Transitional Thoughts

A Guide to Effective Transition from Professional Athletics

The subjectivity of a professional sports experience perpetrates a realism that is like nature, sharp and absolute.  

Imagine a child growing up, he places all of his hopes into one day being a professional athlete.  This child dedicates every waking second towards skill development.  These skills are so domain specific that they do not serve any other purpose but this single sport.  The skills are cultivated on a tower of glass, the image is magnificent, and fragile.  I would hate to be the harbinger of reality;

“Coach just wanted his guy in there instead of you, its nothing personal”.  The requiem of a professional athlete's career.

There is a burning desire to prove oneself from an early age.  The battleground feeds us with every victory, competition invokes intense emotion and sometimes logical liberation.  For the amateur this is rocket fuel, it is highly addictive.  Something profound happens however when the boy hits the professional ranks; the game becomes his only source of validation.  In a sense the boy made it, he feels comfortable, he gazes at all the people as they cheer for him with admiration and approval.  

“There is nothing more intoxicating than victory, and nothing more dangerous.”
— Robert Greene

This false sense of security can cause a very damaging result given the frailty of the situation.  I encourage the boy to scrutinize his drive to play professional sports.  It must not be for external validation, reward, or any other superficial man made motif.  He must play the sport for his own personal benefit, he must own it, in fact the sport is him.  Motivation such as this makes it effortless to come to work everyday, outwork the competition, and prevail.  This athlete’s motivation is deeply ingrained within, his drive is impossible to sway, enter trouble.

The gladiatorial arena interjects with a cruel display of nature.  There comes a time where we can be gladiators no longer.  Our time to perform, to shine, to be admired for our astonishing qualities is put off as our glass structure shatters painfully.  And much like the naturalistic paradigm the younger, stronger ones survive to tell the tale while our athlete is left by the wayside to pass on to the underworld. 

This is reality.  The spiritual wound left behind can be tremendously damaging.  It is something very few people talk about, a hollow sense of self.  Our athlete must now wander the world searching for a new arena, to prove himself.  However this is the wrong paradigm to have.  Why trade one battleground for another?  How much self proving must it take to realize he already has everything he needs, in fact he had it all along …  

Validation is infinite, you just have to look in the mirror ...  

Sports when pushed to an extreme can be superficial.  The glamour and validation are like bandage of a unkept wound, we long for them because they are missing from within us.  Rip off the bandage to face the wound.  How we deal with the wound is what will determine how successful we are in transitioning out of sport or from wherever it was that we had to move on from.

 

The Machine of Man - Vegan & Paleo

I recently watched a video of a vegan activist.  There were some clips in the video that exhibited animal violence and brutality; in some cases these acts were conducted needlessly.   

There’s a lot I could say in regards to the paradigm of eating vegan.  Do I think consuming animal products is wrong?  I do not, I think the problem is HOW we are acquiring these foods; I could make arguments against GMOs and pesticides used to develop plant foods.  I could go on and even discuss how the agricultural industry is destroying the natural ecosystem, and raping the soil of thousands of years of ecological development.  Therefore the argument against eating animal or plant based foods just means that one may be less cruel (perhaps only directly) than the other.  

The real argument then is with man, and the human condition.  We have dissolved our relationship with nature and the paradigm associated with it.  We would make lousy humans.  Our efforts to manufacture and produce at an insatiable rate have grown to the point where our constituents no longer resemble the virtues or values of highly evolved people.  A people that is becoming of our disposition on this planet.

We are reaching a critical point where the transcendence of our species will require noble action.  We need to move away from consumption and fill ourselves with compassion.  Whether or not we are up to the task remains to be determined.

I have a friend who is reading a book he raved about, it is called “The Third Plate”.  Apparently the book talks about food sourcing, perhaps it has some good hints for ideas to address the issues of HOW we procure our foods. 

I think nutrition is a very complex and subjective topic.  There are emotional ties, sociological expectations, and personal perceptions tied to eating.  Navigation is therefore extremely hard for both oneself and for advice given.  

I do have a few ideas about the matter I will share;  

Good nutrition promotes homeostasis within individuals.  The term ‘adaptogen' is used for foods that help maintain homeostasis despite external disruptions.  Therefore through nutrition we should seek to create a robust condition.  This approach to food is much more powerful than treating an allostatic condition; bandages.  

I looked at primate diets (bonobos, chimpanzees, and baboons) because they are genetically relevant, supposedly 97-98% the same as us humans.  They are also wild and without the assistance of tools or other instruments to get in the way of a proper analysis.  This would seem to be the most natural place to start an investigation of an ideal diet.  To summarize, it seems that most primates are mostly vegan (fruit and vegetables), they eat some crustaceans, fish, and eggs.  On rare occasion they eat wild game.  

I also looked at hunter-gatherer societies, human populations that live in the wild.  For obvious reasons this would be the next logical place to look as it draws a more transparent conclusion.  And the analysis offers a nice contrast to a primate’s diet.  When researching these populations it is hard to find a true determination of a hunter-gatherer diet because there is wide variation of diets around the world.  The diets are largely subject to the places these people live.  Unfairly the hunter-gatherer's seem to possess DNA that is adapted to their setting so they are predisposed to have success eating the way they do in their natural environment.  

Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Now I know what you’re thinking … no I do not advocate a Paleo diet, even though I have read plenty of books on the subject. 

As it is currently perceived by the public I feel that the Paleo diet does not work.  This is because of the amount of animal protein and fats that are recommended, as well as our current lifestyle disposition.  

Our lifestyles do not emulate that of a hunter-gatherer society; therefore our physical activity, physiology, mental requirements, micro biomes, access to foods, etc are all different!  We require a different nutritional approach that suits our individualistic needs.

To Summarize:

A few general statements;

  • I would agree that dairy practices do not seem to fit in anywhere in either the primates or the hunter-gatherer’s paradigm (although very minutely in the latter).

  • If this is the case where do grains or legumes fit?  One could make a strong argument either way ...
  • Consumption of meat or other animal products seems to be very limited.

A few additional thoughts;

  • The same friend who read “The Third Plate” told me that he was at a daily 10,000 kcal deficit for weeks at a time (he’s a mountain climber) and didn't lose any weight.  The metric was collected via device.
  • Gorillas weigh 300-400 pounds and eat very little if any protein as their diets consist of mostly foliage and fruits.  

Therefore an argument for a calorie model and macronutrient model could be thrown out. 

Why then do people get fat?  Why do we get unhealthy?  Where are we lead astray?

Processed foods I think are the culprit.  

Our society and disposition is perplexing to say the least ... Here is my philosophy on eating a well balanced diet;

I believe in a vegan + (fish > meat) diet is best for health and longevity.  

Leafy greens > cruciferous vegetables > fruits (berries) > fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil)

*Grains may be consumed as required with activity.

Other notes;

  • Build an aerobic base for enhanced recovery and fat oxidation (performance); http://robbwolf.libsyn.com/rss
  • Consume three-treasure tonics/herbs - reishi and elk antler especially, perhaps pine pollen before workouts
  • Consume other adaptogenic herbs - schizandra and ginseng or gynostemma
  • Consume fermented foods (especially with animal products) - kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented carrots, etc
  • Consider earth clays - shilajit, diatomaceous earth

That was a quick idea of my philosophy  … I’m passionate about this stuff and I could ramble on, but I think this is a good start.

If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is nature’s way.
— Aristotle

Some resources I’ve stumbled upon;

 

Concussion Thoughts ....

I haven’t surmised the facts of my concussion beliefs and protocols yet.  So I will take the opportunity do so in this essay.  

Firstly let us analyze what everyone has to go off of; the graduated return to play protocol.

This process includes;

  • No symptoms 
  • Ride bike
  • Light sport activity
  • Heavy sport activity
  • Full contact
  • Competition

If you progress through each step without experiencing symptoms the next day, you are considered able and ready to return to play.

I love how terrible this is …  I am just being honest.  Let’s talk about concussions in a more real and objective sense.  Concussions happen when there is trauma to the brain.  The trauma injures the brain which disrupts function.   Function can be conscious or not.  Regardless there is always an afferent signal that comes in our environment through our body to our brain in real time.  So your brain is always in connection with its environment regardless of the state of injury.

Glad we established that.  

When we sustain a concussion our central processor is damaged.  This means functions in the body for lack of a better word are slowed.  In fact function can be be measured via autonomic nervous system function.  An example would be flicking the lights on.  Those with a concussions might find that the pupil does not dilate immediately.  Therefore autonomic function has been delayed.  As you may imagine this may cause a series of biochemical nightmares, of which I do not comprehend nor can explain.

To the layman we can be more objective with this measure however.  So perhaps when performing the second step in the return to play protocol - riding the bike, we can measure how long it takes for the heart rate to respond to exercise stimulus.  Typical bike protocol is to get the heart rate up to 120 bpm and sustain it for 20 minutes, thereafter see if the stimulus induces concussion symptoms.  I encourage those administering the test to take things one step further and measure the time it takes to get the heart rate up to 120 from resting (measure beforehand).  And measure the time it takes to get back down to resting from 120 bpm.  I assure you there may be some telling details in the matter.  Also you can track improvements each time to objectively say that yes or no your brain is regulating your body much more efficiently.

Beyond the bike test lies a whole slough of other problems.  The brain is receiving afferent or real time stimulus from the body’s environment.  Therefore the bike test at a Globo-Gym during peak hours (around 5:00) might provoke symptoms.  However perform the bike test in a sound proof dimly lit environment may invoke a totally different response.  This opens the door to a myriad of ideas and concepts.  I wish to weigh in on some of them as they pertain to rehabilitation.  

By now we should have the idea that we can get objective measurements based off of autonomic function.  A suggestion would be to try tracking HRV or heart rate variability.  HRV is a tug of war between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (autonomic).  Essentially it is a measure of readiness in the body.  A low HRV score simply means that the gap between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is large as it takes a long time to respond to fluctuations.  A high HRV score reflects a state of readiness and faster function, meaning that your body quickly adapts to stimulus and is thus operating efficiently.  HRV is something that might be worth checking out for concussion rehabilitation protocols.

Typically athletes are loaded with high-end sport performance characteristics.  The kind that I as a strength coach would hate to waste away.  I have seen athletes get repeatedly sent home and eventually make it through the entire return to play protocol without any training.  They come back poorly prepared for sport and potentially predisposed to injury.  Why not take the opportunity to maintain strength characteristics and assess postural faults.  This is a great time to address imbalances in the athlete and perhaps even work on neck strengthening exercises to ensure that the athlete returns in a much more robust sense.  

Logically we want to set up workouts that train the required sport characteristics with the most minimal stimulus possible.  Very similar to a MED or minimal effective dose type of attitude.  This goes hand in hand with environmental considerations.  Therefore place the athlete in a very minimal environment (dim lights, no sound, etc).  And train characteristics to tolerance.  My recommendation would be to do moderate intensity weight training.  Mobility exercises to address postural faults.  And any needed corrective exercises.  Intermittent signs of concussion may appear during exertion, but generally if they fade away quickly and entirely the athlete is ok to train.  It is when there is a lingering effect that the workout is over.  Best case we can get through the minimal workout without any sign of concussion.

A man of courage is also full of faith
— Cicero

Training strength characteristics sends afferent signals to the brain to make those pathways more robust.  I would argue that training the body is crucial to healing the brain.  Remember those pathways are always open. 

Second to strength characteristics is the actual brain itself.  This is another major problem with the concussion protocol.  I like to explain this like a soft tissue injury.  Say an athlete hurt their hamstring …

I would send them home until they felt no pain ….

Then they would ride the bike, if they felt pain, I would send them home again …  If no pain, I would allow them to progress to sport practice.

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The problem is that we are not actually doing anything to rehabilitate the injury.  This might seem like madness, but a good place to start, at least in my experience was with the three systems of perception; vestibular, visual, and proprioceptive.  When I work through the protocol I try to incorporate some of these components in the training.  In fact they helped me a lot when I went through it.

Vestibular - your inner ear, that sense of intrinsic balance.  Any time we take away the visual we rely heavily on the vestibular system.  We can do this by closing eyes, or making the eyes busy.  If this is challenging perhaps it is something that needs to be recalibrated or rehabilitated.  Take vestibular system training seriously.

Visual - when I had my concussion my eyes would blip through certain portions.  My eyesight was not comprehensive.  I had weak portions where I had to rely on swivelling my head to look at certain areas.  This is really interesting when you understand how your body works with visual processing.  Our posterior chain is actually tied into the visual centres of our body, therefore our body braces and moves according to the position of our eyes.  I’ve heard that this is how cats always land on their feet.  Imagine what incorrect head or eye positioning may do to predispose and athlete to injury.  Try moving eyes through all ranges, and tracking items with your eyes.  If you find yourself straining in a certain part train that motion.  Be creative, none of this stuff is set in stone!

Proprioceptive - this is the last system and it is the sensory input you receive through your hands or feet or any surface that comes in contact with the surface with which the athlete interacts.  Proprioception can be worked in tandem with the vestibular system or the visual system - touch balance, or touch see.  You can have athletes develop their proprioception by walking around barefoot, and performing exercises that maximize sensory input.  There are ways I’m sure to enhance proprioceptive feedback, but for brevity sake I will allow you to explore those on your own.

A Real Protocol ....

We are now taking objective data on the athlete.  Hopefully performing a SCAT and a HRV on the athlete daily.  We are now training the athlete’s strength characteristics, as well as their brain.  From here we can formulate progressions and track improvement.  In my opinion this is starting to look like a much more viable model.

In terms of program structure I recommend the following;

Prescribe a daily total volume and objective.  

Daily volume would be the total amount of tasks or objectives to complete in a day.  Trust me when I say concussions can be debilitating.  I found that I was operating at around 60-70% capacity for the longest time.  Perhaps initially as low as 40%.  That means that whatever I normally could do in a day was reduced to these percentages.  Find out what your athlete can handle and control the environments they are in.

Therefore a daily volume of 40-80% may be recommended depending on the athlete.

Coupled with a daily objective of strength characteristics, brain rehabilitation, or REST

*I recommend taking at least 24 hours between each training session to allow for RECOVERY

You can intertwine the strength work with the brain rehabilitation, for a day on day off approach.  Give the weekends off.  Start the week with high daily volume and taper as the week goes on.  Stringing workouts together can be tough.

As the days, weeks, or months add up, you can gradually ramp up the exercises and the daily volume intelligently.  This means busier environments, that can include challenges, like going to the mall, or walking through a park.  Even going to a movie theatre (perhaps as a final step).

Play with the loading parameters, get lots of feedback from your athlete, this is really an organic process.  As the athlete gets healthier there will be a logical time to go through each step in the return to play.  Act intuitively and honour the response.

On the rest days, I recommend performing meditation!  There are studies that show that mediation has a profound impact on the plasticity of the brain.  I have found sensory deprivation to be the most impactful form of this.  In my opinion absolutely essential for recovery because of the no stimulation environment, compounded with meditation, and an magnesium filled environment (which in and of itself has tremendous healing properties).  If in town here in Calgary go check out One Love Float, I highly recommend it.

Additionally get your athletes to journal everyday.  Keep track of nuances, emotions, triggers, etc.  Journals are great to reflect and see progress in.

These are some generic ideas for training and recovery days.  

Lastly I will address some nutritional interventions that I have found to be worthwhile.  Concussions are damage which no doubt causes inflammation.  This means that after acute trauma like most injuries I recommend an anti-inflammatory protocol that is based around NATURAL FOODS or SUPPLEMENTS.  Try to avoid pain killers or other anti-inflammatories, essentially stay away from the chemical crap that is out there.  Assist your body in the healing process to get the maximal result.  

My recommendations for inflammation;

  • Curcumin (turmeric extract) - add black pepper to enhance absorption
  • Fish Oil (high DHA)

The brain requires water soluble vitamins, B-vitamins and vitamin C.  Two great sources would be;

  • Camu camu (or other berries high in vitamin C)

The brain is made of fats.  Along with the fish oil consider sources of fat that can help regenerate all that myelin that may have been damaged.  Consider healthy fat sources such as;

Last but not least, a couple powerful interventions; 

Following these recommendations with the foundation of a healthy paleo-type of diet may help significantly increase the rate of return to play.

I hope my guide helps at least provoke some thoughts on concussion rehabilitation and how go about being objective and task oriented towards a healthy brain.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask!

How to Deal with the Elephant in the Room

The proverbial elephant in the room can be a real son of a bitch.  His awkwardness and inability to get out of the way can be stifling.  And if we do not address him, sometimes he can even grow larger.  Warriors know that the burgeoning problem can be met with the cruel tip of a confident spear.  Assertive action quickly makes the elephant ephemeral, it deflates him, and he goes away almost instantly.  The solution then is obvious, but it is when the elephant takes on a new aspect that we can quickly become perplexed. 

What I am talking about is the temporal disposition of our problem; when the timing of the elephant does not match up with the present.  Our confident capabilities don't work on his metaphysical state, in fact they can create self doubt, and negativity.

Obviously the elephant represents tremendous life obstacles or hurdles.  Our athletic and outgoing instinct seeks to trammel the elephant, we wish to explicate his existence - and yet to no avail.  We begin to feel helpless, restless, and our desires to deal with the elephant leave us confused and exhausted.  The elephant can run through our mind all day long, and take up much of our energy if we let it.  He can inhibit our performance, fun with friends, and is always in the back of our minds - he is like a projector running 9mm film of scenarios and situations during the inanimate moments of our lives.  How then can we deal affectionately deal with the metaphysical beast?  And rid ourselves of the torment he may cause?

As someone who has faced many hurdles in my life I have begun to recognize this metaphysical problem for what it is.  Initially my warrior spirit detracted me from the solution, it left myself, a younger predator puzzled and perplexed.  I now understand that the problem however takes on new qualities that require higher thinking and a broader perspective.  I intelligently deconstructed the beast into various components which lead to a conglomerated discourse and an affective solution.  

I began with the solution by first, knowing this; obstacles can be perceived in a varying manner, it helps to re-frame these obstacles in a positive light.  Knowing an obstacle as an opportunity, or a foe as a friend, or even an emotion as a sign of good things to come can reframe the obstacle in a positive light.  A challenge in nature can be associated with feelings of fear, aggression, confrontation, and excitement - regardless of emotions, obstacles are an exciting time of change, and perception of those changes are invaluable.

Secondly we must perceive the beast for what it is - we must analyze what is at stake.  If we cannot deal with the situation right now, as we desire, we feel compelled to let scenarios run through our mind.  This is beginner, low level function - maturity boasts that we are the thinkers of our thoughts.  Make time to perform meditation, and explore this obstacle with purpose, intent, and passion.  Feel interconnected with the problem and visualize the outcome you desire.  Doing this will carve a path - you will gain a sense of confidence as you revisit the problem daily, and on your own terms.  When you finally visit the problem in real time it won’t be daunting - you will have seen it a hundred times already, and you will implicitly know the outcome.

Birthed from visualization and desire to take action is a strategical component to all of this.   We are compelled to take action on the problem therefore our meditations can sometimes run astray.  Wandering thoughts can lead to new perspectives and valuable vantage points - most powerfully we can see things from other’s perspective, we can get inside their heads.  This is one of the most wonderful capabilities us human beings possess.  Monkey see monkey do is much more than an observation - it is the ability to think and act as someone else.  Comprehension of another’s perceptions can be more powerful than your own perception - I can back up this statement by many different ideas but namely, I think of two that are most powerful, each listed in succession;

  • When a public speaker enters a room and positive vibes are thrown at her, she will have an astounding performance; however if the contrary is done her performance will suffer.  Therefore external perception affects us greatly.
  • Our persona and much of our consciousness is made up of external perception -to prove this I ask who is the thinker of your thoughts?   Why do we perceive the thinker as removed from our own physical body?  This is of course a fallacy, but we have the power nonetheless dissociate and jump into perspectives of others, inherently we do it with ourselves all the time :)

Beyond visualization and perspectives, we must acknowledge that the elephant is metaphysical, know that he occupies a realm that you cannot yet reach because there is a time-warp between you and him.  Therefore the third aspect of the metaphysical problem is not with the elephant himself, but with reaching the elephant through the time-warp.  Logic compels us to consider the temporal aspect of the problem and solve this tertiary quality as a time-related issue alone.  Setting aside time for contemplation or meditation is great - all other times the elephant comes to visit we must understand that it is the concept of the time-warp that presents itself NOT the elephant. Like most time multipliers, I recommend dealing with the issue in a time sensitive manner - we should seek to eliminate, delegate, or deal with the problem;  

  • Clearly we cannot deal with the problem
  • Clearly we cannot delegate it to someone else
  • Therefore we must eliminate it from our consciousness

Easier said than done!  This metaphysical elephant is like none other!  I totally understand, again try to comprehend that the time-warp is irrespective to the problem itself.  If you set aside enough quality time to deal with the problem independently you can make elimination quite easy.

Between visualization, perceptions of others, and temporal endorsement we have an affective solution for this metaphysical beast.  In the eyes of a young predator looking to make an impressive kill on a large elephant the metaphysical beast can be daunting and almost impossible.  For a wise predator who knows how to strike with purpose and intent this beast can easily be brought down in what seems like an impressive feat.  Take down the beast with tact and cunning, be patient and persistent, you will not only achieve success - you will supersede all expectations as your performance excels your intention in the moment.

You are a predator; to know preparation is to exhibit maturity.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.
— Aristotle