Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Swimming With Shoulders - A Relative Breakthrough

[Short entry (or not so short, in retrospect), primarily as documentation in case I do not get it in my journal.  With breakthroughs come recovery and "adjustment" time, and punching keys is infinitely easier than trying to move a pen at the moment.]

I just finished the second day of two substantial swimming experiences.  Yesterday, I did 2,500m total in the pool, including 400m of backstroke (total mixed into the workout, not in one shot).  The results were significant, though there was a price.  Today, I did 3,200m, my first time ever doing 2 miles total in the pool.  Even back when I'd do a mile straight pulling or breaststroke, I never went for that 2nd mile total (proof I never swam on a swim team, eh?).  The price I'll pay for today is yet to be experienced.

*     *     *     *     *

Yesterday, I focused on four points, one in each shoulder and one in each hip.  This was a further attempt to get away from a focus on the hands and feet which I have hinted on before, that has been a "symptom" of myself in everything I have ever done, from walking to writing.  The first result was an ability to be much more upright while jogging home.  There was far less noticeable stress points in my body.

There was also substantial "adjustments" in my hips and shoulders (often linked) and much around my neck and upper spine.  The movement in my neck created noticeable changes in both my sinuses and jaw.

The price was a mistake I have made before.  I felt so good (relatively speaking) that I decided to BBQ some hot dogs for dinner (the family expected home late).  This was quite dumb.  Hot dogs are easily the one food I try to swallow portions of without sufficient chewing.  Even on normal days, I am unable to swallow them on occasion.

Yesterday, it was the worst experience I've had in years.  So much muscle movement around my throat added to the wrong meal choice, and I experienced a major esophageal blockage.  I was unable to swallow for over an hour and twenty minutes.  There was much coughing and much pain, not to mention two wasted hot dogs, having barely gotten through half of the first before experiencing a personal hell.

*     *     *     *     *

Back to the pool today, where I did 2 miles.  Woohoo!

I continued to focus on the four point approach initially.  At approximately 1,300m, I began to swim with my shoulders.  I could still feel they were not properly aligned, but that I could actually swim with them as the focus was a tremendous breakthrough, I believe, in trying to get back into balance.

Most noticeable was a dramatic change in my breaststroke, where the "squeeze" became something totally new.  Instead of squeezing my hands together before they launched forward, my inner arms were snapping against the sides of my chest.  It literally created a new propulsion from the movement, as if a momentary chicken imitation pushed water behind me with my elbows.

For a while, I had what I call a Conan moment.  This new pull was much more powerful than it had any right to be.  As if freed from much of the counter-weights that usually hold me back, my arms could really send me forward.  Though in truth, I suspect some of this had to do with the likelihood of being in a more streamline position as well, creating less drag during the stroke.

*     *     *     *     *

I was so ecstatic I kept on swimming and swimming, even though the new movements had me getting very sore.  Right now, as I write, I don't care about the price.  I swam 2 miles!  I swam with my shoulders! 

I'll just have to be smart and eat oat meal tonight instead of hot dogs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Most Unpleasant Realization

[This post, the realization I had today, is not exactly news to me.  What struck me was the extent of it.  Much like my initial, and rather foolish, belief that it would be a couple months of "adjusting" after the initial changes and I'd be raring to go (that was how many years ago?  7?  8?  Yikes!), I have grossly underestimated a subjective aspect of this entire project.  At least I am confident, still, that the paradigm of how I intend to eventually tell the tale, trying to bring people through it rather that just explain what I believe, is clearly the best approach in order for anyone to come close to grasping exactly what I am trying to express.  So, this one is more informative than artistic, function over form.]

I had a big change in the pool today.  At the 200m mark of a 300m pull (that's freestyle arms with a pull buoy between relaxed legs), I had an all new, to me, sensation.  My shoulder blades were free, as if no against or stuck to, my chest and/or rib cage.

The classic problem resurfaced.  I had no idea shoulders moved so independently of the rib cage. 

For most movements where the arm is raised above the body (or in freestyle, in front of the swimmer), the portion of my chest had to expand.  That is to say, I would either inflate my lungs or rotate by chest significantly as the arm went above the body (or forward in the pool). 

While I have often noted how my body has always felt segmented, it is clear that before today, I thought the shoulders and chest, at least in this movement, were part of a single segment.

The sensation I felt was a stretch of muscles from my lower back up to my shoulders, gliding along the top of the water as my shoulders did the work of pulling.  My chest and ribs merely floated underneath, slightly rotating with each stroke.  This is a marked difference from basically lunging a portion of my chest with each arm stroke.

No doubt I'll get all new forms of soreness tonight, as well.  Joy.

*     *     *     *     *

Now, it is nothing new to me that I had no idea of this, lets call it "segmentation," issue.  I knew it existed, just not where, and I new any new adjustment would lead to previously unknown sensations.

I realize, now, however, just how significant my subjective mis-articulation of any previous descriptions of sensations must be to a reader.  Before this point, how can any reader (or doctor for that matter), have any idea what I had described regarding my shoulder movements?  They would interpret the words in line with their own perception, from their own perspective, one in which the shoulders are not part and parcel of chest (not a single segment with the rib cage).

True communication is impossible, and my attempts to be in the same ballpark as the reader's interpretation was not even discussing the same sport.  Sigh.  So much work to do on so many fronts.

*     *     *     *     *

I find myself suppressing a bit of anger, too , as perhaps this is precisely the type of thing which the MRIs I pleaded for so many years ago could have shown.  Perhaps the "misalignment" or some type of knot or kink (making portions of muscles that should be separate from the rib cage actually be visibly "stuck" entwined with the muscles of the rib cage) could have been discovered.  Maybe I could have been helped (even believed, by Gods!) to get through this metamorphosis in less time and with less pain.

Imagine that.  Three to four years of less pain, once again becoming a functional member of society that much earlier, getting to actually live life instead of just endure pain and persevere.  Okay, now I am a bit angry. 

Of course, creating a new holistic branch of wellness, based upon objective, quantifiable criteria is the ultimate goal of this endeavor.  A noble quest, no?

That it may eventually keep people from having to pay Kaiser millions would just be a little gravy on top.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Jinx Effect

[A moderately silly one, but I did put it together in my head while SLOWLY jogging home from the pool.  So I chalk another one up in the "brain beginning to show signs of functioning" column.  On the physical front, things have been progressing quite significantly over the past few weeks, especially in my right shoulder and hips.  So much movement, or "adjustments," that they can be left in postures never before attainable, which I presume to be much closer to "normal" than ever.  Muscle memory still pulls them back, but it is huge progress, nonetheless.]

I do not believe in coincidence.

This is not to say that I see a direct (or even indirect) relationships between any two variables with something in common.  I just think that if you extrapolate back far enough, a "coincidence" just is what it is, two things happening with some common nexus.

Take the jinx, for example.  Better yet, I'll use the "announcer's jinx."  A sportscast announcer points out that the basketball player taking a free throw has made his last 23 free throws, and on cue, the player misses the next one.  Or rather, a mlb baseball team has pitched 38 scoreless innings against a rival club, the announcers bring it up and show the club record which will occur with one more scoreless inning, and on cue, the rival team scores moments later.  In both instances, the fans blame the announcers.

I know I do.

Yet, when a player has made 23 consecutive free throws, he is due to miss.  When a baseball team has kept another team scoreless for 38 innings, runs are definitely on the horizon.  Humans are playing the games, after all, and straight statistics do not apply. 

It is not like rolling a six sided die where you always have a 5 out of 6 chance to not roll a certain number (or better yet, it's not this classic from Tom Stoppard - skip the 13 seconds of credits if you are impatient, and enjoy).  More variables than chance are in play.  Notably, the players tend to be aware of the streak, interfering with their normal routine mentally and thereby physically.

*     *     *     *     *

This takes me back to last night, talking to a fellow parent at our children's swim class, which takes place at the aquatics facility where I swim.  Because of some nexus, I told her about my first swimming experience at the pool . . .

I had been in dire need of swimming for physical therapy purposes for some time, nearly two years.  The drive to the Sacramento YMCA had become too much to handle long ago.  The new local high school had been under construction for nearly three years (the location of the aquatics facility), and I had patiently awaited the pool's public opening, though I grew excitedly anxious (or anxiously excited) as the opening approached.

I was there on day one, a cold and rainy mid-morning I wouldn't even consider going out in now.  I drove there, put on my swim suit in the new shiny locker room (what an upgrade from the YMCA!), and quickly slid into the pool to get out of the cold and rain.  Back in the water, I felt hope again.

Not three laps into warming up, some kid in the adjacent school pulled the fire alarm.  Coincidence or a predictable happenstance given several mid-term exams had been scheduled for the day?

I had to get out of the pool.  I grabbed my towel, and headed for the parking lot, where the towel, already soaked by me, became more wet and cold from the rain.  I started to freeze.  Fortunately, only two of us had been swimming right when the pool opened, and the lifeguard was able to run in and grab an extra parka for each of us. 

So I only half froze, having a miserable experience both mentally and physically for my first day at the new pool.

Granted, I did not go nearly into this amount of detail when I told the tale last night.  Yet, as I have no real friends other than my wife's friends (of which this was one), she listened politely as I blathered.

*     *     *     *     *

And so I come back to jinxes and coincidence after the fire alarm went off again this morning during my swim, a half day after I brought up the tale, which I had not spoken of in three years or more.

The San Francisco Giants are playing an afternoon game today (right now, actually, and losing - sigh).  I headed to the pool early to be sure and make it home to watch Hunter Pence in his second game as a Giant.  Things were going so well at the pool, too.  I started with an 800m Breaststroke (I usually go only 300m to 500m) and then 500m of kicking.  I was getting ready to not only do my first mile total in quite some time, I was thinking about 2000m total. 

Then, the alarm . . .

And on top of it, I was late home for the start of the game.

*     *     *     *     *

As I sat in the grass outside the aquatic center waiting for the fire truck to come and give the okay to return to the pool (unlike everyone else, I refused to go out into the parking lot barefoot and without glasses), I could not help but realize I caused the alarm.  A jinx.

Now, I don't believe in coincidence.  Yet, school was not in session, not even summer school.

Clearly, I just need more information to extrapolate back and see the rationality of it all.  Yet, knowing this hasn't stop me from wondering if someone running The Matrix is messing with me.