at Elev8 Wellness, it's just another day.
"Can't" is only an imaginary idea.
#elev8 #fitness #parkisons #parkinson #wellness #health #noexcuses #inspiration #motivation #progress #excellence #fortitude #commitment #drive #grit #courage #belief #faith #overcome #persevere #improvement #evolve #gym #training #strength #endurance #balance
People confuse the terms "normal" and "common," leading to what I call the average myth. It's this idea that commonplace somehow connotes goodness. Regularity somehow ends up meaning acceptable. This conflation makes us victims of the average myth.
There are three incarnations of the average myth: deprecating reverence; deviance proclamations; and guru fairy tales.
Deprecating reverence - "That's so amazing. I could never do anything like that." - You recognize it's a great accomplishment; but you fail to realize that it was done by an imperfect, flawed, foolish, bumbling, stumbling human being not too unlike yourself. Yeah, be realistic. With zero background, it's unlikely that you will at 70 years old begin your first ever exercise regimen and win the very next Olympic Gymnastics competition. However, fear and pre-visualized failure are self-fulfilling prophecies. If another human has done it, you can do it. It's just a matter of will multiplied by time.
Deviance Proclamations - "Well, that prodigy couldn't have had a normal childhood; that athlete's diet is just too weird; that successful person just has such an odd schedule." - Duh. You recognize that they're doing something different; but you have to vilify it so as to protect your own complacency and laziness. Again, deviance from the commonplace is what makes exceptionalism.
When you say, "it's normal for people to eat like this, act like this, think like this, etc.," what you really mean is that it's common. Yes, it is common. Common isn't good, healthy or worthy of esteem. It is common to eat like crap. It is common to abuse your body. It is common to balk at hard work. Vilify the hard workers, the dedicated, the dutiful all you want; that vilified deviance you lament is the very grit which creates a bell curve. Feel free to sit in the fat bubble in the middle. But some elbow grease will have you soaring elsewhere in another quadrant.
Guru Fairy Tales - "You can do anything you want. Just look at me, and here's how I did it with less than one hour per week, a two dollar budget and walking uphill in the snow both ways." - The premise is largely true, but the method is bull. I like to pick on Tim Ferriss for this example because, well, it's easy. I'll leave aside "The 4 Hour Work Week" nonsense, as plenty of others have picked it to pieces. And I'll stay just within my immediate domain of expertise: fitness. Tim Ferriss is this guru who has sold a brand whose message is basically "all the results without any of the work." The titles of his books say all. But the funniest thing about his 2010 "The 4 Hour Body" is that, although it contains a great number of good factoids on intense exercise, ultimately it's a sham. The overt claim is that about four hours of "smart" work is all that's needed for exceptional physical wellness. Now, keep in mind, Tim Ferriss has never GOTTEN INTO shape. He's a lifelong athlete, holds some world record for ballroom dance, is into mixed martial arts training, and, as of late, got into rock climbing. So when, pray tell, did he ever experiment with only four hours of activity getting him into superhuman conditioning? The obvious answer is never.
Anyhow, the point is clear. Yes, you can do a lot more than you think. And yes, there is value in working smarter not just harder. But careful on your sources. Gurus are out there to sell a lie that is loosely based on some actual facts. You won't get where they are by doing what they claim. You will get to where they are by doing what they do. Unfortunately, in most cases, this means becoming a lying cheat. So, if you want to accomplish something big AND maintain some modicum of ethics, morality and humanity... you won't do it in less than an hour a week OR on a two dollar budget.
You may have to walk uphill in the snow both ways, because, after all, that would be weird, abnormal, and uncommon. But you can do it, even if you thought it was too late in life to get started. Don't worry. That's normal.
I invite you to read on only if you are ready for tough love:
In fact, only professionals choke. The word itself connotes that you operate at a level wherein you contend for the top position in the world. While vying for it, you missed, or "choked."
It just happened to Brazil.
It just happened to a hot dog eating competitor.
But if it just happened to you (and you're alive) there's no need to hang your head in shame. For one, you had the opportunity to choke, which in and of itself speaks volumes for the hard work and dedication you've put in up to this point. Two, in many cases you don't have to wait another four years for another opportunity.
Yes, yes, I know. This particular opportunity "will never happen again." This is true almost none of the time, even for a 90 year old who missed the last Halley's Comet. There are other comets. And, guess what: thanks to technology, we can see everything ever recorded at pretty much any moment.
No matter what happens, you can always focus your energy on what you don't have, what you missed out on, what you wish you had. That's a primer on how not to be powerful, happy or successful. It may sound like something from Tony Robbins, but it is true. If you had everything you wished for, you still wouldn't have everything that you WILL wish for once you get it. The secret to happiness is wanting less.
Nevertheless, in this particular situation, I'm sure you're looking for something to get you close to the sensation of accomplishment you were hoping for and which just eluded you. The same advice applies, plus my question for you is "what now?" You see, the story isn't over, ever. If you had just won the lottery you'd still be faced with how to keep the piranhas away, protect yourself, your family and your identity. If you had just nailed that job, now you'd be faced with how to be great at it every day. If you just beat your competitor, you'd still be faced with the next challenge. Each moment, each minute, each hour, each day you are still going to be faced with "now what?" Whether you choked or won, you still face the same question. You have to go DO something. Something else. No matter what.
So, sitting, inactive, impotently lamenting the loss, the choke... that's not what pros do. It's not what winners do.
And it's not what you're going to do.
Nothing is ever as it might first seem. So allow yourself to take a chance and mold the world to how you would have it be. Think of how you imagined your life a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, before you directed yourself to where you are. Did it all turn out the way you thought it would back then? Think back to what you thought it would be like to go through the various rites of passage before you went through them. Your fitness and wellness journey is no different, and will be no different in the future. Serendipity steps in. You learn more. You take the reigns or give them to others. And, truth be told, it can end up being so much better than you expected.
I'll give just two illustrations of seemingly impossible circumstances where the outcome was nothing like what one likely expects. In doing so, I want the reader to consider his/her own seemingly impossible roadblocks (not just in your fitness goals, but whatever struggle you may be having in life). However, reconsider them. If these two examples show you anything, it's that you too can get past your roadblocks to something unimaginably wonderful.
The picture above is of one of my clients who is the team lead for the American Men's Greco-Roman wrestling team on her trip to Iran for the 2014 World Cup. When she returned she regaled me with a hundred stories about how repeatedly pleasantly surprised she was at her interactions in Iran, and how the Iranians were repeatedly pleasantly surprised at the interactions with her. In a nutshell, each party underestimated the respectfulness, gentility, humility, piety and cultural sensitivity that would come from the other. And it resulted in her having a "media darling" week in the country of Iran.
As I listened to her debrief throughout the week, it kept occurring to me that her Persian expedition was not too dissimilar from a fitness journey. That is, with a little bit of guts and taking a chance, beautiful impossible things happen. Almost every part of her trip was historic, in that a woman had never been in various buildings and forums where she went. And "knowing" what she thought she did beforehand, she could've easily just forewent the tour, stood this one out, played it safe and stayed home. The Iranian government could've easily declined entry and the various concessions they had to make to accommodate her. Instead, both boldly proceeded and people's worlds changed.
Prior to my client's return, two weeks ago, I myself was overseas; and my son was standing on a canon outside the mansion once home to Laskarina Bouboulina (whose statue is next to him). Born in 1771 Bouboulina was the only woman in recorded world history to be named a full admiral until 2013. She had no female role model after whom to model herself. She could've easily said, "this is how things seem to be" and accepted her plight. But instead she challenged every imagined imposition in her path, amassing a furtive arsenal on the island of Spetsos, chartering the construction of one of the largest ships at the time, bribing Turkish officials to look the other way, and launching a series of offensives against the Ottoman Empire to ultimately play a pivotal role in the Independence of Greece. She was born to be just another Greek woman (in fact, she was born in a prison), quietly oppressed by the Turks; but she imagined and created something so much greater. Even when she had acquired a large estate, she was not content to stand back and enjoy retirement. Rather, she personally attended to brutal battles at the ripe old age of 50, which is REALLY saying something for a woman in the early 1800s.
Nothing is as it seems to begin with. And that's because you make things what they are. Holding back from a full commitment to your fitness is just like holding back from the rest of life. You think you know what it's like, so you shoot yourself in the foot before you take a step, and now you dare not put it forward because it could get hurt worse.
Yes, it requires doing what maybe no one including yourself thought possible. But you know what? EVERYTHING EVER DONE once seemed like it couldn't be.
By myself I ran, scrambled, trekked and hiked to the top of Mount Ithome this morning and took this picture. At just under half a mile tall, it's hardly the most difficult climb in the world, or even here in Greece. Nonetheless, it is the real deal untamed trail, so much so that it thwarted the Spartans from a siege in antiquity. The beauty, majesty, and solitude more importantly brought about a lot of thoughts about how to live "with an empty glass."
You see, everyone told me not to go. Yesterday, at least five others planned to climb to the Byzantine monastery on the peak where a temple to Zeus once stood some 2500-4000 years ago. So today I leapt out of bed before dawn to ensure I saw the sun rise at 6:20am from the summit. When I arrived at the foot of the mountain where my wife's family's house stands, I was subjected to naysaying and gloom and doom prophecies for the next 90 minutes, first in Greek, then a Greeklish mix, waylaying me from what I had said I was going to do. It was a little rainy and somewhat overcast, so to everyone else this was a valid excuse to turn their backs on the word they had given to themselves and their peers but a few hours prior.
To me, I had said I'm going to do it, so as far as I'm concerned it's already a historical fact. I soon realized that sitting around any longer was only going to surround me with more negative speak. So I sprinted up the foothill, in the wrong direction. Realizing my mistake, I turned around, and then found the right path up as the distant church clock chimed. Getting lost happened about four more times, since my impetuousness left me without an experienced guide or any companion for that matter.
In solace I plied through the rocks, fallen shale, slicked stone faces, billy goat crap, giant spiders and a handful of snakes. There were no toughmudder judges, Gatorade stands, paramedics or guides of any sort. I didn't know where to go, except up, through some of the most thickened terrain on earth. If you get on a side track and fall and break something, that's it. You're done. The search area would be several square miles in totally cloaked craggy brush country. Maybe the locals have some hunting dogs that could sniff you out. But the fastest road from Athens is almost three hours in a speeding car.
Somehow though, it seemed safe and easy. And as I approached the top, a lot of philosophy flooded my head. After all, this is the birthplace of Plato. Particularly striking to me was the petrification that comes by over-analyzing a plan to which you've already committed. I thought of the readiness the human mind has to entertain worst case scenarios, instead of victorious achievements. And I thought of the age old question to determine whether you are an optimist or a pessimist: is the glass half empty or half full?
Many people have come up with all kinds of cutesy answers to thwart this very simple question: there is no glass; a half glass is all full; a full glass is filled with a full half glass, etc. But on the way down from the mountain something more profound dawned on me. That is, I'm a realist. I realize the glass is half empty. But because of that I have room to fill it more or to enjoy drinking it down, emptying it to be filled anew. As such, I am a supreme optimist, enjoying any of an array of possibilities from my accurate assessment of the state of things.
Conversely, I know a great many people who see the glass half full. But because of that they dare not fill it any more, nor dare they enjoy imbibing any of its contents so as to preserve what little is left. Why unsettle such perfection after all? As such, they would suppose themselves to be optimists, but are in point of fact supreme pessimists frozen so often in a state of inaction.
Half empty I saw the mountaintop and drank deep the last contents of the cup in a fulfilling way. Half full they sat in its shadow hoping to preserve drops which they would only lament later. Peering out on this scene, I could, and you can, see the village of Mavrommati below, Ancient Messene beside, Arsinoi ahead and over fifty miles all they way down to the seashores of Kalamata and beyond. Standing at its foot, you can see only the long path up.
So today you have your own Mount Ithome in front of you. You can call yourself an optimist and stand in awe of the beauty in front of you. You can call yourself a pessimist and not even enjoy the view. Or you can climb and clink a toast at the top with whatever glass you prefer. Empty just means I liked the drink. Empty just means possibilities.