Our Life’s Blood

by Danny Kavadlo on May 21, 2013

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Blood is life.  Throughout the history of our world, gurus, shamans, medicine men, and hunters have drank blood straight from the carcass for celebration or ritual.  The blood carries oxygen, nutrients, and protein–true life force–to the physical body.  The blood transfers strength, soul, and virility to the spiritual body.  Both literally and figuratively, it represents our very essence.

When we say that something is “in our blood,” we mean that we are deeply linked to it.  We wouldn’t use those words unless we were talking about something that is a part of us, something that truly makes us who we are.

Body weight strength training is in my blood.

“When I was younger, I drank a quart of blood a day for about six weeks.  I’d get it from the slaughterhouse.
I’d heard about the Masais… they’d drink cattle blood for strength.”

– Jack LaLanne

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I am profoundly passionate about the pursuit of strength and well being.  The path to a new skill, and the beauty and synchronicity of full-body harmony (all the components of Progressive Calisthenics) excite me.  If they didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.  I also love talking about training and exchanging ideas with others.  It’s always a thrill to get together with like-minded individuals and share stories, as well as techniques and concepts.

I live for the thrill of the chase.  Whether that means employing newly-learned tips for improving my L-sit or beginning to train weighted human flag, I love the challenge.  But like everything in life, some of these challenges come easier than others.

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The full one-arm pull-up is one skill that eludes me.  I’ve come damn close.  Many times, I’ve pulled and twisted from a dead hang ‘til my chin touched my wrist.  I could taste the sweat.  I could smell the bar.  But my chin never cleared it… at least not with one arm.  In 2006, getting a one-arm pull-up was my obsession.

Not surprisingly, I had my first serious bout with tendonitis in 2007.  Don’t shed a tear for Danny; I’ll be the first to admit that I am not special at all for getting hurt.  Just about everyone who trains hard in any capacity gets injured now and again.  What we do is not for the meek.  Whether it’s sprains, strains, breaks, or aches, every fitness aficionado I’ve ever known in my life has had to lay off it once in a while.  It sucks.

But tendonitis always seems to linger a little longer than expected.  It haunts you.

“It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps… a little blood.”
-from “Nosferatu”

 

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Both Coach Wade in the Convict Conditioning series and my brother Al Kavadlo in Pushing The Limits specifically address the difference in recovery time between connective tissue (tendons in particular) and muscle.  They both observe (spot on, as always) that tendons take much longer to repair themselves.  I’m no stranger to danger.  I know this stuff well from years of hard-won experience, but I never really thought to ponder why.   I always had the philosophy that a few nicks and dings along the way were no big deal, so I didn’t examine injury much.  Perhaps I should have.

Things changed this past year when I suffered from tendonitis…  again.  This time I thought “Gee, I really should know better.”  What is it about those damned tendons anyway, and why do they adapt so much slower than muscle?

I was desperate.  I saw a doctor for the first time in fifteen years, but as I expected, he couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  After I filled out a lot of paperwork, he referred me to an orthopedist who turned out to be his buddy from medical school.  I passed on that visit.  I didn’t want to see another doctor.

I was about to make an appointment with an Eastern acupuncturist, when fate intervened and I had a chance phone call with a rabbi/chiropractor from Borough Park, Brooklyn.  He broke it down for me:

“Lousy circulation.”
“What?”
“Lousy circulation,” he repeated.

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He went on to explain that connective tissue has poor circulation compared to muscles.  This lack of blood flow means fewer nutrients get to the tendons, hence a slower recovery time.  Even though I knew how to treat my injury (mostly just leave it alone and let it heal,) the acquisition of this minute piece of trivia fascinated me.  “It really is in my blood,” I thought.  “Of course!”

Products like Tiger Balm and Icy Hot promote healing because they heat up the area to which they are directly applied.  Blood flow increases to regulate the temperature.  As a side effect, the blood administers the extra vitality needed to heal.  Natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric and nutmeg also work by promoting circulation.  As usual, it took something really simple to completely blow my mind.

These days the tendonitis is gone and both my elbows feel amazing.  I’m pleased to say I am back, seeking new challenges with an unprecedented enthusiasm, and training harder than ever!  How could I not?… it’s in my blood.

***

About Danny Kavadlo: Danny Kavadlo, Master PCC, is a Personal Trainer in New York City. He’s worked with hundreds of clients, including athletes, models, and celebrities. He is featured in the Convict Conditioning Series & Raising the Bar, and is known globally as a motivator & leader in the calisthenics community. Learn more about Danny at: www.DannyTheTrainer.com.

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  • Awesome blog, Danny! I’ve been fortunate to avoid major injuries, but I’ve had my fair share of setbacks and I know how much it sucks to get injured. Great advice on natural anti-inflammtories too – a lot of people don’t think about the connection between the health of the body and the strength of the body, thinking they’re two separate things, but as with anything they overlap, and inflamed tissues will bring anyone down. I think as soon as I post this I’m going to go out and buy some turmeric, actually.

    Also, your Nosferatu quote was priceless. I LOVE that movie.

    • Hey Aleks,
      Health and strength. Body and mind and spirit for that matter, are all the same. Sometimes we tend to compartmentalize everything (split routine, anybody?) but I feel that the MORE connected all these things are, the better! Even with no major injuries, we all have setbacks. We gotta take our time and come back stronger!
      Rock on,
      -DK

      • JoeG

        Hey Danny,

        I like to do leg raises.I want to hit 50×3 knee raises on to 50×3 hanging leg raises.Will my elbows suffer because of this pursuit?

        I started yesterday with 30×3 knee raises.Will add like 3-5 reps each workout or as many as i can.

  • Nigel Dickinson

    I have the same problem with my lower bicep tendon so this blog has been very helpful.
    Note to self: Don’t train to failure! Always leave a few reps in the bank.

    • Since my recover I have not done any long, drawn out work outs. While training to failure has it’s place in the world of fitness, I agree that many of these advanced calisthenics moves should NOT be trained to failure. Well said Nigel! Leave ’em in the bank!
      -DK

  • Brecht V.

    I’ve got achilles tendonitis on both heels. Been suffering from it for 7 months now. I got it from doing a 12km obstacle/nature race with lousy shoes. Got close to a recovery in January, but relapsed. It’s coming to a point where the pyschological strain is as painful as the physical injury. Not being able to walk/run for longer than 5 minutes without pain/discomfort is harsh for someone who loves to be active 🙂

    I’m just hoping that it’ll all be over soon :).. But I must say it allowed me to start mastering my bodyweight through pushes,pulls, holds, etc. A very rewarding endeavour!

    Thanks for the article. I got some nutmeg balm from a recent trip to Malaysia, might give it a shot 😉

    • Hey Brecht,
      Thanks for sharing. Like a vampire, tendonitis sucks. Not being able to walk or run is horrible but it will pass. In the meantime, you have to recover. My legs got REAL STRONG last time I had elbow tendonitis. It takes time but listen to your body and keep killin those pushups in the meantime!

  • Mike

    When my wife had a partial tear of the Achilles’ tendon, the orthopedic surgeon drew blood, spun it down and injected some of it into the tendon to speed the healing process. Three years of rehab and healing were almost useless, but this procedure worked in about six weeks.

    • Mike,
      That is an incredible story. I have heard of that treatment. I’m really glad to hear that it worked for your wife!
      -DK

  • Great lesson Danny!

    It’s always important to come back to the basics when it comes to understanding physiology . It’s so darn easy to make things like healing and getting stronger more complicated than they really are. It’s always good to get a reminder like this.

    • Thanks Matt,
      The basics have been around forever because it’s real stuff. We have a tendency as human beings to over-complicate things. I believe in listening to the body.
      Glad you enjoyed the piece!
      -DK

  • jim perry

    i like the writing from personal perspective… with useful remedies… ‘itis’ is the main dis-ease of the body… comes in many forms… the herbs, tumeric, ginger, most of the greens.. all helpful..use daily for best effect.. and stay away from the junk that creates ‘itis’ in the first place.. there is a hot wax treatment also effective,, used in therapy rooms … dipping elbow, hands, feet,,etc in hot wax..then wrap w/plastic & towel to keep heat in.. 20 min or so… works nicely.. !!
    danny… your candor is straight on… and lends credence to what you write…
    to the best within us all…. jim perry

    • Jim,
      Thanks so much for your comment, bro. I’m really glad the article spoke to you. I agree 100% to “stay away from the junk that creates ‘itis’ in the first place.”
      Right on.
      -DK

  • New stuff to try! Thanks as always, Danny.

    • Thanks for your comment Geoffrey. Keep the dream alive!
      -DK

  • Paul John Wade

    Bible quotes, life anecdotes, healing tactics, old movies and bodyweight training. In one post.

    I cannot wait to read your book when it comes out, kid. It’s gonna be AMAZING!

    • Thanks Coach. That’s a SUPREME COMPLIMENT coming from you!

  • Great timing for this post! I’m dealing with a shoulder “issue” myself right now. Your mentioning turmeric reminded me of its properties. I will be dropping a couple of turmeric capsules with my next meal to hopefully help finish off the nagging problem and let me ramp my training back up. Thanks!

    • Hey Mikal,
      I am happy to help. A client and friend of mine actually made an anti-inflammatory cream. He put fresh herbs in it. It had a funky smell but it worked. Always listen to your body and GOOD LUCK!
      -DK

  • Matteo

    A terrible bilateral epycondilitis + epitrocleitis stopped me for more than two years and I felt I was dying inside: no exercise, difficulties in driving and even opening a door while staying pain free was an forbidden experience. I went from doing 22 extra esplosive full pull ups and 60 no stop full push ups to zero because of my F* tendons, so I feel your pain Danny.

    How did I come back on track? Well, I spent more than 1000€ on treatments (I was a student back then and these were a lifetime savings) that did ZERO for my tendons. Then I read an Ad on Dragondoor about Convict Conditioning. I began with wall push ups (together with Omega3 and warm water bags on elbows every now and then) and in a couple of months was almost pain free. Now I’m on step 5.5 (close pushups with hands slightly more far than diamond position) and I’ve been really milking every exercise (took me three years to reach the steps I’m on: hanging bent leg raises, jackknife pulls, uneven squats and angled bridges are the other four along with CC2 work).

    Strenght, guys, pure tendon strenght, and I’ve always suffered from joint laxysm so believe me: CC maybe didn’t save my life, but I’d bet it did recover my mental sanity for sure.

    Thanks, Coach. I’m sorry I cannot personally thank you or being taught calisthenics directly from you.

    • Wow Matteo,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I, as well, feel your pain. It’s amazing how with such an emphasis on external strength, we can all become guilty of achieving REAL strength. I’m really glad you’re doing better.
      Convict Conditioning helped my tendons too. Doing fingertip pushups to counter all that gripping was a game changer. KEEP IT UP!
      -DK

    • Paul John Wade

      You just made my day, brother. Thank you.

      Keep doing those pushups!

      Paul

  • Brice

    Great article Danny! I think we all have some tendinitis issues from time to time. But I have to say Paul Wade is a genius. I have been using the book on myself and my clients. A lot of my clients have lots of injury issues and let me say I haven’t ha a client yet that it hasn’t worked for. Also on a side note, I have noticed it has helped me regulate my body fat levels better than any system out there even on 2 to 3 days a week of training! Amazing.

    • Hey Brice,
      It’s true. We all do have these issues time to time. I’m glad to hear that your body composition levels are more favorable with calisthenics– it’s the approach of employing full body tension, versus isolating muscle groups. Thanks for your comment!

  • dr gabriel

    Hey Danny,

    Perhaps we need to go a bit deeper and ask why there are so many tendon issues nowadays. Some for sure are caused by overexertion but most IMO aren’t. I’m shocked to see so many athletes in the US get snapped ligaments like a snapped rubber band. European powerlifters on the other hand get torn ligaments where they are wrenched from their bone attachment points. Kangaroos who bounce all day long have immense tendon strength but they never suffer a bust ligament – ligaments are designed to last a lifetime and never give in BEFORE the muscle. Muscles of course have a blood supply and can heal, tendons don’t.

    The type of injury US athletes get indicates weakening of the tendon material itself and the medical literature contains ample proof that fluoride in US drinking water causes tendons to go brittle and eventually snap.

    Solution: stop drinking fluoridated poison and remove the stuff that’s built up already in your body. That way you fix your thyroid too. The US is full of sickness like this the causes of which are staring us in the face.

    Regards,
    Dr Gabriel

    • Word.

      • It’s like I always tell you, “I’m gonna go have my glass of fluoride”.49 yrs. of drinking NYC tap water and some ADHD is all I am exhibiting and my tendonitis also healed.Everyone is different.I on the other hand,have no cavities.Maybe you’ll witness my tendons snap,LOL !

  • Great article…
    I had trouble with my shoulder, rather than wait for it to heal properly I tried to do some pushups and ended up having physio for a month!!

  • Miguel Reis

    Also eccentric exercise plays a main role in an tendinopathy rehabilitation 😉

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