Tag Archives: working out

‘Been a while since I’ve posted …

Girlboxing …. ‘been a while since I’ve posted …

Girlboxing at Gleason's Gym, Credit: Lennox Blackmoore

The vicisitudes of life, full time work, writing a book, the prodigal’s end of middle school stuff and endless winter have seemingly conspired to close the door on daily blogging!

Riot of Roses, Brooklyn, NY, Credit: Malissa smith

Meanwhile … summer has slipped into Brooklyn with crazy warm temperatures and light that lasts forever it seems or at least well past 8:00 PM.

At the gym today, the sweat pouring off me in buckets, my arms and legs as fluid as they can ever be on this late 50s model carcus, I was reminded of how much the body in motion, even one encased in a liquid pool, can feel invincible.  Sure I was missing sometimes on my overhand left-right hook combinations and after a couple of rounds on the double-ended bag felt as if I would collapse into a heap before cooling down on the speed bag … oh yeah, not to mention the slow crickety creak of the last 25 situps to get me to 100, but it all seemed to sail through, salty taste and all, with a huge shout out to Lennox Blackmoore for reminding me to m-o-v-e  g-i-r-l when I got too static in the ring.

 

One of those days…

One of those days…

Sisyphus

It’s been one of those days.

Sure the laundry is done, a bit of shopping for the week, and even a trip to Staples for new winter term school supplies for my daughter, but the real stuff, the substantive stuff, the chapter that should have been completed 10 days ago remains … well, definitely undone.

So if I was going to blow off the things that needed doing, I would have hoped to have at least spent my time say … at the gym going another bunch of rounds at hyperspeed or swimming at the Y or reading something other than books about 18th Century gender politics, but I didn’t even waste it doing that.

BookcaseIt was time spent in a drift to nowhere: bland, blah, nothing much and before I knew it the big clock outside tolled 4:00 PM.

At that point–well, I did manage half a page on the pesky chapter–but otherwise gave up on it all and figured the best thing to do was make a nice dinner for everyone (linguine with garlic, oil & calamata olives finished with fresh parmesan, plus a romaine lettuce salad).

The family fed. Daughter back to homework and husband happily digging into a bowl of ice cream, I’ve given myself permission to drift.

And really, that was all I needed. A bit of acknowledgement. A moment to say–hey, you’re a grown-up, you work your butt off, you can take the time to do nothing if that’s what you really need.

Now that I’ve given myself that gift, I feel myself easing up a bit; not quite so steamed for not hitting my word output, nor feeling guilty for taking a peek at my Facebook page.

Given that my permission stamp was only made at around 7:00, I don’t really have much time left … but at least I have Downton Abbey to look forward to.

Effortless prose on the speed bag …

Effortless prose on the speed bag …

Speed Bag Gleason's Gym

I’ve always loved the speed bag. Coming at the end of a workout, it feels like a well-earned respite from the grunts and groans of hard hitting on pads, bags and bodies.

One can go slow, fast and everywhere in between as that classic patterned da-da-da-da-da-da-da roams through one’s head, the feet perhaps in syncopated rhythm, perhaps not, as the right and left hands make the speed bag sing.

Once mastered, however, there is always that push towards the next level. In my case I’ve been thinking  a lot about elbow strikes and telling myself that it’s good range-of-motion therapy for my shoulder has spurred me on to actually try.

For my first outing I chose a pattern of alternating a four-count between my left and my right hitting slowly with the following pattern:  right, right, right, right elbow,  left, left, left, left elbow.

I tried it during the last 30 seconds of my third round on the speed bag, and for the fourth round attempted the elbow strike pattern for most of it. I have to say I hit it right on the elbow a few times, but mostly struck the forearm.  Still, the range-of-motion was pretty tough on the right side — and as therapy alone, it certainly was something.

Coming home, I thought I’d check out some videos on YouTube and offer a smattering as inspiration!

Speed bag phenom in time to the music!

Cool double-strike patterns with elbow strikes!

Early efforts … with double-strikes.

True mastery.

If I can do it, so can you …

If I can do it, so can you …

Superwoman!

Don’t you just love those words?

Meant as a motivator for the under achieving couch potato that lurks in all of us, it can cut like a rapier.

Still, it can have its place — if the underlying, “you are such a slug” is left out it and the words are more action than anything else, without the accompanying censoring glare!

For the one who says it though, there can also be nothing but the best of intentions. All of us knows of someone who hours out of cancer treatment skips her way to the gym for a good workout and though she may excuse herself for a moment to puke her guts out in the bathroom, she none the less returns to the weight room with a freshly glistening brow, worse for wear perhaps, but no less game.

This brings me to the point.

What if we change that around a bit to an if you can do it, so can I, sensibility. The competitive aside (which motivates in its own way), we are all in this together. Certainly that’s the way it feels at Gleason’s Gym where each and every person sweating and grunting their way through a work out is cheering the hard work of their fellow gym rats.

We also all have our stories; those things that thwart our best intentions and no less tangible than a friend’s cancer, shoulder surgery, ACL tear, too many obligations hitting into limited time or the feeling of inertia that comes when you haven’t hit the gym in a while and need to push yourself out of bed to get there again.

I know for myself, I’ve had all sorts of things that I’ve used to not go to the gym some of which leave me with no choice but to stay home and others of which are more of the mental variety.

Having recently started back on a schedule after recovering from shoulder surgery, I can attest to the myriad of feelings that go into missing the gym and returning. If you’ve been a regular, it’s like missing family, plus that intangible sense of identity that comes of regular practice. During my rehab, I’d find myself going to Gleason’s for an hour on a Saturday, not to box but to do my exercises. Still, it was a bittersweet feeling. I wasn’t boxing, I was stretching and even though I was there, it was hard to feel a part of it.

Ultimately, though, it shouldn’t matter. Any work done is work accomplished, and while it might not be at the peak of the performance you are capable of, you’ve made the effort.

So, while you might go through periods when you are confronted with your decided lack of superhuman capability, give yourself a break and be aware of what being superhuman really means.

If you are say, 58 years old, I can assure you that your hand speed will NEVER match that of an in shape 20-year-old, but when it comes to heart, you might well get to wear your Superwoman T-shirt to the cheers of everyone who sees you!

One of my oldest pals is fond of saying, there are no dress rehearsals ‘cause the only life you have is this one. That might get an argument from some New Agers, Buddhists and Hindus who figure you can cycle through again — for the majority of us though, this is it.

In other words, you really do only have one shot so why not give it your all, whatever that means for you and realize that by following through, your example is making it possible for someone else to say … if you can do it, so can I!

Monster licks …

Monster licks …

Speedbag Genius

One of the things about boxing is sound.

We hit a bag, a trainer’s pads, a body and it is associated with sound.  There is the solid “thwack” of a body shot, the rapid fire of the speedbag and bounding double and triple pounds of the double-ended bag.

We all know when a shot is true too.  It carries a special kind of “on the button” sound as it sinks in. There’s an effortless quality as well when all of the mechanics of the body align for the perfect moment of when the hand encased in it’s padded glove hits the target.

Watching effortless boxing, effortless sound is to watch its practitioners at the top of their game.

So too with tap dancers and musicians who float through space with sonorous movement in their feet or with incomparable musical licks that delight us with their fanciful runs through the scales.

I’ve thought a lot about sound lately here are a few monsters …

Coach Rick Technical Mitt Work with female boxers.

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dancing to Begin the Beguine from Broadway Melody of 1940.

The amazing Tony Williams (RIP) started his career with Miles Davis as a 17-year-old.  The video has two stop your heart drum solos.

Tenor saxophone madness!  Saxophone summit webcast from Birdland in 1999 with Michael Brecker (RIP), David Liebman and Joe Lovano with a cover of John Coltrane’s Impressions. Plus, check out Billy Hart’s drumming.  Incomperable.

 

New Year’s Day …

New Year’s Day …

New Year's Eve, 2013, NYC

As a young woman, New Year’s seemed loaded with the hazards of the dating life, expectations met and lost, and the specter of a fresh start, though not unburdened with the seeds of doubt regarding those pesky New Year’s resolutions.

A world away from that earlier version of myself – the one in the 1970s garb (OMG!!!), dancing the hustle to Donna Summer at the Salty Dog in the East 80’s on one New Year’s eve or another with my bestie, Jamie, and an assortment of leisure-suited guys – I can say with some assurance that there are some helpful do’s in the resolution game!

Do # 1:  Let the KISS theory suffice (as in keep it simple …)

Keep it simple! Credit: Sodahead.com

That means instead of promising yourself an elaborate hours long daily workout that involves multiple machines, ab-routines PLUS a LOT of rounds of boxing/running/fill in you’re your own workout poison, how about just promising yourself that you will commit to a regular exercise program with reasonable goals that you can attain as in … January:  I will run (fill in the number) miles per week … et al…

Do # 2:  Think grand, but not TOO grand.

Overachiever! Credit: danceswithfat.wordpress.com

Okay, you have a book you always wanted to write or a new part of the garden to plant or a terrific new glazing technique to try that involves multiple steps and using weird chemicals, or figure this is the year to run that marathon you always promised yourself.

That all sounds great, but first off remember Do # 1.

Is it attainable?

Do you have the time?

And most importantly, do you feel ready to take on the challenge? (As in, if you have a tricky knee, a marathon may not be in the cards.)

If you do feel as if you have the “stuff” to do it, then in the words of my favorite Captain (as in Picard) … “make it so.”

If not – perhaps a weekly blog will help you “rev” up your writing or consider adding tomatoes this year, or try walking first with your knee brace before taking on light jogging.

Remember that you get a lot of self-“brownie” points for trying, but face your own “Wrath of Khan” if you underestimate the obstacles after having put all that self-capital into believing you would complete the task.

Do #3:  When in doubt, do it with a friend.

Tandam Bicycle, circa 1900, Credit: gryphonsbicyclerepair.blogspot.com

This one is a good one, especially for exercise goals, weight-loss and other “we can do it” attainables that lend themselves to a little friendly competition, not to mention the buddy-system to drag your butt out of bed for those early morning routines – or fun stuff like learning to tap dance, salsa or fox trot, or even putting together your own group to learn Italian, or better yet a fight-club of your own for weekly sparring!

The point is, doing it with a friend (or two or three, or more) gives you camaraderie plus a lot of inspiration for those outer months past the first blush or two when rising for yet another early morning run is about the last thing you want to do.

Do #4: Do what feels right for YOU.

Anthony Quinn Bay, Rhodes, Greece

This one’s a tricky.

Say you really could lose a few pounds, but the truth is it’s not in the cards right now. Well have the guts to say, nope, not now. The same thing with adding days to your workout schedule at the gym or even giving your mother a call every Sunday morning.

The point is to be aware of what is and is not attainable or desirable for yourself before you launch into things that you just can’t handle.

Better to take on fun things like catching up on your British police procedurals (Prime Suspect – all seven seasons – is on Netflix), than to burden yourself with daily yoga or insight meditation when you’re just not ready for it.

The same goes to being nicer to people you don’t like and all the other things we add to our lists.

The point is to make it work for you. After all, you don’t have to be a New Year’s resolution overachiever!

So think through the sorts of things that have meaning to you not to what has meaning to others and if this is your year to run a marathon, then have at it. Otherwise, content yourself with cutting back on caffeine after 4:00 PM or doing Sun Salutations on Saturday mornings instead of burdening yourself with the whole enchilada, so to speak.

Do #5: Sometimes grand is good!

Taj Mahal

Okay, yes, this does fly in the face of Do #2, but there’s nothing wrong with going for it either!

So if you are up for it — take the challenge!

That could mean boxing in the Golden Gloves or fighting for a WBA female title!

Whatever it is give it your best and if it means going full-throttle than by all means do!

You deserve whatever goal you think you can achieve no matter how large or how small.

I’m not saying that risk is everything – but without it, we lose our creative edge, which I figure is what we’re all about anyway.

Put it this way, whether it’s finishing the book on time (hint to self), working through the ills of your body to come back into the game or readying yourself to go for the gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games … there is no better time than today to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way.

Whatever you resolutions, I’d like to wish my Girlboxing pals all the best in 2013 with the sincere hope that whatever it is you do – this is your year!!!

Off to Gleason’s Gym …

Off to Gleason’s Gym …

 

I’m off to Gleason’s Gym today for the first time in a while. PT has been helpful in bringing back a good portion of my range of motion and strength, but I’m about to put all of it to the test when I work the speed bag for the first time.  Since I’m still only at about 165 degrees (should be well past 180), it’ll be an interesting challenge to say the least.

More than anything, I’m looking forward to seeing my trainer, Lennox Blackmore, who is himself coming back from knee replacement surgery!  Talk about the “blind leading the blind,” but given my state of things slugging s-l-o-w-l-y will be just about my speed.

Coming back from any injury is never easy. If I can use mine as a case in point, I will note first off that as savvy as I thought I was about what the surgery and recovery entailed, I truly underestimated how much it would affect my life and how long the process would take.

Setbacks also happen–thankfully not in all cases, but in when they do, as in mine when my shoulder “froze” it may mean adding months to the recovery process.

Losing the use of one’s dominant arm or other part of the body that is intrinsic to normal functioning for several weeks also takes its toll physically as well as psychologically. If one has been very active, the sight of one’s clipped wing or damaged leg is no fun and no matter how many pep talks one gives oneself, there are those moments.

Mine came when my physical therapist demonstrated an exercise on my body that I literally could not do without his help. It was about 12 weeks into the process and there was something so visceral about not being able to do a movement that had seemed so simple that it released the flood gates of pent-up feelings about the experience.

It was certainly a “first you cry” moment, but in the parlance of my grandmother when it’s all over you wash your face and “do.”

Those cathartic moments are likely a component of any recovery process and if they happen, there’s nothing wrong with giving into it until one can shake it off to go back at it the next time. In my case, I was able to do the movement on my own at the next appointment – and I will say it remains my proudest moment in PT.

Unfortunately, we don’t have Dr. Crusher to wave a magic wand on our limbs to heal our ills.

The fact is as great as orthopedic medicine has become the aftermath to surgery entails a bit of a slog to get back to full physical health.

As experiences go, however, it is certainly far from the worst that life has to “offer,” and each bit of progress brings one that much closer to the goal of regained strength and mobility–all it takes is perseverance, consistency and patience!

The first time …

The first time …

Boxing at Gleason's Gym. Credit: Malissa Smith

The first time I walked into Gleason’s Gym in January of 1997, I had a feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement and a healthy dose of exhilaration. This was a real boxing gym complete with the sites, sounds and smells I’d gleaned from a mixture of old boxing movies and my imagination.

Having lived on the Lower East Side as a child, I’d grown up watching men play dominos, so as my eyes took in three enormous boxing rings, my ears were honed in on the thwack of a domino clicking on a small table with three men, each looking like someone out of central casting for the part of boxing trainer, animatedly playing the game.

From the sounds of the dominos to the rhythmic beating of heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts and bodies, each to its own beat punctuated by the loud dings of the ring clock that kept time at three-minute intervals with a warning at two and a half minutes and a ding at four minutes to start the clock all over again, I was hooked.

The sounds alone were an improvisational cacophony worthy of the best of John Coltrane or Rahssan Roland Kirk — still I felt a bit intimidated asking myself why in the world I was there and what had possessed me to think that I could actually box in a real gym. Sure, I’d taken a boxing class at Eastern Athletic Health Club in Brooklyn Heights and yes, I still remembered the old one-two my uncle had taught me when I was twelve, but this was different. This meant that I’d have to be serious, that the years of watching boxing and thinking about boxing were culminating in my taking those first concrete steps up to the second floor of the Gleason’s Gym building in DUMBO long before it was trendy and filled with cute coffee bars and babies riding around in eight hundred-dollar strollers.

If I’d thought I’d have a fight on my hands as a women crossing the divide of what even I thought of as a male domain I was mistaken.  Quite to the contrary, I was greeted by Bruce Silverglade, the owner of Gleason’s Gym who touring me around made a point to make me feel welcome.

I’d come that day to actually box having brought handwraps and a pair of boxing gloves and while I didn’t really know what I was doing yet, wrapping my hands that afternoon was the beginning of a physical and emotional journey I could not have imagined.

Within a week of that first visit, I’d been taken on for 7:30 AM training sessions three days a week with Johnny Grinnage, a trainer of the OLD old school who didn’t believe in new-fangled things like focus mitts or even the speed bag. His idea of training was beginning a workout using a broom stick for stretches before jumping rope for three rounds. From there it was onto a wall bag to learn how to throw a jab, a straight right and a left hook for three rounds. Those early weeks we’d end the training with three rounds walking up and down the slip rope and it had to have been a least two months before I actually hit a heavy bag.

After those first training sessions I took to writing out my punch counts and found myself punching the air and slipping whenever I could. I also found myself tearing up at the oddest times finding in the extension of my body a connection to a physical power I never knew I possessed–one that left me feeling bereft at the years and years of having never understood how much strength I actually had.

It was the first of many lessons boxing taught me and continues to teach me and while I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with boxing in the ensuing sixteen years, Gleason’s Gym remains my home and the sport still gives me a warm glow that courses through me when I need a dose of something wonderful.

Summer …

Summer …

Maybe its because I’ve had a weird bunch of weeks recouping from shoulder surgery, but this summer just feels slow and uninervating. Yes, of course there was the incredible HIGH of seeing the debut of women’s boxing at the Olympics, but now that it’s over, I feel as if I’ve fallen off a cliff!

I was in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for a week. It had a restorative feel and my husband and I reunited with our prodigal picking her up from camp. Still, back in Brooklyn, the weather kind of humid and unappealing, I’m hard pressed for motivation and as much as I am loath to say this, I’m ready to put an “amen” to summer.

What I’d like is a hard workout at the gym to wake me up.

Like a huge jolt of high-octane joe, hard-core gym time rocks my world with an instant shock treatment to the body and the brain. Perhaps it’s all the sweat pouring the accumulated junk out of my pores or the sudden remembrance that things can be done despite feeling otherwise. I’m not even talking endorphins here because that seems to come over time–what I’m after is the boom, boom, boom of going at something 100%.

It’s the reminder that your bones, young or old still have something in them. I forget that I have it in me from time to time, but like any shift, all it takes is a bit of movement to get going again.

Taking it slow …

Taking it slow …

I am at Gleason’s Gym.

The sounds and sights the same.

The ring clock.

The bop-bop, bop-bop-bop of the heavy bag and trainer’s mitts.

The words of encouragement and plaintiff yells shouted into the ring.

I miss this world a lot. The sweat and feeling the power of my body torquing towards a finite point beyond as I smash into something. In the ring with Len, pushing off when we’re in close, the brava feeling of popping him right down Broadway on the nose. I like the close combat; hate the feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do when I’m swarmed and getting banged on and am aching for the bell so that I can collect myself again.

Ring clocks and rest periods and those three-minute intervals for pushing at the limits of endurance: I love the discipline of it. The finiteness. The I-can-do-this challenge of throwing punches fast and furious with no let up even as my muscles begin to ache and start in on begging as if to say—if you let me stop I promise you relief and easy breathes and lots of time to sit around doing nothing eating chocolate. But it’s not how it goes. I keep at it, digging in deep, screaming out “are you kidding me?” as the punches continue to flurry, to hit hard, my hips turning with each straight right and uppercut, yelling out “sorry” when the throw isn’t true, when I’m more pitty-pat than fiercesome warrioress mindless of my 58 years on the planet or achy breathlessness.

Ding. Time to breathe. To gulp down a sip of water. To let Len dab at my brow with my towel, to take the sweat out of my eyes, to hear him say, “that’s good girl, very good,” the only accolades I really live for. The acknowledgement of my work, my effort, my push through the rebellion that is my body urging me to ease up on a nice comfy couch with nothing but endless British police procedurals to watch for hours at a time.

One armed and restless, my right shoulder in a bit of an ache as I listen to the sound of the heavy bags straining against the weight of so many boxers pounding them, I can think of nothing greater than getting the all clear from my surgeon to return.

Six months from now, a year from now, I’ll wander in with a smile that cuts through me to take my place again at the mirror. My body out of boxing shape, needing to take it slow and easy, I’ll find my way—starting at the beginning with my stance, my jab and the first few tentative throws of my right arm. It’ll be back to basics then. An old dog relearning tricks I used to take for granted; protective for sure of my shoulder and of harming it again, I figure it’ll give me the chance to box that much better, to seek out a sort of perfection in the mechanics the way pitchers find theirs after injury. And that is what it is about anyway. Second chances. Ways of making things better after you’ve been down for a while. Leastways that’s how I see it. I have a rebuilt shoulder so that I can rebuild my boxing—smarter, tauter, tougher and ultimately easier.

That is what life is about. Working through the hard stuff to find a simpler way around as one peels back through the layers of interference. In my case a lot of junk and lots of tears mucking up the movement of my shoulder, but clearly more about the business of life where we all tend to lose site of things till we’re cloudy and full of obstructions that make movement nearly impossible.

Thanks to my very great surgeon, I’ll have full use of my shoulder again, an assist I appreciate and will take full advantage of once I’m healed enough to move forward. As with most things, we need a helping hand from those around us. What I appreciate so much is that I’ve had more than my share leaving me blessed in ways I truly cannot yet fathom, but feel so humbly grateful for.

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Shoulder Anatomy (Credit: Massageitsgoodforyou.wordpress)

Oy … so here’s the story.  Back in December my shoulder started hurting after boxing.  I didn’t think too much of it and let it slide for a while.

By February I noted serious “ows” when I swam–so I stopped doing that, but kept boxing, avoiding things like the right cross.  By March it was still hurting and making “popping” noises so I saw an orthopedist and after getting an MRI got the diagnosis:  A torn labram.  Specifically, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear (Superior Labrum from anterior to posterior), a tear where the biceps muscle tendon connects with the labram in the shoulder joint.

Labram Tear (Credit: Healthandfitness101.com)

Here’s a good explanation from About.com: An injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip; however, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow, and thus inherently unstable. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder joint has a cuff of cartilage called a labrum that forms a cup for the end of the arm bone (humerus) to move within. A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior toPosterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.

The MRI also showed tendonitis of the supraspinatus tendon (the tendon at the top of shoulder) and bits of inflammation in a couple of other places).

Next up was a course of physical therapy — and no more boxing for the duration.

I worked with a terrific therapist name Eddie who patiently took me through a myriad of stretches and strengthening exercises.

Twice a week I  lay on one of the tables while I had a heat pack applied to my shoulder that felt GREAT–for a few minutes. Next up was a massage and gentle manipulation to try to improve my range of motion–and get me out of pain.

After the heat and massage came the hard part: lots of exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve range of motion which I had already begun to lose. The biggest problem was my shoulder was feeling even more unstable–meaning lots of popping when I moved it plus it hurt even more after PT was done.  In other words, not a great sign.

So … back to the orthopedist I went only to learn that I was also developing a frozen shoulder, meaning my shoulder was stiff and losing range of motion big-time.

I’d already known that I hurt when I tried to move my arm up and to the side or across my body–but the shocker was realizing that I couldn’t scratch my back anymore on my right side. I had also started to wake up in the middle of the night in pain, and trying to put on a sweater was becoming a challenge (not to mention hooking a bra!).

In other words my favorite shoulder Yoga pose was a pipe dream and I could no more do the pose than launch into space.

Options??  Well pretty much only one if I want to gain back the use of my right shoulder — arthroscopic surgery to repair the labram tear, clean up the “junk” around it  and to “unfreeze” those parts of the shoulder capsule that are impeding range-of-motion.

Arthroscopic means that the surgery will be performed through 3-4 small incisions around the shoulder using a camera and specialized surgical instruments.  Depending upon the severity of the repair, tiny ceramic screws may also be inserted to help stabilize the shoulder joint.

Surgery typically runs from one to two hours and may also entail repairs to the biceps tendon depending upon the amount of damage.

Recovery is another challenge. Immediately post-op, patients wear an ice-pack on their affected arm for 72-96 hours and pretty much keep the arm immobilized in a sling for upwards of four weeks.  PT starts pretty early though and patients usually start a course of exercise from about the second day or so.

The prospect of surgery is miserable to say the least — but given that I can’t even run because the motion hurts my arm gives some indication of its necessity.  As my surgeon said, if I want to be active at all, I kinda’ have no choice and given that I DESPERATELY want to box again, onward I march into a summer in recovery mode.

My surgery is scheduled for June 20th at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases.  I’ll let you know how it goes from the other side.

For further information on Labral tears here are a few good resources.

Johns Hopkins Orthopedic Surgery

NYU – Shoulder Labral Tear

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

“A Boxing ‘Ohana” – a documentary in the making …

“A Boxing ‘Ohana” – a documentary in the making …

A Boxing ‘Ohana, Sonny Westerbrook and The Kona Boxing Club, Credit: Sasha Parulis

A Boxing ‘Ohana is a documentary in development by the New York based filmmaker, Sasha Parulis. The piece will be a short film about Sonny Westbrook and his gym, The Kona Boxing Club. Set on the big Island of Hawaii, Parulis envisions her work as a tone poem to the hard work of the gym and Sonny Westbrook’s efforts to create an ‘Ohana or family among his young fighters.

Sonny Westbook is most known for his recurring role on the reality show, Dog The Bounty Hunter. Sasha Parulis met Sonny two years ago during a visit to Hawaii and was moved to begin her project. “He is a kind soul,” she said, “People need to know who he is. He is also a mentor to a lot of kids.”

Shalei, The Kona Boxing Club, Credit: Sasha Parulis

It is his role as a mentor to troubled youths that most impressed Parulis. As she notes, while we may all think of Hawaii as a honeymooners’ paradise, the island is beset with the devastating effects of methamphetamine on the community. This has torn families apart and has left a generation of kids with nowhere to turn. What Westerbrook has attempted to build is a place where upwards of 15 young people can go to feel safe and through the discipline of boxing, find a way out of their troubles. In the words of the filmmaker, the story of The Kona Boxing Gym is at heart a story of “transforming the survivors of troubled times into warriors.”

Parulis also sees her film “as an educational outreach tool,” one she hopes will prove inspiring to everyone who watches. She will be returning to Hawaii soon to continue filming with an eye towards having a finished product sometime next year. The following is a clip of her project so far.

For further information the website link for the film is as follows: www.aboxingohana.com

Missing the gym …

Missing the gym …

Gleason's Gym

Okay, I promise this won’t be a “boo hoo” post or anything, but I’ve got to tell you having a boxing related injury plain s-u-c-k-s!  I mean really, I can’t even put a jacket on these days without a yelp, never mind shadow box!  Even my old shower favorite, slip the water streaming out of the nozzle isn’t exactly cutting it and I’ve got to tell you that attempting a run with one arm pasted to the side of your waist is ridiculous!

When I have gone to Gleason’s Gym over the past three weeks, I’ve been downright wistful.  I mean there were tons of women there last Saturday for the second annual All Female Boxing Clinic — exciting right? — and even saw my friend, wait for it blogger Amy Scheer, who’d come in for the clinic, but was I elated?  The answer is no, I actually felt kind of sad.

Well it seems I am not alone in all of this.  Medical scholars are pursuing research in the psychological effects of sports injuries on Saturday athletes like myself on through elite practitioners.

In a journal article for the Journal of Sport Behavior (1994), authors Nancy Quackenbush and Jane Crossman have written that:

… athletes experience feelings of separation, loneliness, guilt and a loss of identity and independence, because they feel that they are no longer vitally contributing to the team and that they are reliant upon others in the rehabilitative process. 

The fact is that athletes and fitness enthusiasts get injured all the time, when injuries necessitate time away from cherished activities, however, it is important to understand that recovery is not only physical.  There can be a psychological component as well.  And just as it takes a long time to build-up skills to a level of one’s own peak performance, rehabilitation of the injury doesn’t happen overnight either.

If I use my own recovery as a case in point, my shoulder rehabilitation is actually progressing.  During my first week of physical therapy, I could only use one-pound weights for certain of the strengthening exercises, however at the onset of my third week I progressed to three-pound weights.  And sure, it still hurts, and on some days worse than others, but I can actually lift my right arm straight up which I couldn’t do at all in my first week.

My basic four rotator cuff exercises. (Curtesy JumpUSA.com, Topic #474)

And I guess that’s part of the secret. Realizing that progress is relative.  That, and giving yourself a kick in the butt for feeling sad at those points when being in a place like your favorite gym usually brings you nothing but joy!

I also came across a helpful article on coping with sports injuries that may be of interest to anyone going through the same thing.  The link to the article by Elizabeth Quinn is here:  Coping with Sports Injuries: Sports psychology strategies for coping with and recovering from injury.

It is worth the read!

Great boxing video by artist and amateur boxer Desiree D’Alessandro!

Great boxing video by artist and amateur boxer Desiree D’Alessandro!

Talk about a must see video, please take the time to watch this wonderful visual tone-poem to boxing as an art form entitled Artistic Performance, Amateur Boxing and “A People To Come” as part of the Digital (De-)(Re-) Territorializations Conference by artist and amateur boxer Desiree D’Alessandro!

I’d also like to send a huge shout out to the Daniel Martinez Boxing website for posting this remarkable artist’s work.  The link to Desiree’s original post is here.

Desiree D’Alessandro’s website is: http://desiree-dalessandro.com/

Her blog is: http://dalessandroart.blogspot.com/

Loving boxing and my right shoulder …

Loving boxing and my right shoulder …

Christina Cruz (l.) beats Florina Novac to take record sixth Golden Gloves title. Credit: Ken Goldenfield/NY Daily News

Aside from my absolute joy at the fact that Christina Cruz won her sixth (count ’em) New York Golden Gloves Championship (not to mention that she is the 2012 USA Boxing National Champion at 118 pounds!) boxing has definitely had the better of me lately.

And while I go to bed thinking about my left dig and wake up thinking of how to work in the left hook off the jab,  my body isn’t cooperating in fact it’s in downright rebellion what with a labral tear in my right shoulder socket (that’s along the top, a classic repetitive stress injury from banging) and supraspinatus tendinitis (yep, plus a rotator cuff injury)!

Ssssh…. Talk about the proverbial “bummer.”

To go back a step or two, I’ve had intermittent pain in my shoulder area since about Christmas, mostly when I’d throw a right cross and sometimes on the speed bag.  It wasn’t awful, but if I moved my right arm back, I yelped a definite “ow.”  I was easy on it and figuring to lighten the exercise load tried swimming. It turned out that didn’t work out well either as I could only swim using a Side Stroke because the overhand movements of the American Crawl stroke — and the lateral movements of the Breast Stroke caused even more ows than boxing.

The ouches seemed to subside and I thought, must be a trigger point or something because the discomfort was mostly felt in the back of my arm.  Still, it didn’t go away, and I began thinking it might be a rotator cuff injury which can be more serious.

Rotator cuff injuries up to and including actual tears involve the tendons and muscles outside the shoulder joint where the tendons attach the muscles to the humerus (arm) bone.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “A rotator cuff injury includes any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons. Causes of a rotator cuff injury may include falling, lifting and repetitive arm activities — especially those done overhead, such as throwing a baseball or placing items on overhead shelves.”

In the case of boxing, the constant repetitive motion of throwing punches, not to mention, banging away, hard, on heavy bags, pads, not to mention sparring can certainly cause injuries.

With that in mind I headed over to an orthopedist at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases and within about five minutes, some “popping sounds” and several pushes on my right and left arms he was convinced I was suffering a rotator cuff problem and ordered up an MRI to be followed by physical therapy.

It was only after receiving the results from the MRI that it became clear that I had both a labral tear along the top of the labram — also called a SLAP tear (Superior Labrum Anterior-Posterior — aka top of the labram running from front to back), as well as tendinites of the supraspinatus tendon at the top of the shoulder.  In other words, “ouch.”

After talking it over with my doctor, we both agreed that a conservative approach was preferable, so the next will be physical therapy (tomorrow) with a focus on treatment, pain relief and muscle strengthening to give better support to the shoulder area.

Unfortunately, when it comes to SLAP tears, the alternatives after physical therapy can be rather bleak — as in arthroscopic surgery, though my doctor feels strongly that the physical therapy should do the trick, and with your indulgence I’ll likely write another piece about the physical therapy process once it gets going.

The real cautionary tale here is that if you shoulder is starting to “catch” when you pull your arm back, or if you find it aching to the point of an “ow”  after a work out, do get it checked out.  There are, it seems, a lot of things that can go wrong with the shoulder — and a good course of physical strengthening of the muscles in the area, as well as good warm-ups may mean the difference, especially if you are shall we say … older!

For some more information on rotator cuff injuries and SLAP injuries here are some links!

Medline Plus – Shoulder Injuries and Disorders (site has a lot of links for possible disorders)

WEBMD Shoulder Slap Tear (good general discussion)

Lenox Hill Hospital – Rotator Cuff Exercises (tips on strengthening)

Lenox Hill Hospital – Shoulder Pain (general disorders with links)