Hit Yourself But Don’t Wreck Yourself!

Martial arts is often steeped with mystery, and the methods used in traditional training can often look unorthodox and sometimes even dangerous, to the untrained eye. A good example of this is 1984’s The Karate Kid, where we see the wise, old karate teacher instructing the young protagonist the many techniques required to properly learn martial arts before competing in a karate tournament.

Although I’m a big fan of this classic piece of cinema, some of the techniques demonstrated in the movie seem a little, shall we say… off the wall? The thought of repetitively waxing a vehicle or sanding a wooden deck in order to properly learn how to block, falls a bit on the side of the ludicrous to a trained martial artist.

Or does it? Does anyone else believe this? I’m sure that lots of kids in the early 80’s suddenly agreed to wash and wax their dad’s car, in the hopes that it would help them learn karate (Light knows I offered to scrub the tile floors for my mother often enough after I saw this movie for the first time!)

My point is,… and believe me, I have one despite rambling on as I often do, some ACTUAL training techniques do look as ludicrous as the ones depicted by cinema. And the specific training tool I’m referring to in this post, is something referred to as body conditioning.

Body conditioning refers to the practice observed in Okinawa karate, of rubbing or striking the major muscle groups in order to harden and/or strengthen them. And even though this may sound ridiculous, 30 years of practicing Okinawan karate tells me that it is quite genuine, as I have lived it. And I still use body conditioning to this day.

Let’s think about it for a moment; when you perform intensive muscular exertion, such as weight lifting, you cause damage to the muscles. The repair of those muscles requires fibre and hormones that end up causing the muscles to be grown larger and stronger to prevent that same damage. The human body is pretty smart, in that regard.

Before I go any further, I’m going to reiterate that I have no formal medical training, and that you should consult a trained professional before starting any kind of fitness regiment. That being said, body conditioning, or “body pounding” as it has been referred to in some circles, follows very much the same principle as the effect of weight lifting.

By rubbing or pounding the major muscle groups on the outside of the arms, kegs and the abdominals and key target areas, you cause light damage to the muscle tissue requiring the same type of repair as weight lifting. The trick is to cause light muscular damage without bruising. Since Okinawan karate usually requires body conditioning to be done with a partner, the resistance adds a strength aspect to the training tool.

And no, before everyone gets excited, body conditioning won’t help you get ripped the same way as heavy weight lifting or hypertrophy workouts would. But it allows for the hardening of those muscle groups to create a natural “armour” that helps you properly and safely execute blocks against and receive strikes from an opponent.

Another good example of this, is rooted in the Japanese karate system of Kyokushinkai, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyokushin) that observes the practice of full-contact sparring as a general rule, in order to harden the muscles and overcome the fear of being struck.

Ultimately, the lesson I’m trying to impart tonight is that strange and unfamiliar methods of training can be genuine ones, and can lead to wonderful results. One needs only to be careful and never overreach. Train based on your abilities and always allow your body some time to heal.

After all, as general Choi Hong Hi once said, “Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.”

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Hurts So Good…

What does it mean to be in pain? Well, from a strictly medical perspective, pain is when our sensory receptors send a signal through our nerve fibres , all the way up to our brains. Then the brain interprets the signal as pain. The human body uses this signal as an avoidance reflex, meaning it’s telling you that whatever you’re doing is harming your body and should be stopped. (Although not everyone is quick enough to stop hurting themselves, sometimes)

From a Diabetes standpoint, we experience a wide variety of pain. Neuropathy, open wounds that are extremely slow to heal and pain prior to numbness from lack of circulation are simply a few. And certainly not the worst.

It’s not always bad. From a fitness standpoint, pain can be a positive thing. SOME pain is necessary in order to help the body sculpt and grow. The idea here is to know when enough is enough and to stop before serious damage can occur.

But there’s one form of pain that is largely ignored in most circumstances. I’m talking about emotional pain. When something affects us in a negative way, we feel a sort of pain that is often very hard to describe. For some, it’s an increased feeling of fatigue. For others, it can manifest itself in any number of nasty ways including but not limited to, becoming ill, nausea, depression, problems with the digestive tract and even alcoholism or substance abuse. The expression “this breaks my heart” stems from the fact that one usually feels some discomfort in the pit of their abdomen during emotional distress.

The important thing to remember is that what hurts in your heart can also affect your body. Although that sounds a bit cheesy, it’s quite accurate. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture and acknowledge that the pain is going to happen, and take steps to help deal with it as opposed to ignoring it.

Ultimately, pain helps us grow. In any way, shape or form, it allows us to learn an develop. After all, imagine if as an infant you put your hands on a hot stove and it didn’t hurt… You’d likely leave your hand there and keep playing and critically damage your tissues. But by feeling the pain, you learn that “Oops! It hurts to touch the stove. Better stay away!” Most forms of pain will teach you something.

So ask yourself, what is my emotional pain teaching me? Am I doing something wrong, or something I disagree with? Or is it simply a case of doing the right thing? That can also be painful sometimes. Just remember that in grand scheme of things, nothing lasts forever; not even pain. ☯

What Makes You Stronger Can Also Hurt You…

One of the obvious treatments for Type 1 Diabetes is insulin therapy. For those who may not have read my previous posts, (I’m being silly, of course you have!) insulin is a hormone produced by the body’s beta cells in the pancreas. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body’s immune system attacks and destroys these beta cells, leading to the pancreas no longer producing insulin.

Dr. Frederick Banting blessed us all with the gift that is insulin in the Spring of 1921 with the help of his trusty lab assistant, Charles Best. And since then, insulin has remained the top dog in the proper treatment and control of insulin-dependant Diabetes.

Although there are several different brand names and sub-types, insulin can be described within five main categories:

Rapid-Acting: This insulin hits the system quickly and is usually taken in conjunction with a meal or to prevent spikes in blood sugar. That being said, I currently use a rapid-acting insulin (Humalog) in my insulin pump to control basal and bosul rates (Examples: Humalog and NovoLog);

Short-Acting: This insulin is similar to the rapid-acting, but it takes a little more time to kick in and peaks a little bit later. (Examples: Humilin R, Novolin R);

Intermediate-Acting: These insulins start kicking in within about an hour, but will provide basal coverage for about 12 hours in total. They are generally used for overall control, need to be taken twice a day and are used in conjunction with a rapid or short-acting insulin (Examples: Humilin N and Novolin N);

Long-Acting: This type of insulin is generally taken at bedtime and kicks in within an hour. The advantage is that it will last anywhere between 20 to 26 hours, with no peak. So it is normally used to maintain proper blood sugar levels throughout the day. This one would also need to be used in combination with a fast or short-acting insulin as it will not compensate for the carbs you take in at mealtimes (Examples: Lantus and Levemir);

Pre-mixed Insulin: This one is a bit of an issue. Each of these insulins are a combination of short and intermediate-acting insulins and can problematically take effect anywhere within 5 minutes to an hour. This is a significant problem since no two people are alike and no two insulin requirements are alike. This insulin is usually taken twice a day in conjunction with a meal (Examples: Humilin 70/30, Novolin 70/30, Humilin and Humalog 50/50).

There’s another type that is sometimes referred to as Ultra-Long Acting, but it’s basically the same thing as Long-Acting with a 36 hour window instead of 20 to 26 hours. As I look back on this list, I realize that at one point or another I have used every type of insulin on this list with the exception of Levemir and the pre-mixes. Crazy.

The American Diabetes Association webpage has a great article that explains all of these in greater detail: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-basics.html

Humalog is what I currently use in my pump. It’s used for its rapid-acting properties at mealtimes, and intermittent basal rate to maintain levels throughout the day.

Although life saving, insulin comes with a range of possible side effects. Much like any other medication, these side effects can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and the type of insulin therapy used.

Some of the most common side effects include, but are not limited to weight fluctuations, erratic blood sugar levels, skin issues from repeated injection sites, heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney complications and in some cases, anxiety or depression.

All of these symptoms can be discussed and dealt with through your family practitioner. The reality is that at the present time, there is no cure for Type-1 Diabetes (contrary to what many conspiracy theorists and naturopaths may believe).

Insulin is not a cure, but simply a treatment that allows those with Diabetes to extend their life expectancy and live full, active lives. As usual, my go-to is to suggest maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and proper diet. Monitor your blood sugars regularly and keep fighting the good fight! ☯

Bundles Of Sleepless Joy

We’ve all been there, right? It’s Sunday morning and you have the day off. The house is cool and quiet and it’s an ungodly hour that you couldn’t imagine rising at, unless work demanded it. You’re curled up securely in your blanket and plan on getting another couple of hours of sleep…

Then it happens! You hear the unmistakable pitter-patter of tiny feet making their way toward you. Oh no… you think. Just relax, maybe he’s just going potty then he’ll go back to bed… Then within a moment you hear and feel the familiar nasal breathing of your toddler on your face. It’s even worse once they get tall enough to turn on lights on their own.

You foolishly think, “Maybe if I pretend I’m still asleep, he’ll leave me alone…” Then you hear a mild whisper: “Daddy?” The whisper increases in volume and intensity until you have no choice but to open your eyes. You try to reason with the little human by suggesting that he needs to be quiet because you’re still sleeping. This request is followed by a poking of the face or a manual lifting of the eyelids. When you get angry and tell him to stop, his response is simply, “What? That was quiet!”

That’s my child. He’s such a smart ass. I have NO idea where he gets it from. Let this short story be a warning to anyone who is foolish enough to listen to the grinding gears of their biological clock!

Apparently I make a great Pole Vault landing mat!

Children are most particular, because no two children are exactly the same. Hell, even identical twins will have some different habits. According to an article written in Today’s Parent, a 2007 study conducted in Switzerland found that some healthy, normal toddlers slept a total of 11.4 hours while others slept as much as 16.5 hours. That’s quite the difference.

There are some things that you can do to help balance all this out. The same article goes on to suggest that certain external factors can contribute to radical changes in sleep habits. Loss of a pacifier or bottle, a new sibling in the household or other noticeable changes in the regular flow of household life can contribute to altered sleep habits. And it can often cause levels of stress within your toddler, even if they aren’t necessarily negative changes.

There are a number of other suggestions; unfortunately they don’t apply to my son. He’s already off naps and he generally snacks before bedtime. One good suggestion is that if you notice your child is getting enough sleep but they still wake up at the crack of dawn doing their best rooster impression, moving bedtime to a slightly later time may be the answer.

All of this information is to illustrate that the important factor is to ensure a proper sleep routine. Routine, especially when it involves sleep, is exceptionally important for proper health. This is where your circadian rhythm comes in.

A circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour natural process that helps your body to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. This rhythm repeats itself every day and is the reason why it is so important to have a steady routine in regards to eating and sleeping.

Studies have shown that things like late-night television, excessive or late night eating as well as erratic bedtimes can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause a score of complications.

I don’t think I need to explain that a steady and regular routine will help with effective blood sugar and fitness regulation. If one spends half the night up in a loud night club having alcoholic drinks, one can hardly be expected to do the 20 kilometre bike run they generally do every morning. And eating your meals at erratic times and intervals will cause issues such as overlapping insulin dosages and digestive problems.

If you happen to be a frustrated parent and want some suggestions on getting your toddler to sleep better, here’s that Today’s Parent article: https://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/toddler-sleep/waking-up-early/

With the obvious exception of shift work, in and as much as your life permits it, you should your absolute best to maintain a regular sleep schedule, allowing for the same bedtime every night and enough time to get between 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep. Following this standard will help you to wake feeling more refreshed and ready for day, will help reduce the amount of required caffeine and help maintain your circadian rhythm. ☯

A Dose A Day May Keep The Doctor Away…

You know, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t absolutely hate having to take daily medication or follow a medical regiment. As a Diabetic, I can certainly attest to the fact that I’m bound to follow a number of habits that would plunge my body into chaos if I neglected them.

The human body is a fantastic and well-built machine, capable of many wondrous things. But like any machine, it sometimes needs repair and assistance.

There are some things that the body can heal things on its own. But what happens when there is a repair that can’t happen by itself? This is where we sometimes need a bit of assistance.

The newest fad (or the oldest, depending on your perspective) is the attraction that modern society has towards “natural” or “Traditional” forms of medicine. If it’s natural it must be better, right? Not necessarily.

One of the things that most people seem to forget is that modern medicine is rooted in the traditional. Chemicals and modern medications are simply a combination and evolution of elements and compounds that obviously exist in nature. People have an inclination towards wanting to avoid taking medicine.

I’ve dealt with a number of people who have fallen into the dreaded cycle of avoiding medication on the basis that they “feel better” and don’t need them anymore. Rarely do they realize that they feel better BECAUSE they’ve been taking the medication.

Imagine if someone with Type 1 Diabetes did this? I’ve seen the consequences of forgetting even one dose of insulin. It isn’t pretty. And good luck healing a broken bone or most forms of cancer will acupuncture or herbs.

Both modern and traditional forms of treatment have their place in medicine. For example, if you are dealing with muscle pains and aches, acupuncture and massage therapy can be extremely useful. If you have stomach issues or headaches, herbology can be a useful treatment. But if you have something more serious, modern forms of medication and treatment become necessary.

Although there are books and websites that boast being able to treat and/or heal Diabetes through changes in lifestyle or diet, such a thing simply isn’t possible. Until a cure is found, I require insulin therapy in order to stay alive.

This is the case with a lot of medical treatments. Not only are they required, but most also require being taken at specific intervals otherwise they become ineffective.

We would all like to believe we can overcome anything. But even the most effective machine sometimes needs assistance in running smoothly. Be diligent in your care and the administration of your treatment. Your health and well-being depends on it. ☯

Big Boned Leads To Big Problems…

I’ve often written about some of the complications that people with Diabetes face on a daily basis. certainly, the list is long and the complications are many. Today I will address one of the more common and misunderstood issues surrounding Diabetes. Weight gain and obesity.

This is a very sensitive topic in modern society, so I’m going to start this post by being very clear: This is not a slight against people with genuine weight issues or intended to body shame in any way, shape or form. Although I am a firm believer that we should all love ourselves for who we are, obesity and heavy weight-gain are serious medical issues and carry many consequences.

According to numbers provided by Statistics Canada, approximately 61.3% of Canadian adults were considered under the category of “obese” as of 2015. This is almost a 25% increase from 2004. Without including the rest of world, this is a small example of how serious an issue it is.

An important misconception is that obesity causes Diabetes. Although there is some evidence linking obesity to Type 2 Diabetes, there is no confirmed evidence of the same being the case for Type 1.

Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune deficiency and is NOT caused by obesity. That being said, once a Type 1 Diabetic starts insulin therapy weight gain can occur, usually in the stomach area. This is because insulin helps your body to absorb glucose into the blood stream. And as Diabetes can make you extra hungry once you’re on insulin therapy, well… Glucose absorption + extra hunger = weight gain.

A photograph of an MRI scan that has circulated on the web for years, illustrating the fact that “big boned” is a misnomer!

There is a significant difference between being obese and being overweight. Obesity is generally defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. That being said, BMI is a fairly inaccurate way of measuring obesity. If you factor in my weight of 220 pounds coupled with a height of 5’7″, my BMI is sitting at 32.9, which is considered under the obese category. Anyone who has seen me in person knows that I’m a far cry from obese! Although it is a standardized form of measuring mass in the human body, it doesn’t take into account whether the weight is carried as fat or muscle. BMI is a subjective tool that has to be used in conjunction with all the other factors and assessed by your doctor.

According to a BMI calculator used on the Diabetes Canadawebsite, BMI also can’t be used for pregnant women, weight lifters, long distance runners, elderly or children. If you’re curious, the BMI calculator can be found here: https://www.diabetes.ca/managing-my-diabetes/tools—resources/body-mass-index-(bmi)-calculator

The purpose behind listing all of this is two-fold: to make people understand that being overweight is NOT what causes Type 1 Diabetes, as many television comedies or online jokes may make you believe, and that there are a number of complications that come with being overweight.

Weight gain and obesity have been linked to heart disease, stroke, gallbladder issues, some forms of cancer, osteoarthritis and gout as well as certain breathing issues and sleep apnea. The added weight one gains taxes and stresses most of the systems in the body and can lead to serious health complications. If you add that on top of having Diabetes, life becomes unnecessarily complicated. I mean, Diabetes makes it unnecessarily complicated anyway, but why make it worse?

All of these complications can be lessened and some may even be eliminated by losing some weight. The obvious steps involve a healthier diet and increased physical activity. Try to stick to foods that contain natural sugars as opposed to artificial additives and preservatives. Keep your workouts consistent, but throw in some variety of workouts to ensure you exercise all the areas of your body.

Remember, even though you should be happy with your body, health complications indicate that your body isn’t the way it should be. Consult your doctor and see what you can do to prevent these complications. ☯

Are You Down With The Thickness?

Time makes fools of us all. Not because we are fools, but because the ravages of time tend to catch us by surprise. Sometimes those ravages reveal changes we wouldn’t have expected.

It dawned on me a few days ago that we tend to photograph and document our accomplishments, but we rarely document and photograph the beginning. I have no photos of myself as a white belt.

I started karate in April of 1988. Despite my health, I was full of dreams and faith and I knew that my hard work would someday pay off. I could only speculate at how right I would become.

Three years ago, I was visiting a friend in the city whose parents were visiting. My friend’s mother made an off-the-cuff comment about how both of us had “thickened” and she would be curious to dig out a tape measure to see which one of us had gained the most weight over the decades.

Time and age catches up to us all. We don’t really have a choice; certain bodily functions tend to cause us to gain weight and our bodies to change. In fact, we tend to gain weight and lose about 8% of our muscle mass every deacde until we reach our 50’s as our metabolism slows. Fun, eh?

When I started karate in April of 1988, I weighed about 80 pounds, soaking wet. I was slight, I had very little muscle mass and my health wasn’t great.

My current stature, as of June of 2019

As of June of 2019, I weigh 220 pounds and have a significant amount of mass. This is a far cry from what started with in 1988. Sure, some of that is muscle. But some of it is a bit of the aging process.

Like I said before, we all get there. The important thing is to maintain your physical activity. This will help to maintain a healthy weight and proper physical stature as the years march on.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained a lot of wisdom. If I had the physique I held in my 20’s mixed with my current physique, that would be a scary opponent to deal with. But given the current state of life, I’ll gladly accept the wisdom over the physical. ☯