Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jiu-Jitsu, Self Defense, Size Differences & Training

“BJJ favors the stubborn.”  This is a quote shared with me by one of my professors.  As a woman, I believe you have to really want it. Want it bad enough to sleep on ice packs, walk in intimidated, be the only girl on the mat, see a chiropractor, sometimes several times per week, pay a good deal of money in gis, out-of-pocket expenses for injuries incurred on the mat, seminars, class fees, competition fees (shoud you choose to compete), travel expenses to/from competitions, and arnica cream J  You have to want it.  What is “it”?  The refining of character that Jiu-Jitsu will bring you. That is the invisible reward.  The color change of the belt, throughout the journey, is secondary.

Its not a sport for the woman who isn’t willing to do all of the above.  It’s a sport of indomitable will, unparalled determination, fearlessness, and tenacity. It will weed women out who don’t exhibit those characteristics, or who think they have them.

Just as my training partner, Andrew Winge, will lend his voice to how it weeds out the male ego, it will filter out the woman who isn’t able to endure pain, and want more of it.  All for the discipline of internal refinement.

Being the only woman on the mat offers positive rewards in the sense of training for self-defense.  As Andrew points out later, its unlikely a woman will be at the hand of another female attacker.  I leave the “Why?” of men being the dominant predator statistic, to the men, to question amongst themselves…and to rectify it.  All I have control over is the safety of myself, and that is something I train for.

Almine training at "Ralph Gracie BJJ"
I’m a firm believer that even if a woman takes a day long self-defense course that diligent practice of learned principles must be done.  

There’s controversy amongst the women’s BJJ community if day-long “Intro. To Women’s Self-Defense” classes are more harm than help.  This seems unlikely, however, a solid point is raised:  it can give a woman false hope that she’s safe, unless those principles are applied regularly in training.  If a woman is able to take what she learned in a self-defense intro. class, and diligently work those moves on men of Andrew’s belt ranking and size, I believe her confidence in the techniques may be warranted.
Almine in 50/50 with Cody Briggs, "World Class Martial Arts," PA.

I worked with a boxing instructor who also taught concealed weapons classes. He was 6’8.” He used to be a police officer in Las Vegas, and was my first “CrossFit” coach mentor, as well.  He reiterated, over and over, in his classes, and one-on-one work with me, that if someone takes a gun safety course, and never takes the gun out of her purse to shoot it regularly, do target practice, practice loading the gun, safely and quickly, that statistically, she’s at risk for injuring herself more than an intruder or attacker.  This makes sense to me.
Almine working on boxing with Coach Tom Benge, ex Las Vegas police officer, "CrossFit" coach, Strongman coach, "Strong First" coach, certified concealed weapons instructor, award-winning marksman

There’s arguments back and forth about the efficacy of one day women’s self-defense courses.  I see both sides of the issue.  But, I do believe in diligent practice with men of Andrew’s size.  The bigger the better (but yes, prepare yourself for a few chiropractic adjustments along the way!).  There’s also something to be said for work with men, who are smaller in stature, but quick and fast.  Andrew is my “big guy” training partner.  My other “Ralph Gracie BJJ” training brother is Javier, who is as light and fast as lightening.  These two gentlemen are my gauges for speed, strength and accuracy.  I practice the same moves on both men.  I experiment, and see what moves might be successful on men of Andrew’s size, and try to figure out the leverage and angles, as to why it worked.  That’s important, gals.  The “why” a move works helps you understand the bio-mechanics of leverage and angles, which is our greatest weapon against larger individuals.  It’s the premise of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Other moves may be more successful against a man of Javier’s experience and speed.  Its trial and error, which can be frustrating at times.  Like anything worthwhile, it will take dedication and practice. I don’t believe a one day seminar will cut it.

I think one day seminars are the “sample platter” of a variety of disciplines:  BJJ, Krav Maga, boxing, etc.  They offer a glimpse into self-empowerment for women.  I believe this is a good thing.  It may “wet their appetite” to practice what they learned more.  If this is the case, it fulfilled its purpose.  If women learn a variety of techniques, and choose not to practice them, they may believe they have an arsenal of effective moves that prove ineffective in a terrifying situation.

Rolling with big men like Andrew is intimidating.  That’s part of the point.  Practicing the ability to control your emotions and breathing when you’re being smothered and feel panicked is just as important as the actual technique of escaping itself.

Because I’ve practiced being scared for a long time, with climbing, I believe that helps me on the mat.  I practice “circular breathing” when I’m on the mat, which is something I’ve diligently worked with while climbing for 13 yrs.  When I’m scared climbing (which is often), I make absolutely certain that my mouth is closed, and that I’m breathing through my nostrils only.  This slows your thinking down, which is imperative that high off the ground.  If you can’t think straight, you make mistakes.  Mistakes can cost you your life, or the life of your climbing partner.  You must calm your breathing, or the results can be deadly.

Almine trad-climbing at "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR.

Andrew is one of the most respectful training partners I’ve had the privilege of working with.  He’s aware of his size, and ability, and matches accordingly to those he rolls with.  Even though he’s a long time friend, am I still scared when I roll with him?  Absolutely.  It’s nothing personal.  It has to do with the fact that a large, strong man is on top of me, with the aim of smothering (or submitting) me.  This often shoots waves of panic through me.  It’s a normal response. I’ve been taught my whole life that’s a situation I should avoid at all costs.  Like being high off the ground.  That’s why I do it.  You must train for fear.  That way when fearful situations present themselves throughout your life you stare them back in the face with confidence.  I don’t believe this is something that can be taught in one day.  Engaging with fear must be diligently practiced. It’s uncomfortable.  It will teach you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  That is the point.

Often, when rolling with Andrew or Javier, my aim isn’t even to submit them, or escape.  It’s to control my breathing.  That’s step one.  Then I will be calm enough to think of what to do next, and I will do it better, than if I was in fear.

I’ll let Andrew share his wisdom of years of Jiu-Jitsu, and his thoughts on the benefits of rolling with women.  I’m grateful we’re at the same gym.  I do believe my Jiu-Jitsu will serve me even better, training with men like them, in a self-defense situation.  At the end of the day, that’s when it will matter most…

After a great day of training at "Ralph Gracie BJJ," Bend, OR.

Andrew's Thoughts:

­I’d like start with a “thank you” to Josei Heishi and Almine Barton for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this blog. I am genuinely flattered to be in such great company.

As for me, I’m a 44-year-old BJJ Brown Belt under Paul Moresi at Ralph Gracie Jiujitsu in Bend, Oregon.  I’m a practicing Emergency Medicine physician which means I spend the majority of my time trying to pull critically ill (often due to their own poor decisions) patients back from the proverbial edge. Mixed in with them is large volume of patients with relatively minor issues like ankle sprains, colds, and the occasional “My dog ate my pain pills, can I get some more?” requests.  My “office” is a loud, chaotic, and often violent place.

You can find Dr. Winge's book, "The Program-Person Evolution: A Scientific Approach To Rapid Body Recomposition" on "Amazon"https://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Winge-MD/e/B00G5X4MUK

I started my BJJ journey over 11 years ago when my best friend from medical school, a psychiatrist, choked me out (with very little effort I might add) while we were grappling at a local gym. He had started BJJ the year before. I, however, was 60lbs heavier, former state record holder in powerlifting, and decently athletic dude. I was sure I could take him. Besides, in the history of medicine no scrawny psychiatrist had ever choked out an ER doctor as far as I knew. 

Well, the joke was on me. I got wrecked. After that I was hooked. I joined Marra Senki BJJ in San Antonio, TX and never looked back. Through my residency training, two deployments to Iraq as an Air Force doc, three cross-country moves, multiple injuries, and surgeries I’ve stuck with BJJ. I’m not a fast-burner, not an active competitor any more, my black belt is a LONG way away, but I’m not a quitter. BJJ has given far more than I could ever give back and I will continue to train until the day I drop dead (probably in the ER).


After leaving the Air Force I moved to Bend, Oregon and was fortunate enough to train with Roy Dean at his academy. That’s where Almine and I met. We became fast friends and, now that we are back at the same gym, regular training partners.  One of the issues we found ourselves discussion on more than one occasion was the male-female training dynamic. What may have surprised her is the value I placed on the often-overlooked benefits that male BJJ practitioners can reap by training with women as well as some of the advice I had for females starting out in BJJ. I’ll do my best to summarize those below.

Why men should train with women:

I learned the collar choke from a female purple belt when I was a brand new 245lb white belt. She taught it to me by trapping me in a closed guard and rendering me unconscious in the first thirty seconds of our roll.  Did all that muscle help me? Did the fact that I could squat 650lbs and bench press over 400lbs make one bit of difference? Nope. Not a bit. My carotid arteries are the same size as everyone else’s.

Size...Its All A Matter Of Perspective :-)

Most people would agree that, all else being equal, being big and strong is an advantage in a grappling or MMA match. I would agree. But it is my belief that being a larger and stronger guy has in many ways been an impediment to the development of my jiu-jitsu. Strength has always been there for me, like an extra gear or reserve that I could tap into if I got myself into a bad position or was caught in a submission. The problem is, at least when you are rolling with less skilled opponent, the temptation to use that strength first instead of relying on proper technique is quite strong. When you have a 50lb weight advantage explosively bench-pressing a white or blue belt off you works most of the time.  It’s taken many years of training to realize, however, that going there first and not taking the time to work on getting an underhook, making space, or off-balancing my opponent may work in the moment, but ultimately sabotages my development as a BJJ practitioner.

When I train with women my size and strength advantage is magnified manifold. It’s blatantly obvious to both of us and, for me, serves as the perfect reminder that I need to put that part of my game away and focus entirely on what will make me better: proper technique. That doesn’t mean I go easy on them. I serve up a “Kimura-salad” for Almine whenever we roll (sorry couldn’t resist!), but I do my best to use good technique and if she defends appropriately I move on to the next move in the chain.

We have a saying at Ralph Gracie Bend: “Take care of your training partner” and I take it seriously. By just smashing my opponent or relying on raw strength to force a move or escape I’m not helping myself and I’m certainly not helping my training partner. I believe strongly that every rolling session in the gym should leave both participants with something positive. If that means getting tapped out by a female training partner who executes a perfect collar choke that I fail to defend using proper technique then so be it. After I recover, she get’s a “high-five” and I go on to my next training partner having learned something valuable and so does she.
My advice to men: Check your ego and your strength advantage. Try to roll at least once a class with a female opponent and use that opportunity to do what you are there for in the first place which is get better at jiu-jitsu. You don’t have to lie there like a wet noodle because you’re afraid you’ll hurt them.  Women who train BJJ are already far tougher than average. They aren’t delicate little flowers you have to protect. Push them and challenge them, but do it with skill and technique, not with brute strength. 

Advice for women when training with men:

One thing my female training partners have stated repeatedly over the years is that walking into a new BJJ gym can be an intimidating experience, especially if you are a beginner. I completely understand that feeling. If you’re lucky there will be a number of other women to train with, but odds are there will be just a few. You may even be the only one. I would encourage women that are new to BJJ to not let this discourage you.
What follows is some of the advice that I think can help make this a more positive experience. I know this won’t apply to all women or even most. A woman training for Pan-Ams will likely have different training objectives than a woman who trains for self-defense purposes or for general fitness.

1.               Train with purple belts and above as much as possible. Though it’s definitely not perfect, BJJ is a pretty good douche-bag filter. A guy that has made it to purple belt and beyond has likely learned how to check his ego and focus on using good technique. They also may have a better feel for the strength differential that exists between men and women and be able to dial that back. There are no guarantees, but you are less likely to have a higher belt “spaz out” on you and end up injuring you during a roll than a nineteen-year-old college wrestler white-belt who fancies himself a future UFC fighter.

2.               Roll with a wide range of body types. This advice applies equally to men. One of the best ways to develop a well-rounded arsenal of techniques is to spar with training partners with a wide range of body types, especially those that are much larger than you. You might be fortunate enough to have a skilled 250lb female to roll with but the odds are you won’t. Let’s face it; there are more 250+lb males in BJJ than there are females. Don’t shy away from them.

Dr. Andrew Winge, M.D. in Roy Dean's "Pure Rolling" DVD series

One thing Almine reminds me of on a regular basis is that “If a move works on you, then it’s going to work on just about anyone”. Given our size/strength differential, I think there’s a lot of truth to this. I think she will also be the first to agree that training with a really quick, skilled lightweight male has equal benefit and helps develop a different set of techniques better suited to that kind of opponent. 

1.                Be assertive. You have just as much right to be there as the boys. Ask questions. If you want to just work on specific moves or situations with your training partners then say so. If you find that some of the guys you train with aren’t open to this and just want to go 100% every time then don’t roll with them. You’re there to get better and you can’t do that if you are injured. Be open to constructive feedback and seek out training partners of both genders that help you improve and that are mature enough to receive feedback from you as well.

Learn some self-defense. It’s a sad fact that in this country 1 in 6 woman will be the victim of sexual violence[1]. In some other countries that rate is even

[1] National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey (1998)
Andrew Teaching A Women's Self-Defense Course At "Ralph Gracie BJJ"

1.               higher. It’s shocking, disgusting, and it makes me angry. The perpetrators in nearly all cases of sexual assault are overwhelmingly male. Violent assaults by patients are a workplace hazard in my profession and female nurses and doctors are often the victims. Learning the self-defense aspect of BJJ and being comfortable applying those techniques against a resisting male opponent could save your life.

 Don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior.  In the vast majority of cases, BJJ practitioners are a friendly, welcoming bunch. As I stated, BJJ is a pretty good douche-bag filter. That being said, there are men out there that, for whatever reason, never learned to interact respectfully with women.  Those issues can be magnified on the mat. Don’t tolerate inappropriate comments, groping, or anything else from a male training partner that makes you uncomfortable. Call them out immediately. Make sure your professor is aware. If it doesn’t stop immediately then I’d recommend finding another gym. You should never have to tolerate that sort of behavior.


Andrew Winge ~ @personalevolutiondoc
Almine Barton ~ @alminebarton
Ralph Gracie BJJ ~ @ralphgraciebend



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Candid BJJ "Coffee Talk" Between Almine & Traver, Uncensored, Unfiltered...Its How We Roll


Bruises are a big part of my life as a climber, thus having a colleague at the clinic I previously worked at share her own black and blue marks wasn’t a big deal. I would walk into work, bruised up from taking some lead falls climbing, she would walk into work banged up from her own passion - Brazilian Jiujitsu or BJJ.  
We would both compare “war wounds” from our given sports, nod at one another in appreciation, and check our patient schedules.

From time to time she would say, “You should try BJJ.” I would laugh, “I’m a climber. That’s why I moved here. It’s what I do.”  
“Okay,” she would reply. “I think you would like it, though.”  
I would just smile, grab patient charts, and walk out of the staff room.

One day my colleague came to the clinic and announced she was moving to Texas to pursue doctoral work, adding that was also selling her house.  Fast forward several months down the road to me purchasing her house…complete with a closet full of gis.  
“You left all your gis here,” I called to tell her. “I know they’re expensive. Would you like me to ship them to you?”  
She got quiet and then added, “When you purchased my house, you also bought BJJ.  The gi’s are yours now.”  
“Have I mentioned I’m a climber? That’s what I do. I don’t have time to add another sport to my life.  You know I also do CrossFit, trail-run, swim…I simply don’t have the time.”  
(another pause)
She responded, “Its time, Almine.”

That’s how I got into BJJ. I put a gi on from my new house, and made my way to my first BJJ class.  In it I became acutely aware, very quickly, I was outnumbered by men, and really had no idea what I was getting into.

The following questions, which I also posed to another male colleague (& grappler), Traver Boehm, are questions that could’ve helped guide me in making choices about which gym I began my journey at, and will be helpful for everyone to consider as a new student to the sport.
1) Should BJJ classes be segregated?

Almine: “Frankly, I like the idea of options. I like the idea of co-ed classes, and men’s and women’s only classes. I do feel women’s onl
y classes are more inviting, and less intimidating to most women.  
9/10 times I’m the only female in the noon class I go to. This is fine with me, but I do enjoy the camaraderie of women’s only classes, events, and camps.  
The reality is, you are physically all over one another when training. This will be a bigger hurdle for some than others and that goes for both men and women.  
There’s also an unspoken dynamic between married people rolling with single people. No one wants to talk about it, because it’s “taboo” as if the inadvertent touching is somehow different when the relationship statuses are mixed.
When you’re a single woman rolling with married men, you are automatically put on “high alert.”  Often times the wives of these men view us as a threat to the marriage rather than a woman working on her choke defense. If the men are sexually attracted to you, they either avoid rolling with you, because it conjures up feelings for them.
I’ve lost female friends over rolling with their married husbands. Why? Because of the “Jiu-Jitsu Widow Syndrome” – when one half of a couple is obsessed with BJJ, & the other isn’t. Often time this means the female partner is left at home on “date night,” while the man is at the gym with “the boys.” 
Everyone knows about it. Few talk about it as an issue.  
Jiu-Jitsu is a fitness cult, not unlike CrossFit. Tough sweat breeds community. For some people t often takes the place of community such as a church congregation, or a support group. 
It’s also where people go to drown out the noise of their problems and the world. They become obsessed with it - rightfully so. Like religion, or anything else, people can also use it as an escape from their problems.  
Many men, over the years who I’ve done BJJ with have used the gym time to escape from their “nagging wives,” and “screaming kids.”  Really, it's a sweatier alternative to “bowing out with the guys” at a bar or strip club.  Except, you can justify it because it’s healthy. 
Often times, the hours spent at the gym increase, while the hours at home decrease.  Escapism is escapism. When you become the girl who shares a passion that the husband does (that the wife may not) you are seen as trouble from the wife.

Also, if the couple’s relationship is strained, and you’re experiencing more physical contact with the husband (even in a strictly training sense), than the wife does, the wife becomes either suspicious of you, or jealous. Having women’s only classes can ease some of this tension.   

There currently aren’t enough women at my gym for a women’s only class, or I’d love to participate in one. It always makes me happy to visit other gyms and go to their women’s only open mat, or classes they offer.”

2) Addressing the point that the mat isn't necessarily the place that men choose to share their deepest fears, hopes, dreams, etc....what if it is that place, & then a woman joins? 

Traver: “Great question. I just don’t see it as such in the “this is class time or even open mat time” format. I see the men we roll with become the brothers we share that stuff, in private, either over a beer or sometimes on the side of the mat but it’s more about the relationship with that man that’s been developed rather than something that’s happening with anyone in ear shot - man, woman or otherwise.”

3) How do you think that changes the dynamic for both the men there & the woman? 

Traver: “Personally that hasn’t been my experience. If they’re talking about fucking someone off Tinder the night before (heard that a lot) I can see how the presence of a woman interrupts the locker room aspect of the training experience, but as for deep, meaningful sharing, I just don’t see it. I think anyone else coming onto the mat that day that didn’t share that same level of connection from years of friendship would interrupt that sanctuary feeling.

4) What if it was their "sanctuary" & then a woman joins? How do you think that makes her feel too?

Traver: When I was going through my divorce I’d talk to guys about it, but it was a hushed, one on one conversation off the mat, in the corner of the training room. If anyone else came in, I would smile, let them walk past and then either continue or say, “let’s pick this up another time” or “fuck it, let’s roll.

 Almine: “It's interesting how it affects all parties in different ways.  The woman feels uncomfortable, because she feels like she's "crashing the party."  The dudes see her as doing so.  It’s awkward for both genders.”

I do believe the mat is where men share, not just sweat, but problems with their marriage, vulnerability about injuries they're experiencing (or recovering from), and family matters.  I've seen this.  I've heard it.  I see men allow themselves to be at the most vulnerable on the mat with their training partners, because they feel more safe/comfortable there vs. a therapist's office (not that I necessarily agree that's the best option).  They would tell their "mat brothers" they've been training with for years more than a therapist.  It's interesting to observe. I've witnessed this many times.   The guy's are griping about their marriages, kids, bills, jobs, whatever...I walk in...they all snap their jaws shut, & the conversation comes to a halt.  I feel awkward.  They feel awkward.  The silence in the room is awkward.  I ‘break the ice’ by saying, ‘Anyone wanna roll’?”

Traver: “Yea, I get this. It’s less skillful, and feels like more general griping than real conversation and while I think it has a place, it’s also just that - griping! I’d be glad you interrupted it because it’s not productive. That’s not to sound harsh.

Almine: “You mentioned you think there are benefits to women's only classes?  What do you think those benefits are?

Traver: “I’m clearly not a woman or a minority in the US unless I’m in a room full of people with hair, so I’ll project a bit here…but I think it’s important for people who are having a unique and different experience from everyone else in a given activity, to share that experience with similar folks.

Growing up in Japan I wanted to hang out with other Americans because they inherently “got it.” They knew what it was like to be stared at, yelled at, have people touch our hair etc.

Thus, I think a class of all women would allow for an environment where each woman would not only get to roll with someone who weighed about what she did, had similar physical attributes, and can relate to her training partner’s experience.

I remember being stoked when another 155’er would show up at Paulson’s after I trained with heavier guys all the time. It was just refreshing to see if shit worked without someone weighing 255# clearly letting me work my sweeps.
The class would also definitely smell better…

Lastly, I believe it would allow for a more complete relaxation for each woman (I’m not putting that well). The idea that every training partner was another woman, therefor the chances of someone just smashing you, “accidentally” grabbing a boob, or secretly thinking “I want to fuck this chick” is gone (hopefully). Thus the trust would be a lot higher. Again, I’m projecting here.”

5)  Is there an advantage to men’s only classes?

Almine: “I’m not a man, so this is tricky to speak to. I can’t see a disadvantage to it, as long as a co-ed class is also offered so they have options.

I think the mat is a great place for men to “bow out,” escapism or not. There are a lot of women’s only classes at a variety of fitness gyms. I do think men process more than they believe they do, with their fellow team mates, and that the mats seem to be a “safe space” for them to seem to do that. 

Many times, I've seen men play arm-chair psychologists to one another. They don’t do it as often, or as frequently as women do, but they do it. I do believe they feel more safe to vent about something important going on in their life to a teammate, before they’d be drug into a counselor’s office by a wife, girlfriend, etc.

Why not give them their own mat time? I think it’s healthy and a great idea. There used to be cigar rooms for just this. It doesn’t offend me any more than a women’s only class would.

I think men should hang out with men. I think they’re healthier for it. They’re a lot easier to cohabitate with when they get their segregated ‘dude time.’  I think voicing this as a real need is also healthy, as is creating a space for it.”

6) Is there an advantage to women’s only classes?

Almine: “For the same reason I think men’s only classes are a great idea, I feel the same about women’s only classes. I actually find it hilarious when some women say how lucky I am to roll with a bunch of men, often as the only woman.
 As much I esteem my mat brothers, I couldn’t see this more differently.  Skidmarks on my face, getting farted on, going home smelling like ‘Old Spice’ & ‘Irish Spring,’ ummm…not.

I also want to mention something that nobody wants to talk about. Menstruation. Yeah, that word. Our culture is so scared of it. It’s strange to me, since it’s a normal bodily process.
Have I heard women complain about feeling self-conscious (for multiple reasons), rolling with men on their periods? Absolutely. It’s a contact sport folks - think about it.  
Do I? Absolutely. Do I still do it? Absolutely.  
Does it take me about an extra 20 mins. of “prep time” before class to pull off managing the physical realities of a menstrual cycle in a very contact oriented sport?  Absolutely. 
To have the option of a women’s only class, would make me feel substantially less awkward to train during that time of the month. Women are generally more comfortable with saying to other women, “Ummm…I’m not going to train “X” move, because it aggravates my cramps,” or the oh-so-aggravating scenario of forgetting to swap out a darker colored gi in your bag for your white one.  
You get to the gym. Yup, your flow is on point, and…(drum roll)…you’ve only got a white gi in your bag. Ugh. If you’re heading into a women’s only class, you can ask a lady if she has a darker colored gi you could borrow, without feeling embarrassed. If you’re the only girl in a class, or a girl with few female training partners, this may be a challenge.

I always wanted to go to a women’s only college. My undergraduate school, ‘Marylhurst University’ was an all-women’s college once. Even once it went co-ed it still had that reputation, so the women were approx. 85% of the student body. It’s why I went. 
Do I think dudes suck, so that’s why I didn’t want to go to college with them? Not in the slightest. I like men too much.  That’s why I knew they’d be a distraction to me focusing on the goals I had at that time. I wanted to focus on learning, not on dorm parties, and getting drunk. So, that’s what I did. 
I’m grateful I had the insight into myself at 18 to know that. I had a fabulous education at that school. I also had my first female math teacher, who made math come alive for me. I never knew I loved math so much, until Professor Anne.

When I lived in India, most things were segregated. And, I got substantially more stuff done.  There is a reason for segregated classes. I also get the reason for co-ed classes. They’re both valuable for completely different reasons. If you have enough women at your gym for a women’s only class, it’s nice to offer. 
If the guys are stoked on the idea of a men’s only class, I think it’s a great idea. A co-ed class is always a good call. Being a good training partner is mandatory.”

For More Information On Traver Boehm's Work & Book, "Today I Rise!": 


Instagram:  @traverboehm

For More Information On Almine Barton's Work, Re-Release Of Her E-Book, "Girls Go Fearless," & Her Upcoming E-Book, "Fearless Forties":

Instagram: @alminebarton


Monday, October 23, 2017

Injuries & Surgeries: The emotional component of injury...things no one ever tells you will happen (PART 2)

"People Who Need Help Sometimes Look A Lot Like People Who Don't Need Help."

~Glennon Melton

This blog post really could be addressed to anyone recovering from an injury, who has experienced death in their life, or divorce.  The emotional landscape has similar themes amongst these three pivotal rights of passage (& yes, they are that).  Let me get some things immediatley out of the way that are uncomfortable and disconcerting.  No one told me these things would happen.  They just did, and they were unexpected.  I don't want you to feel the same shock I did, so if you ever experience any of the above mentioned transitions, you can expect one or more of the following to happen to you:

1)  Your heart will break more than any body part ever will
2) People who you thought would help you in your most vulnerable state don't
3) People who you never thought would help you in your most vulnerable state do
4) Your social circle will dissipate
5) You will feel alone
6) You will be scared
7) You will question your capabilities
8) You will transform into a new person (whether you like it or not)
9) You will not look at situations, people and circumstance with the same set of eyes again
10) If you're in the medical profession, you will become better at your job

Remember these things. 

I've always been drawn to male dominated sports.  I was skateboarding with the boys as a kid.  Racing them on bikes.  Tried to join the high school surf club in 1992, and was not allowed to (yes, even in the 90's).  The teacher who was the head of the club looked at me and said, "Oh, I'm sure you have better things to do than surf.  Why don't you join the cheerleading squad?"  So, that's what I did.  I would still bike down to the beach on my lunch break, and watch the surfers with envy. 

Surfing on the Oregon Coast

Here is something that I've discovered for myself, amongst disbelief, heartache, and confusion.  The vast majority of men are what I term "emotionally crippled."  From surfing, to "CrossFit," climbing to martial arts, they haven't done their inner work.  Rarely, do you find one that's "sat with his demons" in therapy, or sought after his own vulnerability.  This is something female athletes need to realize.  If you become one of the "wolf pack," realize that when you become injured, you (most likely) will be surrounded by a group of emotionally stunted "friends," who won't know how to support you through pain.  Often, I've tended to fall into the "sister" role of my "bands of merry men."  Driving "NyQuil" over to their house, at the first sign of the "man flu," checking in on them, when you don't see them in the line up, on the mats, at the gym, or at the climbing crag, etc.  But, as a female amongst a predominately male crowd, the chances of reciprocity are slim.  This is because your vulnerability mirrors their lack of coming to terms with their own.  Your injury reflects the fact to them that, they too, aren't invincible.  This, is something that shakes them to their core.  Its something they squirm with, emotionally, and don't know how to handle.  The lack of support for you will be painful.

The men, that I've noticed that tend to be the exception to this, are men who have been either raised by women, have only sisters, or are in the medical profession.  They've lived amongst and/or tend to be a bit more in touch with vulnerability, and less scared of it.

When my collarbone broke I was already working with a sports psychologist, weekly.  I was focused on training for "Masters Worlds," in the sport of Jiu-Jitsu, and sought out Melinda Halpern from "GRIT Performance."  Melinda's expertise is performance enhancement, and working through any mental/emotional stumbling blocks that can prevent you from performing your best.

I was grateful to already have an established client/therapist relationship with her, when my injury occurred.  Overnight, our focus together changed from performing at my peak, to daily tasks.  In the blink of an eye I went from feeling confident, at the top of my game, ready to bring that game to a competition setting to "What just happened to me?"  Melinda continues to be my weekly foundation of "You can do this."  She also offers a lens and perspective on the insecurities athletic injuries mirror in those around them.  Its been eye-opening.

I had one girlfriend say to me, "Almine, your collarbone is overwhelming to me.  I'm sorry.  I'm going to need some space from you when you're like this."  I was stunned.  Truly.  I couldn't get out of bed by myself.  All I did was ask her to help me out of bed.  She walked out my front door instead.  All I could think was, "Well, thank God, this wasn't worse than a collarbone break.  She would've been running for the hills."

My job as a health care provider is to offer relief, a listening ear, and support for people in pain.   You will find that people you know and trust are comfortable with you as a pillar of strength in their life, but not when you're weak.  Its a rude awakening.  This will act as a "friend filter."  It will clarify, in a harsh, clear, abrupt manner, whose there for you, and who really isn't, when the chips are down.  Its a painful realization, but it distills those people down, who are necessary for our life growth, and those who aren't.

For those of you who haven't been to Bend, Oregon, its an outdoor enthusiasts dream.  It's been called "Little Boulder."  It has some similarities to Boulder, Colorado, but on a smaller scale (& offers more affordable cost of living).  People move here for the year 'round outdoor life.  Mountain biking, kayaking, white water rafting, trail-running, rock climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, etc.  Its all here in abundance.  What that also means is that activity is entrenched with friendship, and vice versa.  You see your friends, because of the sports you share.  When you're no longer able to do those sports, they virtually disappear from you life.  Its lonely and awkward.  They don't know if they should invite you to climb, run, etc., because they don't want to make you feel weird.  But, then you feel left out.  Almost like you did in 4th grade, when you didn't get invited to the birthday party.  Its a no win situation.  You social circle dissipates.  Its gets small.  And your happiness starts to shrink with it.

Climbing at "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, Oregon

This, too, is something I've been grateful to have Melinda to help me navigate, emotionally.  I didn't anticipate to what extent this affected me.  Most of the sports I do take at least you and another person to accomplish.  Climbing is the way, Jiu-Jitsu is this way, etc.  Now, my life consists of my head under the water in the pool, swimming, on a spin bike, or in a Pilates class.  None of these offer the social interaction that I'm used to, and that I value so much in the sports I do.  It is lonely, when you go from socially dependent sports to a "solo sport."  The "rules" change in your life about how to navigate friendship, when everyone else is playing outside.

The last thing I'll share some thoughts on is the pros/cons of social media.  I look at social media like water, like money.  Its neutral.  It can help or harm.  Empower or destroy.  Its in the intent of the user.  Its a beautiful marketing tool for the self-employed (like myself).  Its fast, free, efficient, and can reach large groups of people with the "click" of a button.  The "shadow" side of social media, to me, however, is that it has made humans "emotionally crippled," or "lazy."  We believe, sitting there, staring at someone's posts means that you truly know them.  This is inaccurate.  We all post what we want others to see.  Again, this is good for marketing.  There's nothing wrong with marketing.  Its how we eat and keep our lights on.  But, please make note:  staring at someone's posts doesn't mean you REALLY know them, know what level of pain they're experiencing, and is a lazy way of making yourself feel better that you've "checked in on them."  Know of someone, whose in your "inner circle" of your life whose in pain (for whatever reason)?  Pick up the phone.  Drop by their home.  Ask them what you can do for them (in whatever capacity you're able to help), bring them a meal.  Texting is barely adequate, and a small step up from nothing, but it IS better than nothing.  Don't let yourself fall into the trap of "emotional numbness."

Even saying, "I feel inadequate, and helpless, seeing you in so much pain" is powerful.  Its a friend offering their vulnerability back to you.  You don't have to know what to say or do.  I think someone holding your hand, saying that they don't know what to do for you is more powerful than the emotional "cop out" of saying/doing nothing at all.

All, in all, I would say this has been in the top 3 worst adult years for me.  Its been a powerful in-depth look at areas of my life that were "stuck," or "stagnant."  One day at a time, as I dig my way out of physical pain, isolation from friends and activities, back to re-discovering who I am, I build strength.  The phoenix rising from the ashes is a powerful symbol of what the emotional journey of death, injury, surgery or divorce is like.  You are not the same, with every inch you claw your way out.  You also gain exponential internal strength with every claw mark you make.

The phrase "BE MORE HUMAN" reminds us all that we are vulnerable...no matter how hard we pretend we're not, and that there's no cyber substitute for holding someone's hand, and bringing them a meal.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Injuries & Surgeries: The lows, real lows, mehs & fuck yeahs (PART 1)

"Never Be Ashamed Of A Scar.  It Simply Means You Were Stronger Than Whatever Tried To Hurt You."
~ Anonymous

This is a 3-part series.  Why?  Because injuries are multi-layered.  They're irrational.  Complex.  Throw surgery into the mix, and it gets even more hairy.  The fact of the matter is, injuries suck.  People try to make you feel better about them, through a coping mechanism of throwing new age rhetoric, spiritual advice, and inspirational quotes at you.  If you're anything like me, its just pisses me off more.  I'm already frustrated.  I'm not asking for a sermon, a "Hallmark" card, or anything else, except for you to acknowledge that its frustrating and it sucks.  Don't say you'll be there "for" me either.  You can't.  Its my journey, and mine alone.  What a patient needs to hear you say is, "I'm here with you."

Why?  Because, there will be many ups and downs.  Tears of anger, frustration, fear and sadness.  You cannot walk that road for me.  What you can do is be a listening companion when the pitfalls and plateaus occur.

This is something important to remember.  Whether you are a health care provider, spouse, partner, family member, friend, whatever...you cannot be there FOR someone.  You can only be there WITH someone.

With that being said, this first part, of the 3-part series is focused on the physical.  The other two parts will address more the emotional and  mental components, because they are real.  Very real.  For some of us, even more real than the physical pain.  Most athletes have a high pain threshold.  There's even a little bit of "hurt-so-good" that we all even get off on.  We have to, otherwise we wouldn't keep going back to our sport.  To an athlete, the emotional and mental are much bigger demons to grapple with than any physical pain.  Its why we're athletes.

But today, we will discuss some physical things you can do for pain, both pre-op and post-op. They're both equally important.  I'll also share some physical tips that have helped me.  Everyone's different, but over a decade in practice as both a licensed acupuncturist and personal trainer, have given me some insight on this topic.  I've treated it, on both the pre and post op ends. I've also helped personal training clients regain their strength, agility, flexibility, speed and power, when they thought there was no hope.  As a patient, I'm going through that rehab. process myself.  I'm no longer a health care provider, whose on the outside looking in.  I'm living it right now.  Its painful, frustrating, heartbreaking, and a long haul.  You have to search, everyday, for small successes.  You have to clap for those small successes when no one is clapping for you.  Its often an empty lonely feeling, and no one can sit in the fire but you.  You get burned, charred, roasted...and then you get up the next day and do it again.

PRE-OP:  Everyone's process is different.  Some people will be able to get into surgery the day of the injury.  I didn't have that luxury.  I live in Bend, OR. for multiple reasons:  originally, I moved here to climb at "Smith Rock State Park."  I'm a climber, first and foremost.  It has been a chunk of my adult life.  Its the activity where I truly found my power, my mastery over fear, was able to glimpse what I was capable of in extreme conditions, and could test my physical limits.  Bend is a mecca for the outdoor enthusiast.  If you live in another part of the country, you could almost think of it as the "Aspen," "Mammoth," "Telluride," or "Moab" of the Pacific N.W.  With top athletes, from all over the world, moving here for the outdoor access, comes lots of injuries.  And, waiting in line for surgery.  Sometimes for weeks, which was my case.  I was in excruciating pain for weeks, until I was operated on.  I passed out unconscious from the pain level, three times the first week, post injury.  It was that bad. One time I vomited, so hard from the pain, I ended up passing out, hitting my head on the toilet, and waking up in a pool of blood.  It must've occurred when I hit my head on the toilet.  I don't remember.  I fancy myself a girl with a very high pain threshold.  According to my surgeon, "You didn't break your collar bone.  That would be easy.  You, essentially, threw a boulder through a glass window, and shattered it into a hundred pieces."

How did I manage the pain, as I had to wait in line for surgery?  There were 20 mountain bikers ahead of me, all waiting for new collar bones.  "Everyone needs a new bike and collar bone in Bend," my surgeon laughed.  Sleeping became next to impossible.  Sleep deprivation only throws gasoline on the fire of pain.  I don't take pharmaceuticals, normally, but I know when they're needed.  I tried everything the surgeon gave me.  Nothing.  No pain reduction of any kind.  I was shocked.  I really thought the strongest pain meds. out there would knock out a "light weight" like me.  Not at all.

Finally, after consulting with my Naturopathic physician, I bit the bullet, and got some marijuana edibles.  I'd never taken edibles before.  I don't drink.  I haven't smoked pot in years.  It never really did anything for me, except give me a sore throat and make me feel lethargic.  I'm too active for that. Sitting on the coach, eating junk food, living a hazy life, doesn't interest me.  But, damn, was I glad for one tiny little 25 mg. chocolate marijuana edible per day.  That one little chocolate bought me 8-10 hrs. of pain free sleep per day.  It was truly a god send for me during those weeks leading up to surgery.  I told my surgeon I was taking marijuana edibles.  He approved.  Each state is different, but in Oregon its legal.

I'd never had a judgement about people needing marijuana for pain.  I've always voted in favor of it.  But, hell, if I didn't have a whole new level of appreciation for it now.  I also used the same 25 mg. chocolates for 2 days post-op, then nothing after that for pain.  Side effect free.

PRE-OP, Hurting In A Big Way (I can still smile while I'm in pain)

If you need this level of pain relief, let you're Dr. know you're doing it. I spoke with my LNP and she approved whole heartedly. There was nothing else they could give me for pain.  Go to a qualified, certified dispensary.  Don't play with strains and dosage yourself, unless you really understand the plant, and all the science of its anti-inflammatory benefits.  I have a graduate degree in herbalism, and I still don't pretend to be educated on this plant.  Growing marijuana, and the resulting pain relieving medicine that comes from it is both an art and science.  Don't pretend to know it if you don't.

I also went to the pool, every single day, from my injury to surgery.  Why?  Most people forget about the pool, and water's amazing healing benefits.  I knew that one of the side complications of an upper extremity break is "frozen shoulder," or adhesive encapsulitis.  This is problematic.  I treat it with acupuncture often.  Its better to prevent it, than treat it.  To have your arm in one position, day in, day out, in a sling or otherwise can create this issue.

In the pool, there is little load on the skeletal frame.  That means, if you have a fracture or a broken bone, even swelling from another type of injury, that you will experience relief in the water.  Just ask a pregnant woman.  She feels immense relief at the gravity being taken off her body, as she carries her own skeletal frame around, plus a baby's.  This is why, often, water birthing tubs can bring such relief for women in labor.  It takes all weight bearing load off her, so she can focus on the labor process.

For one hour per day, my body was free of pain in the water.  I also felt safe in that weightless environment to take my arm out of the sling and slowly, gently, move my arm in various directions, to prevent "frozen shoulder."  Keeping your arm in one position, 24/7, for weeks on end isn't wise.  A number of complications can ensue from it.  If you can, plan to be in the water, and move it slowly, every day, until your surgery.  According to my surgeon, I went into surgery with the best range of motion possible.  He was shocked.  He asked me what I did.  When I told him, he was amazed.  "If all my patients did that, surgery would look different."  I believe in the power of water in all ways:  taken internally, for fitness, pre/post-op range of motion, breath control, there isn't much it won't do for you.  My father taught me this.  He believes water will cure, or assist most things.  I think he's right.  As soon, as I was cleared from my surgeon, post-op, to get back in the pool, I did immediately.  Again, I'm ahead of schedule on where my range of motion should be.  This is because of the water, and diligent, consistency with both physical therapy and acupuncture weekly.  There's no question in my mind.  These three things are a magic combination.


Some physical therapy clinics have hydrotherapy pools at the facility.  Some physical therapists even get in the pool with you, and assist you with various exercises.  If you have access to this, take advantage of it.  If you don't, perhaps speak with your physical therapist about what exercises he/she recommends you do in the pool.  You won't be sorry you did.  Once my incision was completely healed, and I was cleared by my surgeon to get in the pool, I've seen exponential gains, daily.

Acupuncture and physical therapy should be considered "non-negotiables," post-op.  Pre and post-op is even better.  I treat many people, who come in with their "tail between their legs," saying, "Almine, I'm here because I wasn't consistent with my physical therapy, and now, a year later, I'm in bad shape." Don't let that be you.  Do it right the first time.  Give you body the environment and tools it needs to heal properly.  Acupuncture makes physical therapy work even better, and vice versa.

And speaking of water...I've got news for you.  As a certified fitness trainer, with 6 different certs. in water fitness, I'd like to invite you to think "outside the box," in the pool.  Many people find swimming tedious.  "Almine, please don't tell me to go to the pool.  Swimming is so boring.  I go up, I go down, up, down...I don't like to get my hair wet, I don't like to get my face underwater, etc."  I've heard all the reasons why my patients and personal training clients squirm at the thought of getting in the pool.  Think on this 'lil "nugget" of advice from my pool loving father:  "Swimming is the one sport you can age with."  True story.  There is little, if any, downside to water fitness.  I do want to stress the words "water fitness."  If you want to read more in depth about this, you can visit another blog post I wrote on the topic:  http://alminewellness.blogspot.com/2013/04/water-fitness-why-you-should.html

There are many ways to workout in the water.  If you do enjoy lap swimming, and its a motion your physical therapist has cleared you to do, you can add a little fun to it by purchasing a waterproof iPOD.  Download your favorite playlists, and match your cadence in the water to a motivating beat. SwimOutlet.com has got a variety of them to choose from.

Waterproof iPOD for a motivating beat while you swim

Also, "SpeedoFIT" is a system of fitness that appeals to a "CrossFit" coach, like myself.  I like the high intensity movements of "CrossFit."  One of the criticisms of "CrossFit," and I believe its warranted, is about form.  Particularly, in the Olympic Lifting department.  I agree with this criticism.  You need to be able to look whatever system you adhere to/support, and be able to criticize it, also.  The water forces you to slow all movements down.  You have no choice but to concentrate on form.  Doing kettlebell work, at the bottom of the pool is not only difficult, in the way of breath control, it also forces you to work on perfect hip extension, glute activiation, and posterior chain mobility.  And, in case you were wondering, the added resistance of the water makes each movement even more difficult.

People have a strange concept that things in the water are easier.  It couldn't be further from the truth. They generally don't account for the added 15-25x more resistance than they'll encounter on land.  Its a full proof medium for fitness, with little to no injury factor.  Its genius for rehab., and beyond.  You can find some great ideas for water fitness at:  http://www.speedousa.com/speedofit

Everything from kettlebells, resistance paddles, push plates, and barbell work can be found there.  I'd also highly recommend you check out your local pool's class schedule.  I used to teach an "Aqua Boot Camp" class, for years in Portland.  It was not an easy class at all.  That rope you typically see the kids play on at the pool?  Yeah, you climbed laps up that, fell in the water, swam sprints, did partner carry work, kettlebells, etc.  Many students couldn't complete one class, and this was at a top training facility, where elite "Nike" athletes trained.  The water is a level playing field.  Its improves everything, and everyone's fitness, no matter what sport you play.

More and more innovative ways to improve one's fitness, and decrease recovery time, are being discovered.  Recently, I went to Las Vegas to the national "AquaBike" training facility.  I met with the staff, discussed both rehab. and fitness possibilites, and tried out the latest water training equipment. For several days I ran and biked my heart out...under water.  Yes, you read that right.  The future of fitness is in the water.  You heard it here.  Throw a spin bike in the pool, and it'll feel like you're biking through deep snow.  An underwater treadmill makes a "True Form Runner"  treadmill look like a warm up.  They were incredible pieces of equipment that were both difficult, and eye-opening, simultaneously.  Again, emphasis, due to the resistance of the water, was on form.  Like running in quick sand?  It may not sound appealing, but the benefits are amazing.  Think you're a good "CrossFitter"?  Work out in water.  A slice of "humble pie" is coming your way, and it tastes good :-)

Aqua Biking  & Running In Las Vegas, POST-OP

Fitness is something I can't emphasize enough, pre-op.  I was limited in what I could do daily. Brushing my teeth was exhausting.  I couldn't brush my hair.  Doing the basics "winded" me.  I'd have to sit down, after going from one end of the house to the other.  That's how much effort it took.  To get off the sofa had to be pre-meditated.  It would send so much pain through my body, if I did it even slightly at an improper angle, my knees would buckle, and I would involuntarily fall back onto the couch.  The only way I figured how to do it, pain free, is with the "Turkish Get-Up" movement (see video).  How did I know that movement, and have it down pat?  From over a decade of "CrossFit."  Am I advocating you do "CrossFit"?  It may seem like it, but not necessarily.  What I am advocating is that you make fitness a priority in your life.  I had to carry heavy things, sometimes, when I was alone at home, with my "good arm."  If that arm wasn't in shape, I would've felt helpless, many more times than I already did.  Fitness is there for you, when your body is injured.  If you injure one leg, be grateful you have a strong other one.  Established fitness will help you feel capable at a time when you're at an all time low.

A Broken Wing Is A Sad Girl

Often, I treat people for their "good" limb, because the person was out of shape to begin with, had a surgery.  Then, because the other limb wasn't in good shape to begin with, they injured that one too, trying to do everything with it.  Now, we have two injured limbs.  A strong, flexible, cardiovascularly sound body is a machine.  It will "pick up the slack," when its injured.  You'll be grateful the rest of your body feels capable and strong, when one part isn't.  Fitness is preventative. Its also curative. Make it habit.  It will give back to you a hundred fold.

Another system of fitness, that I've recently embraced has been "Barre."  The founder of "Barre 3" was told by her physicians that after a serious injury, that she would never do the sports she loved again.  She could not accept that.  She sought out the best yoga, ballet and Pilates teachers in the world.  She combined the 3 disciplines into a fast burning, strength building system that has been amazing for my recovery process.  I love yoga.  I taught mat Pilates for 10 years in Portland.  I did ballet as a teenager.  These were three combined disciplines I could get behind, and feel comfortable knowing I would stay strong, without the high intensity impact.

To put hardware in one's body entails critical stages where the hardware is vulnerable to be jolted out of place.  My surgeon was serious in emphasizing this.  One martial arts instructor busted all 10 screws out, just by teaching his students to "shadow box" last month.  Several days prior to my one month, post-op appointment, a man hiking, came in with internal bleeding from his plate being jolted out of place.  "All he did was hike down a hill," my physician's assistant said.  "No backpack on either."  There are critical junctures where even lower body activities, such as box-jumps, jumping rope, etc. are out of the question.  The possibility of hardware coming out, while the bone is still healing, is still a high possiblity.  "Barre" was the perfect answer for me.  Lots of max static hold movements, while holding weights, makes for an incredible workout.  "CrossFit" advocates training small accessory muscles.  How many really do it?  Few.  How many know how to train them correctly?  Few.  Exercise such as Pilates, barre work, and yoga train your accessory muscles, force you to focus on form, and sweat buckets while holding awkward poses with complete balance.  Its pure concentration, mixed with strength, flexibility, and body awareness.  "CrossFit" is difficult with large motor movements.  "Barre" and Pilates is difficult with small motor movements.  Both are needed for complete fitness.  They're yin/yang of one another.  Train small and large motor movements, you have perfect fitness.


You can never do too much core work.  You can never work on activating your glutes enough.  My chiropractor speaks of "glute amnesia."  This is a correct term.  We overfire our quads and low back to make up for the lack of horse power our glutes need to be executing.  "Barre" corrects this.  I'm confident I will go back to climbing, martial arts, etc. with a stronger core than ever.  I don't think I'll ever stop doing "Barre" from here on out.  Everything about me feels stronger, more supple, with little possibility of jolting my hardward out of alignment, as my body heals.  Max static hold work is just as important as fast reps., at high intensity.  They both train your body and mind in different ways.  They're both necessary.  As Bikram Choudry says, "You're born with one of these gifts: flexibility, speed, or strength, but no one is born with balance.  We must all work on this, every day."

I want to give one last "plug" for something that has been immensely helpful for me, both pre and post-op.  That's "floating."  This may, or may not, be available in your area.  If you're local to Bend, you can go to "Float Central": http://floatcentralbend.com/

We're getting back to the concept of hydrotherapy, and water as healer, again.  Floating is a different way that water can heal you, other than the pool.  Sensory deprivation in a world of both audio and visual "pollution" is a welcome respite for the senses.  When my body was in so much pain I couldn't think, I would float in a epsom salt saturated tank in the darkness.  Again, the water's weightlessness provided relief for my tired, aching body.  The darkness was pure bliss.  Silence.  Peace.  The high concentration of epsom salts makes your post-workout epsom salt bath, at home, look like a warm-up.  They mimic the concentration after the "Dead Sea" and the "Great Salt Lake."  You couldn't sink if you tried.  The salt concentration is sheer buoyancy.  The saturation of epsom salts gave my aching muscles, that were trying to support a shattered bone, relief.  I highly recommend it.  Athletes all over the world are using these salt concentrated, sensory deprivation tanks to visualize a successful outcome, and give relief to both their body and mind.

Some people have difficulties meditating, and quieting their mind.  Sensory deprivation tanks are a wonderful "training wheels" tool to assist with that.  The quiet darkness is lovely, and forces you inward.  There's nothing distracting you from going within.  I'm grateful.  I began meditating at 17 years old. I became a bit "addicted" to it, to the point where my teacher said, "You're going to have to integrate back into the world, and not just sit here all day."  I love meditating.  I don't talk about it a lot.  Its personal and pretty private for me.  I'm not here to be a guru, or self help teacher.  There are great masters in this world here for that.

From an Eastern philosophy perspective, its best to seek out a "Mahatma," or great soul, for instruction.  It seems as if every new Western self-help teacher, who has experienced some hard knocks in life, comes out the other side, believes he/she is qualified to teach others.  I'm not a fan of this.  Its a dangerous path, from my perspective. I'm not here to teach people to meditate, give you an instructional on how to do it, or even say its your path.  I am here to say that silence, and quietness in the dark is something that everyone's nervous system can benefit from, in this sensory saturated world.  Particularly, when you're in pain (of any kind).  Sensory deprivation tanks offer 90 mins. of silence.  Give it a try if you need to rest your weary body.  I'm so happy I took the advice of one of my patients, and did.

My colleague, Dr. Kerie Raymond, Naturopathic physician, is a fan of the homeopathic, "Symphytum Officinale" for broken bones, tendon/ligaments strains, "phantom pain" from amputation, sprained ankles & "tennis elbow."  I've been taking this remedy, along with Chinese herb formulas, since my surgery to speed recovery, also.


There are always adjunct things to do alongside these suggestions:  essential oils, sauna therapy, compression therapy, etc.  I would discuss these things with your qualified team of health care providers, to see if they can be a part of your physical rehab. program.  If lavender oil on your temples helps you sleep at night, do it.  If sitting in the sauna makes you feel better (not worse) afterwards, do it.  There's wonderful options out there now.  I work at a fantastic athlete recovery facility.  I feel grateful I do.  Its state of the art, with the best recovery equipment in the world. I utilize that equipment, according to the instructions of my phyiscal therapist, Dave Cieslowski, from "FOCUS Physical Therapy," the best in town.  That, combined with the other above mentioned things should, offer you some tools to go into surgery with confidence, and to help you feel empowered throughout your rehab. process.


Look for part two, next month on how to navigate the emotional roller coaster of post-op recovery. Its a doozy and requires honest self-inquiry, and radical patience.  Its is a lonely process, but an honest one.  You won't be the same person, when you come out the other side.  And, that's the point.

If you'd like further suggestions for acute injuries, you can go to a previous blog post I wrote: