Mornings Suck…

Does anyone ever really like getting up in the morning? It’s one of those things where many if not most people dislike the prospect of hitting the Sacco when they could watch that “one more episode,” or read another chapter, finish a hobby they’re working on, etc… But once we’re in bed, assuming we’re able to get to sleep, rising for the next day can be a tedious and bothersome affair.

For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, waking up in the morning is a like a bowling ball balancing on the head of a pin; depending on how the previous night went and how much sleep one has obtained, waking for the day can be downright tortuous and can fall in either direction. It always seems to be worse when I’m trying to plan something that should, theoretically happen during the morning hours. This is a hard lesson I learned last weekend. and of course, now I’m going to tell you about it.

“What A Disgrace It Is For Man To Grow Old Without Ever Seeing The Beaty And Strength Of Which His Body Is Capable.”

– Socrates

Recently, I’ve come to a certain number of negative realities that I am unhappy about. The biggest is that in 2009, I left my home Province to come out to Saskatchewan to protect the public as a police officer. Although I chose this career path for a number of reasons, including reducing people’s overall suffering as much as I can, there’s no denying that these choices did some damage that can never be repaired. Most namely, I have no school of Uechi Ryu in close proximity, meaning I’ve been training in karate mostly on my own over the last decade and a half.

Given that I’m slowly crawling my way towards an older age, not that I’m quite an old man yet, I’ve started to notice certain things. These things include the fact that I’ve slowed down significantly from how I used to be, especially within the dojo. I’m taking strikes where I would have blocked and countered with ease, even just a few years ago. I also take much longer to heal, which is a real pain (pun intended). Recovery time can cause delays in training and can make it really hard to get ahead.

By virtue of this and the fact that I’m tired of being unable to breathe when I lean over to tie my shoes, I spent several hundred dollars on fitness equipment for my home, last Saturday. Almost two years ago, I had a significant amount of fitness equipment in my basement, which I sold due to our basement being demolished and renovated and because there was some thought that my family and I might move back to New Brunswick. Obviously, that never happened but now that the basement is brand-spanking new, it was time to revisit getting some of that equipment back.

Because my motivation was anger-based, I may or may not have spent far more money in one sitting than I reasonably should have. I purchased a curling bar, weight plates, heavy dumbbells, a step-up bench, 10-pound ankle weights and a floor mat. There are a few other things that I grabbed as well that I just can’t think of, right now. I got back home with all of my expensive wares on top of the few items my wife had asked me to pick up, and got to work setting up everything, which included a storage shelf to hold everything.

Once I had everything set up, I had already worked up a sweat and it was discussed that my wife and I would perform a respective workout the following day where I would get to play and try my new equipment. Early in the Sunday afternoon, after getting home from doing our weekly groceries, I put on some bitchin’ music and hammered out forty minutes of my best, sweat-filled workout. It was glorious. It also prompted a “good” idea on my part…

I decided that I would start setting my morning alarm 30 minutes sooner than usual so that I could perform a brief resistance workout in the morning before going to work. It sounds like a good idea in concept. I wake up, hammer out a brief weight circuit, grab a shower and throw lunches together before rolling into the office with the glow of post-workout bliss to get me through my morning… Sounds promising, right? Life rarely cares about one’s plans…

On Sunday night, we made our way to bed a bit late by virtue of laundry and certain chores. Then, my wife and I both tossed and turned throughout the majority of the night. I also had low blood sugar at one point. Then, when i finally fell into a deep sleep, my pump alarm went off. It seems as though fate conspired against me. By the time the morning rolled around, we reset alarms to eat up the half hour we would have woken to exercise in favour of a bit more sleep.

On Monday morning, any thoughts of working out went out the window. And this is something that happens quite frequently, thanks to good old T1D. Luckily, I was able to hammer out a workout in the evening, once I got home. It dawns on me that, given the requirement to keep my blood sugars balanced and the need for proper rest, working out in the morning may not be a viable option for me. This sucks, because I frequently have karate classes in the evening that would prevent me from using my equipment at home.

Fitness is a delicate balance of time, effort and physical capability, all of which will affect blood sugars levels in some given way, shape or form. That’s why it’s so important to find a time and a method that works well for you. Every person is different. As much as I would love to work out, first thing in the morning, it just doesn’t seem feasible, given the chaotic nature of how my nights run. I’ll just have to be satisfied with the occasions where I can work out on non-karate nights. ☯️

When Reality Slaps You In The Face…

I tend to harp a lot on visual depictions of the martial arts. As much as I love a good action movie, it’s very difficult to ignore some of the liberties and exaggerations taken by film makers when it comes to fighting. This is especially true in the case of two individuals taking and giving multiple strikes to the head or body and jay keep on fighting. It would almost be laughable if the adolescent in me wasn’t so immersed in the action sequences and storyline. But I digress…

As much as I’ve written about the differences between what happens in real life and what happens in the movies, it dawns on me that I rarely talk about the other important difference that happens in material arts circles; what happens in the dojo versus what happens on real life. Or what happens in a tournament setting, as the stakes are potentially different on a mat than in a dojo.

There’s no arguing that the dojo is a controlled environment. Accidents can still happen and injuries can still be sustained (as premised by the fractured rib I got, last spring) but for the most part, there’s structure, control and oversight. The goal is to learn and train. Practice takes place to ensure good muscle memory. Sparring takes place so that one can sharpen fighting skills and further develop that muscle memory but there’s always a control in place.

In tournament or on the street, such controls are not in place. The motivations and goals are different and therefore, a practitioner will use their skills differently. I believe an acquaintance of mine put it best where he explained that comparing a tournament to sparring in a dojo is like walking a high wire versus laying a rope on the floor and asking someone if they can walk on it. It’s a pretty apt comparison since almost anyone could walk on the rope while it’s laying on the floor. Tie that rope a 100 feet above ground and see how well a person walks across it, then.

Sensei has never been a fan of the tournament environment. As a result, I’ve never done more than dabble in it, myself. Karate, for me, has always been for the preservation of my life, both physical and medical, as well as for the protection of others. But in the interest of knowing one’s limits and understanding one’s skills, tournament can be extremely good as you may be exposed to aspects that you wouldn’t in the dojo. Food for thought… A shout out to Boris for the idea for this post. ☯️

Are You A Doctor?

The health care system is seemingly collapsing unto itself, or rather imploding, if you will, in Canada. With examples of such issues as people dying in emergency rooms while awaiting care to people needing to hospital shop to get any kind of assistance, even when in pain has sparked all kinds of debate about where Canada’s health care system is headed and whether we are really any better off than less popular health care systems, such as what they have in the US.

Now, I frequently make a point of mentioning in my posts that I’m not a doctor. And I’m not. I’ve learned a lot over the course of my life since, as a Type-1 Diabetic, those who fail to learn and adapt usually don’t live for very long. I’ve had to read and learn things from the medical profession that the average citizen should never have to. After all, we HAVE actual doctors who are supposed to know all that shit for us, right? The problem is that all that knowledge doesn’t usually get put into practice and sometimes, you have to fight for your right to stay alive…

Staff shortages, burnout and lack of overall resources have caused a significant exodus of availability in the health care world over the past few decades. As a child, I remember that a visit to the doctor’s office was an all-morning thing, since the appointment in and of itself would usually take roughly an hour. My childhood doctor, may he Rest In Peace, would often take the time to ask about dietary habits, daily habits, elimination as WELL as how I was feeling. These days, you wait hours to sit in a tiny room with a doctor who expects you to spit out the problem so they can jot down a prescription and have you on your way. Welcome to the fast-food era of medicine!

As with all things, it would be wrong to paint all doctors with this same brush. My current doctor, whom I haven’t seen in almost four years, mind you, is wonderful and takes the time to address my concerns once I’m in the exam room. That being said, I’ve never waited any less than a full hour AFTER my scheduled appointment to see her, which often leads to frustration and impatience. It’s systematic of what has slowly grown into a serious issue in Canada with trying to see a doctor and getting the help one needs.

One good example is at the beginning of the year when I took a punch to the rib cage and has allegedly fractured a rib. I was at the doctor’s office three times over the course of a month and all he would do is keeping giving me stronger painkillers and muscle relaxants. On the last visit, I finally got upset enough that I told him we should be trying to figure out what’s wrong as opposed to just masking the symptoms. He agreed to ultrasound my kidneys. My KIDNEYS. Despite the injury being high up in the rib cage.

It can be angering and frustrating to try and navigate those waters, especially if you’re in rough shape and are trying to get help to feel better. There is a bit of a line with people who will sit in the ER waiting to see a doctor for non-emergent issues. This causes unnecessary delays as well but if walk in with an open wound or a serious injury, one should not expect to lie on a gurney for six hours before someone comes and just checks your blood pressure.

It’s become a sad state of affairs when I’ve had to tell my family, “Don’t get sick! We can’t go waiting in the hospital for a full day just to get generic meds.” There may or may not have been some suggestion that even if they break a rib, I’d be setting the bone myself rather than trying to navigate our current health care system. A sad state of affairs, indeed. For an industry that despises it when people consult Dr. Google, this may be the only recourse people have for many of these things.

I’m not a doctor. And I can’t even pretend to fathom the things they deal with and the things they see. I also recognize that resource shortages and burnout are very real things. While we’ve grown as a society, things have advanced, which means medical help should be getting better and more advanced, as well. At the rate things are going, we’re slowly slipping back to the dark ages where getting sick was essentially a death sentence. ☯️

Limited “Cycles” To Get Through…

Thos of you who have been reading my posts fort a period of time no doubt remember that I’m a big fan of cycling. During the summer of 2020, I actually burned my way through several bike tires and at least two bicycles. I purchased a new one, which I used last year. But during the 2021 year, what with the pandemic and being stuck at home with little else to do, I somehow managed to rack up over a thousand kilometres over the duration of the entire year. Although some of that included running, walking and elliptical, the majority of it was cycling and I was quite impressed with myself, that I was able to reach that level of distance over the year.

This year has been significantly different, with barely any opportunity to get out on the bike. This is attributed to a series of different reasons, not limited but including poor weather, increased karate attendance, work and illness. As a result, I’ve only had the chance to get out on the bike about a half dozen times this year, totalling in only 97 kilometres. But somehow, walking, elliptical and running has accounted for over 1,600 kilometres of the 1,864.4 I’ve racked up this year. I’m of the opinion that it should usually be the other way around.

Although I could likely still get some mileage in, the weather is getting colder and snow may soon hit the ground. I’ll have to make a point of spending more of my workout time on the bike, come next spring. I have to be honest, I rather missed being out as much as I used to. There’s nothing quite like being out in the fresh air, peddling away, working up a sweat while listening to your favourite tunes… It’s good for blood pressure, blood sugars, cardiac and overall health. With the coming of winter comes a period of trying to find something that could replace cycling in addition to karate classes. As the old saying goes, the waiting is the hardest part. Maybe I should have gotten off my ass more and cycled more. Lesson learned for next spring… ☯️

It’s All In Your Head…

I think one of my biggest love/hate relationships is with action or martial arts movies. On the one hand, I absolutely love me a good action flick. John Wick, are you kidding? Love that movie. Kickboxer, Bloodsport and the original karate kid movies, to name a few. On the other hand, watching a fight scene for me is like trying to watch a science fiction movie with Neil Degrasse Tyson; he’s likely going to point out all the impossibilities in a sci-fi flick. I’m really no better.

Movie fight scenes are usually the climax of the storyline, with two combatants or more squaring off against one another and fighting, usually for their lives, for whatever cause or justice they may be seeking. The prolonged nature of these fights usually present certain impossibilities when it comes to a real life fight. First of all, the sheer amount of daily training that fighters have to go through in order to make it through a professional fight is unreal. And those are only a few minutes per round, at best. So seeing a thirty minute fight with high flying techniques and impressive shows of strength and some acrobatics thrown in, isn’t just unlikely; most human bodies can’t sustain that level of exertion for that long.

But the biggest issue I have is with all of the hits to the head that we see in movies and on television. The opponents exchange blow after blow after blow and just keep right on fighting until the penultimate moment where one overpowers the other. The problem with this is that the ability to shake off a strike to the head isn’t something you can train for. And getting punched or kicked in the skull can cause all sorts of short term injuries and effects, the likes of which we usually don’t see on screen. I’m writing this post in the aftermath of having taken ONE punch to the head recently,

Even one strike to the head can potentially cause headaches, dizziness, blurred or darkened vision, memory loss and problems with one’s balance. If your head is struck in just the right way, you can potentially suffer a concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury that usually results from the brain jostling around inside the head. According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, “Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not.” This is important because it continues to impress me how some people, even in karate, have often said ‘Oh, you don’t have a concussion because you didn’t pass out.’

Although most mild concussion will pass in a short period of time, you should seek out medical attention if you experience bouts of frequent vomiting, if you do lose consciousness, bleeding from any orifice or if your symptoms worsen over time instead of getting better. Hopefully I’m not freaking anyone out; not every hit to the head will cause any or all of these issues. It’s just something to be cognizant of. After all, I got hit to the head last Wednesday night and had a light headache for the evening but was fine by the next day.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, don’t believe everything you see on television and in movies. Even if you are a karate practitioner and train consistently, don’t assume you’ll necessarily be able to maintain a sustained confrontation and experience multiple hits to the face and head and just keep going. Your body just isn’t designed to take it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Karate Kid. Sweep the leg! ☯️

Supplementation, Part Quatre…

As I explained the last time I posted this, this is my fourth time posting this material and no, I’m not being lazy. I consider the consumption of vitamins and minerals to be an important part of maintaining one’s health. It’s no surprise that modern nutrition is sorely lacking in most people and with every reposting of this material, I’m reminded of the importance of taking a steady multivitamin on a daily basis; a fact my doctors keep reminding me, as well. With the colder weather hitting our area (we’ve had frost on a couple of mornings, already) and everyone’s immune system taking a hit, vitamins and supplementation are very important. So, bearing in mind that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, here’s what I posted all the way back in June of 2019. Enjoy!

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. 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. Taking a daily multivitamin can help to ensure that your body gets everything it needs, in combination with carbohydrates, lean proteins and fibre. My wife Laura originally gave me the idea for the post I wrote in 2019 when she asked about B-vitamins. Every time I re-post this material, I think of her. The credit for this post is all her! ☯️

Compromise Only Goes So Far…

Relationships and understanding require effort on both sides of the equation and this is something that many often don’t understand. As an example, I have a friend who seems to think he’s the absolute authority within his home and that his spouse should just go along and amend her lifestyle and choices to suit his. The problem with this is that relationships require compromise and while one could argue that the person who may not be keeping up with the other is the one who needs to compromise, that flow has to go both ways in order for a relationship to work. And to be clear, this applies to ANY relationship, not just romantic ones.

Throughout the course of my life, I’be been in many friendships, relationships and associations with people and it continues to amaze me how those relationships have often ended up one-sided. And I don’t mean that it was all them; some of it was absolutely me. I do have SOME ability to blame Diabetes in this mix, since my condition was very poorly treated during my teens when friendships were developed that should have blossomed into adulthood. But otherwise, selfishness and poor choices have led to the loss of some of the best friendships and relationships I’ve ever had.

That being said and before I fall too far down the rabbit hole, it’s important to remember that compromise can only get you so far. At the end of the day, one must recognize that there are aspects of your life that you should never compromise or abandon, simply because someone else is asking you to. Some of the relationships I’ve been in have been abusive and to the point where I damaged my health and happiness in order to prevent causing waves. But of there are people in your life who are forcing you to do this, you’re likely better off without them.

I’ve written about this before but I recently read one of those online “AITA” posts about someone with an eating disorder and how their chosen partner just wouldn’t understand when their need to eat kicked in. This reminded me of these aspects and I decided to list them out, once again. Here we go:

  1. Your Sleep

Sleep is a necessary requirement of life. A person can’t go without sleep and if one were to try, they would quite literally die. I could go into all the little details about what tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion can cause but that’s not what this post is about. The bottom line is that although we all love the concept of getting 8 hours of sleep in a night, there are a lot of reasons why someone may be unable to do so and may require rest outside of that. As a Type-1 Diabetic, my system usually responds to fluctuating blood sugars by having me get tired. This tiredness is generally eased by grabbing a quick nap; something that can be difficult if there are household responsibilities that are timely or there are children to help care for. But it should never be ignore simply because someone else dislikes it.

When I lived back home, I used to do some pretty erratic shift work that saw me exhausted and sleeping at strange hours, including at around 6 pm after I’d had some dinner. I’d always have this one wretched friend who’d come knock at my window (I was still living with my parents) until he’d wake me up. When I’d ask him what he wanted, he’d essentially peer-pressure me into leaving the house to go hang out, despite my explaining that I had worked and was tired. His reasoning was that I could always sleep later, since it was early in the evening. No, no I can’t asshole! Shift work doesn’t allow it.

My ex-wife used to be this way, as well. Any time I’d get home from working an overnight, she’d have just woken up and wold be raring to go for the day where all I’d want to do is crawl into my bed. She’d get angry with me for not staying up, despite logically knowing that I had been up throughout the entire night. Toxic. The bottom line and the takeaway here is that you should never sacrifice your need for rest, regardless of the time or what other people may say about it. Especially as a Type-1 Diabetic and knowing that all things affect my blood sugars, I shudder to think of all the damage I caused my self during the times I put off my own exhaustion in favour of others. OR how dangerous it might have been during times I drove or did activities I likely should have, during this fatigue. No more…

2. Your Hunger

If I have to explain why this one is important, y’all really haven’t been reading my stuff! Even if I wasn’t Type-1 Diabetic, it stands to reason that eating is an integral part of staying alive. Much like sleep, you can TRY to go without it but you’ll ultimately lose that battle right around the time you lose your life. In fact, if you try to stop eating, this constitutes an eating disorder, which is what prompted the writing of this post. The “AITA” article I read was about a person who had suffered an eating disorder and was in recovery. As part of their recovery, they had a requirement to eat immediately when they felt hungry, otherwise they could potentially relapse and go days without food.

This person was at a family dinner with their partner and at about 5:30 pm they started to feel hungry, so in keeping with their recovery, they ate a granola bar. Dinner was at 6:30 and they still ate normally and all was well until the couple left and the partner got angry because they considered it a disrespect to have eaten a snack in front of the family an hour before dinner. The couple broke up after the partner refused to acknowledge the person’ eating disorder and recovery and tried to claim that relationships are about compromise. The issue at hand here, is that one should never compromise on their need for food.

I totally understand that under very normal circumstances, waiting an added hour for dinner isn’t the end of the world and that growling stomach might even make for some interesting conversation and a few laughs. But in my world, even at a formal dinner, if I feel that my blood sugars are starting to drop, something is getting shovelled dow my gullet whether the hosts like it or not! Proper food and nutrition is also an integral part of your health and your health should also never be compromised, which brings me to m y third point…

3. Your Health

I have so much to say on this aspect that I would almost need a separate post JUST to explain… Your health actually contains and encompasses the other two points, which is why I saved it for last. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, taking proper care of your health and managing your overall condition is really the only way to survive until you reach your golden years. But not everyone is always on board with this. Letting someone know that you have dietary restrictions, food requirements or any other conditions that require one to take certain steps will often fall on deaf ears. It’s a delicate balance of trying to make others understand, mixed with the fact that you don’t owe anyone an explanation as it relates to your health.

A good example I have is a kids’ birthday party I brought my oldest to, last year. The party was slated to start at about 4:30 and although I assumed there would be snacks and cake for the kids (it WAS a birthday party, after all) I didn’t want to assume that any adults would be fed, as well. So, I had some dinner before heading over. Setting aside for the moment that I appeared to be one of the only adults who stayed with their kids, the family was all smiles and friendly demeanour. That is, until the food came out. They had ordered pizza for EVERYONE, adults included. While this is an extremely nice gesture, I had already eaten and pizza is one of those really difficult foods to bolus for, especially after I had already eaten.

I made a point of explaining that I was grateful for the offer but couldn’t partake. I even included the fact I had Diabetes. Although they “kind of” said they understood, I could see that they really didn’t. It got worse when the cake came out and everyone was having a piece and I declined on the basis that since I wasn’t home, I didn’t want to upset my blood sugars. It was at that point that I could tell the hosts were experiencing what I can only assume was offence. I get it, I mean it is a birthday party and one of the people there is refusing all food and cake. But sometimes people need to understand that it isn’t about politeness and there may be an actual health component to it.

The bottom line, and I should get to it before I stretch this post another several pages, is that compromise is all well and good, but not at the cost of your health and well-being. You should never compromise your health or need to explain when you’re tired or hungry. One’s well-being is difficult enough to manage without having to justify or explain at ever step. Taking care of yourself is the first priority. And as I often say, even if you’re one of those folks who are always trying to help others, it’s very difficult to help others if you haven’t helped yourself, first. Food for thought…☯️

A Little Water Goes A Long, Long Way…

Years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a a fun weekend the likes of which I had never experienced before and haven’t quite experienced since. I’m talking the weekend I canoed down the Restigouche River. By the time I had reached my teens, I had the opportunity to camp overnight in commercial campgrounds and do SOME things outside, but I had never truly experienced the outdoors and surviving on my own until I had the opportunity to paddle down the river with one of my oldest and dearest friends. He likely won’t be reading this so I can flip some shit about him but I’ll mostly be focusing on our first trip down the river.

When my friend first suggested this trip, it was described as a 3-day ordeal of paddling and exposure to the elements. I wasn’t quite on board, especially since it would involve missing some karate classes but he finally convinced me. My friend’s family owned a rental company so we had the benefit of getting the canoe, supply barrels and various equipment for free. His mother took both our wallets with the thought that if we lost it in the river, we’d be screwed. As good a thought as that was, at the time, reflection on that aspect decades later tells me that if something had happened to us on the river, authorities would have had no way to identify our bodies. But it all worked out, so I guess I digress…

We were driven north-west by one of my friend’s sisters and dropped off at a launching site. The adventure started when we realized that we would be hit by a solid bout of rain before we got on the river. I foolishly thought that we would throw in the towel but my friend pointed out that it would be pretty silly to sacrifice 3 days of fun on the river for a little rain. I agreed and we cast off. Although we immediately got drenched by the rain, we had a blast. We paddled for a number of hours before we found a spot on the river that was out of water and safe enough to set up camp for the night.

Restigouche River, taken from Wikipedia

We got a fire going, set up the tent and had an hour of quiet reflection as we chatted and snacked on the side of a river. The following morning, we shared the chores of getting the camp taken down as well as making a makeshift breakfast in a cast iron pan over a roaring campfire. It was a fantastic morning. We even had a forest ranger come visit and chat with us over coffee for while. No devices, no internet, no distractions. Nothing but good conversation and the open river.

We took to the water early on and started paddling down. We arrived at a part of the river where there was a deep, clear pool of water. We parked the canoe and tied it off and got in the water and floated down river in our life jackets for a bit. We were able to see so many freshwater salmon rushing around us. It was a fantastic experience. We set up camp for the second time that afternoon and spent some time swimming, laughing, signing A Cappella and enjoying the silent peace of the wilderness. It made me wonder why I had never done anything of this sort before. Then, I remembered that I was a Type-1 Diabetic and my parents were paranoid and shielded me from life. But I digress.

We reached the shores of Atholville, which meant that my friend’s family would be around to pick us up shortly. We were dehydrated, exhausted but happy. Our 3-day transit was a combination of intense exercise from the paddling and being in the elements. Packing up the canoe and our equipment almost felt like a tedious endeavour and took forever. That ride back into town felt surreal; like being in the civilized world was something we had left behind. But it didn’t take long for us to get back to my friend’s Apartment where a hunger the likes of which I haven’t felt in forever took hold.

It was hard getting back to normal after that. A few years later, we would follow-up with a second trip down the river. It’s fantastic fun. I highly recommend enjoying some time in the forest where you ACTUALLY have some time to connect with nature and disconnect from modern life. It’s been a couple of decades since those two river trips and all the fun we had. Maybe sometime ion the near future, I’l need to find a way to introduce my sons to that same level of peace and nature. ☯️

Mouse Trap… (Not The Game)

I remember this one time in my twenties when I attended a karate class during the summer. It was a gruelling two hours in a non-air conditioned environment where most people had to practically pull themselves out of the deep pool of sweat on the floor that they had created. Once class let out and given that it was summertime, a few of us decided we wanted to climb to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to watch the sunset. I challenge a couple of them to climb the west face with me. they foolishly accepted.

To provide a bit of context, Sugarloaf Mountain is an extinct volcano that sits at under 1000 feet at its summit. There’s a perimeter trail that goes around the base and an ascension trail on the east side. It’s pretty steep, but there are guard rails, steel ladders and various rock formations that help a person reach the top. It takes about forty minutes. The west side is a sheer face. That is all. It takes about twenty minutes to ascend, provided you actually keep moving consistently and steadily. Lots of people do free climbing but very few people back home have been exposed to it. All of that was followed by climbing back down, showering and attending a local pub for a cold beer to end the night. And that night ended well past midnight.

Meanwhile, flash forward twenty years and I pulled my back by sneezing this morning. Time stays consistent but the passing of said time has a way of slowing us down. Although time is started to catch up and I may not be able to train as much, as hard and as fast as I did twenty years ago, the important thing to remember is that this “seizure” of one’s body happens far faster if one sits idle and does nothing. The important thing is to stay active, keep moving and recognize that one’s body may occasionally need a bit more recovery time when performing the same level of exercise.

I was inspired to write this post when a colleague described his fitness routine in anticipation of a trip to Machu Picchu. He was describing how he’s slowly building up his strength and cardio, being cognizant of his body and his requirement to heal. This woke me up to the fact that not so long ago, I could hop out of bed and hit the ground running. Nowadays, it takes several minutes for the signal to get up to travel from my brain and for my body to stop swearing at me to quit pushing it. Then, when i finally do get up, all of my joints sound like a hundred mouse traps going off at the same time.

Time catches up on us all. There’s no escaping that (at least until I discover the secret to vampirism). But that doesn’t mean one needs to give up and throw in the towel. It’s important to keep moving and stay active, especially for someone with Type-1 Diabetes. Sometimes it might feel easier to just kick back and let time make fools of us all. But nothing is ever accomplished by taking the easier path. Food for thought… ☯️

Size Matters Not…

One of the big things that makes karate so particular, is the fact that you don’t have to be big and strong in order to study and practice it. I still remember asking Sensei’s son, back in the late 1980’s about what it takes to be successful in karate. The conversation went a little something like this:

ME: “What do you need to be in karate? Do you have to be strong?”
HIM: “Nope.”
ME: “Do you need good speed?”
HIM: “Nope…”
ME: “So, what do you need?”
HIM: “Just concentration.”
ME: “That’s it???”
HIM: “Yup, everything else comes later…”

It would take a year or two before I would realize that he was right; despite the fact I was a scrawny little punk with no constitution and no bodily strength, I started to gain mass, speed and precision, all of which started increasing exponentially based on how hard I focused my attentions on my training and concentrated. Who knew he’d be right? I guess it was bound to happen once, right? (Just kidding, Guillaume! Please don’t track me down and kill me…)

Size and strength goes a long way. After all, if two people square off and one is 6-foot-5 and 230lbs and the other 5-foot-7 and 185lbs, there’s a VERY strong likelihood that the bigger guy’s strikes will have more of an effect than the little guy’s. But the eventual development of speed and accuracy is what closes the gap. It’s like basic, high school physics teaches us; if two objects of different mass are accelerating at the same rate of acceleration, the one with the heavier mass will have the greater force on impact. Or similarly, if an object with half the mass accelerates at twice the rate, it will have the same force on impact as the larger one.

I don’t want to muddy the waters with a bunch of physics (I’ve done enough of that in other posts). My point is that the smaller and less imposing opponent can still pose as much of a challenge to defeat as the larger, more muscular one. That ability comes from consistent commitment, concentration and focus on your art and skills. I have to say that a great demonstration of that concept comes from the most unlikely source: Star Wars. In Empire Strikes Back, Yoda makes a point of telling Luke Skywalker, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not.”

That was in 1980. Imagine my surprise and the collective gasps and surprise everyone had, 22 years later during Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where Yoda fought against Count Dooku and suddenly emerged from the diminutive, walking cane-carrying little green character to an absolute whirlwind of flips, acrobatics and lightsaber techniques. Given his limited screen exposure during the original trilogy, it came as a pleasant surprise to see him using his Jedi skills in all their glory during the prequel trilogy. This was reflected further during Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where he fights against the Emperor.

The lesson here is that despite his small size, Yoda turned out to be amongst the most skilled and capable of his peers. The same concept applies to karate. When I look back at the weak, tiny and physically unimposing stature I had when I first started karate as compared to how I am now, I recognize that concept within myself. Granted, some of my mass and stature can now be attributed to my dad bod. But I digress… This is one of the things I enjoy about Cobrai Kai, as well. Some of the main characters were presented as having been what some consider to be skinny nerds, only to eventually turn out to become champions.

It shows that you should never allow what you perceive as your limitations to hold you back. Where you go and how your progress is entirely up to you. Karate has a place for anyone who choose to commit to it. Although different styles will suit different people, once you’ve decided on karate, you can go a long way towards building yourself up and achieving your goals. All you need is focus and concentration. Food for thought… Hey, look at that! I wrote a post that combines my martial arts and my nerdy, geeky side! Go, me! ☯️