Beginnings Are No Longer Humble

I have many fond memories of my time in karate; one of the most important being the very first day I stepped into class. I was wearing sweatpants and a dingy t-shirt. I had researched enough on what I was about to do to know that I was to take off my shoes and socks and bow at the door before entering. I had visited the dojo and observed a class the previous week, and was given some rudimentary guidance by a brown belt who was instructing during the teacher’s absence.

I walked up the stairs to the second level of the gymnasium where class was held (it was actually the ground floor, but since my home town is built on the side of a mountain in Northern New Brunswick, the entrance is in the basement) with a grim determination to give it my all and to improve my health. I walked to the entrance of the dojo and noticed about two dozen students milling about, stretching and chatting about their weekend. I bowed respectfully at the door and when I raised my head, the crowd had parted and there stood Sensei

Now, what you need to understand is that I was something of a smart-ass kid… Some of you are likely thinking that sentence could lose the “kid” and still be accurate. And you would be right. But my point is that I had a sarcastic streak that not many parents and adults shared or enjoyed. My mouth got me into trouble often enough that sometimes I paid a price for my words. Enter: Sensei.

That’s why when I saw that the head instructor of the school was a man with whom I had some “verbal” interactions, I slowly back-stepped and tried to retreat from the building. No such luck. Sensei looked up and saw me at the entrance and asked if I was trying out. I replied that I was. He motioned me to enter and assigned me a yellow belt to help me stretch out properly and learn some of the basics I would need to make my way through the class. Thus began a lifelong journey that I’m still working on, more than three decades later.

Every person has a story. Every story has a beginning. Sure, all those stories start the same way: with one’s birth. But speaking strictly about martial arts, the beginning of one’s story, regardless of the reason for joining, should be some guidance. Someone should be taking the time to show you some of the rudimentary basics, stances and strikes that you’ll be using during class so that you don’t become overwhelmed or confused.

Depending on the size and composition of the school you train with, this is no longer always the case. I recently saw a young girl in her teens walk into the dojo I train with, and she was accompanied by her mother. They introduced themselves and the mother sat on the bench and the girl just stood there. Class was scheduled to start in a matter of minutes.

I approached and instructed that she should remove her socks. Her mother objected to her being barefooted. I explained that some of the techniques we would be doing could cause her to slip and injure herself, should she wear socks. Especially since her balance and coordination for martial arts had not yet been developed. I asked if she did any other physical activities, to which she replied that she had done dance. I took a few moments to explain where she would be lined up and to simply follow along with the people in front of her. Bow when they bow, kick when they kick, so on and so forth…

Had I not spoken with her, this girl would have been left to her own devices and ignored, as no one else in the class seemed keen on approaching her. I couldn’t help but think that this was a horrible way to begin one’s first class, and thought back to how different my experience would have been had I been in those same shoes. She lined up based on instruction given to her by one of the senior belts and class began.

I know I have often picked on Millenials. Hell, I think a lot of society bashes on them a great deal. They come by some of it honestly. And Generation “Z” is proving to be no better. Not everyone fits in these categories, but what I observed that night was teeth-grinding and painful to watch. This young girl had six students and instructors in front of her, with plenty of opportunity to mimic and follow along.

She spent a good majority of the first hour simply standing in place, watching. Sometimes she would try something, only to throw her hands up and turn to look at her mother. She seemed unable or unwilling to perform even the simplest of movements, including squats and stretches that anyone could be able to do. Considering I had my beginnings in karate with an instructor who would not have permitted ANY student to sit still during training, it was painful to watch.

I wonder how different HER experience might have been, had one of the senior students approached her and took her in hand when she first arrived. Had she been shown some of these basics one-on-one before the start of class, some of it might have seemed less foreign and strange. Or perhaps it’s the change in behaviour and expectations that accompany the younger generations of today. It’s hard to tell.

I’m hoping this young lady will stick it out long enough to develop the solid effort required for her to reap the full benefits of martial arts. But the lesson here is that if anyone new walks into your preferred sport or workout environment, take the time to chat with them, guide them and show them the basics. You’ll make the experience much more immersive for them. And if you’re the one coming into something new, make it worth your while. Push yourself and give it your best effort. Not only are you worth that effort, it’s the least you deserve. ☯

Put Some Oomph In Your Ouch! 🎶

Music is awesome. It has the means to allow a person to express themselves in a very unique way. Music also has the means to reach every person. There are so many types of music that there is always at least one genre that appeals to any given person. Music can also communicate. There are few genuinely universal ways of communicating, but shaking your booty to great music is well understood anywhere in the world.

Music can also play an important role in how your workout plays out. It’s no secret that having an awesome playlist and some sick beats (I promise never to use that term again) can improve your workout and make you push harder towards a wicked sweat. So, why is this? IS it just our imagination? NO. There are actually some measurable reasons why music can help improve your fitness.

According to an article by the Huffington Post, “Listening to music while exercising can release feel-good chemicals – such as dopamine and opioids – that may boost your mood, dull pain and make you less tired […]” (https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/how-music-affects-workout_n_55d746a3e4b0a40aa3aaa9da?ri18n=true) If this is true, than having some music blaring while you workout is definitely beneficial.

Some other theories include the fact that music is a distraction. If you are distracted from the agonizing shin-splints keeping you from completing your 3K-run in record time, you’re more likely to push hard and keep going. Speaking from experience here, folks! Another theory is that good music, or rather what may be good to you, will help increase your confidence. This causes us to push harder.

No matter what the reasons, and no definite evidence has been found despite many studies, you can’t argue that having your earbuds in while you push yourself adds a definite plus to your workout. Think about it. When was the last time you went to a gym that DIDN’T have at least some of the people wearing headphones or earbuds? And it’s almost a sure guarantee that fitness locations will usually have music playing on the intercom system. Unless it’s one of those heathen locations that have a sporting event blaring, but that’s an entirely separate problem.

My current karate school even uses music during the warm-up portion of the class. This is a bit of a controversial thing, considering that most martial arts schools include an aspect of discipline that doesn’t include having Metallica blaring while shadow boxing! But I’d be lying if I said that the addition of music didn’t get even the laziest of students moving a bit better.

So whatever your reasons for doing so, crank up the tunes. Whether it’s to make you feel better, distract you from the now or simply helps you follow along with a beat, it can be nothing but beneficial. Unless you work out to country music. Then you’re just asking for trouble. You know who who are! ☯

Swimming In The Benefits!

I brought my son to a public swimming pool, yesterday afternoon. He enjoyed that pool party for his classmate so much a couple of weeks ago, that I thought it would be a great way for us both to get some exercise and burn him out for the night. It would have been nice to snap a photo or two of the fun, but you DON’T want to be that adult taking photos at a public pool!

Swimming is often an overlooked activity by most people, because it seems rather inconvenient. You have to pack swimwear and towels, go to a specific location to swim (especially if it’s winter) and you need to worry about getting properly dry and dragging a bunch of wet things with you when you leave. But is that really any different than working out at a conventional gym? If you said yes, there’s something wrong with your workouts. Unless you have a full gym in the basement of your home (a slight tinge of jealousy over my brother-in-law’s basement comes to mind) then you still need to pack or wear workout gear, go to the gym’s specific location and if you aren’t soaking wet when you finish your workout, then you aren’t pushing hard enough!

Spending time in a pool can have a number of benefits, from a health and fitness standpoint. If you happen to be swimming with my son Nathan, I guarantee that you’ll lose track of the number of calories you burn. And that’s the nice thing: you’re burning through calories while having so much fun that you don’t notice it.

You work just about every muscle group. Even if all you’re doing is splashing around with your kids, working your way around under water requires the use of just about all your muscle groups, making for a great workout. It’s also a very low-impact way to workout, since the water takes a portion of the weight off of your back and joints.

The increased heart rate will improve your heart and lungs, and will help to reduce stress while improving your flexibility and mobility. That last one is particularly important if you need to maintain your fitness level through an injury like, oh let’s say… shin splints! The low impact will allow your injury to heal while still allowing you to burn calories.

It goes without saying, even if I’m saying it, that anyone with Diabetes needs to closely monitor their blood glucose levels while swimming. Often, your blood sugars can start to drop suddenly, especially if you’re caught up in the fun. When going to a public pool, I always arrange to keep my gym bag close by. It contains fast-acting glucose, my glucometer and my cell phone, which allows mw to test my blood sugar through my Freestyle Libre.

Last but not least, it’ll fire up your hunger and make you tired. This is a good sign that you’ve had a god burn and can retire to your home for a rest. One of the first things Nathan told me as we were towelling off to leave was, “Daddy, I’m tired…” Yes! He’ll be sleeping early tonight… No such luck. He got his second wind and was his typical destructive self.

Swimming can be beneficial in all sorts of ways and do nothing but good for the body. I spent most of my life living in the East Coast of Canada where i could spend the entirety of my summer, swimming on beaches, rivers and lakes. It was glorious! If you do swim outdoors, be sure you know how to swim and are aware of how to swim in bodies of water that may have currents and other dangers. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong. So get out there and dive in; the water’s fine! ☯

Let’s Boost That System, Shall We?

This is a re-posting of an entry I posted way back at the beginning of June, 2019. Considering the winter weather and how everyone is catching every little bug that comes about, I thought it would be a good idea to remind people of the importance of vitamins and minerals in the everyday diet. if you remember this post and read it already, my apologies. I promise to have some fresh content tomorrow.

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat?

A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age; I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. For more information and possible food sources for these vitamins and minerals, I’ve found the following two online articles that provide a lot of good information:

https://www.comvita.com/blog-article/10-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs/4100544

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs

We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. A big shout out to my wife, Laura, who provided me with this blog post idea by asking about B12 yesterday. ☯

A Real Ankle-Biting Problem…

I recently posted that I’ve incorporated running into my exercise routine. I don’t usually run; I tend to think that I have the centre of gravity of a boulder. This doesn’t mean that I don’t incorporate cardio into my workouts; it simply means that I’ve recently felt the need to up my game a bit.

Now just to be clear, the terms associated with running are subjective. Depending on who you speak to, what I’ve been doing may or may not be “running”. I was speaking with a colleague a few days ago and when I mentioned that I had started running, he said, “Are you actually running, or you’re just jogging? To me, jogging is just jogging. But running is when you go all out!”

I was quick to point out that running all out was usually referred to as sprinting, to which he was quick to offer suggestions that my smart-ass go fornicate itself on a hot rock. But I digress…

Running on different terrains and surfaces present different issues while running

Running, much like any exercise, has many different complications and injuries that one can suffer while enjoying it. And “enjoying” is a very lightly-used term… You can pull or tear muscles, twist joints, suffer micro-fractures or experience dehydration or exhaustion. But the condition I want to address today is one that I’ve suffered before and that I seem to be revisiting now: shin splints!

Shin Splints, or what’s medically known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, is a condition that one develops from repetitive, physical stress on the musculature in the leg between the knees and the ankle. You can usually recognize it from a dull or sharp pain in the muscles of the lower leg when exercising and can often be accompanied by some swelling. Sometimes the pain can be excruciating enough that one is forced to stop the physical activity. Continued exercising when one has shin splints can result in micro fractures, which can result in a complete fracture.

What causes shin splints? It can be caused by a number of things, such as starting a new running regiment (sound familiar?), running on a hard surface (I unfortunately run on the street!) or using worn-out shoes that no longer provide proper support to your feet (like my tac boots). Shin splints can also result from the exhaustion of the specified muscle groups, where one continues to exert stress on them. These are only the most common causes and there are many more.

So, what can one do to prevent shin splints? Well, this is one of those situations where less is more. If you’re starting to run, do it gradually. Don’t try to run long distances at great speed on your first week. Stretch out the muscle group, same as you would for any other muscle group before any other type of workout. Make sure your shoes are replaced if worn out, and this will also help to lessen the impact if you’re forced to run on concrete or asphalt.

Some stretching exercises found on Pinterest

If you think you may have developed shin splints, there are a few things you can do from home. Keeping your feet elevated and icing your shins is the first step. As with any icing of tissues, keep an ice pack on your shins for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Massaging the shins can also be a help. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen can be taken. But only temporarily and in small doses. Depending n what caused the actual shin splints, the time needed to recovery will differ from person to person. The general recommendation is about two weeks, and if you haven’t recovered by that point, you should consult your medical practitioner.

The important thing is not to rush back into it. This is one of those injuries that genuinely require that you allow your body time to rest and heal. Pushing yourself in this situation can result in true fractures of the leg and force an even LONGER recovery time. Take your time getting back into the routine and be sure to start in small increments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ice my shins! ☯

The Heart Of The Matter ❤️

The heart is a rather important piece of equipment for the human body. Although technically a muscle, the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, which in turn provides oxygen and nutrients. The heart is also responsible for helping to filter out certain wastes from the body. Without this particular organ, most of the tissues in your body would die out. And you would, well… die!

The heart also plays an important part in society as it represents the love centre of our very being and contributes to the emotional aspect of our lives. This is a misinterpretation, of course. Despite its importance, the heart is actually pretty frail and delicate and can suffer a huge host of problems, none of which are pleasant or easy to deal with. If you have Type-1 Diabetes, some of those conditions can be aggravated as well, since both Diabetes and Heart Disease share a number of similar risk factors, such as obesity, poor diet and blood pressure issues

According to an article posted by WebMD, “Data from the National heart Association from 2012 show 65% of people with Diabetes will die from some sort of heart disease and stroke. I general, the risk of heart disease death and stroke are more than twice as high in people with Diabetes.” (https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/heart-blood-disease#1)

Although it’s more prominent in people with Type-2, people with Type-1 are still at an increased risk. There are a number of things that one can do to prevent and mitigate some of the risk:

  1. Physical Activity: I know I sound like an annoying parrot with this, but exercising regularly will not only help maintain blood sugars but will control obesity; hence, my next point;
  2. Weight Management: Keeping your weight under control can help increase insulin sensitivity and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease;
  3. Control Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: My first two points will help with this, but there are also preventative medications that your doctor can prescribe to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The same can be said about your blood pressure;
  4. Take Drugs: This sounds worse than it is… Besides the cholesterol thing, some preventative drugs can be useful for people with Diabetes in reducing certain heart risks;
  5. Quit Smoking: This one is pretty self-explanatory and is a good idea whether you have Diabetes or not. I’m guilty of the occasional cigar, but any type of smoking carries and increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Quitting is not always the easiest thing and often requires some help, through therapies or quitting aids such as nicotine patches or gum;
  6. Brush Your Teeth: Although you may be asking, “What the hell do my teeth have to do with my heart?” the answer is, quite a bit. Bad dental hygiene has been linked to bacterial infections through the gums, which can propagate to the bloodstream and affect the heart valves. The mayo clinic has a short article outlining the reasons. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/heart-disease-prevention/faq-20057986);
  7. Reduce Your Stress: This one is easier said than done, but reducing the active stress in your life will help with blood pressure and heart issues in general; and
  8. GET CHECKED!!!: There’s absolutely no problem with making an appointment and requesting a check-up for your heart. I, myself, run a stress test every three years and get checked regularly. Prevention is an extremely useful tool!

Everything that is usually recommended for good Diabetes management will also help with good cardiovascular health. Proper eating habits, good exercise and blood sugar control are paramount to preventing heart disease. When you get right to the heart of the matter, your health is in your hands (see what I did there?). ☯

Quit Bitching About It If You Won’t Fix It!

There is an undeniable truth in modern society that it’s far easier to whine and complain about things than it is to put in a genuine effort to try and fix whatever may be bothering you. This is not a generality, you understand. But for most people, it is much, much easier to complain about not getting that raise you wanted, or were overlooked for a promotion, than it is to constructively sit down with your boss and say, “I recognize that I wasn’t chosen for the promotional opportunity. Can we discuss what I can do to make myself a competitive candidate for the next one?”

This concept applies to most areas of life. Part of the reason is because it is, for the most part, much easier to complain than it is to do something about it. Diabetes and general health is no exception. I’ve had a lot of friends through the years with Type-1 who have often complained about their blood sugar levels, A1C levels and their weight or condition of their body. To these people, I’ve always asked the same question: What are you doing about it?

“Gardens Are Not Made By Singing ‘Oh, How Beautiful’, And Sitting In The Shade.”

– Rudyard Kipling

There needs to be a recognized acknowledgement that if you’re overweight and are not comfortable, healthy or happy with your body, then you need to do something about it. Start working out. Work on your health. Work on your diet. Consult a professional and get some help. There’s no shame in that. Some people feel they’ve become so far gone that they no longer believe it’s worth the effort. What are you doing about it?

If your blood sugars are running rampant and you’re suffering all sorts of complications with your eyes, kidneys and nervous system, then you need to start taking better control of your Diabetes management. If you only test your blood sugar once a month and indulge in every baked good that passes by, you’ve chosen an extremely slow and torturous form of suicide! There are nutritionists, dietitians, Endocrinologists and family physicians that can help bring you up to a healthier standard and get you to where you need to be. What are you doing about it?

If your fitness has gone to shit and you get winded walking from your couch to your kitchen, there’s a distinct problem. Humanity may have become sedentary, but staying in good physical condition is still an important aspect of a healthy life, whether you have Diabetes or not. Go for a walk, ride a bike, join a fitness club or go for a run. And if you’re uncertain how to go about any of it, there are plenty of resources both online and off that can help get you started and help you along. What are you doing about it?

“The Only Mistake You Can Make Is Not Asking For Help.”

– Sandeep Jauhar

There are obvious exceptions to every rule. It can be hard to get yourself going and there are people who have genuine conditions that make weight-loss difficult. Medical conditions can make it hard to achieve certain goals. For example, if you’ve gone blind, one would not expect that you’ll take up competitive archery! But the lesson here, is that if you find yourself capable of making a start but refuse to do so then you shouldn’t (as my title so eloquently put it) be bitching about it if you won’t fix it.

I think it was Confucius who said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” So take that step! Get off the couch and move a little. Test your blood sugar a few times a day instead of once a week. Opt for something healthier for your next meal instead of grabbing take-out or popping in a frozen tv dinner. Make a start. Improve yourself. Improve your life. And throughout all the progress, when faced with obstacles or adversity, keep asking yourself: What are you doing about it?