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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Coming out and Quitting

My two-part news for the Facebook/Blog Reading World

Part 1 : I'm gay!  well, bisexual, does that count? Yes, it's going to count because it needs to count in my country today.

Part 2 : I'm quitting Kettlebell Sport.

Any family members that I couldn't reach my email, let me know if you're going to disown me so I won't try to contact you. Everyone who wants to unfriend me, go ahead and do it. I'm certainly going to keep using and writing about kettlebells for fitness, but not likely to write much about KBSport, so maybe you want to unsubscribe? Do what you want.

About Part 1 :  it was not a spontaneous realization. I don't think sexual orientation can be. 
Rewind way back to 1993. I was attending college at Ft. Lewis in Durango, CO. It was the beginning of my self-discovery so yoga naturally played a part. After one particularly heart-opening class I had a complete identity shift and came out as bisexual. I attended PFLAG meetings on campus and went to Gay Night a few times. Though I did meet women who were interested in me, I was only half out of the closet, and not able to remain vulnerable in the discovery process. They passed me by. I started dating a man which rolled into more relationships with men and just became my pattern. Then I had a follow-up crisis of figuring out that I was not in school for the right subject. Drama and psychology was just a guess. I didn't know myself well enough to finish either degree. I withdrew from college and started a quest to find my calling. Easy to shelf the question of sexuality at this point.

Forward to 2008 at the point when my marriage was dissolving. I had my certification to practice Shiatsu, was building my client base in Crestone, CO, and trying to keep in touch with the clients I'd left in Boulder, CO, was active with martial arts (aikido) and was married to a guy who also was bisexual (his last relationship was with a man). I was bought-in to the purpose of our union - to create a healing center. He had moved us to Crestone to get that started. We met the local Native American Church soon after visiting town. My true prayer was still unfocussed, but I knew this was the place I needed to be (the fire ceremony had emerged in my art therapy in 1996). Three years of fairly regular sweat lodge and peyote ceremonies later it became clear that I was deep in hiding. When during a ceremony I allowed the realization that the marriage was not going to live up to its promise the divorce cascaded into reality. I returned to Boulder to rebuild my practice but had left unresolved the question of sexual orientation, which had been knocking on my consciousness in ceremonies all the while. I still felt terrified of my attraction to women and could not break down my ego to explore it further. Again, the trauma of divorce, relocation and poverty became more important.

About Part 2 : you may know I started playing Kettlebell Sport just before my dad died in 2011 and achieved a high level quickly. Suddenly I was a role-model in the sport and inspiring other women to go beyond their perceived possibilities. It was great to be acknowledged, but after a few years the sport was taking over my life. I wanted to expand my Shiatsu training but was giving all my physical and financial resources to the sport. I had absolutely no energy for an intimate relationship, but was putting out gestures with online dating that I wanted a boyfriend. Amusingly, my image was very masculine, there was no interest coming back from men. When women did "vibe" me I felt threatened and confused. My mind was stuck in the "heterosexual" marriage reality. Trauma does powerful things to our minds.

My knees spoke on behalf of my body in Spring of last year, exploding into tremendous inflammation. This has been the subject of my most recent blog posts. It has taken more than a year of bodywork and diet modifications to heal them and peel the injury back to a bad ankle sprain that happened in 1992 while rock climbing. I lifted and competed through the injury. I recently started running again, which was the point at which I thought I would be able to get back into a training cycle. The enthusiasm of coming back in a big way was the entire fuel for the plan to prepare for the big World Championship in California next February. I already knew it would be my last competition "for a while". 

And then the Native American Church showed up here in Boulder.

The ceremony was on September 15th, a Women Only event with the purpose of healing relationships among women and strengthen the community. My prayer had two very clear parts: How can I completely heal my legs? How can I heal my relationship with women? We all saw lightning flash in the distance just before going into the tipi.

During the night the medicine brought me out of a deep sleep. 
First I heard a clear voice telling me "I know how you can heal your legs but you're not going to like it." It took half the night for me to entertain the idea that life will continue without KBSport. I sobbed. Then I felt that familiar nudge on my mind about how shut down I had become physically. I thought for a while it was because of the exhaustion of training and finally realized I had been suppressing my body's response to women. Somewhere in the night a voice from outside my mind said "Coming out does not change who you are."

Starting on Sept. 16th stopped lifting Kettlebell Sport. I grieved this change for a week. 
I haven't really known what to do about coming out as bi, but know that if I don't make it known through the public forum that I do have I will just stay under the guise of Single Heterosexual out of default. The thing I know for sure is that my body has got the lead.

That's my story. I offer it to my blog readers as explanation for my Gay Pride profile picture, and the story of why I'm not going to play Kettlebell Sport anymore.
Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement for my writing all this time,


At the end of the night, this is how our altar looked. The cracks are very unusual!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cross-training and letting time heal

It has been a minute since the last post about pain and suffering and, most devastatingly, my inability to train Kettlebell Sport. Really I have nothing to say about the sport at this time. What I have to say is that cross-training can be every bit as challenging as KBSport training and time truly does heal. 

This is the second cross-training cycle since beginning my GS addiction. Last time I hired a non-GS coach to program a 6-week strength cycle. This time I asked my amazing Coach Sensei Sergey Rudnev to program for an undetermined amount of time. The only negative to this plan is that Coach still costs the same for off-season programming. Meaning I don't stand to gain credit from competition achievements to off-set his price, as in previous GS training cycles. Everything else about working with Rudnev Sensei is great, especially since I cannot live too many days in a row without a good crushing in the gym.

Rudnev Sensei has a unique perspective on auxiliary training. The objective is still strength/endurance, but not using typical "Stage 2" exercises (Deadlift, Squats, Jump Squats, Box Jumps, Bench Press, Military Press, Dips and running). You don't have to look far to see that Coach Rudnev is not just a great Kettlebell Sport teacher, he is an athlete on another level. He is creative with basic equipment and loves to use gymnastics-style exercises to keep up that enviable strength-to-weight ratio. Lucky for me, the rings and horizontal bars have become standard gear in most gyms. 

His three-part exercise complexes include nary a straight bar nor dumb bell. I'm lifting my bodyweight and kettlebells of 16kg or less. Use of the rings allows more versatile access to torso musculature than using a stationary bar for pull ups, push ups and hanging exercises. Rings also add the additional complexity of stabilizing against the swing. A few choice "Rudnev Specials" include moving weights through a plank position. Some of these exercises are featured in this short YouTube:
Not shown are the various abdominal exercises (Russian Twist is a new frenemy). Coach has a talent for highlighting one abdominal skill just long enough to make me hate it, then switching to a different one until I hate that one, etc. with about 4 different exercises. After 8 weeks I'm learning muscle up static holds which I will not be showing. My best attempts to date look like a cat that got stuck trying to use a telephone wire as a ladder. Very awkward. 

Because rowing has been my sole cardio for most of a year, I've started adding kettlebell juggling to get outside and mix things up. Overall my shoulders feel much more stable than before, I'm pushing my dip numbers higher, and am getting thicker around my mid-back and waistline (this is apparently a hazard of the mesomorph-dominant physique). Thanks to rope climb and bar exercises my callouses and grip training have continued to develop. A few weeks ago, while doing my third of three Russian Twist x 30 each side sets I realized the mental training is still in the programming, too.

Time heals and helps develop understanding. I can say there are at least three parts to this process. This is not new to the human awareness, and there probably are actual names for the phases of healing, but I'm going to refer to them as parts one, two and three.

Part one is the active management of pain. Managing pain is exhausting. All connection with myself as an athlete faded into a distant memory, therefore it was also active management of depression. Everything took longer to do because pain happened in all angles of movement. The fragile nature of comfort etched itself in the fibers of my consciousness. I made modifications to simple actions such as walking down stairs. It was less painful to do this backward. A natural pain relief  formula (Curica) became a daily supplement. I performed an initial scourge of all sources of inflammation from my diet. In terms of understandings gained in part one: health is valuable, irreplaceable, and if I have a tiny grain of common sense I will put my every resource into preserving health for the rest of my life. 

Part two is the stage that slowly dawns after a seeming endless time of treating the injury, be it pharmaceutical or through supplementation/diet. This is heralded by the glimmer of hope that there may be a day (in the distant future) when this injury is no longer the focal point of life. I put quite a bit of consciousness into part two because I wanted to remind myself of the improvement from "part one days."
Out of impatience I chose to push the edge a few times during this part (tried to run for cardio) and made the injury recur to lesser degrees, which struck the fear of God into me. The most recent time I did this it became clear that I needed to stay the healing course. I have been on the natural medicine route, rather than pharmacy/surgery, which may have prolonged the pain I experienced in part two, but served to re-build a solid foundation in my joint structure. It is a concept in Chinese Medicine that we reap benefits or punishments for the previous four months' habits, therefore I knew to get positive results I needed to buckle in for at least four months. This inspired the choice to detox from refined sugar and start intestinal cleansing. In this stage my understanding was: awareness of all the tiny mis-steps I made prior to the injury, specifically the many slips from my best diet choices; and the compromises of my inner need to balance intensity with recovery.

I'm fairly confident that part three is where I am now, which is distinctly different from part two. Almost all normal ranges of motion have returned and almost all signs of injury are gone. "Almost" is my nickname for part three. I found professional help in the form of an advocate for my body who has nothing to do with my sport.
I had to wait three weeks to see Physical Therapist Bob Cranny. He has a reputation for success here in Boulder, CO, home of hundreds of amateur and professional triathletes and himself an ultimate runner. At the intake appointment he was pleased with how far I had come on my own. He commended my focus on dietary support, specifically quitting sugar, saying it's a treatment strategy many people overlook. The homework he gave was foam rolling tensor fascia latae and iliotibial band for 3 minutes twice per day. This just straight sucked for 3 weeks, but I did and still do it religiously. Because I had done the intestinal cleansing for several weeks I undertook a liver flush with great results. (Here is an article describing the general cleanse protocol I used.) After five visits Bob has noted accelerated progress but has been unwilling to make an estimate on how long before I can run again. Bob is my part three guide, reminding me that "almost" isn't "all the way" healthy. My understanding at this point is: everything that I've integrated and added as self-care is here to stay, and wait longer than I want to start GS training again. 

I know there's little about the sport itself in this post. Three different posts developed since beginning to write this one, all with nothing to say about the sport.
Best wishes to everyone for safe and effective training,

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Confessions from Injury

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

The stages of letting go of the training to allow healing, no matter what it means, no matter how long it takes.

My confession is that I've been too stoic (which is my way of saying prideful) to acknowledge my mortality publicly. Even thought my heart knows different, I haven't been able to own that this is the sin I've been guilty of for all this time. I have resisted the process since the initial tendon issue hit my left knee in late May of 2016. There is no rational way to blame Sport lifting for the cumulative tendon strain, the only thing that made it hurt during the onset was driving a manual transmission. Running on the inflamed joint made it worse. 
I rushed (well, hobbled) to the natural food store and purchased $75 in supplements, specifically joint support and developed a routine to keep myself going with natural anti-inflammatory nutrition. "Keep myself going" means be able to do my job, mat-style bodywork. I need to sit in seiza (it's like Child Pose, but sitting up) to do my work. Everything was modified in my technique, and at the beginning I nearly passed out after a day of work from the pain.

Turmeric, liquid joint formulas, flax and fish oils became regular grocery items.
Acupuncture helped, to a greater or lesser degree though sometimes the treatment made swelling more intense. Packing my knee with ice felt good for a while, then just made my muscles cold. Saturating my leg with essential oils did great work for me emotionally and physically. DMSO (dimethylsulphoxide) application was intense and burned, and made me feel like I was doing something good. But nothing was working over night. Finally in September my left knee started to feel normal again, but then my right knee began to swell.

During the time between May and September I all but stopped driving my car and converted to bicycle and public transportation. Finally in October I sold the car. On occasions when my bodywork business required driving to accommodate my clients, I used CarShare (all automatic vehicles). Interestingly, even though I was still doing Snatch training and rowing for cardio, the only things that caused the swelling to increase was driving. After the Thanksgiving and Christmas food bonanza was over I acknowledged that sweets and dairy were slowing down my healing. 

At New Year of 2017 I gave up sugar. This was not too hard on the practical level because I've been in the habit of preparing my own food for many years. Physically and emotionally it was like giving up an addictive substance. I was prepared with dried fruit and supportive herbs, but not prepared for the experience of facing my depth with no escape drug. What did I have to lean on? Not ice cream or chocolate. I don't drink or smoke (I know, waste of my Boulder County residency...). Faith that it was all working in its own time.

Soon there was clear evidence that God was in my world! Snatch Only training went very well through February and I made a nice PR (+11 reps) at the CaliOpen. Also I heard from a dear friend that she had a faith healing of her shoulders just the week before which allowed her to attend the event! I took almost two weeks to rest and started where I left off last May with Long Cycle training. My legs felt good, not 100% healed, but extremely improved. I was able to run for 20 minutes with no negative effect, but was alternating with rowing so as not to push my luck. 
This brings me to last Wednesday. I ran for 30 minutes then did some self-constructed assist exercises to support my abductors. I felt "something happen" in my right knee during this process. I had to drive a friend's car that night and by the next morning (last Thursday) my right knee was swollen and would not bend past 90 degrees without pain. It's not just a blow to my training, it's an extreme hit to my profession as a mat-style bodyworker. I need to sit in seiza to do my work.

Here is my second confession. Being a very spiritual person by nature I have long been a Jesus-follower, but a closet Jesus-follower. Meaning I did not go to congregation. I have kept God and Jesus in my own way for one main reason: every time I see or hear the crucifixion story I am reduced to painful weeping. This experience started sometime in my childhood (maybe 6 years old) when I saw the Easter story on television. The blatant injustice of the people who demanded the sentence wounded my heart so deeply with that I sobbed. My mother tried to console me, but nothing she said could justify the malice. My faith in humanity was lost at so young an age. (The only heartache near to this since that time was learning of the near-genocide of native peoples.) As an adult I have given my heart to Jesus but have not been able to attend a church gathering without shedding a river of tears.

This doesn't mean I do not need fellowship, however. I have spared myself emotionally rather than join a religious group that will only see me in pain. I know this is a process that has been parked in my life.
I have seen something especially appealing in the Kettlebell Sport community: a great bunch of believers. Whether it is in the pre-set gestures of blessing we see from the Russian World Champions or the many tattooed crosses and declarations of faith seen at any given event, I feel met in the KBSport community. Jesus is not only the Way, but also the Patron Saint for athletes, especially endurance athletes. So here I am calling out for support prayers (from those who can hear) that my path in this sport will be revealed through Grace.

The past year has been such a challenge because of the slow process of healing and working through the injury. As an athlete, if there is one thing I've learned about joint injuries, it's that immobilizing them long-term will not help with the recovery. As a bodyworker I am aware of the hazards of manual therapy at the wrong time. But as an athlete who does manual therapy I am often challenged to discern the correct timing. I submit this to you, my Friends in Kettle, by way of testimony. It is my greatest reveal to date, the place of deepest vulnerability within me and I'm trusting it to you all.

Please forgive any typos or grammar problems. I cannot bear to re-read this article one more time.
With gratitude for blessings and grace,