Apparently there is a certain portion of the fitness community that has learned nothing about the tragedy that took place about a year ago. Kevin Ogar, who was competing in the Crossfit OC Throwdown in January of 2014 severed his spine during the competition and is now paralyzed. A video of the moment it happened went viral and the whole fitness community mourned along with extensive analysis of what happened. By many it was considered a freak accident, unless you consider the fact that he was three workouts into a ten workout regime, likely already exhausted and throwing a heavy weight over his head. I’m not posting a link but it is easily found, and is disturbing.
First and foremost, this is not an article about CrossFit, bashing anyone or doing anything other than taking a look objectively at the situation. From what I have read nobody can seem to properly determine if Kevin’s spine was just ready to snap, or if he was hit by the bar (or both) – either way, it is a horrible accident and my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
However, apparently the people who run the OC Throwdown didn’t learn anything, as this year they decided to have their participants jump over successive hurdles that were set at heights way too difficult to get over, resulting in many competitors falling – it is unknown if any of them seriously injured themselves but judging from what I was watching it was highly likely. There was a video that went viral about it and many people within the community complained that it was irresponsible and idiotic (which it was), and you would think that the organizers of this event would have known better. By the way, if you want to see the video, it’s here.
Maybe if just one person had stood up and reminded them of what happened the year before and simply refused to do something so risky they might have changed their whole workout and everyone could have done it safely. But that’s not cool, and it’s not hardcore, and it’s not something that you can post on YouTube.
This article is about the responsibility we all have towards our bodies, and the stupidity that sometimes arises when people get competitive. I can’t count the amount of people I have dealt with who have experienced major injuries, usually because they decided to “push through it” or they wanted to “suck it up”. Your body sends you signals for a reason, and it usually isn’t to tell you “hey, maybe you should think about stopping.”
I have many people on my Facebook feed who perform (to be blunt) horrible lifts. Absolutely brutal lifts. But they get the weight up and cheer themselves and get tons of likes on Facebook and Instagram of course. One poor girl who is all of 21 regularly hurts herself and almost brags about it, and then two days later posts videos of herself lifting, and the only thing I can see is her knees buckling and her spine ready to collapse. She doesn’t realize that in 20 years – or sooner – she’s likely going to be suffering.
Tragedy comes in many forms, but to me one of the most tragic things is seeing a mistake made and then doing absolutely nothing to correct it simply for the sake of ego. You only get one body and one life. You have a choice if you want to let yourself live it to its’ fullest for the whole time you’re on the earth, or possibly have that one moment of glory (or one moment of stupidity) and pay for it for years. I’ve fallen victim to it myself when I was younger and stupid. Many of my friends who have “tweaked” things 20 years ago have recently had to have surgery to resolve things and can’t do what they want to do any more. It’s inevitable if you keep treating your body like a punching bag.
I’d rather see people lifting 50 pounds less and able to do it for 20 more years, which is why I run my practice the way that I do. I’ve taught women in their 50’s to lift over 150 pounds, but do they really need to do more than that? My people squat and lift and push and pull just like anyone else, but they do it with care and responsibility to the body, and funnily enough they rarely have a problem, now and ten years from now. I fix people who have had crippling injuries on a regular basis – the only people I’ll refuse to work with are those who haven’t learned the rules of the body and to respect what it tells you and do something about it.
Strength isn’t something that you can easily define. Figure out for yourself what it means. Hopefully it doesn’t mean sacrificing your long term joint health for the sake of making one massive lift, or almost killing yourself to be able to pose on a stage for 30 seconds, or dehydrating yourself so you can have abs just that much more visible for a photo shoot, or doing something idiotic to be able to post an edgy video on the internet. Wake up.
As always, comments are welcome.
For the past week here in Ottawa I was a participant in a great course called Yoga Tune Up teacher training, where I got to spend seven full days with a bunch of very dedicated professionals getting tuned in to the yoga world a bit more. While I’m still processing everything that happened during the week, I wanted to share my initial observations with my readers and clients because there were a few things that jumped out at me right away I wanted to share.
The people who attended this course with me were from several different corners of the fitness industry. There were yoga instructors, CrossFit trainers, powerlifters, dance instructors, and even just regular people who wanted to learn more about yoga or had taken the class and wanted to learn how to present it themselves. Why did I take it? It is very rare that courses come to Ottawa, and I have known one of the main instructors for a couple of years and have a lot of respect for his knowledge and what he brings to the fitness world with his intention. To be fair, the course was not entirely what I expected and I would not have taken it if I knew what the days were going to entail, as I have no intention of being a yoga instructor – but here’s some things that I took away that are valuable to me. Even if a course isn’t exactly what I’m looking for, my belief is that even if you just get one thing out of it, then it still has value.
The Concept of Sankalpa
On the first day we had to come up with a Sankalpa, or a basic statement that sets your intention around your yoga practice, or simply your life at that point. It is something you are supposed to repeat to yourself in order to guide your thoughts and what you intend to do. In business this could be called a mission statement (although they are usually a lot longer). In some meditation circles it could be a mantra. The great thing is, the simpler it is the better – one sentence can be enough. Sometimes it can be oriented around something you intend to improve personally or within your practice. It is well established that once you repeat something to yourself enough, your brain and body start to believe it. Coming up with a simple statement allows you to touch base with who you really want to be, even if you have to fake it until you make it for a bit.
I would suggest that everyone come up with something like this. Repeating it to yourself under times of stress or when you need to focus on your real intention can be really eye opening in the moment. I know it certainly was for me once I figured out what it is. If you want to know, just ask me.
People Need to Follow Their Inner Voice
When I was getting to know the other participants, a common theme came up constantly through the week very similar to my own. The people had a regular job that they hated, took a class and loved it and realized that they were doing the wrong thing and decided to do something that they liked instead of something that they hated. What a novel concept. I did the same thing almost 15 years ago when I left my high paced stress filled retail management job.
I’m a firm believer that if the universe is telling you something, then you need to go and do it if or when you can. If you can’t manage it right now because of other circumstances, then start planning to get there. I have a client right now who is already planning for her retirement and what she wants to do with her life, but she isn’t retiring for another five years. Even if it takes a few years, for the rest of your life at least you will be working on your authentic purpose rather than wasting away day by day doing something that you hate. Like Jim Carrey said in a recent clip that has been making the rounds of the internet: “you can fail at what you don’t want, so why not take a chance at doing something you love?”
Mobility and Strength aren’t Mutually Exclusive
With the group that we had in the room, it was a great mixture of both “flexy-bendies” and pure strength people, but the greater thing was that everyone was open minded and listened to all points of view without judgement. The thing that emerged (at least from my perspective) was that the really mobile people didn’t have a ton of strength, and the really strong people didn’t have a lot of mobility. It is almost like a large parabolic curve with the x axis being strength and the y axis being mobility and you should aspire to be somewhere in the middle – but it is really hard to get there. There is also a well known correlation between having too much range of motion and not being able to control your joints at end ranges, which can easily lead to injury (something I address constantly with my clients).
The point there is to have a balance – but the one thing that they reinforced during the course (and quite well) was that you can’t achieve a good position of strength if your position is faulty. This means when you are trying to achieve a strong movement or even just to walk properly it is important to begin with proper spinal alignment. So many of us walk around with massive forward head posture and bound up thoracic spines and externally rotated hips, and then we go to a place where we sit all day staring at computer screens lower than our eyes should be, get into cars where we cram ourselves into seats that push everything forward, and sleep with three pillows.
I came out of this course feeling much more mobile than I have been probably in years, and with a renewed sense of who I am and my purpose in the world. It reinforced my path to me and made me aware of things that I had let slip over the past while. Moving forward through life can only be done properly if you have a sense of where you want to be, so sometimes just getting a bit of a wake up call is really valuable, and that’s worth the cost of ten courses to me. I also had a great time and met some incredible caring knowledgeable people who I’m really happy to now be networked with as possible resources for my clients and colleagues.
If you want to know about Yoga Tune Up, visit www.yogatuneup.com and check out a class in the area, it might just be worth it for you.