Solving The Healthcare Crisis

By Mike Tarrolly for Crushing Iron

It’s unbelievable how people can blabber for years without actually doing anything to solve a problem. Health Care is one of those things, so I thought I’d throw out a few thoughts on how to fix this mess.

The problem starts at the top, but I think the best way to solve it is from the bottom.

The combination of Congress and Big Pharma make Pablo Escobar look like a high-schooler selling weed on the corner. The money involved in this legalized drug ring is legendary and the only real way to stop it is by shutting down demand.

The body is dying to heal itself and but we continue to “hack” the symptoms.

In most cases it’s as simple as fertilizing the body’s landscape and letting miracles of nature happen . . . over time. Here are some ways I think we can do it while actually saving money on health care.pills

Get Real With Prescription Drugs

Doing Ironman races has taught me something very valuable: Pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pain is a clue telling us something is out of whack. By taking the right steps, the human body can fix a lot of our pains. We can swim, bike, run, walk, and/or rest through it. Pain often goes away when you do good things for your body and don’t obsess over it. We don’t need to chase a pill every time our ankle, belly or head hurts. And don’t get me wrong, an occasional pill isn’t the problem, it’s what happens when that pill becomes our first thought.

Make Gym Class Mandatory for Life

We’re all wrapped up in having the government pay for health care, but I think they should take a prevention approach with exercise incentives. Can we incentivize exercise?  I know that’s a tricky one, but if we put some thought into it and employers got on board with flex-time I think we’d all be a lot happier and more productive. Besides, most people don’t work a full 8 hours anyway.

Make Water More Attractive

I realize some countries don’t even have drinking water, but the US has plenty. The problem is, it is often polluted with prescription drugs (see above) and who knows what else? There has to be ways to make out drinking water more plentiful and pure. Maybe installing filters becomes a tax write off. If the government is serious about health, this is one major step they can take to save them money in the long run. Water and sodium are the keys to creating electrical impulses in our body. If an organ or cell doesn’t have enough water, it becomes defective or dies. The body naturally protects the heart and brain first, but if dehydrated, other parts of the body suffer and eventually meet the scalpel of a hungry doctor who wants to hear nothing about water.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Alive 

I personally think lack of sleep is the cornerstone of our obesity problem. Poor rest is the beginning of the carb, caffeine and simple sugar cycle. You wake up tired, pound a bunch of caffeine, reach for a donut or two to soak it up, then grab a Snickers and Coke in the afternoon. I know because I’ve been there (and often still am) but I also realize it’s a problem. I know when I’ve slept well because I will literally forget about coffee and sugar for the first hour or so. I’ve learned the best way to combat this cycle is to exercise more than normal so you’re actually tired when you go to bed.

Food Is Not Medicine . . . But It Is

I saw a post recently touting things like Avocados, Celery, and Spinach as “Medicinal Food” and I almost puked. I can already see it coming, they are turning food into medicine so they can sell it for more. I retweeted it with a scoff because, I mean, how long have we known food is the best medicine? I kinda feel like I’ve known that for, oh, 40 years? Who doesn’t know that we are what we eat by now? It’s ridiculous and I’m not sure where the problem is, but the food most people eat (including me often) isn’t even food. Here’s the thing, though, I realize eating “right” all the time is difficult, especially when changing your diet in a major way, but the body is an amazing machine. I just think if we maybe ate less, drank more water, and had some fruit and vegetables on occasion we’d all be better off.

All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe

Ahh . . . take a deep breath, man. If you listen to the podcast, you know I’m a big fan of Wim Hof. He’s done some amazing human feats. He’s run desert marathons with no water, climbed Mt. Everest in shorts, and sat in a tank of ice water for nearly two hours while raising his core body temperature with mentally induced adrenaline. He claims most of them are possible because of his deep breathing and cold exposure practices. In essence his philosophy is to get the most possible out of the human body and he says oxygen is the key. It’s about getting oxygen into all your cells to make them function right. I don’t want to paraphrase but he’s doing it all with science and they are now proving breathing exercises and cold water therapy are “curing” many modern day ills. His style can be intense, but even deep, purposeful breaths do wonders.

Don’t Let Health Bankrupt 

Personally, I think most of this country has a major drug addiction problem and it’s fueled by doctors who have to make tremendous amounts of money to pay off med school. And of course health insurance is the biggest of businesses and the cost to insure families (or yourself) is insane. Can we start with a way that insures we’re not going bankrupt is something serious like some kind of accident that requires surgery happens? I don’t want to go into disease because I think that whole thing is out of control and much of it can often curtailed by the above points. I’m talking about the real stuff like saving lives in the moment. Bike crashes, whatever. Can we get that part covered?

All of this sounds nice, but as many of the wisest people have said, “If you want the truth, follow the money.” I’m not really sure these are realistic solutions unless a boat load of money can be made with a preventative approach and I’m pretty sure there’s more profit in pain killers than water filters.

The only real solution to huge problems like this is to start with one person at a time. And usually, that one person winds up being yourself.

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Food Cravings (or Cake Stories)

I haven’t been working out much since Ironman Chattanooga and think my body is a little pissed.  Especially considering the frequent and intense cravings for those flat “deli-style” pretzels.  Last night was one of those nights.

As I approached the pretzel aisle in Kroger, I made the mistake of lending a friendly eye to a guy perched with his son near the cakes.  I overheard him say, “$24 for a cake?!?” It kinda made me smile, which seemed to ignite his latent comedian.

Fifteen seconds later I’m 10 feet in front of him squinting discretely at the pretzels (I can never seem to distinguish which flavor I’m buying) when I hear him yucking it up.

“24-bucks?  Hang on while I cash in my 401k!”

I tried to ignore him, but in a moment of weakness turned my head in his direction.  He peered at me with one eye; his captive, pretzel-addicted audience of one.

“Hell, son, I might have to sell your mom’s wedding ring!” he said, followed by a belly laugh.

His son gazed at the floor with mild embarrassment.

“Hell, guess you’re not going to college, hahahaha.”

Then he takes out his phone and makes a mock call to his wife, “Honey, I think we’re gonna have to take out a second mortgage for this cake!”

Here I am, sneaking around in my own little pretzel-porn-shop, and this guy is making it tough to concentrate.  Finally I just grabbed “the red one” and made my way to the counter–but Cake Man wasn’t done.

I’m nearly out of ear shot when I hear him raise his voice for the encore.

“I need to be a cake pimp!”

It was truly impossible to ignore and I caved. With a slow turn, uncomfortable smile, and a very weak raising of my pretzel bag, I waived goodbye.

Anyway, my diet has been a little questionable lately.

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You Know As Much As Your Doctor

 

I used to play competitive softball.  Yeah, I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but this shit was intense.  Our team had a tour bus and we’d drive all over the Midwest to drink cases of beer at night, then shake off hangovers to face the best of the best.

Our home field was in Rockford, IL, but our weekends took us to Detroit, Minneapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis and many points in between.  Most of our team was made up of ex-minor league or college baseball players.  I played shortstop, and we won a ton of tournaments.

One summer we drove 6 hours to play in the USSSA Regional tournament in Louisville with 69 other teams.  It was double-elimination and even if you didn’t lose, you still had to win 6 games in two days, and that’s exactly what we did.

We were called the Shockers, and we absolutely rolled through the bracket that weekend winning every game by 10 runs or more.  Everything was clicking.  In the semi-final, I took a throw at 2nd base to turn a double play and felt something go wrong with a finger.  I pulled my glove away and the ring finger on my left hand fell limp.  It didn’t hurt but was clearly jacked up.  I thought it was dislocated so I jammed it back into socket.

While we waited for the next game, my finger started to swell.  It was hard to put on the glove and even tougher to hold a bat, but I played the and celebrated a regional championship.  We boarded the bus with our big trophy and headed home with about 5 cases of beer, many of which went in my belly to subdue the pain in my finger.

By the time we got home it was midnight, and I had been sleeping for the last hour.  My entire hand was swollen, but I was so tired, I didn’t really care.  By morning it was the size of a softball.

I went into an Immediate Care type joint where the “doctor” took some x-rays and concluded it was sprained.  He gave me a splint that reminded me of a Popsicle stick and I was on my way.  By the end of that day I was pounding Advil and icing the shit out of my “sprained” finger.

This went on for about a week until I decided something was seriously wrong.  I drove to the emergency room and by great fortune one of Rockford’s best orthopedic surgeons was on shift.  He took x-rays and came back in with a very long face and said, “We need to get into surgery as soon as possible.  Like tomorrow!  You have a torn tendon and a shattered knuckle!”

I was like, holy fuck.  No wonder this hurts so bad.

We scheduled surgery for that week and I coped with the pain.  Then he called and told me we’d have to push it back a few days.  Then a week.  And another week.  I didn’t flop on the operating table for nearly 4 weeks after the injury and to make a very long story short, my tendon had atrophied to a point that I still have a curl in that finger.  It works and doesn’t hold me back from much, but there has been a constant, subtle nagging ever since.

I was never a big fan of doctors and that was the nail in the coffin.  That was probably 15 years ago and I have only been to the doctor a couple times since then.  Once for a broken foot, the other for something I can’t remember.  I just don’t trust them much and feel like illness is something we innately understand.

Back in college I had a business professor from London.  He used to rant and rave about American health care and offered this in defense of socialized medicine.

“You see, if someone goes into the doctor’s office in England with the sniffles, the bloody doctor will kick him in the behind and tell him to go drink some fluids.  They don’t put up with psychosomatic illness.”

That always resonated with me, especially several years later when I watched my grandmother squander a small fortune on pills over the last 5 years of her life.  Her doctors literally turned her into a junkie.  She’d sit at the dinner table pulling out pill after and I wondered when she would be healed.

It never happened, of course, and eventually she fell prey to years of poison.  A sad ending to one of the most caring people I’ve ever met.

Grandma was also depressed at the end, and who wouldn’t be when your nutrition comes from a pill box?  The older I get, the more I realize that it’s okay to be depressed.  People get depressed.  The problem is, we don’t realize that sad can be a good thing.  It’s telling us something.  But society wants it to mean everyone is fucked up.

This is one of many reasons I am strongly opposed to health care as we know it.  One misleading “study” after another is broadcast like gospel from any media outlet that can get their hands on it.

“It’s gold, Jerry!”

My theory on health has always been pretty simple.  Pain is your friend.

If something seems wrong, change it.  If you are tired all the time, cut back on sugar and coffee, exercise and eat lighter foods.  If you’re cold, move around and eat something that burns hotter in your body.  If you have a fever, rest and let it work its way out.  If you drank 12 beers last night, it will probably affect how you feel for the next several days.  Just because your head hurts, doesn’t mean you need surgery or “meds” that will make you more dehydrated.

These are the kinds of things I always try to remember with endurance training.  We’re always on the verge of extreme dehydration, so I drink more fluids than I think I need.  I never underestimate rest and recovery.  I focus on the cause of my nagging injury, not just the symptom.

I stay in the moment.  I visualize success.  I keep the faith.

In short, I think about the body and mind as one, and rarely trust someone who wants to give me drugs.  Oh, and if I think I broke a bone, or something more serious, I go to the emergency room.

 

 

When Cats Interrupt Ironman Training

90% of the time my thoughts are steeped in training, but occasionally I’ll remember why I am a lover of human behavior and truly crave bizarrity.  The following is a simple, yet highly representative example of why I find life so damn amazing.

My dog plowed through her last bit of food this morning, so I drove to PetSmart on my way to lunch.  As I scoured the rows for a parking spot, a woman walked by in knee high black boots, a tight black dress and a body any red-blooded male would notice.

After parking I walked inside and, low and behold, there she was . . . looking at bird cages.  It wasn’t a blatant red flag, but certainly pink.  I went about my business and picked up a fresh bag of fish/rice delight for Mattie, and slung it over my shoulder like a cowboy on my way to the counter.

While suffering through an extended credit card mishap with the person in front of me, I noticed “Ms. Black Boots” standing in line behind me.  She had a distant and mysterious look, along with several cans of cat food in her basket.  She stared right past me, but  was clearly in heavy thought.

She had a bit of a frown, almost a scowl, but then, in an instant, her face contorted into the biggest smile I’d seen all day. It was a startling transformation that came with a tinge of crazy only the creepiest of clown clown could manufacture.

Her arm shot like a laser at the magazines and ripped an issue of “Cat Lover” from the wire rack.  Without missing a beat, this enigmatic woman started laughing hysterically and spoke in tongue while I leaned back on my heels looking for hidden cameras.

Then, in a move that may be unprecedented in the arena of public behavior, she starts “meowing” in very quick bursts while looking at the cover.

“Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I inched closer to the door and debated leaving Mattie’s food on the counter, but it was too late.  The situation had officially arrived in “Whacksville.”

She unleashed a bellowing laugh, pulled the magazine close to her face and started planting real life kisses on the “Cover Cat.”cat-fancy-magazine

“Mmmm…. smack smack smack smack….  giggle…. mmm… kiss… kiss….. ohhh….. such a cutie… I love you!”

I’m looking at the cashier and he is completely oblivious to her behavior while waiting for me to pay.  I quickly swiped my card and did my best to focus on the transaction, but all I could hear was, “Yummy….sooo cute… mmm… kiss… kiss… kiss…”  I couldn’t stomach a look but would not have bet against tongue.  She was insatiable.

Much like Bill Murray sauntering away from the destruction in Caddyshack, I abandoned the crime scene and marveled at the blessing I had just witnessed.

Anyway, there must be a lesson here and I am all ears.

Bad Start to 2013 Training

Let me tell you, I am not quite in sync with the official Ironman training.  The schedule is laid out like a ripe bag of apples waiting for a sinful chomp, but this holy roller isn’t hungry!  Yet . . .

I started yesterday with lower body weights and hit the trainer bike last night, but tonight’s swim was sh*t bag.  The plan was to do 40 x 50’s, then finish with an easy 1,000 pull.  I couldn’t find my breath for the life of me and while I’m sure that is somehow ironic, it’s nowhere near finding 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.

Anyway, like U2 says, I’m gonna walk on and make love to my bike tomorrow.  And while I’m at it, is it just me or does riding trainers suck?  I’ve been on mine maybe 6 times and I am genuinely concerned that it’s not gonna work.  I’m seriously contemplating riding in the rainy 42 degree weather tomorrow instead of riding in place while my dog looks at me in sadness for two hours.  I think I may need a new seat as well, so if anyone (coach?) has a good recommendation, slide it over.

Sunday is an easy 1:15:00 run, which I’m really looking forward to.  I mean, other than the fact that runners can be kind of weird, I’m really getting into this archaic form of transporting my body and soul.  There is definitely something scintillating about reaching new goals and I’m sure that’s because I’ve only been running for a year and being able to say I’m going for an easy one hour run kinda cranks my jack.

DIET QUESTIONS

I just ate pasta for the third night in a row and I am seriously concerned I have an addiction.  I’m still not sure how I want to handle my diet for this race, but pretty sure it will not center on pasta.  I’m leaning toward fish, greens, and potatoes.  Any thoughts from the gallery?

 

Caffeine and Training

Sometimes I feel like a real jackass writing about Ironman training.  I mean, who am I to figure like I know stuff?

But then, I start to rationalize . . . “Hey, maybe I do know stuff.”  Well, at least I know what’s going on in my own mind and body.  That counts for something, right?

Today, what’s going on in my mind and body is a little more stillness than usual.  Last night I ran with the East Nasty crew, then had pizza, a salad, and a Schlitz tallboy before heading home to bed at 10.  When I woke up, I felt rested for the first time in weeks.  Sleep matters.

Monday through yesterday afternoon of this week I was on edge.  I wasn’t sure why, but love to speculate about my health.  This morning it came to me.  I haven’t had caffeine for the last two days.

This is a sticky subject with me.  I have a natural lean toward having a buzz and being a tad compulsive about it.  During my college years it was beer.  For hangovers I drank water.

I used to give my buddies a lot of shit for slamming down soda (we called it pop).  I never drank coffee, either, unless it was to be cool on all night exam crams.  But a few years after college, I started a business and became a Mountain Dew whore.

I pounded yellow juice all day long and was typically short tempered, though I knew that wasn’t acting like “me.” I never openly associated my crankiness and lethargy to the drug.  In Alcoholics Anonymous they say that “Alcohol is cunning and baffling,” but now I’m starting to think the same can be said for caffeine (or any addictive substance).

Of course, this isn’t for everyone to hear.  I have a tendency to overdo things.  Like pound not one, but two large coffees in search for that edge.  I’m not even sure if I’ll stop or not, but have decided to turn that one over to a higher power.

Lessons From a Dog and Old Russians

I marvel at my dog’s ability to hit top speed.  She could be in a dead sleep and pop to all fours in less than a second.  That same feat normally takes me several snooze sessions and a few groans.  I’ll open the door and she’ll be at full stride chasing a bird the minute she hits the ground.

Her diet consists of the same exact thing every day.  Roughly a cup of Blue dog food in the morning, a couple treats at lunch and another cup of food at night.  She only drinks water.

Is there something to this?

I recently read “Born to Run” and the centerpiece of the story was the Tarahumara tribe that is famous for running super-human distances of 50 to 100 miles just for the hell of it. By all accounts their diet seems remarkably consistent and simple.

Hall of Fame baseball player, Wade Boggs, is another guy who pops into my head.  He allegedly ate only chicken before games.  He was one of the steadiest hitters I’ve ever watched in baseball. Nothing flashy, but almost like endurance hitting.  Night after night he would step into the batters box and perform one of the hardest sporting feats with amazing consistency.

And as I write this, a friend reminds me of the old Dannon commercials featuring 100 year old Russians who ate yogurt like fiends.  And man were they spry!

Now, I’m just throwing this out for discussion, but are modern diets too diverse?

It goes without saying that it’s harder to work out when we’re not feeling well or exhausted.  Could we be putting unnecessary strain on our digestive and immune systems with a wide variety of foods?

Today’s Diet:
Breakfast: Coffee
Lunch: Salmon, broccoli, blue cheese potato chips, cinnamon rolls
Snack: Hershey’s Bar
Dinner: Homemade chicken noodle soup, cottage cheese, two small pickles
Writing drinks: De-caf Coffee, Seltzer Water

A Picture is Worth Dozens of Pounds

My good friend Roger is 5 weeks away from running his first marathon and has a photograph of me to thank.  Actually he was in the picture too, and what happened to us that blurry night was an undeniable catalyst for change.

Our friendship started innocently enough around two years ago when Roger and I (Both Wisconsin natives) hatched the grand plan for Badger Nation Nashville at the Village Pub in Inglewood, TN.  Wisconsin football was on a roll and we wanted to capitalize by using beer and cheese to seduce local residents into our social circle.  After several PBRs we penned these highly sophisticated, yet simple bylaws that have Constitution-like staying power:

Official Badger Nation Nashville Bylaws

1. No rooting against the Badgers.
2. Spread word of the Badger.
3. Don’t shoot badgers. (Ben’s Law)*
4. Don’t diss Jeffrey Steele.
5. Meet at Village Pub & Grill when you can make it.

Fast forward two years after the “bylaw meeting” to my house, where a nice group of Badger Nation Nashville kids are celebrating another big victory.  Roger and I had been drinking for about 8 hours and decided to give everyone a treat by singing Wisconsin’s Alma Mater song, “Varsity,” which was quickly caught on video.  The playback was astonishing.

I had always felt pretty good about my body, but when I watched the video all I could see was a blubbery seal flopping around on a leather sofa.  I begged fellow BNN member, Brian, not to post it on the web and thankfully he didn’t know how.  I went silent and may have even retreated to my bedroom to sulk. What I didn’t realize at the time was, the video had a similar impact on Roger.

It didn’t happen immediately, but our minds shifted to training mode.  Roger joined Weight Watchers and started running.  I laid around for a few more weeks before Jim convinced me to do Couch to 5K training.  I really didn’t want to run, but that video looped in the back of my mind. For the first time in my life I felt like a fat ass!  I had no choice.

I have told this story a bunch of times and I’m convinced that taking a picture of yourself is the best form of motivation.  Preferably late in the night after a drinking or eating binge.

Now, Roger and I are hatching different plans.  Five short months after that fateful photography, we did the Country Music Half Marathon together and the ante continues to rise.

What started as a 5K for me has turned into Ironman training.  Roger is ready for his full, with aspirations of a Half Ironman next summer.

It has been a dicey journey that started on a bar napkin and evolved into something etched in stone.  And even though the Badgers suck this year, I think Roger would happily join me for an encore rendition of Varsity after the last game of the season.

* Montana Ben is a Pub regular who spends his summers in Montana shooting badgers so they don’t fuck with his cattle.

A Zen Wake Up Call

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.
Truman Capote

The good news is . . . my IT Band pain seems to be gone.  The bad news is . . . I absolutely sucked on my swim tonight.

I realize bad nights are imminent, but this was just an awful performance.  I could barely breathe, and swimming three measly laps in a row was kicking my ass.  After some serious staring at the ceiling, I have concluded it must be one or a combination of these three things:

1.  Horrible eating
2.  Too much beer
3.  Watching an Ultra Marathon

Now, I’m pretty sure it’s not the last one–although I did spend about four hours on a bike.  The bad diet and party train, however, are likely suspects.

I’m not gonna sit here and labor over my transgressions, but I need to realize training is fragile.  I put serious effort into strengthening and working through my IT band when I could barely walk, and tonight’s swim is a hard slap in the nuts to keep my diet in check.

An Ironman is no joke and on nights like this, I realize that, not only would I not have finished, I would have likely drowned before the first buoy.  And while I am a little pissed about the performance, I’m glad it happened.

Learning and forgiveness are the core of my training.  I won’t learn everything overnight and I have to forgive myself when I don’t.

My memory is short and I tend to cheat the present by not being the best I can in that moment.  But the goal is to learn a little more every day and the accumulation of those lessons will be the payoff in training, health, and life.

A Runner’s Conversation

You know, injury talk can be the worst.  I mean, if it bores me, then it must bore everyone else in the world.  It’s so self-serving, but I guess that’s what we do.  We talk about what’s on our minds and pain is important:

Me: “You’ll be happy to know that my knee is still a little jacked.”

You: “Well, this prick I work with is really getting on my nerves.”

Me: “Oh, wow.  Yeah, I haven’t been sleeping much lately!”

You: “Really?  Yeah, like today when he punked me right in front of my boss.”

Me: “Man, Yeah, I don’t know if it’s something I’m eating or money issue stress.”

You: “Sometimes I just feel like kicking him in the nuts!”

Me: “I’ve been meditating more and even thinking about going to church again because it’s wearing me down.”

You: “I called in sick today because I couldn’t face that asshole.”

Me: “I don’t know, maybe I just need to change my diet back to gluten free.”

You: “Speaking of gluten, I’d like to kick him right in the ass!”

Me: “Maybe I’ll just call my father and tell him he’s forgiven.”

You: “Well, I guess I’d better be going.”

Me: “I hear you.  Good seein ya!”

And so it goes.

I think this is why I like writing.  You either have to listen to what I’m saying or walk away.  Either way, I win!

So, last night was my first run in a while, and am happy to report, four miles with East Nasty and no knee pain.  In fact, I felt better after that run than I have after any run in recent memory.  I think it had a lot to do with rest, but mainly the strengthening exercises and an ongoing lust for my foam roller.

I had about 30 minutes to spare before the run, so I ran a little Jive Talkin‘ through the speakers and did a slew of warm-up work.  Everything from pushups and situps to running in place and jumping jacks.  I also did some hip flex and ass strengthening exercises (which are paying off nicely by the way).  By the time I left for the run I was sweating and wearing knee wraps.

This injury could be a blessing in disguise.  After powering my way from not running at all to a half marathon and eventually an Olympic Triathlon, I am finally getting a grip on balance and smart approaches, including the warm up.

In this way running is a lot like writing.  They tell you to sit down and write for ten minutes or so and that’s when you’ll actually be saying something worth reading.  In other words, warm up your brain. (In other, other words, I probably shouldn’t have published this crap!).