Never Lose Hope

Recently, I approached Apeksha about writing a guest post for her site, because I believe that I’ve got a story to tell that fits right in on her site. I know that many of you are used to logging for a daily quote to keep you motivated at work or while training, and too read about athleticism, sport, motivation, and the success that can be achieved when those three factors are brought together in rare perfect harmony.

My name’s John and I just started to write recently, after I broke my neck wrestling. During one of the final tournaments of my career and after competing for almost 4 years without a single major injury, I shattered my spine.

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It was the quote in the article: “Thank You Roger Federer – A Letter to the Champion.” that resonated especially deeply with me.

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.

Orison Swett Marden said this, and I believe that this is very deeply and profoundly correct. Right now, I’m more proud of what I can achieve than I ever have been in my entire life, despite the fact that I’m the weakest that I have been since I was 8 years old. I’m proud because I am successfully by Orison Marden’s definition, because I have progressed so much since my accident. 6 weeks ago, I was unable to move my toes, raise my arms, or feel my legs because of the trauma to my nervous system.

Now, I can ride a bicycle, lift weights, and even go to school as a full time student. I write about my progress on my blog, but I decided that simply talking about what I was doing wasn’t enough. Now, I’ve made it my goal to be as supportive and informative to people with similar traumas to mine, and those who have suffered much more greatly than I have.

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Just like Apeksha learned lessons from Roger Federer, I have learned from my injury. These lessons are:

When you are depressed, friends will help you,
When you are weak, you will find the drive to push on,
When you have lost hope, hope will find you,
Never doubt the strength of the human spirit.

It’s been an honor writing for the site. I’m a big fan and this has been really exciting for me.Please read and share this story with everyone who has lost hope and tell them about my journey and hopefully if they can learn one thing from my experience – Never lose hope.

You can check me out and follow my recovery process at GoandDoit.wordpress.com and in a few months read all about his adventures: running, biking, and motivating others to do the same.

Biking in Madison Wisconsin

I guess you could call this a ride review, but I don’t know it that would be completely accurate. Biking in Madison Wisconsin has been a big part of my life; because I’ve lived in Madison for my entire life, and go to school here now too. Madison Wisconsin is one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, and on many ranking lists, is listed as one of the most bike friendly, progressive, and nicest places to live.

The great thing about being a cyclist and biking in Madison Wisconsin is that the city and surrounding towns like Verona, Middleton, and Fitchburg have all made real efforts to promote cycling as a means of transportation for both commuting and recreation. I ride my bike to work and to school, and can easily ride pretty much anywhere within a 40 mile radius of where I live (mayyybee a little bit less right now, but I’m getting stronger every day).

The city has added bike lanes, bike paths, and even bike boulevards where bikes are allowed to use the full lane on a two way road. Because of this, biking in madison wisconsin is much safer here than in almost any other city in the country.

Madison has a great, bike friendly attitude as well. You notice it through the little things, the details that aren’t there in other cities with cycling initiatives. Many stores are members of the bicycle benefits program offered by BicycleBenefits.org. The bicycle benefits program gives discounts and other perks to its cyclist members, who enjoy biking in Madison Wisconsin enough to join the program and commute to work. Employers are also very bike friendly. Many have bike racks in sheltered areas for their employees, and my boss even has a shower to clean up and a full kitchen that I can use. That way, I don’t smell like I just got off the bike for the rest of the day.

Madison is just a great place to live in general. We have cold winters, but beautiful and warm springs, summers, and falls. Even so, you can still ride in the winter. Just ask the all season cyclist over at AllSeasonCyclist.com. He’ll be able to give you the scoop on how to bike in all kinds of weather, even the coldest winters or the hottest summers.

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My First Occupational Therapy Session

I’ve already written about starting physical therapy here, and I figured that I should start writing about my visits to an occupational therapist, what I’ve learned, and any advice that I can give to you based on what I’ve experienced.

So here you are: full blown, no holds barred; this is what goes down when you break your neck and you need to start using your dominant hand for something other than a prop when you need to carry something.

Today I met with an occupational therapist for the first time since the accident. Because my brace is off, I’ve been cleared to lift weights up to thirty pounds with my upper body, and as much as seems reasonable and appropriate with my lower body.

I visited an occupational therapist for my hand and arm. Even now, I’m still confused about the difference between an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. Maybe some knowledgable souls can help me out by posting their answer to that question in the comments below.

Before the actual screening process even began, I s run through the usual medical history questionnaire, along with a full set of upper body strength and range of motion tests. Between all of the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals that I’ve had to visit, one of the few things in common between them all is the strength and range of motion test. By now, I practically have that thing memorized. I might have even had a dream where I was taking a range of motion test! Haha

The occupational therapist, who is often just referred to as an “OT”, helped me out by screening through what issues I should be worrying about and what will just take time to recover from. After eliminating things like fatigue and some soreness in my muscles in my neck that I haven’t used since my anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (ACDF) as simply caused by not being used to using the muscles, we moved on to range of motion and deep pain.

The OT massaged out some of the small, stabilizing muscles in my neck and then had me do some exercises to work them out and increase the up and down range that my head could travel. Before doing any exercise, he measured the exact degree of my range of motion, and then the degree at which I could move afterwords. Consistently, my range of motion was always increased by at least 10 degrees, if not more.

After stretching me out and checking my nerve function and assuring me that I was recovering at a normal rate and telling me that I’m recovering faster than most people do after an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (I would ha used the acronym there to save time, but for some reason my OT would always call the surgery by it’s full name. He was fine with being called an OT instead of an occupational therapist though, for some reason), he gave me a packet of things that I’m supposed to do, and also told me how often I’m supposed to do each one. After the appointment, I bought a Home Ranger Shoulder Pulley (model 240) to help me do passive range of motion exercises. I think the pulley is great and already after a few uses I feel my should and arm loosening up.

In my case, my range of motion is better when I’m not engaging the muscles in my arm or shoulder, so using the pulley helps me stretch out. Then, I do the same exercises that I had done passively and assist with my left arm, helping my muscles and nerve relearn where to go and how to feel. I could go on; but I think that a full on review might have to wait for a separate post. Maybe I’ll set up an amazon affiliate account, and if you want to buy a pulley after reading my review of it, you can get the same low price that you would always get on amazon, and help support my site, my tours, my message, and my fundraising all at the same time.

Anyways, my first meeting with an occupational therapist went great. My occupational therapist is smart, efficient, and professional, all without losing that personal touch and feel. If you’re nervous about your rehabilitation you shouldn’t be, because you’ll have a great physical or occupational therapist helping you out.

Why Wrestling Shouldn’t be Dropped from the Olympics

Wrestling, running, and throwing events are the oldest athletic events. Before we had organized sport, we had people seeing who could throw a stick or a rock farther, who could run faster, and who could best the other in combat. 

Golf is under consideration as an addition to the Olympic games. Golf has undeniable international appeal, which is one of the key criteria for addition to the games. However, unlike sports like wrestling, and running which require no specialized equipment, or sports like rugby or soccer that only require a single ball for 30 or 22 people; Golf equipment is prohibitively expensive, and doesn’t give it the same mass appeal as ball games or feats of strength, endurance, or skill. Golf is a great sport, it’s one of those things that people get hooked on by learning the basics quickly, and then spending the rest of their lives trying to master. And although it has international appeal, it doesn’t have the same kind of appeal as other sports.

When considering events to cut, wrestling should be one of the last ones to be cut, held to be among track and field and the marathon. This is because every culture on earth has a style of wrestling, and everyone has a general understanding of what “wrestling” means.

Even though wrestling took a lot away from me, I still believe it has merit and is a good sport. I think that consideration should be given to the historical and traditional aspects of a sport before it is cut.

Getting Out of My Neck Brace

I visited my doctor today, and I finally got permission to stop using my neck brace. Until you have had your neck constricted for almost two months and then released, you don’t know how good you can feel. I think that the resident described by expression as “beaming”.
I’ve been working with the incredible staff at the UW Sports Medicine clinic.

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Not only does UW have some of the best doctors in the world, but their sports medicine clinic on science drive has a fantastic state of the art indoor gym where people can go to rehab and work one on one with therapists and trainers, or even just sign up for a membership for and work out there just like they can at the YMCA.

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My doctor said that the X-ray looked good. Honestly, I think that he was a little surprised, because a majority of the anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion procedures that he performs are on less than ideal surgical candidates, who often times have degenerative disk or bone diseases that need to be treated with a fusion.

Taking my neck brace off for the first time was a little scary. I was excited, but I was also a little nervous that I would do something to hurt myself if I moved too much, or really moved at all.

20130220-174146.jpg Right now, my neck is noticeably skinnier than it was before I had the neck brace on, because I haven’t really used the muscles at all for 6 weeks. In the coming days, I’ll of course become more comfortable, and increase my range of motion much more.

So there you have it. The doctors put in 4 screws and a plate, of which you can see the X-ray below:

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To be honest, I’m not sure yet if I’ll set off metal detectors, but I’m not quite sure what will happen if I do. I guess a trip down to my local courthouse is in order to test that out (kidding, kidding. Don’t worry, I would never waste the time of the bailiffs, who already have a vital role in the speed, efficiency, and safety of our judicial system).

Planning your First Bike Tour

Planning your first bike tour can be intimidating. Before deciding on gear, food, how you’re going to carry everything on your bike, or even how you’re going to sleep at night; you need to plan your route. Ideally, you base how much and what you bring on the temperature, terrain, and other climate and geographic factors.

For you fist overnight bike tour, you don’t need to go very far or be gone for very long. We read about the Race Across America (RAAM), and we think that “wow, that’s pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll do that someday”. And indeed, maybe we will. But just because you set your mind on running a marathon doesn’t mean that you should start your running career with one. In the same way, the Race Across America is an achievable and admirable goal, but shouldn’t be your first priority. Instead, I recommend a three day ride, with the following (flexible) criteria in mind:

  1. Never ride more than 75 miles away from home:You do this because should something happen to you or your equipment, it’s not too difficult for you to call a friend or family member and have them drive to where you are and pick you up.
  2. Remember the rule of threes: Even though you’re only going to be gone for three days, it’s always smart to bring three of every replacement part, whenever possible. This doesn’t necessarily apply to things like tires, but extra nuts, washers, patch kits, and tubes should be easy enough to pack extra. Remember: 2 is 1, and 1 is none. When you’re on the road, plan for the worst case scenario, and you won’t have a problem. Plan for the best case scenario, and Murphy’s Law will hit you like a ton of bricks.
  3. Avoid excessively difficult terrain: Try to plan your route to follow roads and topography that are similar to where you train. Because you’re only planning a three day ride you don’t need to worry about a drastic change in climate and temperature (for example, going from the mountains to the flat desert, or the other way around). However, If there’s an area near you that’s much hillier or more technical than what you’re used to, you won’t have as much fun as if you had planned less difficult riding conditions.
  4. Don’t skimp on the tires: This is the one gear specific point on the list. If you’re riding on a road bike that has 23mm or 25mm slicks, you’ll want to invest in a pair of at least 28mm or 32mm touring style tires. These can also be found on websites like Nashbar under the heading “City Bike Tires”. These tires might be found on a hybrid style bike, and their compromise between mountain bike knobs and road bike slicks make them ideal for touring, where you can encounter a variety of different kinds of paving, or even lack thereof. Investing in a spare folding bead tire to carry along with your three extra tubes will give you some peace of mind and the ability to get yourself back home if anything happens to one of your primary tires.

Finally, remember that it’s not a race. Many times, people start out on a tour planning to ride 10 hours and 130 miles per day. I promise you that in all likelyhood that if you had to you could do that, but you won’t want to. Touring isn’t about speed, but about being able to ride all day, enjoy the country side, and commune with yourself, the machine, and the road. Racing around at 35 km/hr stopped being an option when you added a rack and 40 pounds of gear to the back of your bike.