Don’t Be An Idiot, Like Me

I just laid on my side for five minutes and now the pain in my shoulder is killing me (June, 2020). Yesterday I spent ten-minutes folding laundry and afterward my back was killing me. Two months ago my shoulder was in so much pain I couldn’t move it for days. Last year my right elbow was so inflamed I couldn’t bend it for two months. Shortly after that, the same thing happened to my left elbow.

When I was young I never dreamed that this would be the state of my body by middle age. When I went to hockey practice as a youth, coaches used to tell us that if we didn’t work as hard as we possibly could we were “cheating” ourselves. And that was the same mentality my hockey heroes had. They were tough and they worked their asses off.

At age fourteen I got into weightlifting. Partly because I used to get a lot of negative comments about how skinny I was. And partly because I was told that it was important for athletes to “bulk up.” I lifted on and off for five years. I got stronger, but never actually bulked up. But then I got serious about it and packed on thirty-five pounds by doing way more sets and squeezing out every extra rep I could (plus over-eating and taking supplements). Though by that time it had nothing to do with sports.

Not long after that, a friend told me about an obscure martial art he had been practicing called, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Hardly anyone knew what it was at the time, but my friend said it was better than every other fighting system. So I started doing that. One of the positions you often find yourself in when sparring in Jiu-Jitsu is when you’re on your back in the “guard” position. It’s when you wrap your legs around your opponent’s waist. One of the ways for your opponent to get out of that position is to “stack” you, which involves him pushing your legs toward your head with his body weight. This puts a lot of pressure on your bent spine. I did that a few times per week for two years.

Shortly after that I joined the army. For three years I went on long runs and ruck sack marches, sometimes carrying up to eighty-pounds of kit, and did lots of pushups. This was in addition to my regular weight-lifting routine and playing hockey for my battalion team.

After that I went to police academy, where the long runs and pushups continued. After graduating from police academy I was posted to a community with one of the highest per capita crime rates in Canada. Tangling with drunks and drug addicts became a regular occurrence.

After a few years of that I joined the air marshal unit. This put me back into an intense training environment, where I was introduced to CrossFit, which is a program that involves Olympic weight-lifting exercises, mixed with body-weight and kettlebell exercises, done at full speed and to near exhaustion (not a good idea).

My original goal when I was young was to be a goalie in the NHL. I put everything I had into it. A lot of the pain I have now is directly linked to that activity and the rest is linked to all the weightlifting, running, fighting, etc. I thought most of the things I was doing were good for me. After-all, “no pain, no gain,” right? Not quite.

I remember one time I went to a doctor to be examined for police academy. At the time, I was already experiencing pain in my back, hips, and shoulders, off and on. The doctor asked me about the workouts I had been doing. One of the things he said was that I shouldn’t do shoulder presses—“that movement isn’t good for your shoulders,” he said. I was twenty-five at the time and had been doing the shoulder press for many years and had never heard that it should be avoided. So I shrugged off the doctor’s advice and continued doing shoulder presses for several more years. Now, at age forty-two, not only do I not do that exercise anymore, I can’t do it, because my shoulders are f___d!

So what’s the point of this long-winded, semi-rant? Do your research. Learn from different sources. That includes people you think you might disagree with.

Search for the truth in everything you do. Not what you want to be true. Not just what your heroes think is true. Not just what your parents think is true. Not just what your school teachers or coaches think is true. But what is most likely true, based on objective research. This isn’t just about health or fitness, this applies to politics, religion, science and all areas of life.

I don’t regret everything I did. But some of it should have been avoided or at least done more intelligently.

P.S. If you’re having shoulder pain, don’t lay on your sides anymore. After I wrote this post, I started sleeping flat on my back. It has made a huge difference. It makes snoring worse though.