One Week after Bicep Tendon Surgery

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It’s been a whole week since my surgery. Here’s the update!

This surgery has been a lot less difficult than I feared. Last year, when I had foot/leg surgery it ended up being a much bigger deal than I expected. I haven’t taken any painkillers since Sunday…which isn’t to say that I haven’t had pain. Rather, it is not severe enough to warrant taking something that has an addiction risk.

A few annoyances that I can live with: It is hard to find a comfortable way to sleep while wearing a sling so my sleep patterns are off. The support hose I have to wear to prevent blood clots are not the least bit attractive; not going to be wearing any shorts for another week. The sling and restricted mobility in my arm are an inconvenience, making it hard to brush teeth, eat, write, use a keyboard, etc. These are all things that will go away (God willing) in a week and, in the meantime, are not life altering.

I started PT on Monday and have been doing a number of exercises twice daily: pendulum circles, assisted lateral arm extensions, assisted forward arm extensions, assisted eccentric lateral rotations, assisted forearm extensions and hand-pumps. The “assisted” means that it is either supported by my arm or a prop like a table or cane. Not too taxing and I definitely can tell the difference; things are not nearly as stiff as they were. I will be going to PT twice weekly for the next five weeks.

The big news was that I went back to Personal Training today–virtually. Just one client, but it is a good way to get back into it. Tomorrow, I’ve got two clients and then–after clearance from my doctor–I should be able to start in-person training with some limitations next week. I still cannot lift anything heavier than a coffee cup with my right arm, so any demonstrating I do will have to be with my left arm. (My client today kept starting single-arm exercises and I had to reminder that she needed to use both arms; in other words, do as I say, not as I do!).

The other encouraging news is that I’ve communicated with a few other people who had the same surgery and who were really pleased with the results. The are working out, have rebuilt the muscle, and have no limitations. I don’t pretend that I’ll be there in a couple of months, but it is good to know that there don’t seem to be any long-term negative effects.

Next week, I’ll go back to some regular posts, but we’ll also have a 14-day update. Thanks for all the good wishes in the meantime!

72 Hours after Bicep Tendon Surgery

Gaia Zoo Skunk

Well, it is 72 hours after my surgery, and today I was finally able to take a shower. It was with great joy that I was finally able to bathe but the effort definitely wiped me out for most of the afternoon. I have had a few surgeries over the years, and I always forget how much effort and energy it takes to heal.

As you may recall from my previous post, the anesthesiologist went above and beyond. In fact, it wasn’t until Friday evening that I actually had the opportunity to ask my wife what the surgeon said about the procedure and what he found when he finally got in there. Of course, all of this had been explained to me earlier, but I was too high to either process it or remember it. The good news is that my case was somewhat rare for a good reason; the surgeon explained that it is quite unlikely that the MRI gives a complete picture of what will be found once they get inside. Often there are little surprises that pop up during the procedure. In my case, however, the MRI did an excellent job of predicting exactly what was going on. This meant that the surgery was rather “ordinary.”

So far, the pain has been less than I expected. It has been mostly controlled with prescription strength ibuprofen and acetaminophen. On Friday, I took a short walk and found that my stamina was pretty good. Later in the day I took another walk and discovered the same thing. I was pleasantly surprised until the pain block wore off. Since then I’ve had to back off quite a bit.

Tomorrow, I will begin physical therapy. My post-surgery instructions already have me doing pendulum swings with my right arm, but I am sure that new exercises will be added. In the meantime, it is quite an adventure learning to do things with my non-dominant arm like brushing teeth, eating, and opening and closing doors. I have a lot more respect for folks who are missing a limb or are in some other way limited in their use of an upper extremity. And for the record, this voice recognition program is not as helpful as I would have hoped.

Overall, I am grateful that I am doing as well as I am. These inconveniences are only temporary. I will keep you posted on my progress.

24 Hours after Bicep Tendon Surgery

Structure of the Shoulder 2

Yesterday I finally had my bicep tendon surgery. After 18 months of on and off physical therapy and 4 cortisone shots, this was the next step. As I wrote in a previous post, I see this procedure as regular maintenance–just as I would do for a car. As long as I take care of my body, I hope that it will last me a long time.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk to you about my progress so it might be of some use to others who may be in need of similar surgery.

On Wednesday, I got a phone call to arrive at the surgery center at 11 AM. I would estimate that surgery actually began around 12:30. Once the anesthesiologist got involved, there isn’t a whole lot that I remember. The last thing I can recall is getting some Versed, after which the doctor began to do an ultrasound of my neck to figure out the right spot in which to do the nerve block. I remember eating some graham crackers in recovery; I remember getting into a wheelchair to be wheeled out to the car; I have zero recollection of the ride home or how I changed into my pajamas or how I got into my bed… Which is, frankly, how I prefer it.

I will admit that I am not exactly sure what the procedure entailed. It is called bicep tenodesis. I tried to watch a video on YouTube, but after about 20 seconds, I decided it was probably a better idea to just let the doctor do his thing. What I do know is that my rotator cuff was in good condition and required no attention.

And now, the recovery. I have a sling that I have to wear for 2 weeks; on top of that sling is an ice pack that I will need to use for the next 24 hours or so. I have to wear compression hose for 2 weeks to prevent blood clots; let me assure you, it is quite a look. No shower until Sunday morning (ugh!). On Monday afternoon, I have physical therapy with my favorite therapist, Megan, at the Cleveland Clinic. Originally I thought I would be missing one week of work, although now it appears it could be 2 weeks. I won’t be able to do any lifting with that arm with anything heavier than a coffee cup for the next 6 weeks.

The real challenge is learning to do the things that are necessary for daily living with my left hand when I am righty. Believe it or not, I found a way to dictate text on my laptop and that is how I wrote this blog post.

Of course, this is not the best way to spend my summer, but I am confident that in the long run, the pain will be worth the gain. I would rather have this taken care of now so that I can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle and be the best personal trainer that I can be.

In the mean time, wishing everybody Shabbat Shalom, and a good weekend! I will keep you posted on my progress.

Losing Track of Time During the Pandemic

Please don't touch!

We have all seen the memes highlighting the difficulty in keeping days of the week and months of the year straight during this pandemic. For most of us, our regular routines (often decades-long) have been interrupted and each day seems the same as the one before sitting in front of a laptop at home. Others have been luckier (?) and have jobs that require them to be out of the house which may provide more of a rhythm. Even so, the almost non-existent Memorial Day weekend and July 4 celebrations downplayed these markers in our annual calendar. What day is it anyway?

In Chapter 41 of the Book of Genesis when Pharaoh was searching for someone to interpret his dreams, his cup-bearer says “Today I mention my sins.” The cup-bearer remembered that there was a man, Joseph, he had met in prison who was good at interpreting dreams. The only way the cup-bearer could bring this up, though, was to remind Pharaoh that at one time the King of Egypt had put him in the slammer. Today, this is an idiomatic expression in Hebrew used when someone must admit as part of a conversation something unpleasant that they had done earlier.

In today’s blog post, I mention my sins. Yesterday, Wednesday, was Rosh Chodesh Av–the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Av. And I completely forgot about it. It wasn’t until after sunset last night that I realized that they entire day had passed without me noticing. Not such a big deal, right? Actually, the day is marked with special prayers (Ya’aleh v’Yavo, Hallel, Musaf, Psalm 104) and I said my daily prayers (all three times) in the regular fashion. This hasn’t happened since I began doing thrice daily prayers over 30 years ago.

How did this happen? Typically, the New Moon is announced in synagogue the Shabbat morning beforehand. A Torah Scroll is held, everyone rises, and the prayer leader recites the special prayer including the name of the month and when it will begin. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my synagogue has not had in-person Saturday morning services, so the prayer was not recited. Even so, I still knew it was on Wednesday but I simply forgot. I’ll blame it on the pandemic.

It seems to me that a similar thing happens with our fitness regimen. Many of us before the pandemic were in the habit of going to the gym on certain days of the week. Certain days might be lifting days and others cardio. Regular gym-goers have a routine, a rhythm…and I have seen that erode with many of my clients. Not wanting to come into the gym, and not excited about a virtual workout time passes. It may seem like it’s only been a few days or maybe a couple of weeks without a workout…but for many it has been since mid-March–over 4 months!

I am working on a strategy so that I don’t miss Rosh Chodesh next month (the following month is Rosh Hashanah so I won’t miss that!). I am also encouraging my clients to form plans to get them in that fitness routine that means so much. It won’t be easy. This pandemic has really messed with us.

Time is too precious. It is holy. Let’s make a commitment to not lose track of it.

The Power of Negativity

Plus-minus Sign Plus And Minus Signs Symbol Mathematical Notation ...

And the results are in….NEGATIVE!

Yesterday I had to take a COVID-19 test in preparation for a surgical procedure on Thursday. I was pretty sure I’d be negative. I’ve had no fever, have worn my mask, maintained 6′, etc., but you never know.

I think for many of us over the last few months, even a sniffle or a tickle in the throat is cause for worry. Is it allergies or the plague? Do I need a ventilator or a Ricola? There is a pervasive anxiety that only a test can allay.

It is nice to know that I do not have the virus, but I realize that the test yesterday is only one snapshot in time. I could be exposed today (God forbid) and not even know it. The anxiety does not disappear. What is the case to be made for repeated testing?

As I said, although I expected it to come back negative, it is still a relief. Here’s hoping that many more of us follow the CDC recommendations so that we can turn this thing around. Let’s hope for as much negativity as possible!

My COVID-19 Test

Michigan National Guard conducts COVID-19 testing in Marquette

Today I had to get a COVID-19 test in preparation for a surgical procedure on Thursday. So what was it like?

The picture above pretty much sums it up. I had my test at the Cleveland Clinic main campus and somehow thought I would be going inside to do it. My GPS brought me to the main campus and as I was close to the address that they had given me I began to see signs by the side of the street pointing to the testing site. It was around one corner, around another, around another and then I saw the line of cars in a parking lot. “Not too bad,” I thought. Maybe 6 or 7 cars in front of me. A Cleveland Clinic Traffic Police Officer directed 3 cars at a time into a parking garage so I thought this would be relatively quick. I also realized that the test would be done while I was still in my car. I was finally directed into the parking garage and (as happens at Disney parks), there was another line inside. This line was for check-in. Once check-in was completed, there was another line. Finally, three cars were called ahead to three spaces inside the garage where I finally got the test.

It literally took about 5 seconds. It was not enjoyable. I felt like I wanted to sneeze, but it was not the least bit painful. It happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to process it.

20 or so minutes in line for a 5 second test. Given everything that is going on in our country and how the numbers are spiking in Ohio, I am grateful that it was this easy. I know that there are places in our nation where accessibility is a much greater issue.

Now I wait for 24-48 hours for my results. I am symptom-free and I have to get my temperature taken every time I walk into the building to work–so far without any issues. I expect that my result will be negative, but it is altogether possible that I have the virus and am simply asymptomatic. I am hoping for the best, and thankful that a test exists.

I will keep you posted. In the meantime, stay safe–distance yourself, wear your mask, and wash your hands!

Exploring Weight Bias

Scales

Over the past few months, our nation has been have a much-needed reckoning with the place of racism, bias, inequality and prejudice in our society. Many have come to realize that the issue is much deeper than we had imagined–perhaps because we are shielded from it–and that it is built into our society. Although we may not see ourselves as prejudiced, we participate in a system that has perpetuated injustice for centuries.

With all the awareness around the challenges (a euphemism to be sure) faced by people of color and members of the GLBTQ+ community, there are still others who are targets of bigoted behavior. Some of it is subtle and other expressions are much more explicit.

The most recent issue of IDEA Fitness Journal featured an article on Weight Bias. The article by Cassandra Padgett and Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, entitled “Weight Bias in the Health and Fitness Industry” focuses on what this means for us in the business of helping people to become more healthy, but it also explores the ways in which society views people who are overweight or obese. The article draws upon research that shows that “People who have a higher body weight are vulnerable to stereotypes, bias, bullying, and discrimination in our society.” [The Rudd Center, 2020]

Many of us will recognize this if we think about it. It is not okay to judge based on skin color, religion, sexual identity and orientation, country of origin, etc., but when it comes to weight somehow we get really judgmental. This is a problem in society in general, but this bias has greater impact in the fitness industry. The article notes that the bias can be explicit; in other words, there is conscious discrimination against people with higher body weights. There can also be implicit bias; it is often automatic and outside of our awareness. It often results from the “collective ideology of the fitness industry, stereotypes, or lack of personal experience or understanding of the complex etiology of obesity.”

Padgett and Digate Muth address the ways in which the industry can begin to remediate these issues. They also challenge personal trainers and related professional trainers to rethink how we address weight and its overall effect on total health. Reasons for obesity are complex and are influenced by a number of factors beyond just calories eaten. A person’s weight is not a reflection of their character or what they can contribute.

It is good that our society is beginning to sensitize itself to the ways that the “ins” treat the “outs.” This starts with a realization that there are “ins” and “outs.” There is lots of work to do out there. We can do much better as a nation than we are. I know that I have participated in a system (our society but more particularly the fitness industry) that has stigmatized those with higher body weights. While I cannot change the past, I can alter the way I approach people with higher weights and obesity. Rather than being an obstacle to better health, I hope that I can create a welcoming and affirming space for everyone regardless of their body fat percentage.

This is just one more facet of our national movement toward a more just, kind and healthy society.

The President Needs to Be a Bigger A$$hole

Donald Trump

It has been stated that leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand. [John Ortberg]

This means that being a leader isn’t about being like necessarily, or making others happy. Being a leader often means having to make difficult decisions that will disappoint others. The key is knowing how to do that and when to do that.

Disappointing others often means being an asshole. Let me explain. We’ve all been in that situation when we were about to do something stupid–maybe with a group of friends–and there is that one asshole who tells us how wrong it is, gets us to understand the long-term repercussions, and eventually talks us out of it. At the time, we are disappointed, but eventually we are grateful that they saved us from what could have been a tragic situation. They have disappointed us, but at a pace we can stand.

What we need now is for President Trump to be that asshole with COVID-19. Right now all the states are doing their own thing. Things are a mess and it is out of control. There is no one leader at the top telling us all the right thing to do; on the contrary, for a variety of reasons the President has avoiding doing this all along. It may be because he is afraid that he’ll appear weak or, more likely, because he does not want to disappoint American citizens by making us do something unpopular…like enforcing the wearing of masks, social distancing, and closing establishments that cannot guarantee a reasonable level of safety. Nobody wants to be an asshole, but often it is the asshole who saves our asses.

President Trump, we need you now–more than ever–to be that asshole. We need you to disappoint us by telling us we cannot do whatever we want. We need you to disappoint us by telling us that freedom also comes with responsibility. We need you to disappoint us by demanding that we all do what is necessary to control the spread of this virus before it wreaks further havoc on our health and our livelihoods.

Mr. Trump, we need you to be an asshole. I’m pretty sure you’re up to the task; you’ve been one before. More, now than ever, we need you to disappoint us. Please be the leading asshole in nation.

COVID-19 Gym Trickle-Down

trickling falls--so little rain here lately

We are living in an oxymoronic world. Many states and cities are continuing to “open up,” while infection rates for COVID-19 are surging.

It is true that the economy added more jobs than expected last month, but that reporting was from before the “second wave” made its appearance in full force. I am not an economist, but from my little corner of the fitness world, it looks to me like we are in for a lot more pain before it gets better.

My gym began a phased opening at the beginning of June. Before that, I was training clients on-line–at first, free of charge (the JCC paid a salary based on my previous paychecks), and after May 15 at the regular training rate. Needless to say, business for me is way down; it is true of many of other personal trainers too. I may be hit especially hard because I train many seniors and super-seniors who are especially vulnerable to infection and complications/death (and therefore don’t won’t come to the gym) and who are also skittish about using on-line platforms for their workouts. I know that many of them who truly benefited from their training regimens pre-COVID are rapidly losing fitness ground.

Additionally, because of the limitations on how many folks can use the gym at a given time (and even then by appointment only), there are less people at the gym and fewer folks taking tours and joining. This results in less opportunities to meet people and build my business. So, things are not great and there are few signs of much improvement. On the contrary, with the current surge (and no end in sight) it could get much worse.

If folks cannot come into the gym, they may wonder why they are paying monthly membership. I’ve lost a few clients this way as well. Their feeling is that they should not have to pay the same membership fees to train on-line as in-person; they are not using the building, its locker rooms, cardio equipment, pool, etc., so way pay for all that?

This becomes a downward spiral that affects trainers and gym facilities. Even those gyms that just threw open their doors at the first chance will likely see another downturn as infections rise and fears along with them. ow will they build their business?

Of course, if I am making less money as a trainer, that means I have less money to spend on all kinds of other things which in turn further weakens the economy. It is a vicious cycle and the federal government IMHO is not showing enough leadership and creativity.

Personal Training is only one example. The same thing is happening in spectator sports, restaurants, houses of worship. Things are spiraling downward.

It is clear to me that without appropriate and speedy intervention OR a radical make-over of the industry OR effective vaccines/treatments, gyms will not survive. People are not willing to risk their lives to improve their health/fitness.

In the meantime, I am doing my best, trying to motivate my clients and be the best trainer I can be. Hopefully my efforts will trickle down and water some seeds that lead to growth–not only for me, but for my clients, and the economy. There is a long, arduous road ahead.

Whoa! The Horse has Already Left the Barn

Horse_flight

Ohio began its process of “re-opening” in mid-May. The JCC where I work planned for a phased re-opening starting in June. At first, only personal training by appointment was allowed. Two weeks later, it was personal training by appointment and use of the Fitness Center without a trainer also by appointment with occupancy strictly regulated. Today, the pools opened as did the locker rooms.

And then…Gov. DeWine announced on Monday, June 29, that a number of public health orders surrounding COVID-19 that were due to expire on July 1 would be delayed by a week.

It seems like the timing is off–not just in Ohio but everywhere. At a point when cases are surging and it is clear that the curve was never really flattened, some places are continuing the process of opening up, others are taking a step back (Ohio), and still others are enforcing ever-stricter measures. The Federal Government has preferred to let states deal with the issue of how to re-open or not–which makes perfect sense as COVID-19 has definitely boned up on US geography and knows which states are which [sarcasm]. Why is there no national plan like in other countries?

I get that folks want to get the economy and our lives as we remember them rolling again, but at the current trajectory it looks like the process of re-opening in which we are now engaged will actually further delay those goals. Until the virus is under control, it will be impossible to get the economy under control.

I feel safe at the JCC right now. Lots of precautions have been put into place to keep the employees and members as safe as possible. As it becomes clear that the pandemic is not just disappearing but, in fact, getting worse, can any of us be sure that we are doing the right thing? Will it be possible to backtrack and tighten things up again? Can the fitness industry (in particular, gyms) even survive what is ahead if we need to close up again? So many questions and so little direction from the Federal Government.

The “Re-Open Horse” has already been let out of the barn. He is running around like crazy. Not sure if we can catch him if we need to. Even if we do, can we get him back in the barn?

We need leaders who can be honest about the sacrifices that we will need to make until the pandemic is under control. While Ohio’s governor has made good decisions so far (although I disagree with him on nearly every other policy issue), does he have the political will to “disappoint” the people of this state again with more restrictions?

At the very least, we all need leaders who are willing to admit that there is even a horse. Only then can we corral it and get it back in the barn. Until then, that horse/virus is going to keep on running…and it may be too late to catch him.