March 1, 2022

Photo of Christopher Blakeslee for his March 2022 Health Update Showing a Heel Hook Bouldering Move

Welcome to my health update for February 2022. The shortest month of the year is complete, and it was the best yet of my recovery! I experienced an unprecedented leap forward with my health and pain. I had a lot of physical development as well, losing 4.6 pounds and adding considerable weight to my lifts. Unfortunately, I got sick near the end of the month, which put a hold on my progress. It was the first time I’d been ill in 20 months. But it didn’t offset how wonderful the first 2/3rds of the month were and led to an interesting reflection about my new perspective about my health.

Eighteen Straight Days with Time without Pain!

The heading says it all. Starting January 28th and all the way to February 14th, I had time without pain every day! This span was a tremendous surge ahead for me. My previous record for the last 25 years was only three days! I am well on my way to my year six recovery goal of having time without pain on half of my days.

The most significant contributors to this streak were exercise and extra sleep. Every workout all month long caused my pain to vanish for at least a few hours. Because of this, I eliminated one off day per week and now lift every other day. I think the explanation is that the endorphin release from working out has finally surpassed the problems in my body. I also kept up only taking one ice bath post-workout per week. It surprised me that I’d have a pain-free streak like this when I lessened the frequency of one of my pain-coping tools. I also found myself wanting to sleep an extra hour after workout days, so I experimented with doing so. The extra hour helped quite a lot, and it was a pleasant surprise that no old head pain came back from spending an extra hour lying on it.

This development happened during my busiest month of content creation to date. Across February, I recorded 13 videos, wrote a nearly five-page article for the site Love What Matters, and wrote over thirty thousand words.

What broke the streak? I spent six hours on three straight days sitting with perfect posture, recording videos. That was apparently a bit much and began to irritate that old site of nerve pain. I think I could’ve overcome that, but the next day, I woke up very early for an international client who didn’t fit into my regular hours. The pain was higher that morning and stayed up enough that it didn’t go away. I had four more days with pain-free time after that streak. Then I got sick and felt lousy for a week.

Illness Showed Me My Progress

This makes the first time I’ve written about being sick during a health update. I came down with a sinus infection after traveling. It wasn’t COVID, though. I mention this for two reasons:

  • 1. It interrupted how great I was feeling and put all my exercise and some of my work on hold
  • 2. I was curiously intolerant of being sick

To my amazement, I got cranky when I noticed I was getting sick. I have met being ill with a shrug throughout my life, so this was an odd reaction for me. I’ve only gotten sick a few times during my recovery, but this was by far the best I felt before the onset of illness. A dear friend noticed my frustration and crankiness and said: “congratulations, you’re a normal human now. You’re not used to feeling poorly.” In the past, I felt so poorly most of the time that getting sick wasn’t that different from how I normally felt, so it never used to bother me much. Now that I’m healthy, I know how great I can feel and all the work and exercise I’m capable of that I’ll miss out on when I’m ill.

So, strangely, getting sick turned out to be another way of proving to myself how far I’ve come when I realized that my perspective with feeling impaired has shifted. Recognizing that feeling good is the norm helped me to see my overall progress even when the sinus infection had temporarily halted my improvement.

I also did some quick math to boost myself: I was disabled for roughly 15 years, so that’s 5,475 days. Thinking that this illness didn’t even crack the worst 5,000 days of my life really put it into perspective. And thankfully, I still have all my memories and skills for how to navigate such impaired circumstances, so I quickly adjusted and sailed through the period of illness, even continuing to work half days.

Physical Gains

I ran a 5k every day through the 16th and progressed with every weight lifting exercise to that point. But then I paused both activities while traveling and came home sick. To that point, it was already a great month of strength-building, having added four to fifteen pounds to every lift. I’m looking and feeling fitter than ever.

I always pause lifting when I travel one week per month, and I go bouldering a couple of times instead. Bouldering went amazingly well this past month! I suddenly was capable of many intermediate moves, such as the heel hook in the photo above and the dynamic jump in the video to the left.

On the first trip, I completed one orange V3 difficulty wall (see my discussion of bouldering difficulties here), four purples in the v2-3 range, ten greens in v1-2, and four reds in v0-1. That was my best outing to that point.

But surprisingly, I went back less than 48 hours later to Austin Bouldering Project and blew that workout away! I was a climbing engine that lasted for almost four hours! I prioritized slanted walls, which used to give me a lot of trouble. To the right is a video of me attempting the most difficult one I completed. On that trip, I managed to climb one orange, ten purples, eight greens, and three reds!

And for the first time, my pain went away while bouldering, and I had zero nerve pain increases after thee workouts. It’s common for me to have at least some sleep disruption the night after, but I had none whatsoever either time.

The exercise is becoming even more fun for me now that I can attempt more difficult moves!

I got back to lifting with a few days left in the month after I’d recovered from the sinus infection but didn’t raise the weights to be safe.

March

I’m excited to see what I’ll have to share in my March health update. I have a DEXA scan scheduled to show me my fat loss progress, and I’m curious to see if I can get another pain-free streak going. I’ll surely be busy again as I wrap up some article writing and video launches before turning fully back to writing my book. I expect grand results!