Stretching Aches & Pains

Well, good and bad news tonight.
The good news is, I am finally feeling healthy enough to start stretching again. My cold is finally passing, I feel practically back to normal except for the occasional sneezing and runny nose.
The bad news is, tonight, stretching for the first time in 3 days, I really messed up my knee and re-aggravated my hamstrings.

I know I mentioned a little while ago that I had started to develop some soreness in my upper hamstrings and the break from stretching caused by my cold was probably a good thing. And it was. The soreness in my upper hamstrings had basically gone away by today. But stretching tonight, I guess I pushed them too far and now they feel worse.

I always have this problem. I have a real difficulty telling the difference between good stretching pain and bad stretching pain. I know what it feels like to stretch a muscle, but I have a hard time telling how far is too far.

And things were feeling pretty good tonight until I got to my single leg stretches, and I don’t know. It didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard or too fast, but by the time the stretch was over, my upper hamstrings hurts a lot.

I always seem to be prone to injuries in that area: where your hamstrings connect to your pelvis. I’ve hurt myself there before. Luckily, this is a minor irritation, and rest and gentle stretching should solve the problem.

I think tomorrow I’ll try stretching my hamstrings to see how they feel. I might have to take another break, but they might feel good enough to get a little stretching in. We’ll see.

I’ve basically decided, after irritating my hamstrings like this and doing some reading, that I need to completely revamp my stretching routine. I really think I need to quit focusing on the intense stretches, quit focusing on my ultimate flexibility goals, quit focusing on “making progress,”, and just stretch. Really gentle and slow stretches. And certain stretches for me are a lot easier to perform without over stretching or hurting myself, and I think I need to focus on those stretches more.

I think I need to cut back on the amount of time I’m holding some stretches. With some stretches, like the ones I’m very comfortable with and have a lot of control over, the current time is okay. You know, I can hold my frog stretch for 5 minutes because it doesn’t hurt and I have a lot of control over the intensity of the stretch. But others, like my single leg hamstring stretches, I just find it too easy to push to the point of injury. I don’t know. I’ll work something out.

Anyways, I know I said I screwed up my knee, and I did. I was doing a modified stretch for the splits, which seemed like a good idea in my head, but it was hell on my left knee. The problem was, I knew I was going to hurt my knee, but I was so determined to hold the stretch for the determined amount of time, that I just ignored the pain and wound up really screwing up my knee.

Basically what happened was too much pressure was put on one of the ligaments or tendons surrounding my knee, stretching it when it didn’t want to be stretched. And judging from the way my knee feels right now, I’ve probably got a deep tissue bruise too.

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve had this injury before (also caused by splits stretching) so I know how to treat it. The bad thing is, it’s going to take a really long time for my knee to get back to normal.

I have horrible knees. I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of genetics and chronic weakness. They get injured very easily and become painful if they stay bent for too long. Like yesterday, after sitting through the Hobbit movie, I practically had to hobble out of the movie theater, my knees hurt so bad from being in the sitting position. Really the only remedy to fix this problem is to strengthen my knees.

So basically, I’m going to avoid, as much as possible, putting pressure on my injuries knee. Hopefully in a couple of weeks the bruise will surface and fade and once I get back to Columbus, I can work on getting stronger and my knees will stop having so many problems.

These injuries are irritating, mostly because they’re my own fault because once again I failed to listen to what my body was telling me. I think this is another reason I’ve had such difficulty with flexibility, I always wind up pushing too far too fast and hurting myself and setting myself back. But no more!! It’s time I started listening to the signals my body is giving me so I can prevent this kind of stuff from happening again.

Life can be frustrating, can it not??
Good night.

An Inside Look into a Smoker’s Brain

Well I feel like absolute crap tonight. Last night I started coming down with what I thought was a smoker’s cold. Sometimes when you quit smoking (or in my case, reduce smoking so much you might as well quit) you develop these cold-like symptoms that are a by-product of your body clearing out all the crap in your respiratory system. Well, I thought I was coming down with that last night, but today, I just feel yucky. I’ve got a runny nose and a stopped up head/headache along with a sore throat and nausea from all the drainage I’ve been having.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of my symptoms are related to a smoker’s cold, but I feel like it’s something else as well. Either I’ve got a touch of a real cold or I’ve just been suddenly hit with a bout of winter allergies. I think it might be allergies because I’ve been sneezing a ton, and I don’t ever recall having a cold that makes me sneeze this much.

Well, because of this lovely whatever I’ve come done with, I’ve been thinking a lot about my smoking and whether I should put quitting down as one of my new year’s resolutions. I don’t know. I feel really conflicted about it.

On the one hand, I’ve been getting really pumped about going back to Columbus so I can start going to the gym and getting in shape. I really want to be healthy this upcoming year. And I know getting healthy would be a whole lot easier if I quit smoking. But the addict in me is throwing up a major protest. It’s not so much the physical withdrawal symptoms I’m worried about, those are easy to beat. I’ve done it before. It’s the psychological addiction that’s so hard for me to beat.

If you’re not a smoker, it’s probably a little difficult for you to comprehend the strength of this addiction. Why can’t you just quit?? Why is it so hard psychologically to quit?? Those are silly nonsmoker questions. To a nonsmoker, the problem seems easy, just quit. It’s the best decision with the best outcome. But it just doesn’t work like that.

I don’t know. Part of it is because I haven’t hit “rock bottom” yet. That may sound a little confusing in regards to smoking. Smoking generally won’t destroy your life the way a “serious” drug addiction will. But I’ve found, in my own experience and watching others, whenever someone is abusing a substance or is addicted to something, they will never have the proper motivation to quit until they hit “rock bottom,” that is when the hate of the addiction finally overcomes the love.

I’m pretty sure any addict will tell you their addiction is a love/hate relationship. And it really is; it is for me as well. I mean, I love smoking. I love the taste of tobacco, I love the way it makes me feel, I even love the smell. But I also hate it too. I hate the way I can’t sit through a movie without needing a cigarette, I hate having to go out in the cold and rain to smoke, I hate how it makes me out of breath. But right now, I haven’t hit my rock bottom. I still love smoking more than I hate it. The things that I hate about smoking are still seen in my brain as more minor inconveniences than reasons to quit. It’s definitely a battle.

So I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll tell you right now, the smoking will probably win. Even if I just try to ignore the problem and the ultimate decision, I’ve still made a decision. And that’s probably what will happen. I want to be healthy but I want to smoke more. I’m an addict with an addictive personality. If I give up smoking, I’ll probably just fill the void with something else.

I did consider the option of trying to cut back, since I know I don’t really want to quit completely. But the problem is, I already feel like I don’t smoke that much. This past semester, I think I smoked 5-6 cigarettes a day, maybe 7 if I was super stressed. I look at that compared to the “stereotypical smoker” who smokes a half a pack or more a day, and I think I’m doing okay. I realize this is probably just a way to rationalize my addiction with myself, but I still think the thought has merit.

And you know, I did read some studies that said exercise can mitigate some of the risks smoking creates, even if it doesn’t completely negate smoking’s harmful effects.

Can I go off on a tangent here for a second and risk sounding really stupid??
I wonder about the supposed risks of smoking. I’m not an idiot, I know smoking’s bad for you. But I oftentimes wonder if the dangers are hyped up a lot?? I mean, tobacco has been used for thousands of years. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you, but still. I’ve read some opinion pieces that show smoking may not be quite as bad as “they” say it is.

I looked at one study that supposedly showed how smoking negatively effected a person’s ability to exercise. They had the people in the study smoke 3 cigarettes an hour for 5 hours before making them do some cardio!! And then said that smoking negatively affected exercises ability. Well, duh. You nonsmokers out there realize that they made these participants smoke 15 cigarettes, 3/4 of a pack, in less than a normal work’s day. That’s not really “stereotypical” smoking nor is it a good indication of how light to moderate smoking impacts exercise. In a period of 5 hours, I smoke 1-2 cigarettes, and that’s a big difference from 15.

I don’t know if you’re seeing my argument here. Just that maybe everything we’ve been reading is hyped up or based on experiments like the one I mentioned above that only account for extremely heavy smoking. I’ve found when I’ve looked into the subject, not many studies have been done on light to moderate smokers like me.

Don’t get me wrong. I know smoking is still bad for you. But it makes you wonder you know?? You can’t always believe everything you read.

Call me crazy. Call me stupid. Call me an addict. Call me whatever. That’s just what I think. Maybe it’s just rationalization or maybe there’s a kernel of truth there. If you’re curious and want to read a slightly more informed essay on the topic, this guy’s website has a really good essay. I don’t know, google it sometime.

But that’s my rant/thinking out loud for tonight. I’ll probably have a cup of hot tea before I go to bed to try and soothe my throat a little bit. Ugh and I have to get up early tomorrow to go to church and play my oboe in the orchestra. Ugh.

Sorry if you we’re expecting a synopsis of my family gathering today. There wasn’t much to report and I found this subject to be more interesting.

Good night my lovely readers.

Foam Rolling through School

So tonight I decided to break out my foam roller before and after stretching to see if it helped any.

I don’t know if it helped my flexibility immediately, but it did make my muscles feel good. I think in the long run, the foam roller could have a positive impact on my flexibility.

Of course, that’s why I bought it in the first place. In my quest to become more flexible, I have often sought to understand the scientific side of flexibility and stretching. I came across the concept of myofascial release as a technique for increasing flexibility, and a foam roller is the best way to achieve that relaxation.

In case you’re wondering, the concept behind myofascial release is that, it’s not actually your muscles preventing your flexibility, but the fascia that surrounds the muscles. As per my understanding, the fascia is this sort of web like structure that surrounds every muscle. A lot of times, this fascia gets “knots” in it where it becomes super dense and difficult to move. These knots are the things that prevent increases in flexibility. And a foam roller is the cheapest way to “break up” these “knots” in your muscles.

I can’t actually attest to the efficacy of this technique, because I’ve never actually stuck with it long enough to see true results, but everything I’ve read about it gives it the thumbs up. At the very least, it does provide a nice deep tissue massage for your muscles, even if it ultimately doesn’t help with flexibility.

But I do think I’m making slow progress, despite my notoriously weak core and muscle imbalances. I’ve been trying to focus more on correct posture in my front bends, which means keeping a straight back. And I think having to keep a straight back is helping strengthen it, even if ever so slightly. I feel positive about what I’m doing, and I know things will get even better once school starts back up and I can go to the gym.

I’m ready for school to start already. I’m tired of break and it’s only been about a week. It’s kind of depressing to know I’m not leaving until January 5th. I just feel like I’m stagnating at home. Not really accomplishing anything or doing anything, just vegetating on the couch. I appreciate the break from schoolwork, but I’m excited for my classes next semester. I’m ready to get started!!

Oh, and finally today, my history professor uploaded grades. I made an A- in the class!! I’m super excited because that was the one class I was really worried about. I was expecting a B at best but I made an A-!! I couldn’t be happier!!

I also managed to raise my GPA .05 points, which is exciting. I started at a 3.806 and now my GPA is a 3.855 if I remember correctly. Gotta keep working hard though so I can hit the 3.9 mark. That’s my goal. And then if I’m real ambitious, I might try for a 4.0 (I don’t even know if that’s possible since I haven’t made straight A’s from the get go).

But yeah, I don’t know if this counts, but I had a goal to at least make all A’s for one semester of college. I think I technically reached that goal this semester, even though one of the A’s has a minus attached to it. I don’t know. I guess my next goal will be to get all A’s without any minuses. Haha.

But yeah, that’s my life.
I do need to start working on my research paper I’m “writing”. I was planning on working on it over break, but so far the motivation has not struck me. I blame the TV; it’s so distracting!!

That’s why I just assume not have one. I’m so much more motivated and productive when there’s no TV to zone out in front of. I didn’t have one in my dorm last year, I don’t technically have one this year (though my roommate does, ugh), and my apartment will definitely not have one next year.

Boo on the TV!!

Nighty night y’all.

Frustrated with my Flexibility

I just have to vent about how incredibly frustrated I am with my flexibility. I see these yoga poses that I feel like I should be able to do, but when I try to do them, I just can’t. At least, I can’t do them as well as I feel I should.

Most of it boils down to chronically tight hamstrings. And I know those are a result of a weak core. It’s frustrating because without strengthening my core, all the hamstring stretches I do are basically worthless.

Not to mention my progress is just so slow. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t seem any progress, because I have, but it just can’t seem to come fast enough for my impatient mind. I suppose that’s something I must work on as well: patience.

Perhaps things will be easier once the semester starts back up and I can attend fitness classes. Then I can work on my strength and my flexibility. I just wish fitness didn’t have to be so difficult for me. And I wish there wasn’t so much waiting involved.

It’s especially frustrating for me because I look back on the range of flexibility I had when I was doing ballet, and although it did not remotely compare to the flexibility of others in my studio, it was still more than I have now. I’ve lost so much due to basically doing nothing for the past year or so.

I just wish there was some secret formula or routine that could guarantee success, but there’s not. Flexibility is such an individualized thing. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for me. And most of it hasn’t worked so far.

I know the main thing I should focus on right now is strengthening, and the flexibility will come once I’m sufficiently strong. But that’s the hard part. I don’t really mind stretching, but strengthening is a killer. I have done no muscle building exercises since I’ve been home, even though I’ve been stretching every night.

It just becomes so difficult when I get frustrated like this. It makes you just want to quit and give up. I know I won’t, because the desire to succeed overrides the desire to quit, but it still is discouraging.

Really all I can do right now is continue stretching, and when the new semester starts, actually stick to the gym schedule I’ve laid out for myself. I can’t let anything get in the way. I can’t be apathetic towards it the way I was this past semester, skipping class just because I felt like it. I have to go. I know I’ll feel better about it in the long run. I know my body will thank me.

I just wish the new semester was starting now!! Haha. I’m pumped up and ready to go. I suppose I could start exercising at home right now, but I don’t know. I’m just not that kind of person. I have to go to the gym if I want to exercise. I get too distracted at home.

That’s probably a lame excuse, but it is what it is.
Oh well, I’ll just continue stretching like I am and hope that any incremental improvements I make last until the new semester. I do feel I’m making progress on my side split, but those use slightly different muscles than what is used in a front split and forward bends, my 2 weakest areas.

Oh well, I’ll keep trying. I might get discouraged. I will get discouraged. But I’ll keep going, keep doing, and try my best. :)

Go with the flow

So I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my past history of dance on here. I’ve got a whole blog about it, I just don’t really update it anymore seeing as how I don’t dance anymore.

Anyways, a little background. I started ballet when I was about 13/14 years old, when I started high school basically. I fell in love with ballet. My senior year of high school, I went through a mini-crisis because I loved ballet so much, I wanted to make it my career. But because of the age when I started, I didn’t have the necessary training to make that feasible.

So ultimately, I decided to go to college. I took a modern dance class autumn quarter of my freshman year, but I haven’t danced since.

So that ship has sailed, but I still have the desire to dance, or to pursue something similar.

Actually, I watched the documentary First Position recently, which came out in 2011, and I realized, I don’t really have the desire to be a professional ballerina anymore. Yes, I still love ballet and enjoy watching it. Yes, I wish I could dance as well as the professionals do. Yes, I wish I would’ve started ballet earlier in life so that that dream might have been reality. But, like I said, that ship has sailed now.

But I still want to do something.

Well, I have decided only recently (really after watching that documentary), that I want that something to be yoga.

I did take some yoga classes when I was dancing, and I’ve recently resumed yoga classes as well. And I think my love for ballet has been transferred on to yoga.

See, I don’t think my love and desire to excel at ballet truly comes from a love for ballet. I think it stems from the fact that I’ve never been good at physical things. I’ve always wanted to excel at something that involves my body, purely because it is so challenging for me to do so. I am not athletically gifted, and ballet was the first physical outlet where I really felt it was possible to be good.

But I think yoga is a better option for me at this point in my life rather than dance. There’s several reasons:
1.) There are no age limits with yoga. Unfortunately, the level and amount of training I wanted with ballet is not readily available for people my age. At my old studio, I was routinely taking class with middle schoolers. While I don’t have a problem with that, yoga is still offered much more frequently at much more advanced levels for adults than ballet ever is.
2.) Yoga is cheaper (kind of). Okay, in reality, yoga is not cheaper than dance. But because I’m a college student at OSU, I can take yoga classes for free at our gym fairly regularly. If I wanted to take the same amount of classes in dance, I would have to go to an outside studio which would cost a ton of money I don’t have. Yes, if I do eventually decide to further my yoga practice, I’ll have to go to an expensive outside studio, but that won’t be for a couple of year probably.
3.) I really identify with the spiritual aspect of yoga as well, being that I’m a Buddhist and all. It resonates a lot more with me than it did back in high school.

But yeah. Those are the main reasons why I really want to devote myself to yoga. There are others, but I just can’t think of them right now. Haha. Yoga just seems like a perfect solution to all of my desires. Not to mention, I sort of have an obsession with flexibility and yoga also offers a way to better my flexibility.

So I’m super excited now. I’ve made my schedule for next semester which includes yoga 3 days a week plus 1 Pilates class. I wish I could take more, but those are the only ones that fit with my work and school schedule. But I think 3 days a week is enough. That’s a big jump compared with the 1 day a week I took this semester.

But I’m excited and committed. I know I can become great at yoga if I really devote myself to it. And I know it will really have a positive impact on my life. Not only will I get more in shape, it will also improve my mental state. I like to look at yoga as a form of Buddhist meditation. It’s very relaxing and really helps me focus. And at the end of the class, when we lay down and relax, I sometimes even like to say Buddhist chants in my head.

And it’ll hopefully help me improve my flexibility. I have always struggled to be flexible, even when I was dancing it was difficult. Luckily, yoga has about the same emphasis on flexibility that dance does. I am really determined to learn how to do the splits. It’s a goal I’ve had for years now, and I’m going to make it happen.

But yeah, I just had to share this. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of hours: as I planned my schedule and spent some time looking at yoga clothes on amazon. Haha.

Hooray for yoga!!

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