One Chapter is Closed

It’s been 17 months since Rocio’s death, and the time since then has basically been a rollercoaster for my family and myself. Finally, on April, 22nd we got a call from the D.A. informing us that the person held responsible for the car accident was about to accept the plea bargain. I will refer to this person by “him” (or “his” when denoting his possessive) since posting his real name would serve no purpose…



It’s been two weeks since I started taking care of my back… and I’m bored the hell out of my skull. I miss lifting, I miss the jits. Crap.

Anyways, so far the inflammation is getting down, and I finally went out jogging on Saturday night. Mind you, it was a little trotting like an old man, but that was a major improvement. Fortunately I can do push ups and pull ups, abdominal and supermans so that keep me going.

Jumping is out of the question and I have to run carefully, though. My chiro ties me up to this table that he uses to bend me up and down (as in a reverse hyper) while applying pressure to several parts of the spine. It’s not only the lumbar area, but apparently I have a lot of scar tissue on the hip and where the femur connects to it. Also, he gets me to sit on this contraption for about 5 minutes at every session:

It is pretty weird, but it certainly works your core. Not only that, it gets you to flex and extend your hip and regain hip mobility. It’s good (though dorky looking.) This is a cat on that thing, just for the lolz.
Work is getting busy and I’ll be working the graveyard shift soon, so no jits for me again for a couple of months. The timing of jacking up the back couldn’t have been worse.

I finally got my x-rays on disk. Pretty wicked… and shitty. This is my neck tilted to the right. It is better now, but it is still a lot of work to be done.

Below is my lumbar leaning to the left. I have to make a conscious effort to bring my right shoulder up and extend my right oblique to relieve the pressure. Annoying shit let me tell you.
And the arrows in this one mark the disks that are giving me grief.
Patience, patience. I got to have patience to fix this. It is what it is, and resting is just a part of the game, even when the waiting sucks.

So after the crapcalocaust twisted my back a couple of weeks ago, it’s been a methodical, albeit boring road to recovery.

Well, so far I’ve been limited to stretch my lower back and hamstrings, which releases a lot of pressure, some bodyweight good mornings, and a lot of bicep curls and push ups, a lot. I don’t do anything else for the time being. Pain is almost gone, but there is that weakness that’s felt in the spine between the lumbar and thoraccic areas. Getting up from a chair is not as painful, but moving the neck down sometimes is, and I have to be careful whenever I wake up and get off the bed.

Anyways, when I just get up and stand up natural, from the pelvis up to the base of my skull my back looks like the letter C. It takes some effort to bring my shoulders to the same level (straightening the spine) and more effort to bring my neck up straight. Usually there is no pain when doing this, but it’s a conscious effort. I basically have to imagine a point inside of me, just over the right side of the hip and “lift” it up while extending the oblique.

A couple of things have become apparent:

1. I put all my weight on the left side of my hips,
2. My right oblique is shortened.

So now, whenever I walk or sit I shift my weight to the right leg/glute, hoping that this will eventually lead to a correction. About the oblique, this is getting interesting.

I always thought that I was stretching the obliques, but apparently I was just stretching the tensor fasciae latae. Coupled that with a shortened oblique and a banged up spine, and I’m amazed this shit didn’t hit sooner.

It took a while for me to activate the right oblique and actually stretch it. Before, I would stretch lateraly, but the tensor would just take over. After prodding the muscle, I’m getting it to stretch. And it fucking hurts!!! Right where it meets the hip bone, it fucking hurts!!!

At least I know now a way to deal with it. After my chiro sessions I will check an orthopedist to see what else needs to be done. In the meantime, check these pics I took this morning…

… btw, the brown patch on my lower back is an ice burn (I put ice for way too long), not a crust of dirt!!!

This is what it looks like if I get up and let my body relax. If this were a Yoga pose, it would be called ‘Sideway Bending Chimpanzee’.

Here, I have to make the constant and concious effort to lift the hip, and lenghten the oblique to bring the shoulders level (and thus, straighten up the spine somewhat). My neck still points to the right, though.

Here I have to conciously contract the left side of the neck to bring it up. I’m like fucking Quasimodo or something.

BTW, look at those little love handles. Meaty!!! And really, no, it’s not dirt on my back but an ice burn 😦

Ok, I’m screwed… or maybe not. I dunno. I came back from my chiro, and after looking at my x-rays, I have to say my spine looks all f* up. Let’s just say that my spine, starting from the pelvis, is tilted to the left, my right shoulder is over an inch below my left one, and there are herniations in my L1, L2 and L3.

Yay me!! Oh wait… crap!


I started feeling something weird on my lower back, around my L3 on March, 15th while doing squats. I scratched that one out thinking that it was due to regained mobility on my hips. I had re-started BJJ training a week and a half before that, and the training had been stretching my hip flexors like silly putty.

Same pain was experienced on the 22nd, and again I scratched that one out. Then came jits class on Monday night (the 24th.)  During training I got stacked, and for a moment, I felt a slight pull on my sacral region. I, like a tard, scratched that one out again.

Then, the pain manifested itself on Tuesday, the 23rd. The pain was bad enough that I couldn’t train, had a hard time getting out of bed or standing off a chair. Finally, I got a chance to see my chiro last Friday. And here I am, on Monday, wondering what my next move is.

Apparently my back was all banged up for a very long time – I did injure myself many times at work and doing sports for the last 20 years. And working in the IT sector, sitting on my ass all day didn’t help much either. Working out has been an important part of my life, and thanks to it, it has kept my back problems at bay.

But the same forces were the one that were banging the living shit out of my spine, which bring us to where we are today. My right shoulder was always a bit low, but now the deviation is really bad.

Also, there are herniation (Schmorl’s nodes) between my L1, L2 and L3 vertebra. In the X-rays, they look like little gel pads pouring into the vertebrae, causing all kind of pinch nerving shit.

It was just muscle keeping things in place, but it’s now that finally symptoms are beginning to creep in. I’ll have to take it easy for the time being while I see my chiro – I’ll be seeing him for 14 sessions within this month.

I guess it was just a matter of time until the spine would start to bitch and the last couple of weeks with lifting and jits were the proverbial needle that broke the camel’s back. My chiro reassured me that I should be able to continue training, but I have to take it easy.

I was planning to aim for a new deadlift PR (410lbs), no straps, on the 13th. I guess those plans are out. I’m not sure I’ll be able to spar at the BJJ school for at least a month. Plus, my insurance doesn’t cover chiro work, so that’s going to come out of my pocket.  That’s fine with me, but I, like a tard, wasn’t planning for that expense.

People have come out of worse back problems than that,  and I know I can do it. The problem now will be the mental one, the fact that I have to suck it up, be patient, and wait.

In three weeks, my LA Fitness membership is about to expire. So far I’ve been going there only to squat as I do most of my pressing, dead lifting and other stuff at home. Heck, not that I’m back into jiu jitsu, it is more difficult to make time to drive back and forth from the gym, from any gym.

So here I am, actually my g/f and I, contemplating a life without a squat rack. How crap, reality hits home. We need a squat rack. Trouble is that there is a distinct possibility of moving to another location, most likely to a small apartment. Having a power cage is not an option, not until we finally settle down at a condo or home with a garage or something.

As I’m looking for squat stands (the obvious choice for us), I’m completely dissatisfied by most of the choices available out there. Most of these crappy stands don’t recommend to use beyond 200lbs. What sort of a joke is this???

Anyways, looking on the crossfit forums, I think I’ve found the choice for us. Behold, the C-93132W Squat Rack by New York Barbells, which runs for $149 as of today.

This puppy can take up to 1,000lbs, not that I’m going to squat that. But if I’m going to squat at home, I’d better use something that can take a pounding way above what I will ever be able to use. Another good option is the Vulcan by Iron Mind, but that puppy costs almost $429.00, so no.

Speaking of safety, I will need a pair of safety/catch/spotter bars for squatting. Iron Mind sells a set called ‘Pillars of Power’ that can take about half a ton, but, again, they are freaking expensive. Thank the Gods of the interweebz that people have rolled their sleeves and have come up with solutions.

Behold, the Pillars of Poverty!!

The picture above is the older design. For an updated design you can visit the original page where I’m stealing this idea from (www.geocities.com/fighttraining).

Next thing I will need (and which I need to get ASAP) is an Airdyne. I need this for my tabatas as I’m tired of burpees and bw mountain climbers.

These puppies are over $500 brand new, but I’ve seen them for as low as a hundred bucks in ebay and craigslist. I hope I can find one in good shape for that price.

The funny thing about this is that a lot of people have been a bit skeptical about the idea of squat stands. With a pair of solid safety bars and a squat stand that can take a thousand pounds (when I don’t think I’ll ever squat 400lbs), I don’t see why it’s a problem. Heck, I think it’s a good idea. The crossfit people are using them ad nauseam – I think they are onto something, something really good.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjuULPqI-WY

I hope I can have the gear in place soon so that I can write a review… assuming I don’t get crushed to death 😛

In the name of ${DEITY:=Salma Hayek}, training sucks more than a vacuum cleaner.

I’ve been training jits for two weeks already at a local SBGi gym (finally after almost a year-long hiatus). The staph crap is completely gone, and my neck is good to go. Been squatting and deadlifting heavy shit and doing my due diligence in the metabolic pathway department, crossfit’ting my way to increase my internal gas tank.

But no matter how hard you go by yourself, it is never the same when you are being pushed. This is specially true when doing combat conditioning in a group directed by a guy who can run loops around you with ease.

Crap, each class is one hour long (which by itself includes about 15 minutes of sparring). And it is followed by 30 minutes of open mat. All that is fine and dandy, except that the class is preceded by a 30-minute long class called ‘Combat Conditioning’.

By the balls of Odin, holy crap on a plate, this sucks balls. It drains you dry. Burpees, more burpees, side runs, squats, lunges, jumping squats, more burpees, each exercise done with 10-second active recovery followed by going balls out for 20-30 seconds. And each exercise is done back to back without break for 9 minutes with 1-minute break. Three of those to make 30 minutes.

You see God as you try not to puke. By the end of the 2nd round, I’m having a hard time hanging up with the rest of the class. And by the 3rd, my effort is in not stop moving even though I can’t perform the reps as fast as I can (which is the main idea). The only thing that gets me going is that I know I will eventually adapt, physically, to these imposed demands, and that this is a fundamental part of the freaking game.

You really need to want this shit badly to keep going. That very same thought keeps popping on my mind whenever the inevitable thought comes as I’m holding my gag reflexes – “Oh God, this sucks, I don’t need this shit”. Either that thought or if you stop, you are a pussy. Whichever works at the heat of the moment, I’ll take it.

The 2nd hardest part of all is scheduling recovery time. You know you need the rest, you know your CNS and your gas tank need the rest, and that the free time can be used for stretching, active recovery, going over your class notes. And still, it feels like wasted time.

A retarded mental dichotomy this is – training vs recovery. It is a falsehood, a fallacy, one which I must keep in mind at all times if I’m not to burn out again.

Tomorrow I’m seeing my chiro, for the first time in almost two months. And Saturday will be my next grappling and conditioning class. Until then, get some active rest, do additional strength training, go over your notes and sleep cuz Saturday is going to suck.

And as much as it sucks, it makes me happy. Finally, after so many setbacks, I feel I’m finally back on track in my life. I’ve said the same statement several times in the last year. So long as Murphy doesn’t decide to fuck things up, that’s how it will be. As much as this training sucks the living life out of me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before I discuss what a slam ball is, we need to explain the context in which such a training tool is used. And the context is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and specifically, Tabata intervals.

What is a tabata interval? It is a High Intensity Interval Training protocol originally devised by Dr. Izumi Tabata to increase anaerobic capacity (in particular the glycolytic and phosphagen metabolic pathways). In a tabata interval, an exercise is executed as fast and with as many repetetions as possible for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated again and again, usually in rounds of 2, 3, 5 or 10-minute rounds.

This is done as a means of implementing anaerobic metabolic conditioning and, ideally, as part of a plan for achieving and maintaining acceptable levels of general physical preparedness (GPP). And an increase in GPP allows one to train harder, with more volume and increase intensity. Moreover, it allows one to recover faster.

There are different exercises that can be used in these 20-10 second intervals. And, as wacky as it may seem to you, taking a hard object and throwing it to the ground is one.

This is where a slam ball comes into place. I recently built a 17-pound, non-rebounding ball that can be thrown multiple times without risking bursting it or the floor. This is me slamming the living crap out of it in three tabata intervals (a 1.5-minute round.)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t1FlMUS32A

How To Build One

To build one, I followed online instructions found at the CrossFit and Ross Enamait’s websites. I believe I’m contributing an improvement onto those instructions by introducing more efficient funnels for pouring sand into the balls.

First, I started using an empty bottle of saline solution. It worked well as first, but I got impatient. As I tried to increase the size of the hole using a hand file, I tore it bigger than planned. That pretty much screwed it for a slam ball. Eventually I filled it up to make it a 25-lbs medicine ball, so it wasn’t that much of a loss.

Notice the obligatory beer bottle:

So, I took another basketball, and I was careful in punching a hole in it. For a funnel, I decided to insert a baby drop dispenser. It is important to keep the needle in the ball to allow air to come out as you pour sand:

Then I put an empty bottle of saline solution I was using first (with its end cut off) inside the drop dispenser, and voila, I got a nice, efficient funnel. It took about 10 minutes to fill it up with sand.

You can see the sand quickly going inside the ball. It was kinda cool.

Later you use a tire patch kit to patch the whole, you let the thing dry, put another patch, and begin to tape the crap out of it with duct tape.

Does it work well?

I think so. I’ve been slamming the living crap out of it, and so far, it hasn’t busted open. The trick is not to completely fill the ball. A basketball may take about 17lbs, maybe 18lbs, but that’s it. You need to leave room to be filled up with air.

This is not a bouncing slam ball. If you slam it on concrete it will barely bounce. This is good since it avoids having that thing accidentally bouncing on your face and it forces you to pick it up off the ground.

I do most of my slamming indoors, and I’m a bit worried about the floor. So I slam it on a rubber mat under a piece of plywood. I’ve also tried two and three rubber mats. Three is great as you get it to bounce (just be careful as the bouncing is erratic and can bounce with force right into your face.)

I find this to be much better than sledge hammer workout. Or I should say that I like it better. I don’t have to worry about switching sides, it works my forearms more and the downward pulling/throwing action in the trajectory it takes (right on front and above you) does an even work on your lats. Take a wide stance and contract the glutes as in a squat when doing this.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals can cut down their training time by 60% using tabata sets (or other similar HIIT protocols) and achieve superior anaerobic conditioning that other, more “aerobic” activities such as jogging or using a stationary bike. This is another incentive why I (or anyone else) should pursue this type of training.

I’d strongly suggest you use a rubber mat or a 2x2x1/4 plywood when slamming the ball. This will allow the ball to last longer as opposed to being slammed against the concrete. Furthermore, if you are doing this indoors, you want to protect your floor from the pounding.

And it goes without saying not to try this if you live in an apartment building 🙂