Thirty days of stretching

I injured myself almost a year ago. I used very poor form to lift something heavy. My back was a bit sore the next day and the day after that. I took it easy and went back to my normal routine a few days later. A couple weeks after that I reached down to pick something up and noticed a shooting pain in my leg. Four hours later I could either stand up or lie flat and anything in between was excruciating. My upper right leg was quite numb. The diagnosis was two pinched nerves.

Rest, physio, dry needling, and a regimen of stretching helped me recover. I got back to the point where there was numbness but no pain. I don’t lift heavy things now. The gym is about lots of lighter reps with good form rather than aiming for PRs.

After a while stretching fell by the wayside. I’ve always been pretty lazy when it comes to post-workout care and some months ago I realised the lack of stretching was contributing to a plateau in my recovery from my injury. When I committed to lifeguard training I decided to get more serious about stretching.

In started going to some Sunday yoga classes at my gym and enjoyed them. Then I subscribed to ROMWOD, a daily yoga-like routine aimed squarely at people who do Crossfit. There’s a bajillion free yin yoga videos on YouTube that I could have gone with but paying for ROMWOD gives me some encouragement to do it regularly.

Until just over a month ago I was doing a ROMWOD routine a couple times a week. Better than before but not a habit and not enough to really get good results. Not worth the subscription either! Then a post from Austin Kleon’s archive about keeping a Seinfeld calendar struck a chord. I decided to make stretching a habit.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld

I drew up a thirty day grid in my brain dump notebook and committed to doing a ROMWOD routine every day. I’d mark an X in the grid whenever I completed a routine. I wrote DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN at the top.

Thirty days later, I’d done a routine every day, the chain unbroken. I saw some results: more feeling in my leg; more flexibility in my arms and shoulders; less soreness. Stretching, along with swimming, and drinking water has paid dividends.

Keeping up the chain was difficult. I got sick twice and the congestion and headaches weren’t super conducive to yoga moves. I did the shorter workouts on some of those days. I had to plan around a night away: an early morning routine one day followed by a late one the next.

Crossing off the grid every day was very satisfying. And I genuinely think the stretching helps. It’s a habit now and I look forward to getting out my mat a blocks and stretching as Daniel Head’s baritone encourages me along.

What happens when you drink a gallon of water a day?

Aleta Burchyski from Outside Magazine took up the Water Gallon Challenge and was feeling great in a matter of days. She got used to the other side effects pretty quickly, too.

Day 1: I’m peeing every 15 minutes. How in the hell am I supposed to get anything done?
Day 4: I didn’t feel like a 70-year-old woman when I got out of bed this morning.
Day 7: Can we talk about how good I am at yoga right now?

Partially inspired by this article, and in an attempt to improve fitness for life guarding training, I’ve consciously upped my water intake to around 3L per day over the last couple of months. That’s not quite a gallon, I’d get caught in an endless cycle of drinking and piddling. I definitely feel much better when I remember to drink. I notice being thirsty more than I did before. I feel less sore after the gym and I find it easier to keep up my stretching routine as it’s not the pain-fest it used to be.

Drink water, readers. That’s a solid gold tip.

Swimming progress

polar bear swimming GIF

It’s possible people are following along so an update on progress to getting to swimming 400m in under nine minutes. I’ve shaved 30 seconds off my benchmark time. Still over a minute to go.

The feeling of swimming is so much better so rather than get grumpy with myself that my time is not under ten minutes yet I’m going to celebrate that I feel confident to tackle pretty much any distance in the pool.

Another bonus: I can do more consecutive pull ups at the gym. I think the swimming has help that.

A Farewell To Shorts

I went to the pool on Sunday and found my favourite pair of swim shorts hadn’t made it through the last wash intact. I’m not sure when I purchased these purple Speedo shorts but I think it has to have been some time in 2001 or 2002. Almost two decades of service.

I wore those togs in the Pacific Ocean, the Tasman Sea, Cook Straight (kindof), Wellington Harbour, Motueka River, several streams in the Abel Tasman, and pools in half a dozen towns and cities. They have doubled for regular shorts most days at camping grounds. The dark purple was very light by the end. They were good togs.

I was lucky enough to have a backup pair so I could still swim. I did an informal retest of my 400m time but lost count of laps towards the end. I’ve either shaved off 30 seconds or 90 seconds. The regular swimming and lessons have made swimming feel so much more natural and regular that I’m hoping it’s the second.

Son, I’ve decided to become a lifeguard

My kids are both Nippers at Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club. Most weekends over summer you’ll find me either in the water being a human buoy while the younger kids wade or boogie board past a group of us parents, or at a competition–we call them carnivals–wrangling a group of twelve year olds, making sure they’re at the right event and doing stuff like holding their towels.

It’s actually quite fun. It’s a fantastic sport for parents. Much better than cricket or rugby. I get to the beach often. I have a great excuse to be in the sea. There are cheap beers and really good hot chips at the club afterwards.

As my eldest has gotten older his commitment to the sport means I’ve spent longer periods at the beach, more often. He swims a long way. He paddles further. He gets to ride fun waves. This year I’ve found myself more than a little jealous.

There’s really nothing stopping me from getting involved more with the sport. And the easiest, best way is to become a lifeguard. So that’s what I’m doing along with a bunch of other people at the club, including my kid’s mum. We’re calling ourselves the Crustaceans.

The surf lifeguard award requires demonstration of quite a few things: tube rescues, sea swimming, first aid. The biggest hurdle to me is a timed pool swim: 400m in under nine minutes.

We did a benchmark swim last weekend. My time was 10:49. That’s a hell of a lot of time to cut off but I do have six months to get it done. We’ve enlisted the help of another club member to get our swimming technique right and we’ve committed to swimming three times a week at least. Just with the couple tips I learned on the weekend I can already feel a difference and I’m pretty confident that working on technique will take me a long way towards my goal.

I intend to keep writing about all parts of lifeguard training here. For now it’s entirely swimming, but things will really come to life around August.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into the sea. To learn about helping people in the water. To swim really far and paddle further. It’s going to be fun.

I went on a first aid course and I’m still talking about it weeks later

Hey, how do you know if somebody is choking to death?

You ask them.

At the end of January I completed a First Aid course run by St. John. It was a game-changing experience. I learned a lot. I was almost tempted to kick in the middle-management gig and retrain as a paramedic. The photo of a guy who’d manage to lop off his finger with his garage door put me off. But I was really gung-ho about it until then!

I had had some experience with first aid courses before. Before my first child was born I learned infant and child CPR. Last I followed along with parts of first-aid course aspiring life guards are required to take as part of their training. So of course I thought I was a bit of an expert in some stuff already. And of course it turned out I was a bit of a doofus when it came to some stuff.

The first thing we were told was that the aim of first aid is to save life. The secondary aim is to prevent further harm. We were told that the primary aim outweighs the secondary aim. Over the course of the day our instructor occasionally reminded us about the primary aim. I like to think that I remembered it at least half the time.

The biggest lesson I learned is that most first aid diagnosis and treatment is common sense. When you ask someone if they’re choking they won’t be able to speak, but they’ll let you know they are! If someone’s got a broken leg and can’t walk you just make sure they’re safe and comfortable, call for help, and keep monitoring them. You don’t need to go crazy with a splint and get them to hobble somewhere.

The second lesson I learned is that CPR is used to preserve organs while you wait for help. I’d already learned at the lifeguard training that you should always leave someone and go for help if nobody else can. I hadn’t realised that CPR is only for people who are already, well, dead. That’s why it’s ok to go for help.

The the third lesson I learned is that AEDs cannot shock people who don’t need a shock. You can’t kill someone with one. They can only detect a fibrillating heart – one that isn’t beating properly. If it can’t detect a dodgy ticker it will tell you to do CPR instead.

This is an AED. It can only help save lives. It’s not dangerous to use.

The fourth lesson I learned and relearned over the day is that people will overthink things and abandon what they know to be correct for what they think they remember. Our instructor would tell us the way to address a situation like a diabetic attack, talk for a while, do a demonstration, then ask us if we were comfortable with the demo. More of then than not it was a 50:50 thing in our group.

We argued whether you should give sugar to someone suffering a diabetic attack when you know they have high blood sugar. You should, and I was in the right about that. We argued whether you should remove an object crushing a person once it’s been there for a relatively long period of time. You should, and I was in the wrong about that. I learned how to attend to a bleed and how to make someone with a broken arm comfortable so they could be driven to hospital. I threw up my arms and claimed ignorance when I was asked what to do if it was broken bone sticking out causing the bleeding. Answer: put pressure on the bleed like you normally would and make the patient feel comfortable like you normally would.

You’d think as a veteran of the software industry I’d remember my tendency to overthink things. But there you go.

By the end of the day I’d demonstrated CPR on three types of patients; learned how to recognize seizures, heart problems, stroke; tackled breaks & bleeds; and shown I know when to call an ambulance and when to take a patient to the doctor or hospital myself.

The first aid course was fun and rewarding in so many ways. I kinda want to use my newfound knowledge so I’ve signed up for GoodSAM (no alerts yet). I’ve only just slowed down sharing general first aid trivia at work. I’ve yet to don the hi-viz in a fire drill but I’m looking forward to it.