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Archive for February, 2012

I’m still stuffed up with sinus congestion, this is now day #6 (started last Thursday but wasn’t that bad).  It’s annoying that it is taking so long to get better but as I reflect back over the years, this isn’t that unusual.  While the total number of times I have gotten sick has decreased as I have gotten older, I don’t get over the colds any faster.

But the worst cold I ever had was in March 2001 while I was living in England.  There’s no other time that has even come close to that one even though I have had some very rotten colds. 

It was a sickness that was going around and eventually I caught it.  And like I said in my previous post, like clockwork, my symptoms came and went in that order.  Only this time, they were more intense:

  • I had a very bad sore throat that lasted 9 days (I still remember to this day how long it lasted).  That is the longest I have ever had one, and it was very painful.  I could barely swallow at all and the over-the-top discomfort took forever to go away.

  • Next, the sinus congestion was worse than anything I have ever had, before or after.  Normally when I get stuffed up, my entire nose is plugged (as opposed to just one side) for one or two days.  In this case, it was stuffed entirely for 7 days before I got relief. 

  • Then, I had a cough for two weeks.  People were starting to wonder about me because I had it so intensely and for so long.  Yet as time passed, the cough is often the part that hangs around the longest and I’ve now discovered that two weeks isn’t that unusual anymore.

All in all, I was sick for a month (I think it was an infection rather than just a cold).  And the symptoms were more intense than any cold I’ve had since then (other than perhaps in 2006 when I had two colds back-to-back while in Australia and then a throat infection right after).  So, while this one sucks, it’s not the worst.

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I’m still sick.

Blargh.

Whenever I get a cold, it always follows a predictable cycle:

  1. Sore throat, last about 4-7 days with one or two really bad days.
  2. Stuffed nose with runny nose, lasts about 3-5 days with one or two really bad days.

  3. Cough, lasts about 7 days.

The symptoms occur in that order so reliably that I can almost predict what day I will experience what symptom.

I’m always hoping that maybe a sort throat won’t lead to sinus congestion.  I do this because once or twice, it didn’t.  It was a miracle.  But it doesn’t work out that way 90% of the time.

When I get sinus congestion, I used to have one really bad day where my nose would be completely stuffed and I’d go through a ton of Kleenex, leading to a sore nose because I kept wiping it so much.  However, my last couple of colds, this super-bad sinus congestion has lasted two days, and that’s where I am today: the second day of painful sinus congestion.

I really hope that I feel better tomorrow.  I’m sick of being sick.  Unfortunately, I think that if the sinuses clear up, that’ll be followed by a cough.

Curse you, sick guy on plane!  Now I’m going to be the sick guy on the plane!

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I’m currently in San Francisco, and I’m sick.  And I think I know who I caught it from.

The flight down was pretty lousy.  I had to sit in the middle (which isn’t that bad on a 2 hour flight) in an exit row.  That meant that my seat didn’t decline.  Strike one.

Next, the guy next to me invaded my space with his elbow.  You know what I mean, it’s when the guy next to you sits with his arm on the arm rest such that it extends into your personal space.  But it wasn’t an inch or two, it was six inches!  Clear into my own zone, resting up against my arm!  Strike two.

Third, he had a cough.  He was clearly sick and would let out a hack.  I was thinking to myself “Aw, man, I don’t want to get sick” and tried keeping my hands away from my eyes and nose (the entry point for cold viruses).  It didn’t matter; I had a mildly sore throat the next day, and a few days later I had full blown nasal congestion and a runny nose that drains like there’s no tomorrow.  Strike three.

That was my worst flight ever.

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For years, I’ve heard that cooking vegetables makes them less healthier to eat, but I didn’t know why.

Now I do (I theorize).

The longer it takes food to enter your bloodstream, the better it is for you.  Raw vegetables are harder to digest; solid foods require your body to work harder and break them down in order to extract the raw nutrients.

Soft foods break down faster and enter your bloodstream.  Drinks like Coke or Pepsi are liquid with tons of sugar and they enter into your bloodstream really fast.  The same is true of fruit juices.  That’s why I drink mostly water or sometimes tea; the liquid is the stuff that goes into you the fastest.

Cooked vegetables are softer than raw vegetables.  They still have mostly the same nutrients, but they enter your blood stream faster and your metabolism doesn’t have to work as hard to get them into you.  Therefore, they raise your blood sugar levels faster and are digested quicker, making you hungrier earlier than you normally would be if the vegetables were not cooked.

For best results, eat vegetables raw.  If you’re like me and this isn’t feasible, cook them but don’t overcook them.  Make sure they still have a crunch and you’ll be okay.

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I’m at a conference in San Francisco.  As usual, whenever I go to conferences, I eat too much.

However, I argue that I am not eating unhealthier.  I’ve had 8 meals so far and here’s what I consume:

Breakfast – fruit, little bit of scrambled eggs, eggs or sausage

Lunch – Vegetables, some salad dressing, meat (chicken, beef or fish)

Dinner – More or less the same

In other words, I’ve cut out all of the refined carbohydrates I normally eat: bread, rice and pasta in addition to the ones I don’t normally eat (fruit juice, sugary drinks, potatoes).

My only relapse yesterday was at our night out gathering and there was sourdough bread.  I couldn’t help myself!  There was also some other stuff with refined carbohydrates (little burgers and chicken curry) and I did help myself to that.  I also had a bit of pasta on Tuesday lunch.  And my BBQ beef salad on Tuesday evening had some broken up tacos that I couldn’t avoid eating (but I didn’t eat the dinner roll).

So will I be fatter when I get back because I’ve been eating more?  Or will I weigh less?  I’ve eaten fewer carbs these past three days than I do when I eat at home, but have had more calories.

I guess the scale on Monday morning will be the judge.

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I’ve noticed over the past year and a half that my metabolism is slowing down.  I used to eat whatever I want and wouldn’t gain weight.  I never measured this, I figured that if my clothes fit year after year after year, then I wasn’t putting any weight on.

Well, that changed after I hit 31 1/2.

I started noticing on the scale that the numbers were higher.  I finally got one (well, used the wife’s) and I would say “Wasn’t that number lower a few months ago?”  The problem is that I had to rely on my memory.  My memory is pretty good most of the time but it also is capable of planting false ones.  I didn’t know if I was getting paranoid or if there really was something going on.

I do know that I have bought slightly bigger pants.  On the other hand, I’ve been hiking a lot more so that builds lower leg muscles.  So which is it?  Am I getting naturally fatter as I age (despite the wife taking me out on multi-mile hikes on most weekends) or is it all in my head?

I had to find out.  In November, I started weighing myself every morning and writing it down.  There are some gaps in the numbers when I was out of town (New Zealand for three weeks, and then this past weekend) and it’s really not enough data points.  But the numbers still show a trend:

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The red lines on the chart are when I was gone and I filled them in using a formula.

You can see that I was definitely lighter in 2011 than I am in 2012.  My weight also fluctuates during the week.  But the fact remains that being more inactive this year has not been good for me.

The huge spike in December is after my surgery when I gained 7 lbs.  But it came off very fast.  Since then, I’m trying to get back to my target weight of 134 or even 133 (I was 132.6 for 1 day after I came back from Spain in October) but it’s tough.  I have to watch what I eat, and more importantly, when I eat it.

If I eat a big meal in the evening, I make little progress towards my weight goal.  Those dinner meals are the biggest obstacle to weight loss.  I estimate that by the time I go to bed to the time I get up and after I go to the bathroom in the morning, I lose 1.2 lbs.  That means that if I weigh myself before I go to bed, I know approximately what I will weigh in the morning.

Next up, I decided to take a look at what day of the week was my worst day.  Below are the results:

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My surgery skews the results of the average, so I have also included the median.  I was very surprised to see that Tuesday is my heaviest morning, but not that surprised to see Saturday is my skinniest morning.

This means that Thursday and Friday I am watching what I eat, but Sunday and Monday I am going all out.

Not only have I recorded my weight, I have recorded what I have been eating.  Eventually, I will do an analysis that measures the approximate number of calories and carbohydrates and then correlates it with my weight.

That’ll be interesting.

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My daily goal

Every day, I have a goal.

Before I tell you what it is, let me explain the circumstances.  I go to work earlier than the wife, which means I get up earlier.  I also (usually) go to bed earlier.  But the point is, I get up earlier.

The wife likes to sleep in, I frequently refer to her as “Sleepy Cat.”  My goal every day is to get up and go to the bathroom to take a shower without her hearing it.  About 30 minutes later when she gets up and I am brushing my teeth or having breakfast, she sometimes asks “Did you take a shower?”  When I respond in the affirmative, she replies “I didn’t hear you.”

When I get that response, I smile to myself and give myself a victory point.

Why do I do this?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s me being sneaky or something.  It also doesn’t always work, maybe 1/4 of the time (if that).  I haven’t figured out a good technique for doing it yet.

But I keep trying.

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The condo beside mine is selling for 1/3 the price that I bought mine.  This is very depressing.  It means that I am living in a depressed market and it will take my place forever to get back to my purchase price.

I posted this on Facebook and people volunteered all sorts of options.  Well, actually, just one – buy it.

According to them, this place is now a steal.  I could buy it and knock out a wall and have a place twice as big, or I could rent it out.  Let’s look at those options.

  1. Buy it and knock out a wall

    This is not as useful as it sounds.  While I would get a bigger place, I would also have an additional kitchen which I do not need, as the kitchens are back to back.  I would get more bedrooms and another bathroom all the way on the other side of the house.  My living room would be no bigger than it is now, and that’s where I want the additional space (that and the bathroom).  The one advantage is that I would have extra junk rooms.

    The drawback, as I say above, is that most of the additional space is wasted.  When you upgrade to a bigger place, you don’t want two houses, you want a couple of extra rooms.  Maybe you want an extra bedroom and bathroom, or the same number of rooms but bigger ones.  You don’t want another kitchen, and you don’t want another living room directly opposite your current living room with 30 feet of space in between.

    It’s an inefficient way to get additional space.  Furthermore, it doubles my property taxes and doubles my homeowner dues (which go up every year).  I’m also on the hook for any additional special assessments and maintenance.

    The benefits I get by remodeling are not worth the additional costs.

  2. Buy it and rent it out

    This is the option that I have the most experience in.  After all, I tried it.

    I created a spreadsheet and worked out the cost analysis.  Based upon a 30-year mortgage rate of 4%, and factoring in home owner dues, property taxes, a property manager, and yearly maintenance, I cannot make money on the place pre-tax.  That alone disqualifies it as an investment. That also assumes that I get rent of $800/month, and that’s not guaranteed since I had this place advertised for months with no takers at only a bit higher than that price.

    After all of the tax deductions, I calculate that if I get $800/month at the price it is listed for, I can make a little less than $200/month.  Not bad, but not great.

    But then I started projecting my costs, assuming rent increases of 1% and dues increases of 5% annually.  My profit continues to go down every year – after tax.  After 20 years it is showing a loss no matter what.  That disqualifies it as a potential investment.

    At what point would this be worth it to me?

    I started playing with numbers.  For it to look attractive, I’d need to make $100/month without any tax deductions.  In other words, rent – dues – property tax – maintenance – property manager > $100.  What price does it have to fall to?  $28,000 (assumes a 5% down payment, 4% 30-year mortgage).  This means it has to go down 57% from its current price.  There’s no way it will fall to that.

    Even then, it wouldn’t be worth my while.  Real estate is incredibly illiquid.  I couldn’t just pack up and sell it whenever I felt like it because the complex that I’m in doesn’t sell, and doesn’t rent.  If I buy it, it’s mine for life.

    No thanks.

    On the other hand, if it were going for $10,000, that’s another story.

So you see, I’ve done the math.  I don’t want the place and the price it’d be attractive to me will never hit.

If I want to invest in real estate, I’ll buy a REIT.  That strategy has actually worked for me.

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Foiled by timing

Today is Valentine’s Day.

My original plan was to purchase flowers for the wife – orchids.  That’s her favorite type and I also got them in her favorite color (purple; could have also gone for either blue or pink).

I ordered them online at the start of the month.  The goal was that I would leave for work, and then in the intervening period after I left but before the wife left for work, the flowers would be delivered.  I was pretty sure that the website said that they would arrive between 9 am and 11 am.

I did the math.  The wife’s schedule is erratic, but I calculated that she would most likely leave around 11 am on Tuesdays.  Ergo, I had a good shot at my plan working.

Things did not go according to plan.

For you see, I scanned the confirmation email and it said that arrival time would be between 9 am and 7 pm. That erratic delivery schedule reminded me of a TV cable installation (yeah, we’ll be at your place sometime between 8 and 4).  I had an outside chance, albeit a long one, of my plan working.

Or rather, I did until the wife IM’ed me this morning and indicated that she was leaving for work early, around 10:30 am.  The flowers had not yet arrived, either.  I thought to myself “Do I tell her to stay home until 11 am in hopes that maybe the flowers will arrive by then?”  I decided against that because that would spoil the surprise, which was kind of the whole point of buying the flowers.

In the end, the flowers were delivered around 2 pm, long after the wife departed.  It was a good idea not to blow my cover, but I shook my head that she didn’t get them in the morning.

It still worked out in the end; she got the flowers when she came home.

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In my other post where I talked about some of the tools I use to improve the quality of my hips, and how the muscles have gotten really tight, I forgot to include one book.  This book is the most effective piece of equipment I have to date:

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition

The book is called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook and I have a copy.  It’s great!  It explains where all of your trigger points are and how to release them.

Using this book relieves your tight muscles which is the source of so much myofascial pain.  Even if you don’t have bad hips like me, if you’re reading this, you probably have bad shoulders, or a bad back, or a sore neck, or you get headaches.  You have something.  And it probably hurts, and you’ve probably thought about going to the doctor for it if you haven’t already, or you’ve taken pain killers.

This book can help you.  I can’t recommend it enough; if you look hard enough you can find a version online or you can order it from Amazon.  Seriously, it helps.

The good news is that the techniques in the book work to get rid of your pain.  The bad news is that you have to do it 6-12 times per day for it to really take hold (and I don’t do it that often).  So I’m still in pain, but at least I can get some relief.

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How I met your mother

I like the TV show “How I met your mother.”  In it, the main character Ted is talking to his kids about the events in his life leading up to how he met their mom, and each episode is another story in his life.  The kids are bored, but the stories are funny. 

Ted talks about his successes and failures in dating and how they contributed to who he eventually becomes.  However, the show has already run several seasons so the bulk of the plot is about women he dated long before he met their mother.

Recently, the wife and I decided to sponsor a child through World Vision.  It’s not even all that much money, only $35 US per month.  But now that we have our own kid, I can tell her the story of how I met their mother.


Kids, let me tell you the story of the time I met your mother.  But this story goes way back in the past, long before I actually met her.

You see, at the time I was living in England.  I was either recently unemployed (meaning it was the end of September) or it was during the summer, meaning I was soon to become unemployed.  I was only 22, single and unattached.  But every once in a while at the church I attended I saw this girl that I found attractive.  I can’t remember her name anymore (it’s been a decade) but for the sake of discussion I will call her Annie.

I can’t recall the exact timelines anymore.  But as I recall, she was artistic.  She also wore kind of hippie-ish clothes.  What’s hippie-ish clothing?  I don’t know, something with large sleeves and lots of colors.  Now that I think about it, that’s one of the only memories I have of her is that image in my head.

Anyway, I ran into her from time to time.  She worked down at the local supermarket where she was a checkout clerk.  Unlike checkout clerks in American supermarkets, the ones in England sit down at the checkout stand.  That is not important to the story, but I thought I’d bring that up. 

I would go shopping at the market two to three times per week because I didn’t have a car and could only carry so many groceries home with me and I would run out of stuff pretty quickly.   The supermarket was only a 10-minute walk from my place so that was fine.

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What I would do is go into the store and do my shopping, and I would wander around.  When the lineup where Annie was working was short, I would get in that line.  It wouldn’t make sense if there were two lines, one which was long (which was hers) and one which was short and I got in the long line.  No, I had to be inconspicuous to not make it obvious what I was doing.  I would “shop” and then when the line was short enough I would just happen to finish and need to checkout.  I would do this so we could chat about random things while I was checking out my stuff.

I reverse engineered what days of the week she worked.  When I was working I could only go to the store in the evening, and she just so happened to work in the evening.  That’s how I first figured out her shift.  When I was laid off, I would continue to go in the evenings just so I had an excuse to see her.

But I never asked her out.

Then one day an odd coincidence occurred.  I was on my way from my way to the Olympiad, a trek of about 10 minutes from my place.  As I was walking there, who should I run into?  If you guess Annie, you are right.  What a fortuitous turn of events!  It turned out she was coming back from swimming – or something, I don’t remember which – as I was heading up in that direction.  We stopped and chatted for a bit.  I think it must have been at least 10 minutes.  We then parted and I continued on my merry way, in a much much better mood than when I had left home.

But I never asked her out.

The next fortunate occurrence was a few weeks later.  I was out and about, walking around the town.  I used to enjoy going for walks in Chippenham because I didn’t have a car, and I would take a deck of cards with me, or a coin, and for that entire walk I would practice my sleight of hand.  It’s a technique I continued until 2008.  I need to pick it back up (I should do it at the gym on a treadmill). 

I was walking around town and headed down into Pewsham, which is kind of like a suburb of Chippenham:

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I was walking around town with no particular motive, and who did I run into on her way home?  Why, it was Annie!  What a coincidence!  I had no idea where she lived and had no expectations of running into anyone, but this was a pretty great day.  I ended up walking with her to her home and we chatted the entire way about something or other, and after we got there we departed.

But I never asked her out.

You’re probably wondering Why?  Why wouldn’t you go for it?

There’s something you have to know about guys – we have fragile egos and are scared of rejection.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I would get a yes.  The potential fear of a “no” outweighed the potential elation of a “yes.”  I just couldn’t be sure (kind of like Draco Malfoy in the second last Harry Potter movie).  This makes sense; humans fear a loss more than twice as much as they desire a gain.  Well, my loss here would have been the loss of my… hmm, I can’t think of the word right now.  It’s not dignity.  Feeling of self-worth?  Confidence?  The point is, I was scared of getting a no.  That’s a fear that would stay with me for years.

That’s why I never made a move.

Yet by November, I was starting to become bolder.  And impatient.  I figured I had to at least make some move.  We “bumped” into each other at the supermarket, due to my suave, low-risk maneuvering and timing and she mentioned that she was getting baptized at a church in Corsham (not shown in the map above) which is about a 10 minute drive from Chippenham’s outskirts. 

I assured her that I would attend.  But in the back of my mind, I was pumped about getting a personal invite.  I figured a personal invite tipped the odds in my favor in case I ever worked up the nerve to ask her out.  I mean, why else would I get a personal invite?

I think the odds are looking up!

I started making concrete plans in my head for how I would make my move.  I won’t go into the details (because I don’t remember them ) but it involved something about that baptism service.

The Sunday came and I caught a taxi ride over to the town.  It was a baptism service and she was one of a few people who went under, but here’s where the story takes a twist.

It turned out she had a boyfriend.

What the–?

I figured it out when I saw another guy about the same age as her (although I didn’t know her age), taller than her, sitting next to her.  It didn’t take a genius to figure this one out, they were a couple.

I felt cheated.  Here I was, putting all of this energy into wondering whether or not I should take a chance, and it turned out I had no chance at all.  I was like “Oh, come on!  Really?”

You may have been thinking above that I should have gone for it.  But it turns out that if I had gone for it, I would have been rejected and my confidence would have been shaken (I think we all know how awkward it is when you ask someone out and they say no).

That was a deflating experience.  I had my hopes up and it didn’t pan out.  When I thought I had a chance, the only limiting factor was myself.  But when I realized I didn’t even have a chance, well, that kind of sucked.

And that’s the story of a time I never asked a girl out.


My tactics over time would string together a number of failures and near misses.  But this was the first time and the one I remember the best.

As it turns out, less than a decade later I would refine eventually my techniques, figuring out what worked, and ended up with the wife.

But I think this is a pretty good story nonetheless.

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It has now been about 6 weeks since my surgery.  How am I feeling?

I can walk around okay, and a couple of weeks ago I acquired some equipment that has gone a long way to making my hips feel better.  For you see, it turns out that I have a problem called “trigger points.”  These are more commonly known as knots in your muscles.  They are thick bands of tissue where your muscles have tightened up, and as a result, they shorten the muscles.  When stretched, because they are tight they cause pain (all of this is self-diagnosed, btw).

I started working on myself last August, fell off the wagon in October, and picked it up again recently.  My hip muscles are extremely tight.  When I first started massaging them to loosen them up, I thought I’d have to work one or two muscles.  It turns out that I had to work on them all.  Even now, I realize that I have a looooong way to go.  However, there are some tools I have acquired to make this easier.

Grid Foam Roller

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The foam roller is a piece of foam/plastic (two shown here, I just have one) that you lie down on and roll back and forth, massaging your muscles.  The first time I saw one at the gym, I had pain everywhere.  But afterwards, I felt great.  The problem is that my sore hips return within 15-20 minutes.  I thought that the roller didn’t work and I was tricked into thinking that I felt better.

As it turned out, I was wrong to think it didn’t work.  My muscles were releasing thanks to the roller. I liked it so much that in December I bought one for myself.  It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to which means that my muscles have loosened up.  I am not sure to be happy or sad because my hips still hurt when I rotate – if I still hurt when I rotate but my muscles aren’t sore from this, then what else can I do to release them?  At least pain indicates that I have progress to make.

The Stick

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This thing is called “The stick.”  I first started using it in physical therapy years ago.  What you do is you roll it over your muscles, applying a good deal of pressure.  If your muscles hurt, that means that they are tight.

When I run it over my legs, they hurt.  A lot.

I don’t find this to be as useful as my other tools, but I do put run it over me from time to time.  Applying so much pressure is tiring.  And I don’t find it helps as much.  But apparently top athletes use it, so I keep it around.

The Knobble

The Knobble II by the Pressure Positive Company

I first started using the knobble earlier this year.  When I first started doing trigger point release, I would use a juggling ball and lie on it and wiggle it back and forth across my leg muscles in order to dig into them.  After a while, I found that wasn’t working for me and I had to get deeper (the juggling ball is too flat).  I went out and bought this.

The knobble works by you lying down on it and digging it into your legs, hips, or other body parts.  You slide it back and forth with your weight, causing the muscles to release.  This therapy, combined with my previous juggling ball therapy, takes a while to do, sometimes 20-30 minutes per session.  And it hurts.

But afterward, my hips feel fantastic.  I can rotate my left leg all the way around with no pain, same with my right leg. I can lay on my back and “drop” my knees to the side almost no pain on my left side and only a bit of pain on my right.  I have discovered which muscles are tight.

I cannot get to all of the tight ones using this tool, there are some that are buried really deep that I have to massage with my fingers and thumbs (both hands) in order to get them to release.  But let me tell you, after a good session (which is painful), my legs feel as good as they have in years.

Random Stretching

I’ve discovered a number of muscles in my leg that have shortened, including internal ones like the psoas and illiacus.  One stretch I have done consists of me lying on my back on the side of my couch and letting my leg drape off the edge of the couch, letting gravity do the work.  I can let my right leg hang for 10 minutes, but my left (bad) leg for only 5.  I can’t handle anymore than that.

 

What about the title of this post?  I’ve lamented in the past that I don’t live a high risk lifestyle, so why do I have chronic pain in my joints?  I didn’t do anything to cause this.

The answer is that I did do something to cause this.  After all of my research, I have concluded that sitting down for long periods of time have shortened important muscles in the fronts of my hips.  I know this and can feel it when I stretch out, as per the above.  I can predict the movements that hurt and after doing lots of reading, my sedentary work lifestyle has worked against me.  It doesn’t matter that I move around after work sometimes.  The fact that I spend the majority of my time in positions that shorten my hip muscles has caused damage, possibly irreversible.

This is my fault.

My advice to anyone reading this thread is that if you work at a job where you sit a lot, you have to exercise and stretch. You must do it a lot because you don’t want to end up like me.

To that end, I have a resolution: I have to move more and stretch more.  For the next 30 days, my goal is to stretch or self-massage at least 30 minutes per day.  When I self-massage, my hips feel pretty good for the next 30 minutes before going back to normal.  If I can lengthen them, then maybe they won’t hurt so much.

With any luck, I’ll be able to play sports again.

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