Carl Paoli, the hangover, an existential crisis, and another ankle sprain

I’ll admit, it was touch & go with my 8 hours of sleep Saturday night. But I wasn’t kidding when I said I would walk in at 8:58am for the gymnastics seminar Carl Paoli was doing. Oddly enough, I wasn’t the last one.
Unsurprisingly, the day was both super fun and an great learning experience. Carl is definitely a natural crowd-pleaser and comedian, which makes him immediately likeable, but more importantly he has the best understanding of human movement of anyone I have ever met, and has another remarkable ability to remove fear. He got me walking on my hands for the first time ever and it took him, oh, two minutes to do so. Not that I walked more than half a meter, but still!
Similar to the CrossFit certs, I’m sure Carl has done this seminar dozens if not hundreds of times. It must be so tough not to get bored, especially with the intro part, but that’s where storytelling comes in. But I also understand the magic of coaching: there is something that makes you so happy about getting someone to learn something for the first time, or make dramatic improvements to their movement. But hey, that’s also what I can get out of my work, although in a more cerebral way.
Won’t spoil the secrets of the seminar but we started with hollow rocks and pushups into handstand pushup (kipping) progressions. I am very excited to practice this because last time I did max strict HSPUs (nearly a year ago!) I got to 15, and if you can do 3x the number you can do strict if you kip, then, well, you get the idea. Then, freestanding handstands and the aforementioned handstand walk. Now that I know the right body position to be feeling for and how to get there in a way that I feel safe (which has always been my issue with the handstand walk), I’m very excited to practice this as well! Who knew sport could be so fun, right?
A couple simple tips on pistols (one-legged squats) helped me significantly. I could semi-consistently pistol on my left leg, but not on my right. Part of the issue with the right was last year’s ankle sprain causing mobility issues, but on Saturday I was happily getting pretty decent pistols on both legs. Amazing what a slight change to how you’ve been doing things can do!
Similarly, we practiced the muscle up progressions that I’d seen Carl’s videos of before. But this is why, as per a discussion we were having Friday evening, all [good] coaching is local. I wasn’t doing the transition right because I wasn’t doing it right (duh), and thereby making my life a lot harder. Carl quickly fixed what I was doing and now I get it. Similar to the kipping pullup, once I got what my body was supposed to be doing it became easy.
Some playing around with burpees and rope climbs later, the seminar was done. Before heading to the airport, Carl solidified his position as my own personal hero (of the month, at least…). I may have complained here before about having a weak/lazy right shoulder. When I go to do a heavy strict press my left side shoots up and my right side I have to press, press, press to get it up. It’s also noticeable on snatches, where my left arm is visibly slow to lock out. So ninja warrior Carl did some mobility tests. His first thought was internal rotation but I said I doubted it because I’d been working that for some months and it was the same on both sides. I’d actually never had anyone do a proper internal mobility range of motion test and it was actually not too bad at all! But then he tested external rotation, found and fixed the problem immediately, and showed me how to work it myself. We tested on the other side and found that the problem did not exist there. Re-testing a few power snatches on Monday I am happy to report no lazy shoulder. Now I can go after that max strict press that’s scared the hell out of me for ages. Yay!!
In case you’re wondering, no, it’s not a ‘real’ hangover. I haven’t had a drink all year, and no desire to do so either. Rather an adrenaline hangover combined with delayed onset muscle soreness. I trained Monday morning and my 60% back squats felt like about 80%, and I could barely do burpee box jumps. I was also having a laugh because one of the things at the competition that I didn’t get was everyone having issues with hand-release burpees … I was thinking to myself ‘how hard can that be?’ firstly, and secondly, ‘well they should have been practicing since the movement standards were released weeks back.’ Second point aside, now I get it. Between the hand-release burpees onto a plate and the hand-release burpee box jump squats from the United We Stand Games, the burpees in this workout were not hand-release but damned if I didn’t do hand-release anyway for at least 6 or 7! Motor control, anyone?
So when the body is healing the mind isn’t 100%. I didn’t used to be so aware of my body to notice this but now that I do it’s wicked annoying. It felt like I had a minor fever all day Monday and Tuesday, not because I did but because my body was recovering from Saturday. I helped Mona move her weights out of her gym on Tuesday and they are now sitting in my car. Once I can walk a little better I’ll move them at least into my apartment. J Shame on the timing, I was looking forward to playing around with them in my living room until she picks them up. She finally moved out Wednesday morning, so that was sad but it’s also quite nice to get my space all the way back. It’s one thing to have a roommate, it’s another to have a roommate staying in your room!
Wednesday I had recovered a lot, which was good because my head needs to be in the game at work. We have a lot of things on the go, not the least of which is trying to herd the gigantic untameable cat that is FoodTents. But I’m very excited about our plans with some of our social entrepreneurs for this year, and a number of other things. It’s also nice to be out in the townships again, connecting with people like Mama Rosie. She may have only a few years of education but that woman knows what’s up, and she is tough as nails. I suppose you have to be if you’re going to survive and thrive, right?
But even by last night’s training I was still not 100%. The workout was 30 burpees with sandbag power cleans and I found the weight awkward enough that it was hard to push for 100% speed. Then we did a 5 minute session of 5 pullups 10 pushups 15 squats. The first two rounds went very fast, about 45 seconds each, then my strength kind of went away and I barely finished 5 rounds in the 5 minutes! Then we had to do 100 double unders which was even more sad … I got to about 20 and then did the rest in very small increments as I kept tripping up. So, body definitely still not all the way back. Somehow I managed to roll my right ankle badly at the bottom of the stairs. Heard that good old pop and felt a ½ inch swelling by the time I reached my car.
Swearing aside, I went home and got ice and compression going as quickly as humanly possible. The good news, if there is such (aside from being in the Africa region … wasn’t intending on a repeat of last year’s most pathetic qualifier for Regionals with doing 1 rep for a few workouts due to injury!), is that it’s not nearly as bad as last year. The swelling is not at all severe (maybe less than ¼ inch) and I can walk already, albeit with pain. Flexion and any sort of lateral movement more than 2-3mm is painful. So, looks like a Grade 2 sprain, should take 1-2 weeks to recover. Going for some acupuncture today. Not going to worry about if Dr Lan decides to see fit to massage it like he did last year because that was the most painful experience of my entire life, I think. Sometimes you must just do things without over-thinking them.
The hangover also consisted of a bit of ‘whatif-itis’ which is actually a bit better now that I sprained my ankle again. Something about reality crashing down on you to bring your head out of the clouds. But all the talking to Carl about how he likes Cape Town so much and how I like San Francisco so much got me thinking. About a lot of things. Decisions we make, or don’t make. For example: had I not gone to Cal, I wouldn’t have started working for Jeeves. Had it not been for Jeeves, I would have never met Rob. Had I not decided to move to Boston I would not have gone to Babson and would most likely not have come to fall in love with South Africa. The list goes on, and some of it not even related to me: had my parents not taught at Cal, would I necessarily have gone there? Had I not been assigned to the particular dorm room I was, I wouldn’t have met the friend of a friend who worked for Jeeves, etc.
So metaphysics and multiple universe theory were playing through my mind. I’ve thought in recent months that if I were to move back to the States, it would realistically probably be to San Francisco. It’s not in the cards at the moment by any means but as I keep saying, if you’d told me a few years ago I’d be living in Cape Town now I would have said you were nuts.
To top and tail the weirdness, I was thinking of a friend Mike on my ride to work Wednesday morning, and he sent me an email just a few short hours later. How weird is that, right? Signs from the universe or a cigar just being a cigar? Who knows. All I know right now is I’m not crying over spilt milk because that’s not my way, but it is time to ice my ankle again.
  • “Rats don’t chew where they live.” – Carl
  • “I haven’t had a burrito since. True story.” – Carl
  • “Look at your bicep! I mean, I wish I had a bicep like that!” “That’s my tricep.” – Peter & Ellie
  • “Are you eating salt?” “Coconut!” – Mona & Ellie
  • “BOYS are not like that. THEY are like that.” – Mona
  • “The problem isn’t your technique. It’s your head.” – Mona (roger that …)
  • “It must be crazy to be indoctrinated. Oh, wait, what am I talking about? I’m in a cult. I KNOW what it’s like to be indoctrinated!” – Ellie
  • “There’s someone upstairs who says he wants to talk to the person in charge, so I guess it’s pretty serious.” “Oh, hi Jeremy!” – Hollie & Ellie


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