Friday, March 26, 2010

Yeah, I have that too... Understanding Layers of Poverty

One of the common things I hear when I explain to folks that I can't do _____ because of my brain injury is  "yeah, I have that too." Maybe, but clearly not.

Yes, every symptom possible for a brain injured person is also possible for others to experience as well. But here's the thing: brain injury isn't about just one thing not working right. Brain injury is about numerous things not working right. So, my friend may well not remember the grocery list his wife asked hi, to pick up on the way home, but he DOES have the capacity to not be overwhelmed by the feedback of the PA system in the grocery store, so he can call her and learn his list.

The brain controls nearly everything about us, so damage to the brain can damage nearly anything about us as well. Many experience personality shifts, rage for apparently no reason (it's actually because of feeling trapped like a wounded animal by the bombardment of overstimulation), variable fatigue, weight gain or loss, depression, various loss of cognitive function, an the list could go on and on...

What most people thankfully don't have experience with is layers of poverty. By poverty, I mean a lack of _______ that make it difficult for us to co-create with God. Layers of poverty grow exponentially. I've I've simply lost my job, but have no other layers of poverty, that's a real challenge, but it's one I'm likely to be able to overcome. However, if I lost my job because I'm addicted to gambling, I have two poverties (at least -- it will like grow), but to overcome them I have to over come each poverty and the complications that happen because there are two poverties rather than one.

Here's a chart:
Between every pair of poverties, is another layer of poverty that has to be overcome to most freely co-create with God.

When it comes to brain injury, every symptom or area of damage is a poverty. If I just had memory loss OR variable fatigue, life would be easier. However, because I have both, they make the other harder to overcome.

In my experience, this exponential effect is something often not understood or addressed by traditional therapy. It is part of what Mind Your Head Co-op is working to both educate people about and help provide a long term means of addressing.

Note: This concept and other related ones are more fully explored in my Model of Catholic Social Teaching.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thank you, Evernote!

Evernote is one my my cornerstone strategies and technologies for compensating with my lack of memory. Here is a profile they did on me, along with the announcement of their generious donation of 50 premium memberships. Thank you, Evernote!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gorge-ous Rio Grande!

I had a blissful run along the rim of the Rio Grande river's gorge North of Taos. A feast for my feet witha  variety of pumice lava rock, packed and lose dirt. It was incredible fun, and I've never run anything that flat for that long (15 miles round trip). Actually did an average of 7:40 minutes per mile. My average at home is 9:20 minutes per mile - so the lower altitude combined with level terrain combined for a about an 18% increase in speed. No wonder it was so fun!

Primal Running Form

I was intrigued by these shots of me running. It's one thing to try and run a certain way, and a completely different thing to then see pictures of that form in action.

Two things here: first is the clear preparation of the foot for an outer forefoot strike (just behind the pinky toe; second is the way in which one foot is right in front of the other. For me, it creates a straight line about an inch or two in from the inside edge of my feet. When I had to wear snowshoes, it felt really strange and hard to have to walk with a wider stance.

Shoe companies would have us believe we need support and protection; however, this shot clearly shows my left foot's arch (AKA windlass mechanism), at full load. That kind of compression is supposed to happen (it absorbs shock of landing, and returns close to 20% of that energy back to your next step). Any arch support prevents this natural mechanism from functioning at all. Arch support does nothing but weaken the foot, send unnecessary shock up through the leg, and make the whole body work harder to propel itself forward.

Run with abandon!

What a Fantastic Retreat!

Alpineglow from the cabin's deck. 

A friend gave me the gift of a retreat and pilgrimage with him. We spent a week at another friend's remote cabin around the Spanish Peaks near LaVeta, CO (Thank you!). Depending on the temperature and recent snow fall, I either ran in my moccasins or in my moccasins with snowshoes (which my feet really rebelled against, as the straps chaffed them raw a few places).

It was a grand test of my ear plugs, as they got quite a workout, with the long drive, in a new home with various noises, and then more long drives and even a few restaurants. They and I did wonderfully well, and the continued gifts and slurry of baby-step improvements from the Blood Type Diet, Primal Running, and Buteyko Breathing are clearly evident. Still waiting for my memory and cognitive capacity to improve. Perhaps with time and more running!

I did lose a few days to "short circuiting" -- requiring time to recover because of cigarette smoke in our non-smoking room at one hotel (apparently there's no such thing as no smoking rooms in even a brand new Casino. Who could have guess that one? Sardonic grin).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New, Old Trail

Looking out over Highway 24 and Crystola (Lost Creek Wilderness on the far horizon), and the brilliant green lichen waking on the rock in the foreground in one of the first signs of spring.

There is a wondrous trail that has been blocked off but now has a new way to access it. Much of it gets more sun exposure throughout the winter and so is less icy and crusty and often fairly clear (save for the inch of powder that fell last night).

It is one of the joys of life to get to re-experience the gifts of things once known and loved in a new time and a new way. That was the soul of this morning's run -- six miles through the snow on a lovely highland trail.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Running is cognitive therapy...

Since the first glimmer that I might be able to run again (last spring, so coming up on one year ago), I've intuitively known that primal running would be an integral part of my ongoing recovery for my bludgeoned brain. I had no idea of the extent (By God's grace, I still don't and this is just the beginning!).

For the past week, I've been testing out going for a run when my brain is fatigued. I'm not at all sure what prompted this, because it feels incredibly counter intuitive to my lived experience. But running has become so efficient for me, that I return from a run with more brain energy than I left with. I have no idea what the limits of this are, but I'm in the process of testing them out.

Yesterday, I ate something on my "avoid" blood type diet (4-5 bites was all). I asked my wife if it was on my avoid list because it just either tasted funny to me or I was beginning to feel "off." I dropped rapidly last night (perhaps I should have immediately gone for a run?! I may get brave enough to test that extreme at some point) and was still recovering this morning. It was a "hard" brain day. So I decided to test it out. I could barely make it out the house, but once I was running, I was doing better. Inertia limits the ways you can fall, so my brain was less panicked about that (at least that's the part of the equation I've figured out so far). I ended up running 5k, though it felt like 30k. (brain injury has a way of making life seem that way -- the expenditure of an ultra-marithon to accomplish a walk around the block.). I even "hit the wall" 3/4s of a mile in, and felt my body shift to fat reserves by 2.5 miles. Arrived home and I'm more at a "medium" day in terms of brain fatigue. Amazing stuff! And I owe it all to primal running and primal (Buteyko) breathing!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Minimalist Footprints...

This photo intrigues me. The print in the lower left is made by a guy I saw on the trail, who appears to weigh less, be smaller than me, and made the print about the same time I did. He was walking, I was running. I mention that to make clear the prints were made onto ground of equal softness and the deeper print was made by someone lighter and walking compared with my 190 lbs running. My print is in the upper right. I was wearing my primal moccasins.

My print isn't quite "the best runners leave no print" ideal, but it is interesting to see the difference between primal running and shod walking in what appears to be a Converse or similar less structured shoe.

Clearly the shod print is a heal strike (see the deep heel imprint.) It creates an artificially flat surface. My primal print is soft around the edges and is clearly a gentle forefoot strike. My foot molds the ground slightly, but also molds to the ground. There is clear toe articulation.

Thoughts? Riff away in the comments section...

Baby Step Miracles!

Bathed in gentle alpine glow after a night's snow, this view looks down Ute Pass.

As I connect with, learn, and live the basics of "God's engineering" I am deeply humbled by how great we are made and how much we try and do things our way and simply gum up the works.

What do I mean by "God's engineering?" I mean that God, through evolution, designed us to be the most beautiful and efficient and gifted creature on the planet: mind, body, and soul. Learning how to listen to our body and what it's trying to tell us can make everything in life better. Two cases in point:

Primal Running:
When I first began going barefoot (last spring), my feet tingled as the blood rushed in, grew new tissue, woke up dormant neural connections and created new ones. My feet began giving the rest of my body input about where I as compared with the ground. My brain no longer had to struggle to figure this out. My body (from my navel down) just knew. As this awareness and reflex grew, I realized I could run. A few more months and constant testing to see if I still needed the 4 pound walking sticks, and I've shifted to 8 oz. trekking poles (Thank you, Mountain Chalet!). I'm now running and moving faster and more efficiently than ever (including before my brain injury!). I'm hopeful that running will help grow new connections and help me recover even more over time (studies show mice grown thousands of new brain cells when they run compared with when they don't).

Primal Breathing:
Using the Buteyko breathing method, my breathing is now keeping the maximum amount of accessible oxygen in my blood, increasing my body's efficiency throughout. I've even been able to run more in the afternoon and once in the evening (Mornings are my best "brain energy" time). I feel better more, have more brain energy, and my sinuses are not a constant presence in every moment of life. I suspect this new efficiency deeply contributed to my being able to go to lighter sticks, as it provides a better, more consistent oxygen supply to my brain.

Baby step miracles by way of learning how to listen to my body and the way God created me to breathe and move and eat (Blood Type Diet). I wonder what other aspects of life I take for granted that I'm actually doing things counter to how God created me? How else can I go primal? The search continues... Grin.

Plus 43.6 (Yes, I've been negligent in reporting them!)
Total mileage: 519.5 miles