2 Herniated Discs: 5 Lessons a Year Later

“Fuck.  This sucks.”

A year later, I can recall saying this like it was yesterday.

Alone.  Naked with a bathroom towel around my waist.  Shaving cream on my face.

As I laid on my bedroom floor, breathing heavier and heavier, I knew something was wrong – more importantly, something was not right.  Shooting and excruciating pain resonated down my left leg.  Pain – originating in my lower back spread like wildfire down my left glute, hamstring, and calf – made EVERYTHING impossible.

Sitting in a chair?  Nope.  Walking?  Nope.  Standing in front of a mirror in order to shave?  Nope

Well, everything with the exception of laying in bed and watching ‘The Office’  (Michael Scott, what a guy).

This was day number 3 of these symptoms and I knew I had to seek medical treatment.  Once I decided to go to the hospital, it became a logistical nightmare.  Getting dressed.  Putting on my shoes.  Oh, and I had to remove the shaving cream, too.  The worst part of getting myself to the hospital?  My vehicle is a 6-speed manual transmission.  Now, I consider myself a spiritual man, but without question, I saw Jesus and Buddha each and every time I shifted gears.  Traffic lights that were red, that is when I saw the Devil.  I may have made it 3 miles before I stopped my car, and lowered the seat long enough to allow the spasming muscles to calm long enough so I could make it to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, my vitals were taken and I was ushered back to the Emergency Room.  “On a Scale of 1 – 10, how is your pain, Sir?”  Naturally, what is this relative to so I ask, “10 – what’s an example of a 10?”  Nurse, “Giving childbirth.”  Despite the endless pain I still mustered a bit of wit, “Based on my vast experience of childbirth – it’s an 11…[the nurse didn’t look happy]…but seriously, an 8.”

The nurse would have the last laugh as she had me stand and perform several poses (it felt like a god damn yoga routine) for x-rays.  After wanting to collapse on the floor like a sandbag, the Dr. came in to give me his analysis.  “Mr. Jones, it appears that you may have herniated a disc,”  [no shit]  “and I will go ahead a prescribe you some painkillers and you’ll need to follow up with your primary care provider.”

The days and weeks that followed, it took me nearly a month to ‘feel’ remotely better.  I rapidly lost weight due to a combination of the narcotics and the pain.  Once the pain subsided, stomach ulcers formed due to the medication and lack of food in my digestive tract.  Win-win.

How did you hurt your back?

Simply put, there is no one true causal factor.  The only people who injure their backs in one secular event are ones involved in a traumatic accident.  For me, a collection of factors compounded the symptoms from a ‘tweak’ to herniated discs.  In no particular order, these include:

  • Golf (asymmetric loading at its finest, i.e., Tiger Woods),
  • Running (years later, I now understand why one leg hurt more than the other),
  • EXTENDED hours of sitting at a computer desk,
  • Minor Back ‘tweak’,
  • Stress,
  • Weight gain (can’t train [what is life?] + can’t move+ stress = might as well eat),
  • Weightlifting form (once you’re on a slope of shitty movement patterns, adding weight is not advised to said shitty movement patterns).

One particular afternoon, 365 pounds squat for a set of 5 sent a shooting pain down my back.  I knew something was wrong.  At the time in my training, I was avoiding the deadlift because of symptomatic sciatica in my left leg.  Huge mistake.  Instead of strengthening my back, I avoided it.

The above bullet points were the dynamite and the lighting of the fuse occurred when I bent over to pick up a barbell with a flexed, unbraced spine and then – boom.  Herniation of the L5/S1 disc.  Herniation of the L4/L5 disc.  Basically, a pair of jelly donuts leaked their contents and this jelly placed pressure on nerves that triggered pain.  A lot of pain.  But damn, I do love me some donuts.

What have I learned?

Well, it has been a year since I was in the hospital for the back injury.  Here are 5 things herniating a couple of discs in my back have taught me:

1.   Recovery (without surgery) is an on-going process.

I had to deconstruct the whole model – everything.  Once pain symptoms were removed from the injury, the real work began to deconstruct the casual factors that made the discs herniate originally.  I’ll tell you what will not correct postural alignment – creating a bench press that far exceeds what your body can structurally squat or deadlift.  Benching 290 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps is cool and all but not when you cannot bend over and pick up 135 lbs without shooting pain.

2.  Hinge, squat, flexion, and extension – oh my!

I will not forget the first time I put my spine in slight extension in order to maintain a ‘neutral’ spine for single arm barbell rows [hey, have to start somewhere] – my SI joint popped into place.  In the last 6 months, I can not begin to tell you how much my body has adjusted and realigned stemming from postural issues since 2015.

The very movements commonly believed that are ‘bad’ for your back are the exact movements required to make your back better.  Squat.  Deadlift.  Progressive, incremental loading.  Sandbag movements.  Lower back tight?  Take a 120 lbs. sandbag for a walk.  I GUARANTEE your back will thank you.

Quick test – bend over and touch your toes.  Can’t do it?  Fix yourself.  Another test – sit in the bottom of a squat for 10 minutes.  Can’t do it?  Fix yourself.

3.  The best kind of fitness is one in which you remain consistent.

If you discuss fitness, a sensitive topic for many which serve as an extension of their identity.  CrossFit.  Powerlifting.  Strongman.  Bodybuilding.  MMA.  BJJ.  Yoga.  Running.  Triathlon.  Pilates.

Ultimately, who. fucking. cares.  Live a healthy life.  If your vitals and blood work comes back a hot mess, something is wrong – you are not fit regardless of the medium of fitness in which you choose to practice.

The one that works for you is one that you implement and remain consistent with each day and improve upon each day, too.

Hypertrophy gains in order to bring out your delts?  Fuck yeah – do you.

Another fahve pounds for 3 sets of fahve on your linear progression?  Fuck yeah – do you.

Editor’s Note:  The sole ‘fuck no’ is reserved for those who sell Ponzi schemed juices and cleansers – you’re the absolute worst.

4.  The ghost of yesterday haunts you for as long as you choose.

I once competed in an NPC Men’s Physique Show.  I once ran 26.2 miles.  After the injury, I looked more like the Michelin Man [an anterior pelvic tilt does wonders for your abs] and I could barely walk from my car to work.

I was defeated.  Defeated by the comparision of who I was in that moment against who I was in years prior.  During the rehabilitation process of physically deconstructing everything, I too had to deconstruct the expectations I placed upon myself.

The greater the expectation, the greater I grew unsatisfied with the day’s small win.  I ran 1.0 mile today – still slow as fuck.  I deadlifted 225 lbs pain free – still weak as fuck.  This iterative loop played over.  And over.  And over.

Of all places, the loop stopped while at a yoga class.  Standing half naked in black, Nike shorts with my Michelin Man physique – I stared myself in the mirror.  And then I chuckled and smiled.  I could do a hot yoga pose before with minimal effort, but now, I was all over the damn place.  All I could do was just laugh.  At that moment, I accepted who and what I became and ultimately where I was at on that day.  Yoga is a practice in which you, your mind, and body serve as a vessel for your interpretation of that pose on that given day.  My vessel resembled a tugboat on that day but damn it, it was a glorious tugboat at that, too.

5.  I am not dead.

Read that again.  I am not dead.  Fitness hurts.  A lot.  I ‘feel’ like I could hurt myself again.  Well, so be it.  More people get hurt by inactivity than actual activity.  And the time to get stronger, bigger, and faster is now.  As you read this, I hope you eliminate any and all excuse as to why you did not get to the gym.

The only thing worse than being unable to physically go to the gym is mentally choosing not to go when you’re physically able.

And so, in that vein, today, you’ll find me at the gym squatting, benching, and doing a couple of 800m sprints.

 

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Living Single Part 2: Seeking Solace in Solitude

Living Single is a 4-part series outlining my encounters and revelations as a newly-single, aspiring Renaissance Nerd.  If you missed the first post, check it out by clicking here.

Single Living is a dark, scary place.

For extroverts, solitude can be terrifying.  We are a needy bunch, often relying on the company and approval of others for personal fulfillment (ask me how I know).  Alternatively, introverts may savor alone-time, but fail to utilize the opportunity for reflection and self-improvement, often finding themselves squandering months or years of their lives in a lateral pattern.

A common intersection between both personality types is our collective struggle to take advantage of isolation as an opportunity for reflection and enhancement. The path to loving oneself requires utilization of this valuable time to identify personal flaws, set life goals, and address general areas of personal development that are essential to being comfortable in your own skin.  Six months ago:

I hated being alone.  

I hated being newly single in my early 30’s.

Most of my closest friends were chugging along on Breeder Boulevard (Breeder: my pejorative term for those choosing to live the “normal” life and settling down, getting married, and procreating), and I no longer had the luxury of leaning on others to fill every free moment of my time. I had reached a fork in my road, and was faced with the decision to simply skim along life’s waters, or to carve an entirely new path, exploiting my free time to focus on cultivating my inner Renaissance Nerd.  

Below are five essential principles that I have discovered during my “alone-time”:

  1. Work Your Ass Off

My apologies Tim Ferriss, but the 4-Hour Workweek just isn’t for me (quite yet…).  Working your ass off provides a plethora of benefits to goal-oriented singles. Focusing on your work not only fills time in your day, but has the added benefit of career enhancement, sense of accomplishment, and MAKING MONEY, which is an essential factor to a successful life.  The key to managing this goal is that you work hard while maintaining a healthy work/life balance during your journey.  Additionally, making money is KEY, but keep it in perspective and don’t let the Green own you…. Remember that whole thing about stuffing a camel through the eye of a needle? (that was a Bible reference heathens…)

  1. Stop Being a Fatso
sp

Typical Wal~Mart

Holy f*ck.  Body Shaming Alert. Someone call the PC Police.

Listen – I’m a big dude.  

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life.  If you are able to live a happy life with a spare tire around your midsection, more power to you.  However, if most of us are honest with ourselves, losing weight must be among our highest priorities in seeking positive physical and mental health.  We are a culture of fatsos, sheltered by social media warriors and political correctness.  Hit the brakes, remove the Twinkie from your gullet, and start working on a plan to address the elephant in the room. Being in shape feels good, looks good, and is more attractive to the opposite sex.  Oh, and as a bonus, you will actually live longer!

  1. Dump The Drinks

Here’s a factoid:  alcohol (in volume) is a DEPRESSANT… as in, it DEPRESSES you.  

Sure, it feels good to drink away your sorrows, opens up your vibrant personality, etc… But overall, it is unhealthy and contains all kinds of calories that you do not need right now while focusing on your physical and mental health.  

Looking for a compromise?  

Contain your drinking to once per week, typically Friday or Saturday night.  Try it out.  You can do it.  I’m willing to bet that after a few months, you will thank me for the pointer.  Freeing yourself from booze is rewarding, and will help you to focus on accomplishing your goals on a much more rapid trajectory.  I promise.

  1. Stop Giving a Shit What People Think

This concept is more challenging for some than others.  For me, this step (more like “leap”) was huge factor in my personal growth.  Just. Be. You.  

To aid with this exercise, pick up a copy of “Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhiani.  In this New York Times Bestseller, the author discusses “Brules” (Bullshit Rules) of life, and how to free oneself from falling into a pattern of complacency and conforming to the norm.  

There is only one “you”, and nobody knows “you” better than YOU.  Stop being a vanilla pile of mush.

Just. Be. You. 

  1. Stop Playing in the Dark

6 months in to this exercise and I have learned to love and cherish “alone-time”.

There will be lows.  There will be highs.

But… Stay the course, you’ve got this!

Work on a strategy that utilizes your moments of solitude for reflection and personal advancement, and implement the strategy to improve your life.  You do not (I repeat DO NOT) need anyone else in your life to “complete you”.  Only when you are capable of total fulfillment on your own should you consider bringing someone else into your crazy life. Chill out on dating and focus on you.

fun

F*ck.  Yes.

Our time here is short.  Stop playing (with yourself) in the dark.  There is a giant world around you waiting to be conquered.  Soak up some books.  Listen to music which inspires you.  Step out of your comfort zone and try new and exciting things. Live out the life of a “Renaissance” man/woman.  

Continuously set new goals and chase them CONSTANTLY.

Once you find the light, others will find you…

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

Next in our 4 part series of Living Single – Getting Your Shit Straight.  

Stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Rick

5 Ways to Dump a Friend: WWE Style

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

-Jim Rohn

This quote, or some variant of, makes its way around social media – ALL THE F*CKING TIME.  Yeah, me and my friends are the coolest.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Well, but that one guy though…

Now, what do you do about that one guy who is no longer up to par?

Do you have a friend who needs to get lost?

Thankfully, WWE has given us timeless examples of how to dump that friend of yours who is (only) a B+ (at best) player.  You’re moving up.  You’re moving on.

Here are 5 Ways to Dump a Friend:  WWE Style.

1. Put them through a barbershop window

Everyone has a friend like Marty Jannety.  He’s just, well, boring. You pity him (especially if he has a sweet mullet, too).  His vanilla does not mix with your rocky road.

Well, you and your friend just may find yourselves in a barbershop and when you do, it is time to cut bait, and ditch your friend.  “Sorry, bro – it’s not me.  It’s you”  (He’ll leave in such shame and disgrace, that he’ll find his way out through the window.  Sidenote:  never get your hair cut from a barber if he looks like this or this.  Run.).

2.  A chair to the back of the spine

You’re the chosen one.  You’re the rightful heir to the future and present.  You find yourself in the predicament that you need to eliminate two friends at the same time.  The weaponry simply acts to neutralize the numbers advantage.

3.  Your Title/Trophy to their Face

Is your friend jealous and envious of you and your standing with your significant other?

Is your friend jealous of well – you.

Don’t take their two-face, prayer saying, vitamin eating, hard training  ways.  They’ll attempt to move-in and steal your thunder (and your girl).  Thankfully, your (Madness) ways will take matters into your own hands and your championship will find a new home -their face.

4.  Tear apart their belongings

Is your friend avoiding you at all costs?  Do they like to ghost your invitations?  “Hey man, I want a shot at the title.”  Friend:  (silence).  Bring in a new friend (his replacement) to serve as a manager and talking piece.  When you’re the 8th Wonder of the World, you do not need to talk any more than you are required.  After your new friend says what he needs, just rip off their shirt.  Your sheer intensity will cause their respective religious medallion to rip off in the process, too.  Sorry man – you should have just texted me back.

5.  Put Their Face on TV

Does your friend blatantly lie?  Do not tolerate their poor morals and character.  You can do better.  Once their head goes through a television, your message will come across loud and clear:  you are moving on.

 

Busy? You’re Not Busy – You’re Lazy

“Hey – how are you doing today?”

“Busy.”

Holy.  Sh*t.  If the next person responds to the question, “How are you doing today?” with, “Busy” I will lose my mind.

Last week within just a few hours, nearly a dozen people mindlessly recited to me that they were busy.  The hell does this even mean anymore?

Everyone is ‘busy.’  Congratulations, you’re just like everyone else in the world.

Everyone has 34,003 things on their plate.  Some more ‘important’ than others.  However, when has this word becomes a badge of honor, who is really ‘busy’ and who is just really ‘lazy?’

We’re not busy.  We are distracted.  Distracted by the notifications, the bells, and the whistles of modern conveniences and autonomy.  Thanks group text message notification, you’re killing me.

Anyways, here are four tips to become less ‘busy:’

  1. Establish the day’s priority.

Competing priorities?  Once everything becomes the priority, nothing is the priority.  When something is essential, it is a thing (not several or multiple things) that is absolutely necessary.  You can rob Peter to pay Paul, or you can tell Paul to f*ck off until you are able to pay him in full.  Congratulations Peter, you have been spared on this day.

2. No one cares.

Spare another the tale your tale of woe with your ‘busy’ day.  No one cares about your ‘Lifetime Story’ where you are you nominated for Best Actor/Actress in the leading role of the victim.  When someone asks if you are busy – smile, and say your day is going well.  More importantly, ask how their day is going.  95% chance their day is ‘busy.’

3.  Own your ‘To-Do’ List

Yeah – your boss, your sister, your blah blah blah just dumped stuff on you.  Own it.  Figure out how to get the sh*t done and don’t place the onerous on another – place it on yourself.

4.  Get off social media, email, television, and turn off notifications.

Simply detox from these’outlets’ which do not serve your purpose of No. 1.  If you’re REALLY busy but you have plenty of time to tell someone about the latest viral video from YouTube or you take endless ‘Personality’ quizzes on Facebook – this just in you’re not f*cking busy.  Also, it is quite okay to cheat on your iPhone or Galaxy with a book.  Also, turn off ALL notifications on your phone.  No one, yourself included, needs to be tethered to your device every 73 seconds in which a ‘bing’ goes off.

If you’d like to turn in your badge of honor called ‘busy,’ the world will thank you for it.  At the least, the person who asks how your day is going will be grateful.

 

 

11 Essential Ingredients for the Perfect Brunch

Brunch without alcohol is just a depressing breakfast.  

-Abraham Lincoln

 

Wise words Honest Abe.

Well, what makes brunch the ‘perfect brunch?’   If you must ask, the following ingredients will get you on your way.

  1. Mimosas

    Add vodka.  Is it a ‘screw driver’ with champagne?  Is it a mimosa with vodka?  Who knows.  Who cares.  Thank me later.

  2. Bacon

    Sorry Vegans.  Sorry 3 Little Pigs.  This is a must.  And a lot of bacon too.

  3. Bloody Marys

    Rim the glass with Old Bay, add everything else in your kitchen and some vodka.  Stir with a stick of celery.  Look classy AF.

  4. Coffee

    A solid  pick me up in between those Mimosas and Bloodies and helps with last evening’s activities.

  5. Eggs Benedict

    Second to bacon.  Calories do not count and are not observed during the hours of  Brunch.

  6. Awesome Fu*king Friends

    If you do not have awesome fu*king friends, keep drinking No. 1 and No. 3 until your friends or company becomes fu*cking awesome.

  7. Mimosas

    In the event No. 1 was dismissed or skipped, here is a reminder.

  8. 90s Rap

    Perhaps you prefer something else?  Nickelback?  Creed?  No.  Not at brunch.  Blast Biggie and enjoy some nostalgia rhymes with your mimosa.  Here is a brief playlist:

    1. Notorious BIG – Big Poppa
    2. Warren G – Regulate
    3. Notorious BIG – Juicy
    4. Luniz – I Got 5 On It
    5. Notorious BIG – Hypnotize
    6. Notorious BIG – Mo Money Mo Problems
    7. Warren G – Regulate
    8. Tupac – California Love
    9. Snoop Dogg – Gin & Juice
  9. Soul Food

    Biscuits & Gravy.  Chicken & Waffles.  Grits.  Yes.  Yes. And yes.

  10. Lunch (I guess?)

    Lunch on the menu is like the red-headed step-child of the family portrait.  Sure, it’s part of the family but it really sticks out.

  11. Sunglasses & Advil

    You’ll need these for the following morning.  Trust me.

 

What did I miss?

9 Books of 2016 Every Leader Must Read

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

-Harry S. Truman

I firmly believe in this quote by HST.

As a leader, ‘self-development’ is not intended for you.  Self development is for the people who look to you for guidance.  Those of whom you lead, deserve your absolute best in every capacity – morally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

This not only refines your ability to lead, but, most importantly, your ability to serve those whom you lead.

These 9 books, all released in 2016, will make you, not only a better leader, but a better person.  Accompanying each recommendation is a video (a little ‘hack’ to save you the time) which highlights the main takeaway of each work.

Each work will challenge you.  They will challenge your perspective.  They will challenge your past.

They will force you to reflect.  Reflect on your experiences.  Your successes.  Your failures.  Your shortcomings.  Your victories.  These books will make your 2017 better than your 2016.

Let me know your thoughts, and any recommendations you have in the comments below.

Enjoy!

Ego is the Enemy

Tribe

When Breath Becomes Air

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Deep Work

Originals

Peak

Grit

Code of the Extraordinary Mind