A few days ago, my husband passed away. He has been a trainer for the last 21 years and had intended to train at least another five. As an NASM certified trainer, he had taken advantage of the one-time charge for life-time re-certification. While he was in one the recovering phases over the last few months, he told me that he would announce those plans to his clients, thus reassuring them that he was very serious about getting well and returning to duty.
Nobody could have been more passionate about training than my husband. Fitness has been a major factor in his personal life. It started when he was in high school and college where he played football and continued when he was in the army as an airborne ranger. After that, he continued with fitness, and I never knew him not working out for the almost 27 year that I knew him.
As trainers and instructors, we are also prone to portray ourselves always as very healthy and to gloss over those little warning signs which may the non-fitness guru cause to seek medical advice. As trainers, exercise is the answer to almost all questions, and we can hardly imagine that there is a malady which cannot be improved by it.
Looking over the sequence of events leading up to my husband’s death, I could see all the hallmarks of a perfect storm. With his athletic and military background, being sick was not an option. For all I know, he never missed a day of work. He also went to regular medical check-ups but dismissed little warning signs as nothing worth mentioning.
With the brutal clarity of 20/20 hindsight, it is possible that there may have been warning signs both for the growing brain tumor (no matter how benign) and even for the subsequent infection caused by the surgery. We will never know whether there might have been a better outcome if they had been heeded but I sure would have liked to have given it a try.
In an effort to have something good come out of all of this, here is my appeal to all the guys out there who are as tough as nails and indestructible: If there is something happening in your body which does not fit with your image of yourself, please take courage and have it checked. And if you are really brave, please tell your significant other. They are the ones that will have to deal with the consequences if you don’t.
I would have never thought that this could become so personal. Statistics are usually abstract ideas, possibilities in percentages, usually too small to consider as anything that could have an impact on one’s life.
Until it does!
According to the CDC, there were 157,500 surgery site infections in the United States in 2011. These are 157,500 lives which have been, to a greater or lesser degree, altered, maybe forever.
As in the case of my husband!
July 21, my husband had a surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, called meningioma. He delayed the surgery by one week because we had signed up to go to the IDEA World Fitness Convention, and he really wanted to go. We had a good time, as always. Two days after our return was the surgery which was supposed to be not much of a big deal because these tumors are usually self-contained. This one was not, though, and there were a few functional deficits on his left side after the surgery. Prompt rehab improved things, and my husband came back home and started training his clients again.
Then, suddenly, there was a day when the progress on his left side was all but wiped out. There was the suggestion of a stroke. We found a great physical therapist, and soon we saw signs of improvement again.
A few weeks later, there was a complete breakdown of function. My husband was back in the hospital, and a CT scan revealed an infection. The surgery the next day let us to hope that we had conquered all complications and would soon be on the road of recovery. Wrong again. There was bleeding and fluid build-up in the brain which caused another stroke.
It has been four months since the initial surgery. My husband is in a rehab facility, at present completely paralyzed on his left side. The physical therapists have now determined that he has not progressed enough to continue, and he will be discharged home on December 4. I have arranged for home health care but most of it will be done by myself.
So that is what’s meant by the statement that every surgery has some risk of infection ……
PS: My husband Rufus passed away December 22, 2015.
Fibromyalgia is a multi-layered condition, and those who are suffering from it often have a difficult time communicating the complexities to others. Here is an excerpt from the Fibromyalgia Foundation’s website:
“Fibromyalgia pain typically waxes and wanes in intensity; flares are associated with unaccustomed exertion, soft tissue injuries, lack of sleep, cold exposure, and psychological stressors. Although most patients have widespread body pain, there are typically one or two locations that are the major foci. These pain foci often shift to other locations, often in response to new biomechanical stresses or trauma. Fibromyalgia is more than a muscle pain syndrome, as most patients have an array of other somatic complaints. Nearly all fibromyalgia patients have severe fatigue, poor sleep, and post-exertional pain. Other symptoms include: tension type headaches, cold intolerance, dry mouth, unexplained bruising, poor memory and concentration, fluid retention, chest pain, jaw pain, dyspnea, dizziness, abdominal pain, paresthesia, and low grade depression and anxiety. Some symptoms relate to specific syndromes whose prevalence appears to be increased; these include: irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bladder syndrome, migraine, premenstrual syndrome, Raynaud’s and restless leg syndrome.”
How can MELT help? While MELT cannot ‘cure’ fibromyalgia, its unique way to calm the body’s stress response can assist in alleviating some of the symptoms above. People who MELT regularly often report improved sleep and better digestion, greater body awareness and better posture and body alignment. After a MELT session, people often tell me that they feel that they just had a massage, and this feeling of well-being makes movement easier and more enjoyable.
People who suffer from fibromyalgia often use an array of modalities to deal with the condition, and MELT can be one part of the overall management.
I will have a workshop at my studio on November 3.
As the connective tissue, aka fascia, which until recently was treated like the ugly duckling is morphing into a beautiful swan, it has been attracting more and more interest from practitioners of different modalities.
MELT has been at the forefront of this movement, and it still forms a foundation stone of my training. But there are others now, and as a trainer, it is important to evaluate its effectiveness and even integrate it into practice where it is of benefit to the clients and students.
Two of those modalities stand out in my mind. The first is called ‘Yoga Tune Up’ and is by Jill Miller who wrote the book ‘The Roll Model’ which is very extensive and gives a lot of options. Maybe too many for my taste. It requires special balls, and some of the techniques are very intense. But is very well worth checking out.
The other is called ‘Relief through Rolling’ and is by Kevin Lucas. He is just using a roller (hear, hear) in different, yet similar patterns. It is a modality which is very compatible with MELT, and which I intend to integrate into classes and workshops and my personal training.
I love to walk. And I love to walk outdoors, even when the weather is less than inviting. I own a treadmill, but to me it’s not the same.
And indeed it is not. While the movement seems to be the same, there are many significant differences which make walking outdoors the better option if all else is equal.
The biggest difference is that walking on a treadmill requires less force production to push yourself forward against the ground. The band keeps moving, and that creates a bit the effect as if somebody is standing behind you, pushing you forward as your walk. This has an impact on the development of the muscles of the entire posterior chain of the body, namely glutes, hamstrings and calves. Treadmill walking also means that you are on an entire even flat surface which places no demands on your foot and ankle muscles for stabilization to compensate for the unevenness of a pavement.
Having said that, I understand that a treadmill may be the only good option for some. The safety of the environment can be a concern and the outdoor air quality.
Bottom line: Go outside if you can. But if that’s not a good option, a treadmill is still a viable alternative.
(Move over, Charles Dickens. An open letter to a client.)
As a trainer, I want you, my client, to succeed. I would love nothing better than to be the facilitator of miraculous change where bodyfat drops, strength triples and flexibility soars to unknown heights.
To make this work, I have studied many different programs, exercises and modalities and am willing to develop any one of them as we start our journey to health and fitness.
But are you coming with me?
Yes, indeed, it is a mountain to climb and not a stroll through the park. I can develop any program and come up with the best techniques but here’s the catch: you’ll have to do them. It will be you who has to sweat, lift, huff and puff.
Setting goals with a client has to be a process of mutual understanding. When you think about your goals, consider how much effort you are realistically able to put into it. You may have been inspired by shows like “The Biggest Loser” but the settings in which the participants there operate are so far removed from reality that results like that are unattainable in the real world.
Fascia (aka connective tissue) is an amazing fluid-based tissue that can adapt itself to any position we want to assume, and always returns back to a natural state of ideal alignment. At least, that’s how it should be.
Enter: the demands of modern life. Prolonged sitting, hunching while texting.
Over time, the stresses placed on the body cause the fascia to be stuck in some areas, and that stuck stress can impact any part of the body, even remote to the site where the stress actually resides.
Enter: MELT, the knight in shining armor.
The MELT Method is a self-treatment technique which restores the body to its original state by rehydrating those areas of the fascia where stressors have caused dehydration and the manifestation of stuck stress.
Observations: I have been teaching MELT classes for almost 6 years and have observed those who MELT with great regularity. You can easily recognize a regular MELTer by the good posture and alignment and ease of movement. I have heard stories of MELTers being measured for height by their doctor and having gained (!!!) half an inch.
Isn’t it worth a few minutes every day to self-treat your fascia?
Last week, I attended the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Los Angeles. 12000 attendees from 50 countries – a world-wide event indeed.
I have to credit IDEA with making me the trainer I am today. Being exposed to the best in the industry, learning the latest trends and getting inspired be presenters and fellow trainers brings out the best in us.
My focus in this year’s conference was a mix of Barre and corrective exercise.
I have obtained a Barre certification a few months ago and was using the conference to deepen my knowledge. No matter how much Barre gets its inspiration from ballet, it is really a very effective way to work on muscular endurance with minimal equipment. Not even a ballet barre is necessary; a chair will do, then add some light elastic resistance or dumbbell and a little ball, and you have a Barre workout.
Stay tuned for my announcement of a combination of Barre and MELT.
Corrective exercises get more and more of my attention. Our wonderful modern life has left us in a dysfunctional dilemma. Back and shoulder problems are ever increasing, and many are brought on by prolonged sitting with an incorrect head position. Unless those issues are not addressed in an appropriate way, the best designed workout will fail and potentially lead to injury. So finding ways to assess (or self-assess as in the case of MELT) and then being proactive has become a foundation of my training.
One last word on fascia. I never heard that word mentioned as often as at this conference. I am pretty sure I heard is in every session. One presenter went as far as calling it an organ. I don’t think that it has been elevated to that status but it’s on the way. And MELT was definitely a forerunner of that movement.
This is a fitness blog but at times I break my own rules and take a stance on political matters.
The horrifying events of last week have suddenly enlightened governors and legislators that the Confederate Flag is a symbol which – at this point in time – stands for white supremacy and racism. It did not take long for those who claim the flag to be their ‘heritage’ to argue vehemently against it. The flag, they say, honors their ancestors who have fought on the confederate side of the civil war. One wonders how those feel whose ancestors were victims of the romanticized antebellum South.
I also have a loved one who fought under a flag and ultimately lost his life from the injuries and illnesses from that war. It was my father who was drafted in Germany in 1942 at the age of 19 and who fought on the losing side of World War II. He grew up with the swastika as ‘his flag’.
As such, the swastika is part of my heritage. It is a part which I’d rather not claim; but we cannot escape our own history. However, we can learn from it.
Because of its symbolic value, the swastika is the favorite among neo-Nazis who understand perfectly well what it represents now: white supremacy, intolerance, and hate of foreigners. It is illegal in Germany to fly that flag.
True, the historic contexts of those two flags are very different but they share the symbolism which they have acquired over time.
Removing a symbol of hatred from public view will not stop hatred. But it will send a signal that we have recognized it for what it is now and are no longer tolerating its presence.
The news about the negative effects of prolonged sitting are getting worse and worse. If the musculoskeletal consequences are not bad enough, prolonged sitting has not been linked to a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and depression, according to an article in the Washington Post.
Gavin Bradley, Director of Active Working (http://www.getbritainstanding.org/active-working.php) says: “Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off, and after two hours good cholesterol drops 20 percent. Just getting up for 5 minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple, it is almost stupid.”
Fortunately, the message is getting out. Standing desks are no longer a construction of boxes on desks but well-designed pieces of equipment. Standing or walking meetings are becoming accepted. (Personal sidebar: I wished we had had those when I worked at IBM. I am sure it would have shortened many endless discussions.) More and more devices are coming on the market which can be set up as reminders to stand up more frequently.
For me, it’s not a matter of how many years in my life, but how much life in my years.
Let’s get up and go!