shanmonster: (Default)
This is my first post on DreamWidth since evacuating from LiveJournal. I wish I didn't need to abandon ship, but the new terms of service are untenable. I'm part of the rainbow brigade made illegal by the Russian powers that be. I'm still waiting for all the comments from LJ to be ported over here, and then I plan on doing a computer backup of all my files. I'm gonna miss you, LJ. You were my electronic home for at least 18 years.

In cheerier news, I have passed the first round of selection for the Arctic expedition. My references have been contacted, and their deadline to get their forms in is the 14th. I think I have an excellent chance of getting selected, and that's exciting.

I've been steadily working at getting my health and fitness levels back up to snuff, and it's not comfortable. Stepping outside your comfort zone is always uncomfortable, by default. On Sunday, I did a couple hours of escrima and then went for a run. Yesterday, I did strength training at the gym, went for my first bike ride of the year (~7 km), and did a flamenco class. Today, I went for a run, and tonight I'll be working on gymnastic skills at the gym.

My strength and endurance continue to improve. In the meantime, I'm stuck always feeling a bit sore and tired. The first couple of weeks after increasing activity levels are always like that. Here's a clip of my most recent session playing on the rings. My equipment wasn't quite set up ideally.

Eeeee!

Mar. 19th, 2017 06:04 pm
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
I sent a short story out for possible publication in a science fiction anthology last week. I haven't had a story published in ages, so it's high time I get my arse back in gear. I hope it gets published.

I sent out my application for the Canadian ocean expedition on Thursday as soon as I got confirmation from my china painting instructor that she would be a reference. Eeeee!

On Friday, I purchased airfare for my trip to Africa this summer. I'll be travelling through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia (~1300 km), seeing the Namib Desert (where Fury Road was filmed), the Kalahari Desert, meeting Bushmen, hopefully seeing elephants, lions, zebras, and more, and then ending my tour at Victoria Falls. Eeeee!

Later on Friday, I went to the gym and during my squat set, something freaked out and tried to lock/spasm on my lower back. Different kind of eeeeee. Eeeeeeeouch. I have no idea what happened, there. As far as I know, I wasn't using bad form, and was only lifting five pounds more than I usually do. I tried to find a massage therapy clinic that was open, but none are ever open on the Friday evening of Saint Patrick's Day. I managed to find someone yesterday, but that someone was a tiny sadist who was the roughest massage therapist I've ever experienced. She started with elbows in my back. There was no warmup. I feel just like I was in a fight. I'm pretty sure I'm bruised from head to arse, but I do have mobility now: enough that I was able to go to the gym today and do a full training session. I skipped burpees in favour of jump rope (I didn't want to do fast movements which could have negative impact on my lower back), and all my squats were with an empty bar.

I leave for Toronto tomorrow morning for a week of butoh training. I plan on hitting the gym a couple of times while I'm there. I'm determined to get back in shape. I'm registered to compete in two races this spring/summer: a 5km obstacle course race, and a 14km trail race.

Over the past year, due to health issues and the disruption incurred by buying and renovating a house, my training has been spotty at best. This month was going very well until my back freakout on Friday. I feel strong again, and my endurance is slowly returning. I've been paying much closer attention to what I eat (not calorie-wise, but content-wise), and I'm gradually losing the extra padding I put on. So far, I have lost about ten pounds of fluff and my clothes are fitting much better again. I'm still about twenty pounds heavier than I was when I was competing regularly five years ago, but I have faith that my body will continue to get healthier as I work hard to take care of it.

I had every intention of writing up applications for a travel writing scholarship yesterday, but life and massage therapy got in the way. I hope to be able to get the applications done tomorrow while I'm on the train and killing time in coffee shops in Toronto. If I get the scholarship, I'll be travelling through southeastern Europe (eg. Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, etc.).

What if I get accepted for the ocean expedition AND the scholarship? I'll be travelling all over the freaking world this year! Eeeee....
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
I learned recently that I've created my own personal Pavlovian response. I've been using asthma inhalers for over twenty years, now. In case you've never used one, it goes kinda like this:

1. Shake inhaler.
2. Exhale fully.
3. Raise it to your mouth.
4. Spray it in your mouth as you simultaneously inhale.

I also have been using a steroidal spray to help counter post-nasal drip, which is a big trigger for asthma. It goes like this:

1. Shake bottle.
2. Exhale fully.
3. Raise it to your nose.
4. Spray it in your nose as you simultaneously inhale.

I've recently started taking Vitamin B12 supplements in the form of an oral spray. Whenever I go to use it, I do the first two steps every time. There's no need to exhale. I drink the stuff; I don't breathe the stuff. Yet it takes a major conscious effort to avoid exhaling. Not that exhaling makes a difference, one way or the other. It's just fascinating to me how I've formed this habit.

Conditioning is "a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response" (Encyclopedia Britannica). I'm not even getting a reward for my reinforcement. Well, not an immediate, perceivable reward, at least. So I guess it isn't conditioning, after all, but ritual, instead: "A ritual is...any act done regularly, usually without thinking about it" (Cambridge English Dictionary).

What are your rituals and conditioning?

(Elder Squirrel Demon Ritual Summoning Circle)

shanmonster: (On the stairs)
Yesterday, with some amount of trepidation, I attended a handstand workshop. My energy levels have been generally waning over the past year or so, and my endurance has been getting pretty shitty. Nevertheless, I've been working hard at improving my endurance, and I was able to make it through the entire workshop without needing to take numerous breaks. Despite not having done a handstand in ~8-9 months, I did quite well. My strength, range of motion, and flexibility were up to the challenge, and I believe that if I can practice regularly, I will have an unsupported handstand within a few weeks.

I did have one major whoops. While doing a partner exercise, I kicked off too hard, overbalanced, and came down on my head and shoulder. I didn't damage myself, but it was a reminder that being klutzy hurts. My next kick-off was much better.

......

Over the past year, combined with my fatigue issues, I've also gained a fair amount of weight. At the beginning of the year, I was the heaviest I've ever been, and it did not feel good. Over the past two months, I became proactive and have been monitoring my diet, doing daily exercise (burpees and regular strength training), and taking some vitamin supplements to help with general health and sleep issues. I'm feeling a gradual change, and two days ago, for the first time in many months, I noticed muscle definition again. I knew the muscles were still there, but it feels good to see them peeking out at me again. Hi there, guns.

(Self-portrait circa 1997. Pencil crayons on textured paper.)
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
I remember when I had no difficulties learning how to use devices and software. I was a quick study, and could do complex combinations after being shown them. As an example, when I was volunteering at a charity shop, I was able to do a complicated return on the glitchy, tricksy retail software months after having it demoed to me. No one else at the shop knew how to do that, but had to consult with the manual every single time.

Just a couple of years later, I was put on propranolol for my chronic migraine headaches, and my ability to comprehend multi-step procedures vanished. I could no longer do certain things I'd always taken for granted, and my abilities to comprehend continued to dwindle as my dosage increased. During the height (depth?) of this, I was working at a radio station. I hosted a weekly show, and was supposed to record each show so that it could be rebroadcasted later in the week. I was never able to figure out how to do this despite being shown how on an almost weekly basis. For years, I had been a sound technician for theatre and radio. I had once created radio commercials, teched shows, and multi-tasked like a pro. Now I couldn't operate the machinery to record my own radio show. I often couldn't even follow a simple conversation because of the mental fog in which I was mired. I was fully aware that my IQ had dropped precipitously.

I felt like I was in a Flowers For Algernon situation. This decline in my cognitive abilities distressed me. I was terrified I'd continue to descend in a dull, mental fog. It was made even worse by some of my co-workers who berated me for what they perceived as willful stupidity. I tried to explain that my migraines and the medication I was on made it impossible for me to do what I'd once been able to do quickly and efficiently, but my words fell on deaf ears. While they touted the importance of affirmative action, they made it apparent that my particular circumstances didn't count. I had become disabled, but the people around me did not recognize this because I didn't look any different than before.

In the years since, I have made a full recovery from the physical debilitations. Although the mental fog abated, I don't have mental sunshiny days. I have not regained my prior mental acumen, but this does not stop me from making the attempt to get it back. I keep my brain active. I regularly take classes on a wide variety of topics. The material in scientific and technical courses continues to confound me, but I sign up for them anyhow.

While some abilities have diminished, others have increased just as dramatically. My dexterity and hand-eye coordination continues to improve. I went to a juggling workshop on the weekend as a rank newbie, and the instructor was shocked at how quickly I picked up the rudiments of basic 3-ball juggling. Apparently, I caught on far more quickly than the average Joe. For years, I was unable to learn choreography. This inability has been leaving, although I don't think I'll be giving up improvisation any time soon. My artistic abilities continue to improve, as well, and I catch on to new techniques in new media much more adroitly than ever before. I guess my neural pathways are rerouting stuff. I may be weaker in some areas, but I'm far stronger in others.

This gives me hope.
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
Two years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. Since then, due to a variety of medical issues, my fitness level has dipped. This is not to say I am in poor physical condition. I am still able to do a lot of things I could never do before (eg. glute-ham raises, pull-ups, pistol squats), but my stamina has taken a nosedive. I can't afford to stay in this state of half-assed fitness. I have endurance events and races coming up, and I want to be able to complete them and be able to walk normally the next day.

I started training regularly again as of last week. It's been rough. I feel like I'm starting over from scratch, even though I'm not. I don't recover from workouts as quickly as I once did, but I know I will soon. Yesterday, I did a lot of leg training, and although walking afterwards was difficult, my legs are not sore today. This is progress. Last week's big leg day left me with major DOMS for the next two days.

I can feel progress in my shoulder from when I started doing physiotherapy for it. I was worried that holding the bar across my shoulders for squats yesterday would be too much pressure, but it isn't aching today. Although I'm avoiding explosive movements for my shoulders at the moment, this does not mean I'm avoiding other exercises which use my shoulders. I think my next big fitness goal is to be able to do unassisted tricep ring dips. I'll start with static tricep dips, working on the negatives.

I will do it. Oh yes, I shall.
shanmonster: (Zombie ShanMonster)
I got up at 6 on Saturday, stumbled out of bed, and looked out the window at a cold, wet, grey day. I put on my workout gear and had a big breakfast. Today was going to be brutal.

I was signed up for the O Course, which is a training course run by an ex-Marine drill sergeant. Today's course was a fund-raiser for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of the participants were taking part as a symbolic gesture of solidarity for people going through breast cancer treatment, or in memory of those who had succumbed to it. I was participating to prove to myself I could. My own cancer surgery was just last year. I got off lucky. I wasn't sure what to expect today other than a rough go. I got that right.

My CrossFit training buddy Ahmed picked me up and we drove off to Burlington where the event was being held. The weather didn't improve. It got worse. There were times on the 401 when it felt like we should've been in a boat instead of a car. We arrived at the venue, confirmed our registration, and then sat in the car until it was time to do our warm-up. It was freezing out, and I was shivering.

Sgt. Tony mustered us up, and we took a knee while he explained what we'd be doing. The cold distracted me from what he was saying, but then we all grabbed a long block of wood and ran to the beach. The shore was a morass. Young people surrounded me. I think I was the oldest participant. I saw a lot of university students, including a team of cheerleaders decked out in matching pink hair ribbons. I overheard one say she didn't bother putting on makeup or doing her hair today.

The warm-up was a blur. The drill sergeant and his helpers barked orders, and we struggled to comply as quickly as possible. Get down into pushup position! Get up! Too slow. Get down. TOO SLOW! Get up! TOO SLOW!!! We moved faster and faster until all 60 or so of us were moving fast enough to meet his expectations, and then we did another speed drill. We carried the blocks of wood overhead and ran through the quagmire back and forth to the tree line. We backed out into the lake, wood held high overhead. Shoulders screamed from the effort of holding the stick overhead so long. Feet got stuck in the mud. People fell. People helped one another up. Shoes disappeared and were recovered with much effort. The blocks of wood never touched the water. They mustn't touch the water. KEEP IT OVERHEAD!

We rolled in the mud, belly crawled through slick brown stinking dirt with bits of grit jamming into forearms and elbows and bellies and knees. We through fistfuls of mud at one another. I never realized how many tiny plants grow in the mud until I was pressed into it for the better part of an hour.

Read more... )
shanmonster: (Tiger claw)
This Saturday, I'm participating in a crazy fitness event--the Pink O Course--which includes a 10-km run followed by an obstacle course. I've never run a 10-km course before. I hope I'm up to it.

I'm also hoping to raise at least $200 for a charity which helps young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I know how scary a cancer diagnosis is. I've experienced it from both sides. I was lucky to have a kind that was removed easily (though not painlessly, no, not by a long shot). I am lucky that I can still run and climb and do shit like this.

If you can spare some money, my pledge page is here.

Drop It

Apr. 9th, 2013 11:02 pm
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
Today I'm a bit grumpy because it was cold and rainy out, and I wanted to bike, but knew if I did, I'd be absolutely drenched for my aerial silks class. My shoulder/neck has been overly tight for a while now, and my tendinitis has been tweaking for two days. I have a dance workshop with Louise Lecavalier in three days, and I don't want to have to worry about my neck and ankle slowing me down.

*cue sound of needle being scratched along a record*

Wait a minute. How about some perspective, Shan?

Three months ago, I wasn't sure I'd be able to walk on anything but level ground again without a limp. Any time my foot skidded out on a bit of ice, or I took a step with anything more than a mincing nature, it felt like someone had taken a potato peeler to the inside of my hip joint.

My hip has improved drastically. My worries from not so long ago have already dissipated.

These sore bits are nowhere near as scary as the hip issue was. I'm hoping a tune-up with an RMT tomorrow will do the trick.

In the meantime, here's something I did today, which my hip would NOT have allowed me to do even a month ago. )

Sacked

Feb. 15th, 2013 02:30 pm
shanmonster: (Zombie ShanMonster)
Because of the nature of my hip injury, my sports doctor is strongly cautioning me against participating in the Toronto GoRuck Challenge on June 22. It's too long/intense, and I run a strong risk of permanent injury to my hip. I'm pretty disappointed, but I value my continued ability to walk, so I'm bowing out.

Does anyone want to take my place in the event? It's a 12-hour event.
shanmonster: (On the stairs)
My hip is improving. As long as I play by its rules, it's been forgiving, and today, for the first time since the issue started up over a month ago, I was able to do pistol squats on that side without any issue. Yay! I'm hoping it will let me start running and jumping soon, too. So far, not going to do it, though. I tried doing mountain climbers a few days ago, and just 20 in, my hip said, "NO." Ok, then.

I'm also able to carry things around for prolonged distances again without my hip freaking out, so yesterday, I brought four bricks into the house and washed them off. Sounds pretty random, I know, but they're going to be my self-inflicted handicap for several months as I train up for the Goruck Challenge in June. I'm intimidated as hell. Those bricks are heavy, hard, heavy, unwieldy, and heavy. Did I mention they're heavy?

My physiotherapist told me I'm doing all the right things, and shouldn't bother going back to see him unless I regress, so hooray for that! He's not ruling out the cracked cartilage idea, but, based on the spiral nature of the way my hip catches, thinks it may actually be a ligament issue.

Since running and jumping are bad ideas at the moment, I've been doing pull-ups for every workout where running/jumping is prescribed. I feel like those are coming along pretty well. My endurance is improving, and my strength is starting to improve, too.

I'm a full-time student again, somehow, though not through any particular school. I'm registered for seven different courses:
  • CrossFit (I totally include this. Consider it my major.)
  • Aerial silks
  • Classical voice
  • Audio design
  • Fantasy/Science Fiction Literature
  • China painting
  • Acrylic painting


On top of that, I'm working on various projects, and playing in two tabletop RPGs and one LARP. And doing housework. Good lord, my life is full.

Here are a couple of pictures of things I did today: )

And now to get some prep work done for painting class tonight, and to do some more reading for my lit class.

Seriously?

Jan. 11th, 2013 10:57 am
shanmonster: (Zombie ShanMonster)
So yeah. Finally recovered from the surgery on my leg. Slowly recovering from asthma issues brought on by a seasonal cold. My hip has been a bit wonky for a while, so I went in to get some massage work done on it, thinking something was just a bit twisted around inside and needed a bit of work.

And that's when I get told it's likely I have a degenerative issue that caused tearing in my hip labrum.

I'm going in for a second opinion next week, but after reviewing a bunch of sites on the issue last night, yes, it sure does look like I'm a classic case.

For starters, nothing that puts my hip/leg through large motions for a month. Even walking and sitting down sets it off, occasionally. So that (nonrefundable) aerial silks class I just started up again last week? Gone. CrossFit WoDs? (Though I should still be able to do some exercises at their open gym.) LARPing? Well, I can only be a noncombatant, because I mustn't run. I'm registered for a physically-intense dance workshop with Louise Lecavalier in the spring. I'm registered for Goruck in June (nonrefundable), but depending on how bad my hip is, participating could be a terrible idea.

If this is indeed what is wrong with me, rest might let it heal. If not, I may require surgery to smooth out the cartilage. If the surgery goes well, I should be able to eventually return to my previous levels of activity. Reading up, it seems the recovery time from surgery for athletes to start training again is about three months.

I have a job interview today to lead a fitness class...a class I may not physically be able to teach. Argh.

Well, rather than get completely bummed out, I want to come up with a list of exercises I should be able to do without putting strain on my injured hip. If you have any to add, please share, because there's only so many planks and wall sits I can do without getting sick of them. I appreciate any challenging exercises you can add to this list.

List of Exercises )

Challenges

Dec. 21st, 2012 12:40 pm
shanmonster: (Purple mohawk)
In case you've been wondering what's with all the poetry entries lately, I've taken on another challenge: a poem a day for 66 days. I expect the stuff to be of varying quality, but I'm looking forward to the creative brain flexing.

In the meantime, my 100-day squat challenge is still a go. I missed a few weeks of the challenge due to leg surgery, so once I was healed I decided to do 100 squats a day until I was all caught up. I lost track, and out of a strange sort of laziness, I decided to just continue doing 100 squats a day for the rest of the challenge. I might just continue doing 100 squats a day when it's done. I think it's great for my general strength and flexibility, and really, I don't find body weight squats taxing. They're also making my pistol squats much easier....

Wait wait wait, you may say. Surgery?

Yeah.

About two years ago, I noticed a new mole a few inches above one of my ankles. A bit paranoid, I asked my doctor about it. He took a look at it and told me not to worry. He said it was just a mole. A year later, I asked him about it again. He once again told me not to worry. I didn't like the look of it, though. It didn't feel the same as any other mole I have. It felt slightly dry, and the edges weren't smooth. So I asked him to excise it. I could tell he thought I was being a hypochondriac, but he agreed to remove it with a punch biopsy. I've had a mole removed before (from my back). It wasn't a huge deal. It barely hurt.

This time, it hurt like fuck. The freezing needle must have gone right into a major nerve cluster, because I gave a good yell. Once the freezing set in, it was fine, though, and the punch biopsy didn't hurt at all. The doctor assured me that it should be healed up in less than a week.

It didn't heal for months. It never even got a scab. I had to keep it clean, moisturized, and bandaged all the time. I stopped doing aerial silks because the wound is in exactly the right place to be constantly re-injured by leg wraps, which are an integral part of aerial silks.

About a week before I was scheduled to leave for Peru the doctor called me. It wasn't just a mole. It was a basal cell carcinoma.

Fan-fucking-tastic. Cancer time. Luckily for me, this is an extremely-slow-moving cancer. An appointment was made for me to go in for surgery to have it removed. As you can imagine, I was pretty freaked out and filled with a plethora of what-ifs.

On the scheduled day, I ran to the dermatologist's office. I knew it would be my last time running for a while, so I made the most of it. I got to the office and laid down on the gurney, sock off and pant leg pulled up. The doctor prepared the freezing needle, and I prepared myself for the suck. This time, however, the needle wasn't that bad.

The freezing worked pretty well, but not enough. On the surface, the cutting was fine, but he had to gouge in deeper. He cut out a piece of me about the size of an almond, and it hurt like fuck. You know how it feels when you hit your funny bone? Well, I figure his scalpel hit the nerve cluster that first freezing needle hit, because all of a sudden, I was hit by the funny bone sensation if it were made of sheer pain. I yelled. I jerked. I tried not to, but I couldn't help it. I felt a wave of nausea and faintness. He apologized, but then it was over.

He plopped the excised flesh onto the table next to me. It looked like a little piece of raw chicken. Such a small bit for such a big pain.

He stitched me up. It took a double row of stitches, and I looked down at the site, aghast. It protruded like Frankenstein's monster making duckface lips. He told me that because of the location, the stitches would be under a lot of tension. I was therefore not to run, jump, or anything else which would increase the tension for fear that my skin would rip. Walking was ok, though.

I nodded. I felt faint. I called a cab and went home. For the next two days, I sat on my ass. It hurt too much to walk more than a few steps. I hoped and hoped that the surgery was sufficient, and that it had gotten all of that skin cancer out of me. I didn't want to go in for more excision. What if they had to dig it out of me with some sort of doctor shovel?

The stitches healed wonderfully. The wound no longer stuck out, but the skin had relaxed and settled back into shape. When I had the stitches taken out a week and a half later, I went right back to training. I'd lost a bit of stamina, but it was good to be back.

A couple of days later, I was all set to go training again when I was hit by a wave of nausea which I just couldn't shake. So I went home.

The next day, I clued in to why I felt nauseated. The wound had become infected once the stitches were pulled out. What had looked completely neat and tidy suddenly looked like an infected zombie bite. I went to the doctor, and he was afraid I had cellulitis. This scared the crap out of me. [livejournal.com profile] knightky had that last year, and it was BAD. I was put on antibiotics and told that if the infection spread, to go to emergency right away.

I was lucky. The antibiotics worked, and the infection didn't spread at all.

And guess what? The excision worked. It got all of the carcinoma. I have a clean bill of health.

Take that, cancer. To celebrate, I'm living my life as fully as I can. Celebrate with me?

April 2017

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