The Future Is Now!

I still remember how I felt when I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was four years old, it was 1982 and technology was a far cry from what it is now.

I recall a number of symptoms that, at the time, made me angry and sad without having the benefit of understanding what was happening. I began wetting the bed again. This was the most humiliating, since my parents felt they had no option but to put me in diapers when I went to bed. I would wake in the morning with a soaked diaper, wondering why I didn’t wake up to use the washroom. My weight and appetite fluctuated and my personality changed almost overnight. My thirst was constant and I was always cranky.

My parents thought that perhaps I was simply going through a phase. I had just turned four, after all. The well-known “fournado” period was well under way. It wasn’t until I awoke one morning and sat at the kitchen table, complaining of stomach pain and feeling strange that things reached a plateau.

One morning, I promptly passed out into my bowl of Cheerios (I don’t know if it was actually Cheerios, just to be clear. But one can assume…). I was transported to the local hospital, but I don’t remember a great deal of the next few days. This is likely because I was comatose. I would later learn that my blood sugar had gotten so high that the glucometers of the time couldn’t effectively read my blood glucose. Considering my modern day glucometer caps off at 33.0 mmol/L, that’s saying a lot.

Once I woke up (several days later), it was discovered through testing that I had been diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. Although I didn’t really know what this meant at the time, it would go on to define me as a person for the rest of my life.

The weeks that followed involved a lot of trial and error as well as a glucometer that took almost three minutes to test with, and was about the size of a brick. My parents had no concept of what carb-counting was, or how to ensure that I didn’t ingest glucose from sources they weren’t aware of (“oh, bread doesn’t have sugar, sweetheart! You can have as much of that as you want”). Back in the 80’s, sugared goods were sugared goods; I’m talking cookies and baked goods and stuff. Bread, milk and potatoes were considered non-sugared goods. Unbeknownst to me, I was causing all kinds of damage to my system from consuming all those carbs without the benefit of calculating how much insulin I would require. It would prove to be a challenge I would have to deal with, later on in life…

I don’t blame my parents. They did the best they could with what they had available at the time. I honestly wouldn’t learn about carb-counting and such until 2015, almost 33 years after I was diagnosed.

My point is, now I’m connected to an insulin pump that is tethered to my body. It weighs less than an ounce and I test my blood using an interstitial fluid glucose reader, which would have have been considered inconceivable ten to fifteen years ago. But it’s how I live my life now.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet some people interested in upgrading to a new insulin pump. The latest design, it calculates and adjust one’s glucose levels every five minutes and helps to eliminate a number of steps required to maintain good glucose levels.

I met a gentleman who had been on an insulin pump in the 1980’s, as well as a youth who has only been on the pump for about three months. The variety was humbling, and I’ve ultimately decided to upgrade and move on to something newer.

Although I have always been a believer that technology isn’t the answer to everything, we keep moving one step closer to a point where perhaps someday, we’ll achieve a worry-free system that will take care of itself. We may not be able to create a new pancreas, but we can sure as hell combine technology with biology to provide a better tomorrow for future Type 1 Diabetics.

April Fool’s Day, A Day For Fools…

I’m going to keep it light this morning and cover today’s reason for pranksters to get out of bed: April Fool’s Day.

Nobody is EXACTLY certain where April Fool’s Day comes from, but there are some ideas out there. According to an article posted on history.com (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day), April Fool’s Day, or All Fool’s Day, has no exact origins but some ideas have been proposed over the decades.

One idea is that back in the 1500’s, when France switched to the Gregorian calendar, some people were slow to get the news and continued to celebrate the new year during the last week of March and through April 1st. These people became the object of ridicule, having paper fish stuck to their back and referred to as “poisson d’avail” (April fish), which symbolized an easily caught, gullible person. That seems a bit harsh, since a lot of people still use the imperial system despite how long we’ve been on metric. I can’t imagine how long it would take me to adjust to a new calendar.

Some believe that April Fool’s Day is tied to the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather. I can certainly believe that one as we tend to get some weird and radical extremes in weather, here in the Prairies.

There are some other ideas and thoughts on where today’s “festivities” come from, but the agreed consensus is that it has become a day to play pranks and punk the people in your life. In some circumstance, it can be amazingly annoying or innocent fun.

In school, we used to celebrate by making cut outs of small paper fish (I went to a French school as a child). In recent years, I’ve been the victim of all sorts of fun little pranks. I’ve had the sleeves of coats, filled with paper shredding. I’ve had and sanitizer smeared on my phone receiver then one of my co-workers would call me. Years ago, I had some co-workers in New Brunswick keep me busy while they wrapped my car in post-it notes, panty liners and pallet wrap. That one took a while to clean up!

Given how much darkness and negativity there is in the world these days, it’s important to take time to enjoy the fun stuff. To stop and sniff the proverbial roses, if you will. Take some time today to lighten to mood and enjoy a few harmless pranks. Obviously, if you’re pulling something at work, remember to keep it simple and don’t do anything that will interfere with your job’s work mandate.

And if you happen to be the type of person who doesn’t care much for pranks, well just bear in mind that it’s just one day and it’ll all be over soon. Just ride the wave, then you can retreat for home (where there will hopefully be no one pranking you).

Bone Alignment and Proper Form

When training in the martial arts, or any sport really, it becomes ultimately important to maintain proper form. Having improper bone alignment can lead to pulled muscles, injuries in the tendons and other serious sports-related injuries.

As it relates to the martial arts, the power behind a strike comes not only from one’s brute strength but a number of different factors that people often don’t think about. For example, a properly executed punch will draw some of its power from the ground. Don’t believe me?

A good example is if you’ve ever seen two people on the street breaking out into a fight. You’ll never see someone throw a punch from a normal standing position. They’ll usually blade or take a step back or something to allow themselves the opportunity to properly chamber the strike.

Another very important aspect to examine is your body’s natural pronation and supination. These refer to the natural alignment and rotation of your bones and joints. It becomes extremely important to acknowledge these and to try not to move against it. For example, when doing a “horse stance” movement in karate, one should keep the back straight and allow for the feet and knees to point slightly outward from the body. This is the natural movement of the body and the only way to effectively perform this movement.

The beginning of a good horse stance. I continue by getting lower into the seated position (no laughing at my orange carpet!)

Some styles try to point the feet directly forward or keep the knees pointed forward, but as you squat down in a horse stance, this movement becomes unnatural and taxing on the body.

The same goes with any of the limbs or joints. When one throws a proper punch, it becomes important to strike, keeping the knuckles, wrist and elbow lined up perfectly. This not only guarantees a stronger punch, it also prevents injury.

This is one of the reasons why boxers, muay thai and MMA fighters generally have to wrap their hands. They have lots of striking power, but no precision or ability to align their joints. Without the additional wrapping, they would likely injure themselves after the first few strikes.

A punch, demonstrated with proper alignment of the knuckles, wrist and elbow

Now, don’t get me wrong… I sure as hell wouldn’t want to take a punch from any one of those types of athletes! They have tremendous power to their strikes. But in a situation of true self-defence, one needs to train the body to be ready to strike without the benefit of padding or wrapping.

Normally, your body will tell you if something is unnatural. But this doesn’t mean that the movement your body HAS gotten used to, is correct. Sometimes we need to be corrected and adjusted in order to promote that natural movement.

Like A Bullet From A Gun

I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine recently, where we discussed the varying responsibilities surrounding a serious problem within my own life.

During this conversation, we postulated that the responsibility for the existence of most problems in our lives were threefold: part of the fault lies with the other involved party, part of the fault is completely out of our control and last but not least, part of the fault lies within ourselves.

Most of us have a serious issue with that last one! Think back to when someone told you that something bad in your life was YOUR fault… How well did you receive that criticism? I’ll go out on a limb and suggest it probably didn’t go over well. And as well it shouldn’t. As a people, we’ve grown and developed to look for reasons outside of ourselves for the things that go wrong. We generally don’t want to believe that we, ourselves, are responsible for our own suffering. After all, why would I do something that causes me pain, right? It’s generally easier to blame someone else.

But the reality is that it’s true! In some ways, often through indirect channels, we are responsible for the good AND the bad in our lives. Whether through indirect words, actions or decisions, we are the result of our life’s choices. Once we realize this and make peace with that, we can begin to make peace with ourselves.

You can’t change the other involved party’s involvement. It’s like the old saying goes: “I can only control my own words, not how you react to them.” People will often cause issues in others for their own agenda. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their agenda is bad, but the resulting actions can sometimes cause strife in other people’s lives.

Here’s a good example… Think about the last time you got a speeding ticket. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that it may have ruined (or at least damaged) the flow of your day. But that person is trying to contribute to the safety of our roads while trying to do his or her job. Their agenda is not BAD per say, but once you drive away, you’ve likely been left feeling angry and frustrated. Maybe you’re frustrated at the loss of money required to pay the fine. Maybe you’re frustrated because you believe the officer shouldn’t ticketed you. But the second part of the equation is that you obviously wouldn’t have gotten a ticket had you not been speeding, hence your part of the responsibility. The remainder is out of your control.

Although it’s a great example, some of you are probably thinking I’m off my rocker at the moment. But the reality of this is sound. Considering my background, I like to think of problems as being like a bullet from a gun. You have an incredible amount of control when dealing with a gun. You choose how well to clean and maintain the gun, whether or not to load it and what direction to aim it. You even have the choice as to whether you pull the trigger or not, although this may be influenced by outside sources. But once you pull the trigger, that bullet leaves the gun and is no longer in your control. It becomes too late to regret pulling the trigger and there is little you can do to stop the bullet. So I often say “It’s like a bullet from a gun. Once you pull the trigger, it’s too late…”

The bottom line is that we should never regret our choices. I’m repeating myself as I’ve covered this in a previous post, but it’s true. We are the culmination of our choices and any change in those choices would alter who we are in the here and now. And who we are in the here and now is pretty great. I think that as a people, we simply need to work harder on understanding that we have a responsibility for all aspects of our lives, good and bad. After all, if you want to see a rainbow, it kind of hard to complain about the rain. Nothing happens “just because”! All things happen for a reason; even when that reason may not be obvious.

The Martial Arts Ladder

My Sensei used to say that martial arts was like a ladder; we all want to climb up the rungs and get higher. But once you’ve made it up a few levels, it’s important to look back and help up the ones below you. Once they progress, they could potentially make their way higher than you and they would, in turn, reach back and help lift you up to the higher level you have not yet achieved. This is the beauty and wonder of the martial arts…

Years ago, we used to have three regular classes a week. Now, just to be clear… this was back in New Brunswick and I’m talkin’ turn of the century/millenium when everyone was freaked out over Y2K but all I could think about was graduating my black belt in karate! I was training hard. But the world’s perspective on martial arts was changing. People didn’t want to shed blood, sweat and tears like they used to. The next generation was growing strong and people were more interested in the 3-year black belt that some particular schools and styles catered to as opposed to hard work and developing oneself.

When I achieved my green belt (this was the first adult belt in my system after four ranking stripes), it became my responsibility to show the new arrivals their first steps and katas. I had climbed up the first rungs, so now I had to look back and pull the new climbers up.

When I achieved my brown belt, it became my responsibility to teach the entire class and guide them during their basic exercises and aiding movements. I would guide new students through their first couple of forms and help with correction and checking on some body conditioning.

When I achieved my black belt, it dawned on me just how little I knew. I realized that a kick was just kick and a punch was just a punch (sound familiar?). Who was I, to try and guide these newcomers into their journey towards whatever it was they were trying to learn? But as I progressed, I came to understand that white belts also needed to understand how to kick and how to punch, and wouldn’t learn unless someone showed them.

I guess my point is that as a student learns, it becomes important to help the newer students to progress so that they can show the newest practitioners, and so on and so forth. You can’t be an efficient teacher without somehow helping the students to grow to to the point where they will teach others. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Tonight, I had the benefit of having an experienced black belt teach me and show me a form in his particular martial art. It was humbling, because he could have spent his time practicing his own thing, but he spent time showing me the way instead. And isn’t that what’s important? No matter what level you reach, someone will need to carry on the way.

And this, dear friends, is the martial arts ladder. We grow, we learn, and we teach. So for every two steps you take, be sure to help someone else take one as well. Someday, that white belt may become a Sensei who teaches someone one new.

Lactic Acid, NOT An Ingredient In Your Milk…

We’ve all been there, right? Maybe you’re on a wicked jog, or participating in an intense spinning or Zumba class…. Maybe you’ve lost your mind and decided to drag your wife through a particularly sweating hypertrophy workout because it’s “something different”…

No? Just me? Alright then, think back to a time when you’ve been working out or exercising strenuously. Do you remember feeling that sudden burning feeling in your lungs? A noticeable lack of strength in your muscles and your body is essentially telling you to stop and rest? That, my friend, is a build-up of lactic acid in your muscle tissue.

Lactic Acid, or Lactate, is caused when you’re body is burning through more oxygen than it is carrying while exercising. Lactic Acid can be used by your body to produce energy without the use of oxygen, but it leaves some unpleasant side effects in its wake. The buildup of Lactic Acid is sometimes referred to Lactic Acidosis and the big problem is that your body will generally produce more Lactic Acid than you can quickly burn off and this is what causes you to feel symptoms like pain, cramping, nausea, weakness and exhaustion. One can sometimes fight one’s way through the effects of Lactic Acid buildup, but the result is more Lactic Acid. Rinse and repeat. Fun.

Once you hit that point, or what’s called the “Lactate Threshold”, it’s important to start your cool down. Your body’s exhaustion will likely tell your brain that it’s time to stop completely and maybe lie down for a nap, but this is not the proper thing to do. You need to cool down and allow your excess Lactic Acid to burn away.

There’s no real way to prevent Lactic Acidosis, other than to exercise regularly and increase the intensity gradually. I think WebMD said it best: “Don’t go from being a couch potato to trying to run a marathon […].” But if you build yourself up gradually, it will increase your threshold and make you capable of a lot more physical exertion before Lactic Acid builds up. The reality is that our ancestors sometimes had to face threats that didn’t allow them to build their intensity gradually, and this is why our bodies have this backup. But it is meant to be temporary. Unless your life is in jeopardy or the immediate situation mandates it, continuing to fight through Lactic Acidosis can be harmful (at the very least, it hurts like hell!).

But once you’ve hit that point, be sure to rest up and drink plenty of water as it helps to eliminate the excess acid. In some rare cases, medical conditions can cause Lactic Acidosis without intense exercise. Believe it or not, people who use Metformin for Type 2 Diabetes can experience Lactic Acidosis as a side effect of this medication. If you’re getting any of these symptoms as a result of a medical condition or medications, obviously you should speak with your doctor.

Otherwise, stretch properly, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet, chase all of that with a good night’s sleep and keep working out. I often hear people think that they believe Lactic Acidosis lasts for a couple of days after the workout; this is part of the recovery and not the actual Lactic Acid. Lactic Acidosis is an event that happens in the moment, and is usually gone soon after the workout ends.

The Next Generation Carries On…

Today’s blog post comes with a thick, heavy ounce of frustration as the power has been out at our home since about 6:30 this morning. We are currently sitting at a local fast-food eatery while my 4-year old indulges in a play structure and I stuff my visage with calorie-rich foods (only because we can’t make breakfast at home, of course!) But I digress…

One of the many benefits of being in martial arts for many decades is that I have been able to see many generations walk through the doors. Believe me when I say that students come in all shapes and sizes, walks of life and backgrounds. A good number of them have been children, and for a brief period in 2007, I actually had a “kids'” school of karate. It was there that I learned how hard some parents push their children. And this is coming from a karate instructor!

Martial arts has always been a passion for me, ever since I saw “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee in 1982. This was further compounded by a ninja-based television series I used to watch called “The Master”, which started airing in the early 1980’s. I was never much of a team sport kind of kid, especially with all the difficulties that came from Diabetes at a young age. Needless to say, my parents didn’t have to encourage me to stay in karate. In fact, they didn’t even know I was practicing it for the first few years!

But to any casual observer watching a class, one thing is immediately obvious: some want to be there; some do not!

When I was teaching my students, one of the deepest lessons I tried to teach was honesty. I made a point of telling them that if they were unable to tell the truth, they would ultimately be unable to properly learn martial arts. This was driven home for me one day when I noticed a pre-teen student who was rather phoning it in during his workouts. This had been his general attitude for a number of weeks and I decided it was time to discuss it with him. I had the opportunity to sit him down after class and I asked him outright if he wanted to be in karate. I was somewhat taken aback when his immediate and unrehearsed response was a firm “no”. When I asked him why he was still coming to class when he didn’t want to be there, he explained that his parents were making him attend.

The following week before class started, I had the opportunity to speak with this young boy’s parents, who told me that they wanted their child to be involved in a sport to learn discipline and get in shape, and that he would remain in the class whether he wanted to or not!

Were they right? This is a fine line, folks. And if I’m being honest, as an instructor and a practitioner, I have to say that if you’re trying to teach your child a lesson by forcing them into something that isn’t a requirement to keep them alive and well, you’re teaching them the wrong lesson.

Here’s the thing: It’s important for kids to get into something. Although it is EXTREMELY important for kids to learnt to self-entertain, they also need to learn some of the basic socialization skills that are required to be carried into adulthood. Sports and leisure activities outside of school help teach this, but it also helps to instil a sense of commitment and accomplishment in a way that they won’t learn otherwise. But how far should we push this point if the kid really doesn’t want to keep doing it?

As part of the lessons about commitment and accomplishment, there are a number of factors to bear in mind. If the child has chosen the activity in question, and money has been provided to allow them to do so, then it becomes important for them to understand that they should stick with it and finish what they’ve started, especially since the family and household have sacrificed to make it so. There’s nothing wrong with them choosing something else once this commitment has been fulfilled. However, if the parent has chosen the activity and are actively forcing the child to stay with it, they may be doing more harm than good.

The other side of the coin is that if you decide to be a progressive parent and allow the child to quit, you may be teaching them that it’s okay to drop something once it becomes boring or played out. And in today’s world of electronically fuelled entertainment, that’s a slippery slope indeed.

Ultimately, I ended up “kicking” the young boy out. I had a talk with him and explained that if he genuinely didn’t want to stay with karate, he was damaging the class by only putting half the effort in. I told him he should talk with his parents and try to choose something that would suit him and make him happy. He was grateful. His parents were not. They didn’t understand that by having a child who didn’t put in the effort, he was damaging the energy and drive of the class, as younger students saw him basically phoning it in and thought this was okay.

And this is the unspoken side of this issue: kids who don’t want to be there will cause certain damage to the school and the goal it’s trying to reach with the children. I would recommend that if your child hasn’t chosen the intended sport or activity, maybe talk with them and see what they would like to do. This will insure a better chance of having them stick with it.

Last but not least, I should point out that every situation and child involved is different. What works for one parent and child may not work for the other. Although we want our kids learning important values such as commitment, dedication and seeing things through, we have to be careful to maintain the balance with respecting their rights and helping them reach THEIR goals.