This is a post from My Health Journey, an ongoing series where I document my health progress. Follow along to see, month after month, how I implement my recovery protocol, handle stressful situations, eliminate food sensitivities, incrementally train my nervous system to handle more stress, and ultimately, how my method continues to allow me greater and greater freedom, happiness, and health!
An Entire Month with Pain-free Time!
This is my favorite health update I've written during my over 5.5-year recovery story from severe nerve pain and several acute autoimmune diseases such as interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome! Why is that? Because I had pain-free time every day for the entire month and going all the way back to June 22nd! I am ecstatic! It's been over 32 years since I had a streak like this! Today makes forty straight days, and still going strong! And it wasn't just moments of relief; each day is now around 80-90% pain-free!
This development is all the more remarkable because it occurred in a month when I traveled to Washington, D.C., to spend time with dear friends and to Austin, TX, for KetoCon. Above, you can see one of the highlights from D.C.: a friend and me in front of the Space Shuttle Discovery!
Travel is usually a quick road back to pain and symptoms for me. So what did I do differently that helped keep the pain-free streak going? Read on!
Typically, I let some of my routine slip while traveling. For instance, when I'm at home, even though weightlifting has been critical for lowering my overall pain level, I can get some inflammation in my shoulder and neck nerves from lifting. I compensate for that with massage gun usage and an ice bath if it's particularly bad. However, ice baths are impractical on the road with a busy agenda, so I usually skip some workouts while on vacation-type trips. As I'd be away for 12 straight days this time, I reasoned that I couldn't stay away from exercise that long and expect to feel well.
So I packed my massage gun in a second suitcase and was determined to do at least five workouts while away. I also planned to skip running each day to avoid taking time away from friends and the conference and not overload my body. Additionally, I decided to take it easy with bouldering challenges and to lower the loads I would lift so that it wouldn't overtax my nervous system and make recovery necessitate an ice bath. I had planned to get weightlifting coaching in D.C. from a dear friend, so lowering loads to show and improve my form would fit perfectly with needing to take it easy yet staying active while away.
I also filled the extra bag with some of my favorite healthy snacks, such as 4505 Chicharones, Nose to Tail biltong, and Dang coconut chips so I wouldn't resort to eating something suboptimal or go hungry for too long. One other dietary consideration I planned was to have some moderate carbohydrate days instead of six days a week of strict keto so that I could sample a broader range of the menu at the restaurants in the D.C. area. However, since I'm in Austin every month and know the cuisine there very well, I aimed to be keto again for all but one of those days, per usual.
The last point of routine emphasis was that I knew I would be happy to see some friends I hadn't seen in over a year, so it was likely that I'd feel inclined from that exuberance to stay up late with them each night, disrupting my sleep and recovery. To deal with this, I struck a balance. Before I left, I arranged with them to spend several nights together, but no more than two consecutive nights so I wouldn't get too depleted. I also planned a day in the middle of that time with friends to sleep as late as needed.
Executing the Plan
This approach worked wonders! For exercise, I worked out five times in twelve days. I lifted twice during the form coaching sessions and went bouldering three times. I made sure to lift much lighter weights than usual so that I wouldn't be near failure. I took it easy during the first two bouldering outings, climbing for half my normal amount of time and not very challenging walls. That kept the inflammation low, and all I needed was my massage gun to compensate! I stuck to my plan and did not run but got in over 10,000 steps every day. It was easy to get that much motion in when walking Washington D.C. sites and the convention center floor for KetoCon. Then, when KetoCon was over and my time away was ending, I went all-out on exertion during the last bouldering session in Austin.
The snacks were a great option for my diet. I filled up on the snacks midday, and the entire suitcase was empty by the end of my time away. I indeed was moderate carbohydrate most days in D.C. Also, I had some alcohol a few nights, which can be a nerve pain trigger for me, and I got a little from it but kept the intake minimal. I managed to stay in a calorie deficit during this cutting phase I've been in for much of the last year and was surprised that I came back at the same weight with omitting running!
As for sleep, the planned day of sleeping in refilled my internal batteries. Prior to that, I felt myself getting depleted from too many nights up an hour or three later than usual. Focusing on the plan to best manage these trips and the incentive to keep the pain-free streak going made it easy to end my night early during the middle of the D.C. portion of travel. During KetoCon, it was easier to maintain myself in my familiar Austin setting. I simply made sure not to have any social outings unless I felt great, which happened once during the conference, and scheduled all else for the two days after it was over.
A Great Time Fueling Happiness and Health
The time I had with friends in D.C. was wonderful, as was seeing the Space Shuttle at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Museum. In addition, the sublime representations of all the values possible to us at the National Art Gallery, the treasures at The Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and more were deeply inspiring.
KetoCon was the best event I've been at for my career. I met up with my friends at Heart & Soil and learned from respected experts such as Dr. Daniel Pompa and Anna Cabeca. I made many connections with the speakers and attendees, and formed many new business partnerships that allow me to help my clients even more! I even got expert scholarly resources from published authors for my book. I won't spoil all that happened and everything that will come of it, but expect to hear from me a lot more soon!
Importantly, the happiness I had from the trips and outburst of career accomplishments was a core component in keeping my pain down. It was the happiest I'd been for a few months, and I continually noticed zero pain in my body when I felt the flood of positive energy and emotions. This feeling was the great effect of pain-relieving endorphins and other beneficial biochemicals.
With the tremendous new success with my pain-free time, the goal I set on my fifth anniversary on January 16th of having pain-free time on half of my days and even the stretch goal of two-thirds of my days is now clearly far too conservative. It's time to aim for pain-free every day and perhaps to have an entire day of being pain-free. I think it's possible that I'll get rid of all of my pain. I've come quite a long way, considering the nerve damage throughout my body that my visit to the Neufit facility confirmed. The body has an impressive capacity for healing!
When I returned home in the latter half of the month, I had some important exercise developments.
I lowered the weights I was lifting. This change was for three reasons. The first was the time off from trying to push muscle growth, and I knew this would lead to soreness and some strength regression. Also important was to ensure that I had overcome the inflammatory overtraining that occurred last month when coming back from food poisoning. Lastly, and most importantly, because of the coaching on my weightlifting form I got in D.C. There were many beneficial insights from the form sessions.
Regarding form, I was told that my wrist placement wasn't ideal on my squats, and I wasn't getting deep enough on them either. On my bench press, I didn't have my hands rotated appropriately, which could've led to wrist pain if I had kept using my previous form. And I didn't have my back flat enough in my deadlift starting position; I wasn't getting as far down as I should due to tight hamstrings. I also had more form creep than I'd realized on chin-ups, pullups, and biceps curls which meant I wasn't getting the full range of motion benefits for hypertrophy on each exercise. There were also two major exercise replacements. First, I switched to one-legged and from barbells to dip belt calf raises so I wouldn't have the same amount of weight on my back (250 pounds). Second, I dropped triceps kickbacks for overhead triceps extension now that the nerve pain in my shoulders is negligible with all exercises because I think the latter is superior.
Because of these tweaks, I dropped up to 25% of the loads I was lifting before travel to ensure I didn't get injured. The form changes made a lot of the exercises more difficult! The first ten days back with lifting, I had the most intense delayed onset muscle soreness I've ever had. After that, I had a whopping five days of soreness with the deeper squats! Similarly, making sure I'm at a dead hang to start each repetition of chin-ups and pullups again and all the way down through a rep on curls added some soreness but made an unexpected difference. Interestingly, I found I had less shoulder nerve pain than usual from these changes.
By the end of the month, I was cruising ahead again on all my lifts. I felt so good that I'm thinking about a tweak to lift on consecutive days to see if that results in even more pain relief. I'll give myself more time with the new form before making a shift.
One last note on bouldering. Losing more of my body weight and continuing to climb had me performing even better than before. Check out my newest intermediate difficulty wall I'm proud of from my session just before I left Austin!
There is much to look forward to in the August health update!
With my neuropathic pain under unprecedented control, it's time to work more on my Circadian rhythm. I’ll write about that next month.
I'll also likely finally be getting around to my first five-day water fast in over a year. Unfortunately, life has been too busy for me to work one in the past two months. (Fortunately, I don't seem to need one for pain any longer, so I'm curious to see what will happen with this next one.) We're still ramping up content production here at Recovery Health Coaching, which is taking considerable time. I got another influx of client work, and KetoCon presented some unexpected business opportunities that slowed those efforts a bit as well. But the content is still definitely on the way, and there are many more exciting things due to the new ideas I had and connections I made at the conference! In the meantime, I've become more active on social media. Check my Instagram account for what I'm up to and thinking about in between these updates.
I hope you had a month of health progress, and I'll see you to start September!