Where are we in the world today?
These are some crazy times indeed, but life goes on either way.
So what are we to take from that?
Quite simply, it is just another experience to keep on and reflect on down the line in the scope of our life’s experiences.
Enough of that ramble, what I have been meaning to talk to the world about today regards movement, injury, and pain.
I put out a video not too long ago about a small injury to my low back, and as always, I find a way to make it some great parable for life– I do kind of get my kicks thinking about eveything in that way.
This is something that I touch up on in my new ebook/audiobook Make It Stick, Write It Down. A Journaled Philosophy
Click HERE To Learn More
What I’d like to steer towards is this:
Something is kind of like something else, and it is important to maintain a level of functionality with everything in life because life itself is fluid.
Take us in our current perspective,
Life happens, and we are prone to so many different variables and scenarios– both seen and unforseen. But, if we don’t learn, adapt, and grow– or at least take the intiative to TRY to learn, adapt, and grow— then we are left living in our own shambles for the rest of our lives.
Or worse– Dead.
Okay, Moving on.
I am very physically active year round, but the cold and damp Canadian winter’s leave me imbalanced, stiff, and painful.
I was never one to shy away from the snow during the winter, but mostly for work because I was outside year round maintaining rail cars in both Ontario, and New Brunswick. In 2015, I left the stability of this lifelong career– stability, look at us now— to pursue other opportunities that has slowly moved me westward to British Columbia.
It wasn’t until I found myself in Whistler where I became more openly involved with winter recreation– A real winter wonderland. In 2018 I started snowboarding regularly, and while I do rack up a good amount of days on the slopes, I consider myself an intermediate at best.
Most of this is on-resort recreation, as I have yet to dip my toes into any serious backcountry touring, travel and adventure, even so, taking up snowboarding has been a necessary stepping stone in line with the vision of my future.
Weirdo. Adventurer. Human.
Within Arm’s Reach.
It is magnificent to have all of this diverse country in my backyard to explore and to play with, and the best part is that I can literally roll out of bed to get to it.
Growing up in Toronto, my heart and soul felt equally imbalanced because I yearned for the great outdoors. Again– I was always active, but the older I grew, the more of an impracticality it became from a timing and logistical stand point to make it outside of the GTA. And though I am a firm believer that you can make any lifestyle work, the tradeoff of time to pursue adventure out of Toronto while living there wasn’t a worthwhile sacrifice.
Working the overnight shift counting down to my midweek weekends with the railroad meant that it wasn’t worthwhile for me to spend hounding the opportunity for adventure in the car sleep deprived while chasing daylight hours.
Something had to change between my lifestyle goals and my working goals.
I choose my lifestyle.
These days, I work seasonally. I work two travel based jobs– prepandemic — that allows me to facilitate the outdoor and travel based lifestyle that I want to experience for myself. What I love most is that I set my own schedule, and the changeup means a stimulation in variety.
Doing so allows me to split my time between Whistler, BC. in the winter, with frequent travel out to Banff, AB. over the summertime. During the shoulder season, I can choose to visit family back in Toronto for a month or so, or travel out to Europe.
In between all of that, I dont have to waste anytime before I can start physically pushing myself from an activity standpoint without making it a whole days affair commuting.
You are what you do on the normal days.G. Kourtesiotis. 2017
Regardless of where I find myself, I can travel one hour or less in any direction towards some pretty amazing endeavours to pursue– From backcountry trails, to mountainous rubble, and scrambles.
I can call on a few buddies to head over to some local crags, or bouldering spots to try myself climbing a rock or two.
I can choose to chase peaks, or mellow out longboarding/biking, or I can walk to some beautiful ocean/lakeside views for a beer or three.
Back to winter, back on point.
I ramble a lot, but snowboarding exaggerated my muscular imbalances from the years of physical training and sport.
What makes the greats great— and atheltes athletes for that matter– is being proficient riders and freestylists while exploring all options on their boards, while being able to express themselves riding, tricking, landing or saving themselves comfortably in almost any position.
To dumb it down, it is relatable to being proficiently ambidextrous, and capable of performing complex and efficient movements with their dominant and non-dominant limbs.
Personally, I love the idea of balance, and it is something that resonates within my philosophy of life. Naturally so, I make it a point to go out and to practice riding in different positions, or other types of challenges in order to make me a more all-around/complete snowboarder.
Of course, the challenges are challenging and I find myself settling into my strongest positions in order to keep up with the better riders, or in my own personal moments of insecurity. It’s important to have others above you in order to challenge your growth, but it is equally beneficial to slow down on your own to really connect your mind to your movement in your struggle.
That said, I made it a point this year to do more riding with others. And though I did find myself becoming better by trying to keep up, I also found myself in my strongest positions more frequently to keep speed, which reflected itself in my body.
My reglular riding, and the muscles I use to strengthen those positions only got stronger, tighter, and more imbalanced as a result while the challenge to play catch up on proper rest, rehab, and recovery was overdue.
I found myself in the gym one evening working on some explosive box jumps. I got up pretty high, and kept increasing the height of the box with each subsequent set. The height was at least 40″ with 45″ being around the maximum for the day — maybe. To say 50″ would be a slight exageration but it’s still not impossible for me on a good day.
Enough bragging– What an asshole.
Despite feeling particualrly tight through my, I was fairing well, and mostly felt strong and snappy. But, as I closed in on my last couple of sets I felt my back pull just a little bit more than usual. And though I did manage to finish my full workout for the day, the damage was done, and I knew that I had some recovering to do ahead of me.
a Long Story Short – buck marks
I’ve been throwing my back out for the last 10 years– Am I bragging again? I cant tell, because it’s not really the most ideal thing to brag about— But, after my football dreams ended my body was constantly breaking down on.
The point is that I’ve had my fair share of injuries, the brunt of them being injuries to my lower back, lumbar, neck, and everywhere else along my spine.
As a lineman, I would purposely aim to smash my face into the linemen in front of me during the years worth of practices, games, and seasons that are now behind me. Doing so left deep gouges, scratches, and scuffs that were impressed on a helmet– reflecting a history in playing style.
#91 Purple WLU Athletics, 2010.
These buck marks on a helmet were something to take immense pride in among linemen, linebackers, and other positions that served as proof that you were hard-nosed. In a way, they symbolized courage, tenacity, and strength on and off the field– at least among the other meatheads like myself.
Fast track my time on the field, I spent even more time weightlifting and powerlifting that equally took its hard physical toll.
To sum up this short long-story-short, I’ve been crooked from back pain.
I’ve had my legs give out on me on a few occasions that forced me to grab onto the counters in front of me to keep myself from passing out and falling over– or to prevent straight up faceplanting into some shit.
I’ve been forced to crawl, limp, and wince around the house, gym, work and everywhere else for weeks at a time because my body was so bound up with spasms. I’ve had flareups that made it painful enough to barely be able to move my foot between the gas pedal and brake of my car.
I’ve had soerts of nerve issues radiating from my neck, through arms, or sciatica/piriformis, and other issues stemming from my lumbar/SI Joint and down through my legs as a result.
It wasn’t always that bad, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of scary moments with injury that was all quite fun in hindsight #sarcasm.
On with it
Acute injuries aren’t always the worst, and though they can be abruptly painful physically, it is the chronic injuries that sometimes buckle us most– especially when they persist for years and tax us mentally/emotionally.
When you experience something long enough, you naturally learn more about it, and having this long list of experience with injury and injury rehab has allowed me to pin point my own physical hot spots and other muscularly restricted movements. In that, I have also learned more on what stretches work best for me– how much to stretch, how intensely, and what other activity helps and what doesn’t.
I was a personal trainer and fascial stretch therapist for a few years after leaving the railroad, which helps fast tack my own recovery, but what has helped most has been the unlimited access I had to other occupational/physical therapists during my years in competitve sport.
Though my professional practice as a trainer/therapist was shortlived, the bulk of my knowledge was second hand as it was picked up in experience over my 10 years of football. As the injuries racked up my time on a therapy table increased, and it was there where I took a natural inclination to learn more about anaotmy/biomechanics by asking questions out of my own curiosity.
Being qualified does not warrant success.
Qualifications are a standard set for performance.
There are many unqualified individuals who are more than capable of performing past the set standard for qualification, but, are bound by the label of being ‘unqualified’.G. Kourtesiotis, 2013
Generally speaking, the more that I rest these days the worse I feel, and the more I keep myself in one position the stiffer I get. Likewise, if I am going to heal in injury, I have to be very active within the ranges of my own injury.
What movement looks like these days…
If movement hurt me, movement will be the one to save me.G. Kourtesiotis, 2020. Make It Stick, Write It Down. A Journaled Philosophy
In injury I have to do both,
I have to passively stretch to relax my nervous system, likewise, I also have to actively stretch by reactivating the antagonistic muscles that are turning themselves off because of the injury.
I don’t know what this sounds like to you, but what I am saying is that this is how I have noticed my body respond over the last 10 years as it pertains to my chronic back pain.
Maybe there is somethig deeper at play with my injuries, I’m not sure, because I haven’t dug much deeper outside of a simple physical observation by doctors and therapists. Either way, in my experience it has always been movement that makes me feel better on every level!
To reiterate, I have gotten better at managing and remedying my injuries. So the first thing I did the morning after tweaking my low back box jumping was go to the gym. I did so because the only way to get moving athletically again as soon as possible was to do something physical, without wasting any recovery time doing nothing at all.
“Why don’t you rest. why don’t you take it easy. drop everything, and Take a break.” – what do you mean, stop moving?!
Sometimes, the common misconception is that rest means doing nothing at all. I have talked with many people over the years who were so quick to promote rest as an excuse to abstain from movement and exercise alltogether.
Sure, maybe to an extent you can hold off for a day or two– or more if you broke something. I would agree to say that it is good sense to avoid stress, impact, or weighting a setting bone.
But some people will avoid confronting an injury altogether for an extended period of time in order to wait for their pain to disappear entirely before re-engaging in any activity.
Even still, if you’ve broken a leg, what’s stopping you from working out your upper body, your lungs, or even your other leg in some creatively less painful way? Surely, the surge in oxygen and blood flow to these other areas will probably only contribute positively to your injury in the long run.
We fall victim to our pain all to often
If we get hurt, our excuse to stop doing anything at all is all too inviting.
And though I am the one preaching the message to be proactive through our pain, I am no different because I am faced with the same emotions as most of the world when it comes to injury.
I get it, the urge to stay home in bed, or to run home to mom, or to find the biggest band-aid to put on is extremely persuasive. Alternatively, I have developed better awareness and recognition within myself to realize what kind of thoughts and emotions my injuries produce, where I can then respond accordingly.
The links are real.
Our mind is in sync with our body, and as obvious as that is to see for most of us when we can rationalize it in our owncomfort, it is hard to recognize the pain in experience because it can be such a subconciously turbulent process when we are uncomfortable with our pain in the moment.
A quick side story…
Amidst the early COVID-19 lockdowns, I was working out in a parking lot using the tow strap out of my Jeep to train my back. My feet slipped out under me and I fell flat on my back and very hard on my elbows.
Ignoring the very obvious pain, I continued my workout for another hour before coming home to realize that blood had soaked through my sweater. When I took it off, I realized that a small piece of gravel punctured a deep hole into my right elbow. There was a piece of skin dangling off the side of the wound as I cleansed it out with warm soap and water.
In all honesty, it was a small injury but my thoughts ran rampant as I bent my arm and could partially see the deepeer tissues underneath. Again, it was a small injury, but my mind exaggerated it, and intrusive visions of the bone of my elbow working its way outside of hole in my skin plagued me.
My thoughts continued and contemplated the need for stitches or not.
My thoughts continued, if I have to go to the hospital or not.
My thoughts continued, if I go to the hospital with a hole in my arm, am I more prone to whatever is happening with COVID.
My thoughts continued, if I left it as it is, would it become infected.
My thoughts continued, if it got infected would I be even worse off for COVID.
My thoughts continued on, and on, and on, and on.
What is even more interesting to note is that as I experienced my thoughts and emotions regarding this situation, the images and feelings in my head were further reinforced by the continuous physical pain brought on by bending my arm.
This exacerbated the pain in experience because I was now interjecting my emotions into it, where if we backtrack an hour earlier, I continued my workout emotionally undisturbed.
This process between perceived pain, my thoughts, and my emotions made me feel quite faint physically.
I was overwhelmed emotionally, and I began to feel myself physically buckling with intensity over this seemingly small situation. I studied how my emotions changed inside myself as I began to notice the consious and subconsious dance that exaggerated my own personal fears.
It’s natural, and I found solace in understanding that what was happening inside of me was for my own preservation. This small but deep hole, brought forward some even deeper fears that were buried inside of me from my past. As I noticed this dynamic, I forced myself to look at my injury. I forced to sit with my emotions, to feel my fear in pain and the lightheaded queasiness.
This didn’t make the process any easier, but it is necessary to face the unplesantness head on in order to try and diffuse the stronghold it has over us in the future. And if you don’t win the battle of your emotions this time around, at least you tried– and the effort is worth the hardship.
Turn and Face the Strange, Ch-Ch-Changes.
A more common scenario with personal injury and trauma is that people wont necessarily remedy or address it properly. We can only compensate for so long before it becomes emotionally debilitating.
When that happens, our behaviour can frighten us to a point where facing the pain head on is too intense, and we continue to compensate moving through other guarded states and positions.
Sure, sometimes we find ourselves less painfully on the otherside, but we have to address what is lost as an expense. Alternatively, some people fail to recognize that traumatic recovery/injury rehabilitation is an ongoing preventative measure to endure for our liveliehood.
Future Injury can be predicted by prior injury.
Once you’re faced with an injury, it is easy to re-injure the same area as the structures/tissues are more vulnerable to instability and wear/tear. Perhaps this is why my back issues persist, because I’m not planning on taking it easy anytime soon.
And though I experience back pain often, I purposely keep still very physically active because I love moving, and I owe my current capabilities to the preventative effort and exercise I do every single day.
For yourself, it’s your job to keep up with your own mental, physical, and emotional maintenance, and though a therapist can be your guide, it will always boil down to keeping your own accountability by taking the initiative to remedy yourself into your own hands.
Slower is better- For the time being
As I made my way to the gym the following morning to work out the kinks in my low back I began to stretch everything around– above and below –my injury.
Yes, I winced here and there, but it was a relatively safe practice because my movment was slow and intentional. I was moving into my pain, while using it as a guide to steer me outside of it if it became overwhelming at all.
Though the recovery will take more than a day or two, the process will have you relaxing further and further into ranges that used to be painful, that are slowly become pain free.
The secondary benefit of this slow and intentional practice is that it lends itself outside of the physicality of the pain/injury because it is meant to facilitate and strenghten the security between your body and your mind.
Whether you are aware of it or not, the thought and anticipation of the pain is often more debilitating than the source of the pain itself as every injury bridges itself emotionally in trauma. The more injury we experience, the more we store/trigger suppressed emotional traumas of the past.
An example in terms of the hole in my elbow came with the lightheadedness I experienced that triggered the memory of an injury that I perceived as humiliating when I put a dime sized hole into the middle of my shin years back. This gaping hole in my shin triggered anxiety-provoking thoughts of infecton as I could partly see my shin bone, where the source of those thoughts came from a situation years before that where a friend had to undergo three surgeries after suffering a compound fracture to his forearm that kept getting infected.
our mind loves a wild goose chase
On paper, it sounds a little bit ridiculous or unrelated, but our mind tends to get very creative in imagination.
I’m abnormal anyway, so my mind rambles more than necessary anyway, but half the battle with injury is logically trying to talk yourself down into feelings of safety after your physical safety has been compromised. This happens with all injuries — big or small — to varying degrees.
Doctor’s Orders- The remedy
Definitely take your therapist’s/trainer’s/doctor’s advice, but at some point you must take the process into your own hands.
I say this because YOU KNOW what you are feeling inside of yourself better than anybody else — being able to verbalize what you’re feeling might be a different story— but you have the ability to recognize the reality of your personal emotions and physical symptoms better than anybody.
In that, I cant tell you what to do other than telling you to move your body within the ranges and limits of your own pain, while moving with with slight deviations from standardized movements that are unique to your own biomechanical expressions.
Of course, this process could take a very long time depending on the severity of your injury, and your willingness to explore you movement. Likewise, you will experience pain/soreness to a degree–you’re not going to get better without experiencing the pain in your recovery.
Again, face the pain while using it as a guide to explore the dynamics of your traumas and you will be become more adept through your pain now and in the future as you rebuild your security and comfort, as well as your resilience to do so.
Pain of Recovery- the deeper meaning.
When you choose to actively face your pain in recovery, you are actively moving yourself to facilitate your own healing– rehab, exercises, etc… You can control your injury while managing your pain because you are intentionally focusing on your own injury, your own movement, your own range of motion, and your own feelings in emotion. It is because of this that you can–most often– regulate your own pain depending on how much you want to push yourself.
With all of this in mind, I am not trying to advocate that you have to turn into some sort of sadomasochist — okay, maybe part of me is — but mostly, I want to emphasize the importance of recognition and awareness. Again, you have to experience pain with your injury in order to learn how your body and your mind will respond to your own recovery.
Pain is a bridge for growth
If movement through our injury facilitates our physical betterment, what happens when we venture outside of ourselves in concept for deeper meaning and purpose.
Generally speaking about life now,
When we are afraid to move– to act on our wants/goals — our pursuit for personal betterment is impeded similarliy by choosing to avoid the challenge of growth as we shy away from any perceived hardships.
It isn’t until we start moving ourselves through our uniquley painful challenges where we can reaffirm the boundaries of our own limits and safety. We can intentionally choose to act in accordance to our vision in spite of the barriers we encounter within the pursuit of our own goals.
The process is similar, because we can slowly expose ourselves consistently in action with small exploratative movements into our pain. Consistently taking some for of action that lines up with our vision everyday will ultimately lead us to our future betterment in greatness, in light of the often overwhelming or unbearable tasks that will present themselves.
Eat that frog
To summarize a relatable concept by Brian Tracy — motivational speaker/entrepreneurial self-help guru — if it was your job for success to eat a real frog everyday, it would be best practice to do it first thing in the morning. By doing this, you are less likely to procrastinate on the things that you don’t necessarily want to do, but is necessary for your own success. Furthering on this concept, if it was your job to eat two frogs– eat the biggest one first!
It isn’t until we act by doing the things that are painful to us in challenge where we start to build resilience and an appreciation for the process itself.
Personally, I am most likely going to hate starting whatever challenge lies in front of me almost everyday, but as soon as I start doing, the time seems to flowby until I am finished my work for the day. I feel proud of putting in the little or large effort to set out on what was needed to be done for my own unique purpose.
Similar to physical injury, it is easy to feel unmotivated to move ourselves in action through our own restrictions. However, it is the movement itself is that will give us motivation to keep moving once we start moving because the pain always gets better– for the most part. The trick is getting the ball rolling because it is always the hardest part, and once we start moving, we can usually keep up with the momentum.
I’ll be honest, the last thing I want to do in physical injury is to walk myself into a gym to move around because my body hurts. However, I learned in experience with the list of injuries from my past is that choosing to weather these uncomfortable ranges of motion as soon as possible is a necessary step for my recovery in line.
The takeaway here is that despite these painful deterrants –physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, entrepreneurial, or whatever-– I choose NOT to do nothing, but to do what I can as best as I can do it.
This translates into everything.
How many of us wake up wanting to hit the snooze for 5 more minutes on most days? The necessary work ahead of us is often unmotivating, but we still manage to get ourselves out of bed for our work because our work represents something necessary, and greater to us– hopefully.
As much as we hate getting up out of our warm and comfortable beds in the morning to go to our job for 8, 10, or 12 hours, it’s usually not that bad once we’re there–sometimes it is, but mostly not. Once we’re up and moving about, the end of the day comes pretty quick and we find ourselves back home or elsewhere unwinding, or spending our time with someone or something we love.
Unmotivated? – Start moving anyway.
The habit of consistently practicing this everyday will bring you your own personal success with the things that matter most to you — life goals/wants/aspirations.
Slowly overtime– with ritualistic action— you will realize your efforts in light of any set backs or painful barriers that you choose to overcome everyday for your betterment.
Consistency is a hard pill to swallow for many of us, but it is what will yield our greatest rewards in our future’s vision.