Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #005

Everything in life has a cost. Whether it’s time, experience, knowledge, pain, etc. There’s a cost that’s not monetary, that life takes.

Sometimes life throws you gifts. Gifts come with costs, but they’re not always obvious. The cost of a gift is twofold:

1) Acceptance. If you’re not willing to accept a gift, you’re probably not receiving the full gift.
2) Acknowledgement. Understanding what the gift you’re being given is.

Say you’re having a hard time, and someone drops off a meal. It’s a gift. Of course the material food is a huge gift, but the gift is also the feeling of being cared for. Knowing someone has your back. The stress alleviated by not having to do the task. The nourishment that lets you keep pushing on. Acceptance and Acknowledgement allow us to better appreciate the gifts we’re given.

So much of life is out of our control. Gifts are out of our control, but how we receive them isn’t. I’ve been very fortunate lately to have a lot of gifts come my way. From big ones like finding a job I love, to smaller ones like having insufficient hand injury to warrant a cast, to internal stuff like better understanding my relationship with freedom and responsibility.

The more gifts come my way, the easier it is to recognise when I’m being given a gift. The easier it is to recognise gifts in my life, the more I understand how much they’ve improved my life. The more I understand their value, the easier it is to see opportunities to give gifts to other people.
Lately I’ve been trying to do small things for the people in my locus, and seeing them get tacit value for the proportionally small effort I’ve made is a gift returned. Knowing that I can help allows me to better understand further opportunities to give, and it’s become so much easier to do so. A lot of things these days have made me feel pretty powerless. It’s just nice knowing I can touch the world, even if its a tiny ripple.

I’d encourage anyone interested to think about gifts in their life. It’ll (excuse the pun) keep on giving.

I guess using that word was a bit of a stretch

I talk about stretching a lot, but I think “stretching” is a little bit of a misnomer. When I say stretching, what I really mean is relieving tension in the body.

I think it’s an important distinction, and here’s why:

Stretching is a method, but the overarching goal is to relieve tension. Stretching is putting muscles under strain, to loosen them up. It’s also very far from the only way to do this.

If you’ve ever experienced a massage, that’s not stretching. It probably relieved tension though. A massage is not stretching, a massage is a variety of techniques. Maybe they’re giving myofascial release, applying pinpoint pressure, using intense sonic vibrations, etc etc.

If you’ve ever used a heating pad, that’s not stretching. Once again though, relieves tension. It’s another method. I hope this doesn’t sound needlessly patronising, because I’m heading somewhere.

I’m gonna stop talking in the abstract now, but please keep in mind I’m not educated on this stuff. It’s mostly what I’ve figured out by doing. Here are some methods/techniques I’ve found that work for me with a “What”, “How” and “Why”:

What: Dynamic stretching – Instead of staying static and holding a position, I’ll move in and out of the position.
How: Instead of holding my foot behind my bum to stretch my knee, I’ll kick my heel back, then return it to the ground, and repeat this a bunch of times.
Why: Sometimes joints and muscles are stiff, and by moving into the stretch instead of just holding it, it allows the tension to be broken up gently and gradually, rather than by forcing it. This one is great to use in conjunction with static stretching, because it often opens up pathways that then can be further explored by static stretching.

What: Heat – warming up an area to reduce tension in that area.
How: Hot baths, showers, heating pads. If those things aren’t accessible, I’ve honestly taken to just rubbing the area really vigorously.
Why: Heat works. It’s often far more gradual than other methods, but it feels relaxing and probably takes the least effort out of anything I’ve mentioned so far.

What: Pinpoint pressure – Instead of stretching an area, figuring out where the central point of pain is, and applying increasing pressure until it dissipates.
How: Using an object with a small, firm tip (a thumb would probably be most common, but elbows and balls (tennis, lacrosse, rubber/bouncy) are great too. I’ll use literally anything I can find. The corner of a table, a block of wood or brick), press that tip into the affected spot. Apply pressure to your tastes/pain tolerance. You can start small and gradually apply more pressure, or if you get off on pain, you can just push really hard.
Why: It’s probably one of the most effective and quick techniques, but it generally takes more knowledge and experience than others here. You need to understand how to track down the point of pain, and withstand the constant sensation that comes with it. I do a ton of this, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

What: Vibration – Vigorously vibrating or shaking the tense area.
How: Instead of bending at the waist with a straight leg to stretch the back of my leg, I’ll shake the leg out vigorously. Or if you had something like a car buffer (don’t laugh, it works), Hitachi Magic Wand- or honestly any powerful sex toy- that would be quite effective. I just don’t have those things.
Why: This is great for breaking up residual lactic acid and associated etc. Stuff that’s lingering around and getting in the way of being able to stretch deeper. TBH I tend to use this one as a way to further static stretching rather than a solo technique, but it’s also great for post deep stretch, moving blood back into areas before you put weight on them. This is incredibly helpful for injury prevention.

What: Tapotement. This is less of a technique to fix things, but more to figure out where problem areas are.
How: You just kinda… slap or hit the area? I’m not talking about hurting myself, but short quick slaps or taps that ripple through an area. If you feel tiny twinges in certain areas as the slap ripples through, they’re good spots to look to take care of with another method.
Why: Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I sorta liken this one to radar or echolocation. Putting out stimulation that triggers a response, which tells you where to look.

So when I say that I stretch all the time, I’m actually talking about using a ton of methods and techniques with the overall goal of relieving tension and stress throughout my body. None of these is better than another, they just have different applications. Sometimes a one method will be great, and at other times that same method will be an ineffective tool. You can swap between methods and apply different techniques on the fly, and it’s a fantastic way of pushing past blocks to get at dense, underlying issues. When I’m “stretching”, I’m combining the above stuff constantly:

I might use one technique for five minutes, switch to another for 30 seconds, then onto another one for the next ten minutes.
I might oscillate between static and dynamic stretching.
I might be in a static stretch, rub the affected area vigorously to use heat, then notice just how much further I can stretch after ten seconds of said heat.
I might spend 5 minutes doing pinpoint pressure, shake the area out to get rid of anything that’s lingering, then go back to the pinpoint stuff. If I feel like I’ve worked a spot totally out with pinpoint work, I might try tapotement to see if there are any other spots where pinpoint would be beneficial, then apply it. Maybe I’ll realise that I’m experiencing tension in that area because there’s tension further along the chain. Say, my knee is sore because my adductor (stretches from the knee to the groin) is tight, and I’ll do a static stretch on that out to lessen the tension. Once I’ve done this, I’ll sway through my hips with dynamic stretching. Then tapotement to figure out where pinpoint would be effective, and alleviate a spot that was too tense to get into before.

The point is to relieve tension. Whatever gets you there, gets you there. The only way to figure out what’s gonna help is to try it. If it works, great. If it’s not helping, try something else. Worst case scenario you’re back to whatever you already know works.

And this is how I lose two hours working on a single hand. Whatever, we’re in a pandemic. Time no longer exists.

Have fun, and let me know how you get on.

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #004

An incredibly useful and difficult paradigm shift is to consider yourself no longer done. Ever.

Times and information change regularly. No matter how long you’ve been doing something or how experienced you are, it’s never a bad thing to ask yourself “with everything I know now, is this still the best way to do this?” If the answer is yes, keep doing it that way. If there’s a way to do it better, you can slow down, learn and adjust, then go forward with the new best method. It doesn’t mean you’ll get there instantly, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get there.

It’s difficult, because we’re used to associating work with stress and effort. It’s work to change your view, because it means admitting you’re not doing your best, which sounds a lot like failure in our brains. But it’s not, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It doesn’t mean you have to do this every single time. It means that any time you do this, you’re creating the potential to do better going forward.

Being content is the enemy of progress. It’s pretty arrogant to think that you can’t improve. This also doesn’t mean that you’re failing by not looking for opportunities to improve, but more of a value added proposition. If you’re doing fine without changing things, great. If you could do better by changing things, great. You always have the option to consider it.

Okay, let’s just beat this thing already

The What: It’s not that politicians can’t stop COVID, it’s that they won’t.

The Why: Politicians don’t actually understand what COVID is, how it works, or how to beat it.

It’s not fair to judge someone on what they don’t know. My country beat COVID, so I’ll explain some things:

1) COVID-19 is not intelligent. It’s a virus, and a virus’ job is to infect things. That’s all it’s doing. It’s good at its job. It doesn’t know we exist, it just does.

2) COVID-19 is not playing politics. An infectious virus is not playing politics. It’s just infecting people. Once again, it’s good at its job.

3) COVID is not a political issue. It’s a public safety issue. The public is being massively infected, people are dying. Every single industry is being impacted, and many are dying.

4) COVID is being looked at as a Problem. Not an Emergency. This part is hard, because when we think of Emergencies we think of sudden occurrences: An Earthquake, a Hurricane, a Tsunami, a Snow Storm. COVID is an Emergency, but it doesn’t look like any of the above.

5) Because COVID is being treated like a problem, politicians are going through their usual methods. They’re trying to address what they can with the budget they have, without getting caught up in political bills that have to run through opposition parties. The goal is to save money, because it’s hard to get agreement without strings attached. Politics sucks for getting things done.

6) Politicians work for Taxpayers. They’re employed to enable better lives for the Taxpayers. The money they’re spending is our money. We’ve given them the power and responsibility to work on our behalf. Remember though, politics sucks for getting things done. Which means a lot of our money is wasted on people trying to get leverage in order to accomplish their goals. They’re spending ENORMOUS amounts of our money on things that aren’t fixing our problems.

***

So if you’re with me so far, COVID isn’t political. It’s a virus doing its job. Politicians’ job is to use the money we give them to create infrastructure and laws to improve our quality of life. COVID isn’t a Problem, it’s an Emergency, and needs to be treated like one. We’re paying them to do a job they’re not doing.

***

I think part of the issue is that politicians don’t know what kind of Emergency COVID is, but they love the economy, so I’ll try to think of a money based metaphor. I’m not a money guy, so this will be kinda loose. Please bear with me, I have good intentions.

COVID is less like a natural disaster, and more like Debt/Interest. If you’ve ever been in Debt, you’ll know that you are charged a fee for being in Debt. It costs you money to be poor. I know, right? You might be charged $20 a month for owing money. The more you owe, the more you pay every month. Maybe you’re paying $100 every month. That’s pretty shit, right? You’re spending money on not having money, which means you’re absolutely paying money to get nothing. This is exactly what COVID is doing, but the scale is exponentially larger.

COVID is like everyone getting simultaneous Debt. Everyone everywhere gets Debt. The amount they have depends on a bunch of factors. The fewer resources you have, the more Debt you have. Working in public is Debt. Taking public transit is Debt. Not being able to afford good PPE is Debt. Living in cramped areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain is Debt. The more Debt you rack up, the higher cost you have to pay every month.

But being rich isn’t enough to ignore Debt. You might have less Debt, but you’re not inoculated from it. The more Debt there is around you, the higher chance there is that you’ll pick some of it up.

Remember, it’s not just one Debt. All of us have Debt of differing amounts. When we put this together it’s not cumulative, it’s compounded. The more Debt society picks up, the more Debt we each accumulate. The Debt of others increases our Debt.

COVID has exponential growth. I repeat, it’s SO GOOD at its job. You know how local stores get utterly driven into the ground by big box stores and franchises? That’s what COVID is doing to every industry by saddling them with Debt. This is Debt with exponential growth, so every month, we all have to pay more and more.

What politicians and companies right now is making the mistake of thinking they’re inoculated from Debt if they just make more money than it. They’ll be able to Stave Off the Debt if they keep it at bay long enough to close a big deal that helps them pay it off in full. Spoiler, that’s not going to happen. They’re taking chances, and COVID is not. Remember, it’s good at its job. Politicians don’t seem to be. COVID will continue to saddle us with Debt while we waffle around, and they’ll do it faster than we can make money to pay it off.

Think about the huge costs spent on CERB. CERB is part of the Debt. We can’t not pay CERB, because HUMAN LIVES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY. Not to be controversial or anything. People need money to live. The longer we’re in lockdown, the more CERB we pay. The point is not for the government to just give people free money forever, it’s to save the Taxpayers who pay their wages. It’s also a temporary measure. It’s supposed to get us through this so we can resume our lives once the pandemic is over. The longer we’re in this, the more CERB the government pays.

They have already wasted so much of our money accumulating Debt. Remember that with Debt, that monthly cost keeps coming. Spending money on not having money, right? It costs us a COLOSSAL amount to be in Debt, and the longer we are, the more it will cost. Every month we spent trying to mitigate the effects of Debt instead of paying it off was a month of blown human lives, Taxpayer money, and businesses in the drain, spreading more Debt to the wealthy. Nobody at all likes COVID, because it’s bad news for every single one of us.

This is all very gloomy, yes? But that doesn’t mean we are powerless. What would you tell your kid if they’d amassed too much Debt for them to handle? You’d tell them that you can beat Debt by paying it off and getting into the black. Once you’re in the black, no more monthly payments. Not only have you taken care of that ongoing cost, but you’ve likely created a framework of managing your money that allows you to make better decisions going forward.

***

Politicians won’t defeat COVID, but they can. Here are things that need doing in order to defeat COVID:

1) Money needs to be shifted to places where it makes sense.

This isn’t politics, and the most important thing to our country/province right now is to defeat COVID. Any economic bills that don’t work towards defeating COVID are wasting money. We don’t want industries to collapse and leave the population vulnerable, sure, but now is not a time to make money. It’s a time to defeat COVID. Doug Ford can take all the existing safety protocols away from industries AFTER we’ve defeated COVID. Before they get to have fun with Taxpayer money again, they need to do their jobs. Prevent Taxpayers from dying.

We don’t need any new construction projects. We don’t need to fund military purchases, or police munitions. We definitely don’t need to be paying the salaries of suspended cops. We’re in a restructuring period. We don’t need to enable leisure industries. We don’t need dining at restaurants or bars. Not even patios. We do not need people in public, and we ESPECIALLY do not need people drinking alcohol in public, inhibiting their decision making skills. They can do that just fine at home.

We need to look at budgets and re-prioritise where these funds go. If it’s a Taxpayer funded department and money is not going to infrastructure or projects that aid Taxpayers’ ability to live, it’s wasted money. That’s money that could go towards paying off Debt.

2) Letting Experts and Experiences drive policy.

There are people who know so much more than I ever will about all of this. We need to listen to them. It’s not important that they tell us what we want to hear, we need to listen to what we need to know. We need to take their advice and shape protocols around it. Otherwise we’re wasting Taxpayers money. Once more, politicians not doing their jobs.

We are not the only country experiencing COVID. Other countries have tried pre-emptive re-opening. They’ve tried making masks optional. They’ve tried bringing kids back to school. None of these strategies have worked, and we can see just how badly they haven’t worked. If politicians have this data and are choosing to make the same mistakes, they’re either idiots or callous. We need to follow effective strategies and fold them into our methodology. If experts say masks are mandatory indoors, we need to follow that advice. Same goes for social distancing, bubbles, sanitising, maximum capacities, etc. Otherwise we’re wasting money and accruing so much more Debt.

3) Excessive and clear public information.

It is not the fault of the public for not knowing how COVID works. There is a lot of information out there, and what we’re learning about COVID changes constantly. The public needs up to date information. All of the public. Don’t leave rural areas out of the loop either. This information needs to be clear, so people can follow it regardless of education levels. We need daily broadcasts from Parliament that are apolitical and only focused on science. They need to be conducted by experts, not politicians. The public have a right to know what we’re up against, and not to be taken advantage of for the goals of the wealthy.

We also need the Why. People rarely ever learn if you just tell them the What. Without context or deeper understanding, it’s easy to forget. If they know the Why, they can take productive and intentional steps towards keeping themselves safe, instead of making unfortunate but understandable mistakes.

We need to know what a bubble is. We need to know how it works, its goals and objectives. We need to know scenarios in which our bubbles could be popped, leaving us exposed. Did you know that if you’re eating indoors, you’re not being safe if you or anyone in your bubble is next to or across from someone in another bubble? If anyone in your bubble is exposed, everyone in your bubble is exposed. That’s how the metaphor works.

Plagiarise info from other successful countries, I don’t care. I know this is expensive. It’s part of the cost of paying down COVID’s Debt. Do everything in your power to protect the public. Misinformation kills.

4) We need to go back into lockdown.

PLEASE LISTEN TO ME. I know how much it sucks. I know how dispiriting it is, but it’s important that we don’t confuse inconvenience for a violation of our rights. The more people in public, the higher chance of exposure. The more interaction between people, the higher chance of exposure. The more exposure, the longer we have to deal with COVID. Remember, we’re trying to beat COVID, not learn to live with it. We all need to make sacrifices, even if it’s inhibiting what we want to do. We need to look at all the ways that COVID could spread and take away all of those opportunities. We don’t compromise with COVID. Like we were supposed to do in lockdown.

We don’t need to go back into lockdown forever, but until we’re at a point where the cases are low enough they can be tracked by Contact Tracing. Once we know who has COVID, can keep those people safe and isolated. If we have a framework set up that can take care of these people, then we will be able to handle new cases while reducing the threat to lives, jobs and the economy. While lockdown is on, PAY TAXPAYERS WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO LIVE OTHERWISE. Even if the government doesn’t care about the lives of its citizens, it should care that the more people who die, the less tax they get to collect, and the smaller their budgets get. The quicker we deal with this, the quicker we can go back to our lives.

***

Did you know that back in my home country you can shake hands with strangers? Pash a hot person in a public bar? Walk around without masks? My home country is smaller than Ontario. The country has a GDP 1/3 the size of Ontario’s. My country beat COVID, and they have far fewer resources. The reason was cultural, not economic.

Information from experts was prioritised, heeded and understood. Communication was transparent, informative and easy to follow. The public knew why they had to take actions like wearing masks, staying home, keeping safe distance. Because of this, the public was able to take the initiative and do what needed to be done to keep each other safe. They beat it. Boring story, but a better ending. Let’s end this too. Please.

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #003

Most of the things we consider to be character attributes are just habits and/or behaviours.

If they’re not serving us, we can change these things.

“I’m not punctual.” “I’m not good with directions.” “I have a bad temper.”

Most of these things can be changed with acknowledgement, practice and time. None of us are immutable, and we’re doing ourselves and the people in our lives a disservice by pretending that we are.

None of this is a “fuck you, change” mentality. It’s not always easy, but it’s not impossible, and those two adjectives are way further apart than you’d expect.

Is Defund a river in Egypt?

I got stuck ranting on Twitter about gun violence and defunding police, and I think it’s worth sharing my rant in case people were confused about what defunding actually means. Because I don’t think it’s as clear as POLICE BAD. PUNISH POLICE. FUND ORGIES IN THE STREETS.

I don’t think that people act violently just because they want to. I think it’s a response to desperation or feelings of powerlessness. I think a lot of people are desperate because of a myriad of issues: Not being able to find jobs, pay rent, stress or mental illness. If police budgets have risen with time, and shootings are not decreasing, maybe increasing budgets is not the answer. If that’s the case, it could be more effective to look into the root causes of why this stuff happens and address those issues.

If people had access to resources to shift that stress away (help with rent, income support, mental illness services), would they be as likely to act out? Who knows? But if our current options aren’t working, it’s probably worth looking into a better solution.

Police budgets are MASSIVE, and the bulk of those costs are salary related. Here’s a snapshot of the 2020 budget. As a reminder, the police budget is paid for by taxpayers:

Regardless of your political affiliation, a lot of citizens are being very vocal about how the police are not sufficiently doing their job right now. Why are taxpayers paying so much for a bad service? If this were any other service, you’d demand more for your money. Something that many people have expressed is that the police are being given too many responsibilities that they’re not equipped to deal with. There are so many tasks that would be better driven to other departments/organisations. Mental health stuff, etc. And if the police were no longer to provide these services, then the budgets should be under review. Taxpayers should not be paying the police for services they’re inadequately providing just because they have strong unions with a lot of political support.

And while this sounds very far from the idea of gun crime, I don’t believe it’s as far as you’d think. These are not short term solutions, and would require updating over time. It’s not something that would be fixed in a year, but these issues have been ongoing for decades. If you have a deep wound, you don’t just put a band aid over it. You take care of the underlying symptoms and let it heal slowly. Gun crime, violence, unrest, they’re all symptoms of a system that makes people feel like acting out is their only option.

Militarised police, for instance, is Cart Before the Horse kind of stuff. Why are our forces equipped with military grade equipment? Because we assume a level of violence that necessitates this equipment. That equipment is EXPENSIVE. If we treated the symptoms that caused people to behave in a way that we assume necessitates this kind of equipment, there’s a good chance we would not need this equipment. We would be saving money AND helping people, which seems doubly good, no?

All of this stuff is REALLY complicated, and a lot of us citizens have been convinced that we don’t deserve access to quality support through years of eroding services. But we do. You do, I do. The current system is not providing enough value for what we’re paying. The concept of “defunding” gets a lot of knee-jerk reactions, because people are afraid it will make them less safe. But what it really means is looking at what our issues are, and recalibrating the budgets so that everyone is paying for quality services that work.

Refusing to try and/or consider new options because we’ve always done it one way is the epitome of “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” These are good options that could provide value for all taxpayers, and they’re not being seriously considered because of politics.

Does that make me the Best Practicer?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Best Practices lately.

So I’ve been going to gym classes for years. Again and again there’s this refrain of “tighten your core”. Recently I realised two things:

  1. I’d never really known how to tighten my core.
  2. Tightening your core literally helps with EVERY exercise.

The reason why tightening your core is so great, is that it stops strain from going into other areas of your body when you’re trying to work/stretch a specific area. So Best Practices tell me that tightening my core will make everything better. Ergo, core tight at all times. Easy, right?

Turns out I forget about my core and loosen up ALL THE TIME. Maybe every 20 seconds to minute I realise my core isn’t as tight as it could be, and that would help. So I tighten my core again. It used to take me a while to properly tighten my core. Now it takes about a second. I remember that I’m gonna get more out of my exercise if I tighten my core, so I make the adjustment and things get better.

I’ve started noticing this as a trend in most things I do. There’s a matter of Best Practices whereby one little adjustment will make the whole process easier. Say I’m typing at work and I notice I’m slumping, or my posture is weird. I straighten up, or put my feet flat, and things work better. It used to take longer to figure out, but the more often I do it, the quicker it becomes. Now the adjustment takes a second or so. Holistically it means I’m spending far more time in an ideal position than I was before, and I notice I’m starting to do things more effectively than I was.

I think about Best Practices when I’m chopping veggies, when I’m riding my bike, when I’m sweeping, when I’m going ham on a spot with a melamine sponge. Simple tasks are getting easier and faster. I’m getting better results. Aligning in the best possible way is improving everything, and making those adjustments just takes a thought.

You show a guy Hamilton ONE TIME

Many people have tried to push me towards leadership. It’s one of those common threads. Y’know, like when you’re watching a movie and there’s this little wink they do? And you’re like THAT’S coming back in the third act? Those threads. I’ve spent my life running away from it. Teachers would always put me in those roles, try to redirect something I probably let out in less productive ways. It never made sense to me. Why were they asking me? There were smarter people out there. Why not get someone who’s always right? I imagine the possibility of failure meant I never wanted to try. I was a chubby nerd. I was uncool enough without risking my reputation on my ability to not fuck up. The world was hard enough as a teen, why would I take on that mantle? Every now and again I’d pitch in, and it’d be fine. I still didn’t want that pressure. Leaders knew what was going on. They were confident, calm, and took charge. I was not decisive, and too afraid of being taken seriously.

And now I just don’t really care. I’m not cool, and that’s fine. I see leadership as something different now. I’m finally realising that leadership is a service position. You’re not trying to prove how good you are, you’re understanding the potential of everyone around you. You don’t need to have all the answers, you find the people with them and empower them to create change. You’re looking for the best outcome you’re able to facilitate. Being a leader doesn’t mean you always lead. It’s knowing when to step back and let others shine. Maybe there are specific areas in which you’re able to lead, and not others. It’s all part of it.

As is walking the walk. A leader who is not willing to lead by example is not a leader, they’re a narcissist. Be accountable. It doesn’t matter how you look, it’s how you act. Don’t place unfair expectations on others. Help them be their best. Treat people kindly as a first resort. Everyone has invisible baggage and potential. Normalise understanding when you’re wrong, admitting it, and looking for a better solution. Work towards progress, not profit.

I’m not committing to anything here. I might look out for times I can help, and see how that goes. I mostly don’t want to admit I’m in my third act.

Would a kinky music group be a rubber band?

Things I’ve learned about stretching:

First rule of any fitness: If it hurts, stop.

There’s a difference between tension and pain. Tension is something you can work through. Pain is a sign to step back.

Dynamic and Static stretching are different, and to understand it’s helpful to think of a rubber band. If you take a rubber band our of a freezer and pull on it, chances are it will snap. If you warm the rubber band up first, it will slowly expand the range it can stretch. It’s the same thing with Dynamic and Static stretching. Dynamic stretching (pulsing into a stretch rather than just holding it) is great when you’re starting a workout, and Static is great for cooling down. BUT IT’S NOT JUST THAT CLEAR CUT.

Once you get used to the difference, you can use Dynamic and Static stretching interchangeably to get the most out of a movement. Say you’re bending to the ground with straight legs and you’re not getting as far as you’d like, stop. Gently bend your knees. Then cycle back and forth, straightening alternate legs. You’ll probably find that in those small increments, you can stretch further than you could in a Static stretch. Once your legs feel sufficiently warmed up, try going back to Static stretching, straightening both legs. It’s likely that you’ll be able to stretch deeper than previously. You can do this again and again until you have the stretch you’re looking for.

Once again, if it hurts, stop.

You can step back and recalibrate at any point. If something doesn’t feel right, ask yourself why that is. Can you gently change the angle? Rotate somehow? Move other parts of your body to stimulate different muscles? Here’s an example. Spread your fingers out as wide as they go. Now bend your index finger. Bend your hand forwards and back. Feel what the movement does. Now try this with your middle finger bent instead. Move through all your fingers one by one. Do you feel how it engages different parts of your hand? These are all technically mildly different stretches with different applications. If you do this with rotating your wrist instead of bending your hand, do you feel a difference? It’s the same with most stretches. If you’re bending to the ground with straight legs, what happens if you rotate your torso? Trying new things out is a great way of exploring how your body is connected, and may lead to releasing tension in areas you didn’t realise you were holding them.

I must repeat, if at any point it hurts, stop.

Just because you know that a particular muscle is sore, it doesn’t mean you can take care of it right away. Sometimes particular muscles are near inaccessible until you’ve relaxed the surrounding muscle. Say you have a sore knee, and stretching isn’t helping. Could you try stretching your ankle? Your quads? Your abductors (outer leg) and adductors (inner leg)? Your IT band (a long thread that runs from your knee to the outside of your hip. You probably have IT band issues, we all do)? They’re all connected in ways we don’t realise. The good news is that once you stretch all the surrounding musculature, the particular muscle is likely a) already feeling some relief and b) far easier to work into.

BE PATIENT. Never rush. If you’ve just done a deep stretch, please do not pull out of it quickly. Slowly release that tension. Remember what I was saying about the cold rubber band earlier? Same thing. Work back into it. If you’ve been stretching your knee, maybe start by gently wiggling your toes. Then rock your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. THEN start to straighten your leg. I know it sounds silly to spend upwards of 30 seconds to a minute coming down from a stretch, but if the goal of stretching is either healing or preventative action, take care of yourself and spend the time.

Learn to tighten your core. If you can tighten your core, it helps you isolate particular muscles without putting unneccessary strain on supporting muscles. Stretching with isolation is an entirely different level of stretching.

It’s very helpful to examine your framing around stretching. Is it something you do to get you ready for a workout? Or are you looking for long term change? They have different applications.

The bad news is that stretching for long term change is not as quick a process as most of us would like. Some things take a long time, and the bigger issue it is, the longer it takes. There’s pain management, and there’s fixing body trauma. The more you learn about stretching, the more there is to learn. You may even realise just how much tension you’ve been holding, and be amazed by how long you’ve been holding it.

The good news: The way you think about your body might be wrong. Things that you assume are the way your body works might be patterns you’ve created around ingrained and normalised tension. These are things you can change, and potentially fix.

Story time: Last week I was thinking about that thing where you put an arm behind your back and reach over with the other arm to grab it. Ever since I was a child, I’ve only been able to do it with my left arm behind my back. So I tried to consciously think about what would need to happen to do it with both arms. I pulled my right arm behind my back, and gradually inched it up. I got a thick rubberised band and grabbed one end with my right hand. I pulled my right hand behind my back, and used my left hand to pull on the other end of the band from above. Then I noticed there was tension at the front of my right shoulder. I did a chest stretch with my right arm taught, and felt around the front of my right shoulder for where the pain was centred. I pressed down on that spot with a finger on my left hand. While flexed, I massaged this spot and gently worked out the tension. I tried the arm behind my back thing again. I did it. For the first time in my entire life, I could reach my right hand behind my back and grab it with my left.

This whole process took five minutes. Five minutes, with the right knowledge, meant I could correct something I didn’t know wasn’t working right. Take whatever metaphor you want from this.

That’s also not the extent of it. In the past ten or so days I fixed wrist issues I’ve been dealing with since I fractured my ulnar styloid two years ago. I released a whole block of tension in my back I thought was just how my back worked. My entire back eased up. I did not know that your whole lower back was not supposed to tighten when you tighten your core. Things had been that way for so long, I thought that was standard. My body physically is different now. My shoulders are not constantly taut. My back was literally swollen with tension, and that has all receded.

Around ten years ago I tore my PCL. Knee pain has been a constant in my adult life. Last week I spent over an hour working on my knee. Testing each point of articulation, breathing deep and gradually working my way through it. My knee no longer hurts. Seriously. Over a decade of daily pain, and it’s gone. Whoosh. I could not believe it. I’m not saying it’s fixed forever, but it’s at such a low level that it’s incredibly easy to maintain, and I know how to ease it back to normalcy going on. If you told me two weeks ago I’d be without knee pain now I would have loudly and rudely laughed in your face. And enjoyed it. Turns out, things we think we know aren’t always true.

The worst and best part is, I still have so, so much to learn.

Galaxy Brain Hot Take Time #002

We talk about the mantra of The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back, but we rarely mention the inverse, and I think it’s important.

I know it’s very easy for us all to look at our massive stack of problems and get overwhelmed. We worry about when we’ll get a job we like, how we want our body to look, our five to ten year plan, etc. But also we have everyday stuff: Dealing with that pile of laundry, dental hygiene, getting enough sleep. Society fills us with a myriad of stresses, and tells us to wear them with a badge of honour. If you’re working too hard, you’re doing it right. Burnout culture. But burnout culture doesn’t really give us much time to sort out all the stuff that’s holding us down. We hear that Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back concept, and we’re like “yeah, I’m doing a careful balancing act, and I’m so close to crashing, but if can just hold on I might pull through.”

But maybe if a straw is going to break a camel’s back, you’d do well to take better care of your camel. How is stuff stacked on your camel? By the sounds of your packing style it’s a little haphazard. Why not slowly work into finding a better method? If you’re running on such tight margins that a straw is a gamebreaker, that’s a problem with a solution: Take less, do more trips. Is there anything smaller that you can take care of, so you have a camel that’s fighting fit for multiple journeys? Start with the tiny things on top. You can even put things aside and save them for later trips. It’s a longer journey overall, but an easier journey each time. I suck at metaphors, but that’s a bigger problem. I’m setting that aside for a later trip.

Maybe it’s worth taking inventory of what stuff is worth holding onto, and what you can let go of. Are you stressing about something that’s not as big a deal as you think it is? Question what you’d have to do in order to solve that thing. If it’s too much, you can put it aside. If you think you can take care of it, try taking care of it. If you try and you’re not quite there, that’s fine, come back to it another day. There are a ton of problems we don’t realise are quite as easy to take care of as they are.

I love two minute problems. If I think I can do something in two minutes, I usually do it then and there. Then it’s no longer a problem I need to solve. Also the more I do the simple stuff, the easier things get in general. If I’ve cleared up all the two minute problems I can think of, it gives me room to breathe. It gives me more perspective on what there is left to do. If I stack the dishes, they’re easier to do. If I do the dishes, I can wipe down the sink. If the sink is wiped down, it’s way easier to maintain. Eventually you’ve got a decently clean kitchen on the regular, and you don’t have to unnecessarily shit on yourself for being bad at taking care of your kitchen. Sometimes I learn things doing two minute problems that come in handy down the road for bigger problems. If my brain isn’t occupied with all the tiny things, I can start to think about the bigger stuff without getting distracted all the time.

No, it’s not an easy or quick process, but I sure as hell don’t want to break a camel’s back. Why be shitty to a camel?