When I started this blog, my goal was to share knowledge and self-care tips on the treatment of chronic pain and injury. Until now I have focused my discussions on deep tissue massage therapy, self-massage using foam roller therapy, corrective exercises and barefoot walking and running. Now I would like to introduce myself and tell a bit of the story about why I do what I do.
You live how you feel
The quality and fulfillment of your life is directly related to how you feel – physically and emotionally. Pain is directly related to how you move, or don’t move, each day. It is related to the fuel you feed your body, to the quality of the sleep you get each night, how much you work, how much you relax, and how much you prioritize your emotional and spiritual health.
I am on a path of personal healing. I have experienced pain for much of my life. Not long ago, I began to believe that my pain was a life sentence. Thankfully, I was confronted with a choice. I could either buy into the story that said “I will always be the victim to pain,” or I could listen to the pain, do something about it, and change the story. I chose the path of change. The focus of this path is to heal myself: my mind, my body and most importantly, my heart. I have pursued this path unconsciously from my earliest memories, and over the past couple of years it has become not only a conscious effort, but the overwhelming priority of my life.
How it all started
Like so many around me, I did not have an easy childhood. In many respects it was emotionally painful. As I grew older, emotional pain grew inside of me and manifested itself outwardly – in the way I felt, looked, acted, and in the important decisions I made. Ultimately it manifested itself as physical pain. Due to the emotional pain I carried inside, I did not have a healthy self image, and I did not treat my body with respect. I pushed my body to its limits and beyond, often leading to injuries, many of which were physically and emotionally devastating.
I have spent nearly six months in a hospital bed since the day I turned 18. When I flew over the handlebars of my motorcycle at 70+ miles an hour, it took a week of iodine whirlpool baths to clean the dirt and asphalt from my wounds, and effectively ended my college basketball career. Five surgeries on my right knee (including 2 PCL reconstructions and an ACL reconstruction) kept me hospitalized for several more months. I developed a very intimate relationship with physical pain. On a level I was addicted to it. The more physical pain I could endure, the less emotional pain I felt. Since my emotional pain was so deep, I unconsciously pursued physical pain through self destructive behaviors. Some of the other injuries I’ve had are concussions, dislocations, and sprains. By the time I turned thirty, my body was pretty jacked up physically and emotionally.
An AHA Moment
I made the decision to become a personal trainer after my second PCL reconstruction. I was in the process of being discharged from the Navy and I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. One day I found myself working out in a gym on a Naval base in San Diego – attempting to rehab my body so I could once again play basketball. In the middle of a set of dumbbell chest presses I had an “AHA” moment. I felt at home right where I was. I knew that I loved the gym and that I loved people. The idea of helping someone realize their fitness and health goals excited me. I thought, this is where I want to work. I got up from the bench and grabbed the flier for a personal trainer certification course that I saw posted on the community board.
I took almost all of this knowledge and put it into practice on myself trying to fix or alleviate my pains and injuries. After my fifth knee surgery in 2006, I designed my own physical therapy protocol. I spent the six months before surgery doing intensive “pre-hab” to build up the strength in my knee and body. A few days after the surgery I started simple physical therapy exercises. My goal was to run a half marathon six months after the surgery. The physical therapy was intense, but I pushed on. Four weeks after the surgery I was running on 50% of my body weight using a body weight support harness system. I did corrective exercises until I had the knee strength to support my full body weight. Three months after the surgery I was doing full resistance functional training workouts. I built my running base and spent lots of time every week on a bicycle. Every night I would spend hours doing full body self-massage on a foam roller followed by flexibility training. And after six months, almost to the day, I ran the 3M half marathon in Austin, Texas, splitting the last four miles at a 7:30 pace. Since then, as I have maintained my own health and fitness protocol, my knee has not given me any problems.
Throughout this season I focused on deep tissue massage, flexibility, corrective exercise, and functional training. My mind and body became stronger and I started feeling better physically. As my body healed, my heart began to heal as well. It became clear to me that if I wanted my physical body to feel better over the long haul, I needed to heal emotionally, on the inside. This is the conscious path that I am currently on. Through this process of emotional healing I have found that I have become more engaged, present, productive, and capable as a father, as a partner, and as a therapist. It has been beautiful.
A Different Path
There are many things that I learned, and continue to learn, in the process of healing myself. I have incorporated these lessons into the coaching program I bring to my clients. I shifted my training style from being workout based to lifestyle based. I now recognize that every person struggles with pain. This is pain that, unless they change paths, a client will suffer under for the rest of their life. And so, instead of training my clients to be more muscular, or look better in the mirror or to fit into the right clothes, I train them so they can move and feel better in their body.
One of the biggest lessons that has become a significant part of my training philosophy is this: what is seen on the outside is merely a reflection of what resides on the inside. Issues of weight, poor posture, and physical pain are merely the symptoms of deeper issues. They reflect how we feel on the inside. This is why I specialize in the treatment of chronic pain. I focus my massage and personal training that I might help my clients feel better. I teach them a variety of techniques to empower them with the ability to care for and heal themselves. I know that as we heal we move better. The better we move, the better we feel about ourselves, which ultimately leads to being more engaged, present, productive and capable with our family, friends, and career. This, without fail, makes its way to the surface and we look so much better on the outside.
I would love to hear your personal story of pain. Please post it to the comments below.