Teaching Crossfit: making small steps

When i decided to take the crossfit level 1 trainer course, i also had the intention of teaching people. And although i already had my first real time teaching crossfit, it still felt like a trial and not yet real. So now that the corona-rules are reduced to the point where we can start working out again in the box, the classes i was supposed to give also started up again. So i was anxious and excited to start and see how people reacted to me but also about me teaching people the right things.

The good thing is that i got in contact with the people from Exist, who setup their box at the beginning of the year (next to their martial arts training) and were looking for a trainer. This means the box is young and inexperienced when it comes to Crossfit and also the people training there are not well known with Crossfit. So this gives the me opportunity to learn to teach in a relaxed environment.

Snatch

One of the things i wanted to try is to teach the snatch, or rather, let people give it a try without disastrous results. Because the snatch is one of the hardest things to do well and also to teach well. There are so many things to look for and for me it was about trying to spot and correct basic flaws like stance, grip. Seeing also that my hip-flexibility is limited (and i’m working on it), showing the quick drop in a deep squat position after the pull is hard.

CrossFit | The Snatch

To prepare i looked at dozens of youtube videos. The list below is in my humble opinion the top 3 youtube video’s to study.

But studying and teaching is -unsurprisingly- quite different. The other complicating factor is the fact that the group consists of people who have never heard of the snatch before or have done much work with the barbell. Which is fine, and the burgener warmup works well (although we did each stage 20 times), but handing them the barbell was tricky.

You see people thinking when making the move, hesitating, extremely flawed, sometimes even frustrated. My job is then to make small corrections, just 1 or 2 (mostly don’t pull the arms too soon and stance) and set them at ease. Even so, a lot of them don’t really have good control over their back and are more flexed or extended instead of a neutral spine. But after a while most of them got the general idea and also the appreceation of having learned something new. For myself it was a very good teaching moment in the sense that you have to be patient, you can’t expect people to do even a half proper snatch after only 1 hour training if they’ve never held a barbell before.

Pull-ups

The next week we had an EMOM (buddy workout) of 20 minutes, 5 pull-ups and 20 situps. Now teaching a pull-up, again to some people who have never done it, is also hard. You have to have good shoulder and back strength and good muscular control. So i had them start with just a 20 second hang. For some this was already hard, and if so, you know you have to scale way down to, in this case, a box for assistance.

The Kipping Pull-Up - YouTube

For woman it’s often harder since their upperbody strenght is often less then men. Since the group was so diverse, it took more time to get everyone the proper scale and to show the movement. Again a good teaching moment, show all the scaling options beforehand, and then start with hanging, scapula pull-ups, etc…

The nice thing is that when they got going everyone had the proper scale and did the movement ok. One guy who was light and strong, just almost did them strict altough not always extended the arms when coming downwards. I gave two athletes some small tips like try to ‘fall through”when coming down and ‘push away from the bar’ and they got pretty close to kipping pull-ups right away which was cool to see.

Another nice thing happened after practice where i was asked what she could do to get a pull-up done without having a bar at home to work with. Besides the standard answer like practice, (ring)rows, i gave her the advice to come in a bit early and just hang and work a bit on scapula pull-ups. Just a few minutes before every practice. It’s not just about strength it’s also about neurologic training. The other advice i also gave her was to be patient, don’t expect a pull-up really fast, just try to do a bit more every workout.

Next

The good thing is that i can teach every week on tuesdays (2 classes) to get more experiece. The groups consists of mostly the same people with some variations so that also helps because you know peoples capabilities and limits and it helps build a certain bond.

When i’ve got a few months under my belt i’ll write an update on what i’ve experienced so far. I’ll also actively point out some do’s and dont’s to people which i’ve also written a blog about. If you have to learning moments from your first period as a (crossfit) teacher/instructor and things you would have liked to tell yourself when you started, let me know. Always interested to learn.

The Value of Friendship

My wife and i had a discussion about our friends, or lack of and how this evolved over time and what we expect from friendship.

When you are a young kid, making friends is somehow easy (although not for every kid), you just walk up and ask if they want to play, and most of the time you’ve got a playfriend. At a young age your friend-circle is based on neighbourhood, school and sports, and somehow kids attract eachother in this context and thus make up their friends circle. And you just take if for granted.

Once you get older and move to high-school and beyond, different sport, different ‘something’, you meet new people and make new friends. You most likely will loose your earlier friends, not on purpose but it just happens. You also might meet someone who becomes a real friend for life.

At some point in your life your social circle is rather fixed and comfortable and with all that todays’ world asks of you (or you think it does) you’re not usually open to extending your ‘close friend’ social circle. Maybe now and then introduce a new ‘mate’ but not a real friend.

Then you get kids and/or get married, proper jobs, sports, etc.. and then life gets even more hectic making it harder to make new friends. Because it sometimes feels that most people in the same situation are not really open to making new friends because they are too busy and already have a certain circle of friends.

We are in the situation where our friends-circle is rather small, not because of choice or lack of trying. One close friend, for some reason, simply broke off all contact and i haven’t seen of spoken to him in 3 years. Another friend moved to another town an hours drive away. In the beginning we tried to meet and our relation was rather good. But the thing was that the initation of a meeting was one-sided, i was always the one setting it up. So i thought i’d wait for them to go first…..in never came and another friendship gone.

I recently came across and old friend and when we met it was good to meet with deep discussions. We went to movies, came over to eat, etc… but again, i was the one initiation the meeting. So i’m waiting for him to go first.

My wife has the same issue, she used to have good friends from sport and work but at some point they got into relationships, moved to other work, etc..and she was the one initiation the contact and trying to meetup. But when she waited for others to call her…..well, she feels lonely sometimes. Luckily she has met a real good friend with which she has great contact. But it’s franky only 1 real friend.

Now she can call a bunch of people for a meet and they would happily go for dinner or something. But she is the one who has to call, she almost never gets called. Which makes her wonder if there is something wrong with her. Of course nothings wrong with her but why don’t these people just call or whatsapp to ask how things are? Laziness? Do they expect to get called? Too busy?

Then we started to look around a bit in our street and it appears that more people have this situation. 1 neighbour seems to only have 1 couple as real friends, another mostly goes to mom/dad or 2 friends somewhere else. Other neighbours don’t seem to get any visits at all from friends.

In todays social media context it seems that everyone has a bunch of friends, and when you don’t you get an uncomfortable feelinf, but that’s a mirage if you look closely. Now there are certainly people who seem to have a large group of friends which is good for them. But i would guess that most people do not have a very large group of friends. I would also guess that a lot of people, especially my age-group and with kids needing less care, would like to extend their social circle with some proper friends with which you can talk about more than the latest movie. But other people have to be open for it.

I hope that my wife finds a new friend with which she can meet and do things with. I guess it also depends on your expectation of friendship and what you value. We both value a but of reciprocity, genuin mutual interest in eachothers life and well-being. Certainly not someone who knocks down the door every other day, but someone with whom you can regularly meet, do fun things with but also have a good in-depth conversation with.

Myself, i’ve got a nice small set of friends and they also call me (sometimes) and even with a small set i also am quite busy with work, kids, sports, family. So i can image that other people are too, which would explain the difficulty of making new friends. And maybe i also give off a vibe which makes other people hesitate to even attempt to start a friendship. More over i like a piece of quit as a part-time introvert. So i will make an attempt to be more open to these kinds of relationships. There’s no shame in asking someone to grab a coffee, and don’t confuse this with asking someone on a date.

I’m curious how you experience friendship and what you value. And always open for advice….

Life is better with friends! #friendship #life #friendsarefamily ...

Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, what happened next?

Since my last crossfit post quite a few things happened, some even unexpected so let me give you an update.

Online Courses

One of the things i closed my last related post with was with the fact i wanted to do some online course to supplement my CF-L1. So i took the following courses:

I liked the last one best because it gave me some new insghts on how to approach scaling. I’m still looking for a ‘cheatsheet’ which includes all scaling options for most of the common movements though. They are relatively cheap and not really difficult but i recommend not to do too many in a row and apply your newly learned knowledge first before moving on.

Response

After i posted my CF-L1 certificate including a link to my blog i got a lot of great responses. From work a few people actually asked me for tips and tricks.

But an unexpected but fun thing was that someone from work asked me (and a collegue who also does crossfit) to share my experience through a podcast. You can listen to it here. This also got quite some positive response all around.

How to get started as a trainer

I got some great reactions from my crossfit box and people working out there. Many asked me if and when i would start teaching crossift there. But at my box there currently isn’t any spot left. But the owner knew some people who just started a box so he got me in contact with them. And after i had a chat with them we quickly came to an agreement that i could start there on tuesdays from 18:00 till 20:00 (2 classes).

Although this is great, i have to be aware that this is something i do (for now) next to work and family. I was very open about this and told them that i have to see how this works out and we should evaluate after half a year. Because it’s not just something you can take a break from, once you start you have to be there every week the whole year. Of course vacations is something we can plan but it’s still a commitment.

Moreover, at home this wasn’t an easy conversation because it means that they are affected by this, even if it’s just a tuesday evening. Which means my wife has to cook, take care to the kids, etc… Fortunatly the kids are more selfsufficient now so it becomes easier. If they were younger i don’t know if i would have done it. But for now i get a chance to experience being a crossfit trainer.

My First Class

Thursday evening 18:00, 12 march, my first class. I was a bit anxious but the first of the two classes was cancelled. The second one had only 3 people coming in. The first thing you try do to is size people up and try to match the workout to what you think they are capable of. And if you don’t know the people that’s damn hard. The other difficult part is timemanagement, especially if there is no seperate clock in the room.

The environment also takes getting used to, the box is a bit small and shares the room with a brazilian ji-jitsu class which is very noisy. It also lacks machines like rowing, skiing or airbikes, understandable, since they just started and had to invest a lot. So basically everything is new…. i guess i won’t stand out as much 🙂

All in all the workout was good, i got complimented on the clear instructions and positive support. For myself i think time-management and spending a bit more time on the flow of the hour needs work. I thought i would get enough practice under my belt but then…..corona happened.

So hopefully i can can pick this up on the first of september and even sooner. I hope to write another blog on my experience on learning to coach crossfit not long after. For now, stay healthy and safe!

Overload on the (large & small) screen

Last week i read an article regarding an opinion about the just released image stills from the upcoming movie Dune. The title contained the word ‘underwhelming’. I felt irritated and it was mindboggling that someone formed an opinion based on a few images. Also because i just watched a vlog from Quinn’s Ideas with his opinion about the costumes and he, as i, was positively impressed.

But it got me wondering about how it is that certain people who either have a job reviewing movies and tv-shows or do it as a hobby seem to be so harsh or critical in their reviews.

Another exampe about the movie Underwater:

“The Abyss meets Aliens with a bit of The Poseidon Adventure, a lot of Pacific Rim and a dash of The Meg in this subaquatic sci-fi that offers nothing more than the sum of its references.”

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/underwater_2020

I’ve seen this movie and i thought it was quite a good movie, but it also gave me a sense of deja vu. And i have that with other movies or tv-shows sometimes as well. Have you ever noticed sometimes that a certain storyline keeps popping up in movies or shows, or certain monologues or jokes. Why is that? And then it sort of (obviously) hit me. I’ve watched so many movies and tv-shows in my life that it’s very hard to surprise me with originality, even with original shows.

Basics of any story

Any story has a few basic elements:

  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

The ‘hero’ always has to conquer something somewhere to get to the prize. It’s as simple as that, so any tv-show or movie in essence is composed of the same elements. So it’s only normal that if you watch enough they can seem similair.

Growing up in the eigthees

When growing up we had 1 tv and i remember wanting to watch the A-team which my parents wouldn’t allow because at that time it was percieved as violent. Later i got to watch it. And together with Knight Rider, cartoons on sunday morning, the Bill Cosby show, etc. i started my tv journey. But there weren’t a whole lot of tv-shows and the availability of screen-time was very limited to a few shows. We played more outside then.

Only in the ninetees when we got a second (small) tv i started watching some more tv-shows. And when i moved to live on my own it increased some more. Not so much in hours a day but more in accumulated tv/movie time. It was where i think in retrospective i already started noticing some similarities.

Golden age of tv

Now with the dominance of companies such as Netflix and Disney+ and the quality shows that they produce it’s very easy to spend an entire evening watching 4 or 5 episodes. Thus racking up more accumulative hours of tv-experience which means it gets harder to find shows that are worthwhile. Especially if you’re getting older.

Statistics

I started looking up some statistics and found the following sources

Infographic: The Golden Age of TV Fiction | Statista

The above graph shows that from 2010 untill 2017 over 2000 shows were made. That has not decreased the past few years, i can assure you.

Above is a screenshot of IMDB and shows that it has information of over 1.2mln titles which most likely is not complete by a long shot.

There have been made so many shows (incl. cartoons) and movies that anyone with a few years of screen-exposure will at some point get a deja-vu.

My trackrecord

So thinking about my own screen-time exposure i can only guess. I wrote two previous blogs [1][2] which already contain for over 60 to 70k minutes of screentime. I would not be surprised that with all the movies and shows i’ve watched i’ve racked up more than a few million minutes (which is about very roughly 80-90k hours).

So it is inevitable that you would come across dialogue, scenes, characters, plot, etc…, that sounds and looks familair. But this also means that your standard of being surprised becomes higher and higher.

Critics Beware

And this goes for move/tv critics as well, whom, i pressume, have watched way more tv-shows and movies than i have (and many of us). Of course they are often quite right in their critique. I follow rottentomaties.com and most of the critique is valid up to a point. The very bad movies are often bad, the good are mostly good.

But they have to understand that when they watch a movie or episode they will always compare them with others, even subconsiously. This is not always fare, because in their eyes it might be repetitive or boring or ‘been-there-done-that’. And for people with (much less) screentime it might be a new experience that they will miss just because someone wrote a not-so positive review.

So my advice is to not be put off my bad critics for something that you think is good. See for yourself and make up your own mind.

Crossfit do’s and don’ts

I’ve been practicing Crossfit for over 2 years now and i wanted to share some of my experience and things i would have liked to have known prior to starting Crossfit. So here goes:

Value technique over intensity

During a wod and in the box it’s very easy to go into the redzone and try to lift or do more than what you’re are used to or capable of. Especially in the beginning when you see a lot of athletes going at it.

My advice: start slow, scale everything (even if you think you don’t need it), feel the exercises, give your brain and neurological system enough time to adapt and focus on training rather than exercise. Go lighter with most of the drills and when you feel good try to do a bit more. But the first half year (depending on how much you practice) don’t worry about RX or going all out, focus more on technique, it will help you in the long run.

Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout

I recently saw a documentary about marathon athletes in kenia and they mentioned that they usually don’t train at 100%, just between 70-80% because there is no point in doing so. You just wear out your body . In Crossfit you always see people going all in and over, redlining their body. And although that’s good at times, what you usually see (youtube, tv, netflix) are athletes that workout 6 times a week 2 to 3 times a day. And when they train they also don’t go over 100% all the time.

For myself, especially the first year i loved going all in and getting exhausted but i was also just workout twice a week and wanted to get the most out of it. But focussing less on RX and more on technique, rythm, more quality reps than weight, breathing etc.. helps a lot.

And luckily not all WOD’s are Hero’s WODs, at least at my box, but also focus on pure technique, endurance, etc… thus not having to go all out all the time. It’s also better for your body, especially when you are a bit older, which needs to recover less which means you’ll be fitter the next workout.

Value mobility over weight

I’m not very mobile in Crossfit terms, my hip-flexors, shoulders and especially my ankle’s are tight so overhead squating, pistol squats, front squats, snatches are all movements i can’t really do well or with a lot of weight. My deskjob doesn’t help either.

Mobility in itself is, in my view, a very underrated part of the Crossfit level 1 course. And when coaching it’s something to be very aware of because people tend to put too much weight on the bar when not having proper technique and mobility which causes injury.

I’m trying to improve my mobility which takes time and effort (and i could be doing more) and it has helped to a certain extent. My front squat max was 90kg but recently i did 5 paused front squats with 90kg, mainly because i stayed upright more so less strain on my back. Also my overhead squat improved a little (with weight).

So being more mobile helps with a lot of things and i think i would have liked to have gotten more pointers on this subject from the start. There’s tons of youtube video’s and resources about mobility but remember, a lot of the people in those video’s assume you have the room, asseccories and time to do this quite often and/or are very mobile themselves which they sometimes forget and make things sound easy.

So when your start to do Crossfit start working on your mobility to get more out of the workouts. Or just start working on your mobility anyways.

Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)

Foamroallers are great, painfull, but great. After a workout it’s a great idea to give your muscles and surrounding tissue a massage. Foam rollers are perfect for that and will help recovery. It’s not as easy as it sometimes look but also not so difficult as some might tell you.

For me the calves, lats (side of your body under the should joint) and the front of my quadriceps are the places to hit. But my advice is to buy one to use at home, they are not expensive, and use them from the start. Maybe not after every workout and also simply on an off ‘workout’ day.

ps: a tennisball is also a great accessory to have (or a lacrossball) for really deep tissue massage

Value and extra resting day over an extra workout

It’s very temping to do another great WOD and to put your body to the test but when you just start and/or are a older it’s better to have an extra day of (active) recovery. It doesn’t mean you can’t do something but keep it light and combine it with stretching/mobility. Running (slowly) a few km’s, riding a bike, doing a 20 minute mobily routine works wonders.

You have to live with your body the rest of your life and our body needs rest and time to recover as well. Beginning with Crossfit you will feel all kinds of aches and musclepain so don’t start of with working out 5 to 6 times a week but give your body (and mind) time to increase the amount of workouts over a period.

Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Basically all my points above have to do with the ‘intensity’ part of Crossfit. You have to remember that it’s not about the Rich Froning or Matt Frasier intensity (which is what we usually see) but about your relative intensity. Meaning what’s appropriate and challenging for you.

When working out it easy to get caught up in the hype of the workout nd the other athletes trying to outdo eachother. And it’s good to have those ‘voices’ challenging you, they might take you to places you never thought possible and break your own PR. But remember, especially when you start, listen to your own body more. Because when you start you don’t know what your capabilities are yet, take time to get to know them and go a bit harder every workout.

People have a tendency to, even when they are not feeling well or are just recovering from a flew or injury, wave things off. “I’ll j ust have to get through it and i’ll be okay” is what you often hear. But as a coach i would say:

  • If you’ve just been sick, stay at home for at least an extra day after you tell yourself that you are ok, and do a mobility workout. Often the joints are stiff from mying still or not moving as much as you are used to.
  • If you’ve just recovered from an injury, do at least a few weeks of very light weight and slow down the reps. See the aftereffect and if there are no negative effects, add just a little more.

To summarize

  • Value technique over intensity
  • Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout
  • Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)
  • Value mobility over weight
  • Value and extra resting day over an extra workout
  • Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Final thoughts

I love Crossfit, but i also need my body for at least 50 years to come. Doing crossfit, or doing cross functional workouts helps with that. But the other half of the coin is being able to manager your body, and the mantra ‘less is more’ is very appropriate. With the above tips you’ll have a better chance of succes. Ultimatly it’s up to you to balance yourself with all things you do in life.

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 5

Here’s an update since my last blog and i want to tell you about stuff that has happened and about the some symptoms which i wasn’t sure about.

Sleeping

Sleeping was/is still a bit of a problem, which is often a precursor to poor health, and i often wake up somewhere between 2 and 3 in the night. Then it often takes a while before i fall asleep. Recently i even slept very poorly three days in a row, only about 3 to 4 hours. After which i got a bad cold which luckily only last for 2 days.

And because of that i went to see the doctor and asked for some bloodwork including B12 and iron. I knew from previous bloodwork that my body doesn’t really absorb B12 well so i’m taking B12 shots every other month. The results were a bit disappointing:

  • B12 was >160 pmol/L. The normal reference value is somewhere between 146-582 pmol/ for my age. So it’s on the low end
  • TSH: 0.45, also on the low end since the reference value is 0,4 and 2,0 mU/l
  • FT4: 18.4, this was a bit scary because this means that the value has gone up a bit every time i tested this.

It could also be stress related but the last week i slept much better. Can’t really pinpoint as to why but maybe because i started eating a bit more and/or because my wife gave a mist diffusor which sits next to my bed. For now i’ll take it!

Appointment with endicronologist

Last week i also had to take my 3 months bloodwork for the endicronologist and the results were good to my surprise.

  • TSH was 0.54 which is up quite a bit from a few weeks ago
  • FT4 was 16.8 which was down from a few weeks ago

So these results were uplifting and the endicronologist was happy as well and mentioned that the results can vary depending on the time of day the test was taken. But still, the last time lasted 2 years without a problem so i’m cautiously optimistic.

Weight

As i told earlier my weight (or fast loss of) is often a first symptom of trouble so i weigh myself almost daily. The good news it’s sort of stable around 95 kg. In the morning it’s 94 and at night it’s about 95.5 – 96. The thing that worries me is that i can’t seem to gain weight so i started looking at my diet and i think i simply eat too little during the workweek.

The food that i eat is healthy and i need around 2500-2800 cal but i think i only get something between 2200-2300. What i started doing the past 2 weeks going is simply eat more and i added:

  • 1 avocado with a few crackers for breakfast befor my normal breakfast (nuts/seeds/glutenfree oatmeal/linesead/banana/soja yoghurt)
  • 3/4 glutenfree sandwhiches for around 10:00
  • a piece of fruit at around 15:00

It’s always tricky to attribute better sleeping and good results to this change but my weight has gone up slightly (+1 kg)

The other thing i’m trying is a proteinshake for after workouts to see if i can recuperate faster. Don’t know if it helps but it seems that i have less muscle strain.

Creatine (vs Goatcheese)

Another thing i wanted to try is creatine to see if it would give me a bit more energy and better results when working out. Now as i wrote in an earlier blog i skip all dairy, but sometimes i try a bit of hard goatcheese and i took some during the same time i started using creatine. I got a stomach-ache which kept me awake 1 night (and had to skip the Lowlands Throwdown Crossfit qualifier :-().

Now, i can remember that i had this type of stomach-ache 1 or 2 times around the same time i ate some goatcheese. But it could also be the creatine, however literature states that you get stomach-ache from creatine immediatly and this one only started a week after. So my money is on goatcheese, which is weird because an allergy test didn’t show this.

Final note

So as always i’m continuously experimenting with all sorts of stuff. I think that’s the only sound thing you can do because everyone is different and reacts differently to different things. But getting a clear relation between cause and effect is difficult. I’ll try this for a few months and i will write a blog to tell you about my experiences untill then.

My Favorite Sci-Fi series, Part II

Here is a follow up of my previous blog about sci-fi series that influenced me and/or made me think about certain topics differently. Below is the list from when i was around 18 untill now.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor star trek the next generation

For me this show was magic, it had great characters, for that time pretty good special effects (certainly the last season) and some of the best and original stories i’ve seen. One that springs to mind is where Picard is trapped in a mind-prison where he experiences a whole lifetime without aging in the realword, that was a mindf*#k. Also the positive attitude towards society was hopefull and it often touched upon social issues like age, race and gender.

It also for me was the show when one of the leading characters was killed (Tasha), don’t know if that was unique at that time but it was for me. And who can forget the Borg who set the stage for the first STNG movie. The story-arc of the Borg was intense and had a big space battle at the end. So many things pop to mind but i don’t think when you watch it now that a lot of episodes are worthwhile. But in my mind it’s still one of the great sci-fi shows of all time.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor star trek deep space 9

In the beginning this show was quite hard to get used to, not the enterprise, a wormhole, no ‘engage’. And i think the first few seasons had its ups and downs but also contained some of the best episodes of any show i can remember.

This show really took of when they encountered an alien race on the other side of the wormhole called the Dominion and set of the rest of the seasons which ended in a huge space battle which still looks great today. And the characters like Odo, O’Brian and Dax really grew on me.

Babylon 5

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor babylon 5

This is a bit of a strange show in the beginning with characters overacting a bit and similair to the premise of Star Trek Deep Space 9. But what was great about it was the continues implicit threat of the ‘Shadows’, the complex storytelling and the use of religion, prophecies, politics, social and racials issues in relation to choices the characters make.

It also contained sort of good special effects as most of it was CGI (space scenes) which was new for that time. But it was very addictive.

Space: Above and Beyond

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor space above and beyond

This show only ran for 1 season and stayed with me because of its grityness (if that’s a word) and the constant threat and pressure the main characters were under.

The ending was sudden due to poor ratings and left the main characters, dead, injured or missing in action. It reminds me a bit of Starship Trookers without the Paul Verhoeven touch.

Farscape

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor farscape

By far the weirdest show in this list and maybe in all sci-fi but once you got hooked it is a great ride. It starts of in a Buck Rogers-way with the main character getting stranded on the other side of the universe. Then it’s, sort of, all about getting back home with the help of the (living) Leviathan ship called Moya and it’s crew.

The quirky characters with their deep and rich backgrounds (and i had a small crush on Claudia Black) and the influence of the Jim Henson Company with the (large)puppets, made this a fantastic show and thanks to the fanbase this is one of the first shows that got a finale season after it got cancelled, in the form of a mini-series (Peacekeeper wars).

Stargate SG-1

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor stargate sg1

Stargate originally started as a movie with Kurt Russel and this show followed the story from the movie. It lasted 10 seasons (to many people’s surprise) i don’t think i watched every episode but the combination of Egyptian history/culture and the stargate which can take you all over the universe allows for fascinating storytelling.

Also Richard (McGyver) Dean Anderson as the main character was fantastic with his sense of humor, wit and leadership-vibe. The last few season saw two characters from Farscape make their introduction. Ben Browder and Claudia Black (still a small crush). Newer spin-offs never reached this level.

Battlestar Galactica

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor battlestar galactica

When i first saw the announcement of this show i was hopefull of something good. When i saw the premier (of the miniseries) i was blown away. This reincarnation puts way more focus on social and political issues. The characters evolve during the seasons from likeable to hatable and back. I think a lot of people were critical because Starback was portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, but in my opinion she was perfectly cast. Edward James Olmos (for me stil the captain from Miami Vice) was a fantastic Adama.

With the threat of the cyclons (new style) looming around every corner the show created an intense atmosphere and focussed on the effect that it had on the survivors which form a society with upper, middle and lowerclass citizens.

The style of filming the space scenes, with the shaking camera view (which they got from Babylon 5) made it more realistic and the design of the ships was very well thought out without loosing too much of the original designs. Most critizism came with the ending of the show, i won’t say what but if you like the Lost ending, you’ll like it.

The Expanse

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I picked up the first Expanse book and i was hooked right away and read all of them as soon as they came out. So i was excited when the ScyFy channels made this into a show and it hasn’t disappointed yet. This show was also saved by fans and Amazon picked it up which is great because they can spend a good amount of money to make a descent show with great special FX.

It’s a bit getting used to when you’ve read the books but the cast is great and Thomas Jane as detective Miller is a perfect fit. The space scene’s are filmed in the same style as Battlestar Galactica with the shaky camera and the show is praised for it’s realistic use of physics. I just finished watching season 4 and is seems that each season it gets better with the cast really finding their groove. If you are a scifi lover, don’t miss this one!

Honerable Mention

  • Firefly: didn’t really know it after i saw the movie adaptation called Serenity but a fun, western, cowboy style series.
  • Falling Skies: an apocalyptic ‘after-invasion’ series following a band of survivors, it had it’s ups and downs but overall worth it.
  • 100: started out as a teen sci-fi show but has grown tremendously the last seasons. Hope they don’t prolong the show too much but end on a high note.

Writing this blog almost makes me want to get all the Blu ray boxes of the shows mentioned above and in my previous blog. But that is very expensive and unfortunatly they are not on any streaming service (yet). Furthermore three news items regarding this topic:

  1. I hear Amazon is making Larry Nivens’ Ringworld novels into a series but that’s been two years ago. The books are great and full of ideas so it’s a hard thing to do right.
  2. Battlestar Galactica is getting a reboot, which they say is not a remake but what it will be….we’ll see
  3. I am an avid Dune fan (just reread all novels last year and amazing how relevant it still is today with regards to environment and politics) so i’m hoping for a great Dune movie out later this year. In additional they are making a Bene Gesserit series that ties directly into the movie. There is a lot of material to draw from, hopefully they

It was fun to write this (and previous) blog, sort of a trip down (long and short term) memory lane. Let’s see if my kids will enjoy some of the shows when they get a bit older.

My Favorite Sci-Fi series, Part I: The early years

Last night i watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard and i thought it was amazing, great acting by Patrick Stewart and high production value, intriguing plot and lots of fun and nostalgic references to Star Trek: The Next Generation (STNG). It got me thinking about the reasons why i’m into sci-fi and what influenced me. Besides the fact that my father took me to E.T. and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes at a very young age (before i was 10) there were also some, at least in my mind and memory, great sci-fi shows that steered me towards sci-fi and i wanted to write a blog about it so here goes.

Here are my top favorite sci-fi shows (incl. Cartoons) from when i was a kid:

Starfleet

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This show somehow laid the foundation for my love for sci-fi and as a young kid i was fascinated by it. It had everything, vehicles that could join to create a robot (dai-x), a cool spaceship (X-bomber), relatable characters, a great story, and, in hindsight quite some emotional depth. Also Queens’ gitarist Brian May wrote a song for (or about) his show.

I actually bought the Blu-ray set a few years back and it still resonated with me. Sure, the FX were a bit dated but i felt like that kid again. With all the CGI animated shows nowadays i wonder how my kids would react to it, so i think i might give it a go.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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This show was part of a sunday morning show called ‘Cartoon Network’ with the great Ray Cokes as host and i just loved the vehicles, classic good vs evil, and a story about a kid in search for his father. The characters were also fun to watch and the tune of the show was very catchy. Although i think i lost track of the overall story arc at one point and can’t quite remember how it ended, it still remains a favorite.

Ulysses 31

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This show was great for a few reasons but the combination of greek mythology (although at the time i wasn’t quite aware of it) and sci-fi was brilliant. And especially the story and the mood of the show was mesmorizing, you almost felt the pain and suffering of the punishment the main character had to face.

I think i saw the ending but can’t remember it clearly but again, hearing the tune brings back memories. This is a show that could be made into a great movie.

Transformers

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No sci-fi list is complete without Transformers. Although there have been many reincarnations the original is still the greatest in terms of storylines and likeble and relatable characters. The ending story with unicron and the ‘death’ of Optimus Prime was chilling and great. And i’d recognize the transform-sound anywhere.

I think i watched Transformers Beast Wars later in life but it lacked the vibe of the original. Last year though there was an online youtube reincarnation which was quite good and was a continuance of where the original show left of in CGI form including the original characters such as Megatron and Starscream and Soundwave.

Robotech

Gerelateerde afbeelding
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Together with the anime Akira and Neon Genesis: Evangelion, this show sucked me into the anime/manga type series. I remember coming home from middleschool, running upstairs and turning on the small TV in my parents room to watch this show. The ships and vehicles were amazing, the fighters and the SDF-1 (main battleship) that could transform were great.

But the overall story-arc behind show is what made it great and it had everything, laugther, exitement, romantic involvement, death, loss. So i think it was a series with lots of ‘adult’ themes. And i think for me this was the first show where not everything ended up well. But have a look yourself.

They made a full movie of the series and there were a few follow up series, some good, some not so. If you want to know about the history click here. There was talk about an actual real-life movie and there seems some progress so i’m hoping this will work but hopefully more faithfull to the series than Michael Bay did with Transformers.

Space: 1999

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The thing is when i started writing this blog, this old serie kept popping up in my mind. I have no clear recollection of it except for the fact that it somehow stayed with me. So should it be on this list? Maybe not but it had an influence and it’s my list :-).

Battlestar Galactica

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The first time i came into contact with this show was at a friends house who’s father had a bootleg VHS tape of the movie. And after watching that i was hooked. Especially with regards to the design of the Galactica which is basically a redesigned aircarft carrier in space. But i remember making a model of it with my Lego at that time and that kept me busy for hours.

The serie itself was full of great characters like Adama and Starbuck and the cylons were both haunting and fascinating with their robot voices saying ‘by your command‘. This version of the show ended i think with the ‘death’ of Starbuck and had a follow up series where they found Earth but i couldn’t bare watching it.

ps: the new incarnation is also one of my favorites but that’s for part II of this blog.

Honerable mentions

  • Neon Genesis: Evangelion: like many anime, very weird, sometimes dark and usually about a father and a son and lots of psychological aspects. Plus the robot design and main theme were fantastic.
  • Blake’s 7: this was a show from early in my childhood, can’t remember much but was one of the first real-life sci-fi show i saw.
  • Thundercats: man/woman-cats/tigers with cool tech and a great tune, ‘thundercats hooo’!

If you grew up in the eighties the list from IMDB is great for nostalgia purposes.

Next time i’ll tell you about the sci-fi series that got to me later on in life. So what were your favorite sci-fi series from your childhood?

Netflix Health Documentaries

Due to my battle with graves disease i’m trying to read related papers, blogs, etc…and watch youtube video’s. I came across a ‘teaser’ for the Netflix documentary The Game Changer and decided to watch it. Based on that, Netflix recommended me ‘What the health‘ and ‘Heal‘. After watching these 3 documentaries i had some thoughts i wanted to write down and share.

The Game Changer

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This documentary caught my attention because of the people involved and focussed on the question ‘do you need meat for your protein’ with an emphasis on athletisism. The conclusion was ‘absolutely not’, animals get their protein from plants and simply are a ‘vessel’ to transfer protein to us through the products we make of and are produced by animals. Let’s take out the middleman/animal and start eating plants ourselves.

There was loads of starpower involved with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Chan, etc.. It had some great points regarding the marketing power of meat and related industries how and that came about. The story about the fire-department and how changes in diet helped them, was well told. But in all honesty, getting Americans to eat a bit more vegetables and spend less time at fast food places would also have done the job (to a certain point).

Unfortunatly it didn’t go into the nutritional value of fish, just that due to pollution fish could be unhealthy. But the interviews with people from the medical and scientific field were very informative. Well made and very inspiring. Although don’t think that people like Arnold don’t enjoy a nice piece of steak now and again.

Heal

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This is more of an esotherical documentary about the power of the mind in relation to health and sickness. It showed some powerfull stories of people with diseases and/or problems. If you don’t believe in this stuff, you can still appreciate the documentary and how things are told. But if you’re looking for scientific validation of the body-mind hypothesis, then this is not the documentary you’re looking for.

What the Health

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This documentary focussed more on the ‘ethical’ aspect of the food, and specifically, the meat industry and you get shown some pretty grewsome footage and some astounding political and financial entanglement of the organisations that should be protecting the consumers. But also some inspiring stories of (sick) people who started to cut meat and other animals products from their diet and the changes that occured.

It touched on most of the same points that the Game Changer documentary had, like ‘do you need meat’, so it felt a bit like a deja-vu. But i was more fascinated by the political aspect and showed (just like John Oliver often does) that at least in America the so called trusted organizations are not as indepedent as they might seem and have a conflict of interest. But research and science require money and that sometimes makes for ‘strange’ bedfellows’.

And i think this might be one of the most critized documentaries, and lots of critizism has been critized. Have a look for yourself first

General Feel After Watching

After watching all three documentaries i felt conflicted about what to do with them, they all had a great story to tell but i felt they were also 1 dimensional (which is of course the producers/directors prerogative) in that in my opinion health is not just about food or just about mental health.

It’s a combination of all sorts of factors, environmental, social, mental, stress, genes, etc…

Optimism and purpose, a low stress level, a natural diet and an active lifestyle…experts say these factors are three times as important as your genetic makeup when it comes to enjoying a long and healthy life

https://internationalliving.com/top-5-healthiest-places-in-the-world/

So when you go vegan after watching these documentaries and expect to live healthy to the age of 120…you’re kidding yourself. It’s also most likely not the intent of the people who make them to focus on more than 1 or 2 dimensions, but the documentaries are used in (heated) discussions about what’s right and wrong. That’s were you have to be cautious and make up your own mind.

‘Heal’ is even more 1 dimensional, although i think there definitly is something to the body-mind connection (in essence stress in my opinion), it sort of let’s you think that if you can ‘let go’ and ‘be at peace’ that you can cure cancer. And although it has worked for the person depicted in the documentary it does not mean it works for everybody. It’s like when people are shown who ‘healed’ themselves by believing and trusting, but they do not show the millions of people who believed and trusted just as hard (or even more) but didn’t make it. Again, try and judge for yourself, but be very critical about what you are shown.

Also the science behind especially what was shown on Game Changer was not very scientific. I know they have very little time to explain the science and i’ve watched some youtube video’s which shows that a large part of the science has a lot of merit and is backed by research. But when you show an experiment with 3 people eating ‘meat’-dinner 1 night, and ‘vegan’ the next, and then show a vile of blood (or time of erection during the second experiment) of which 1 was more blurry is not real science. First of all, what did these people eat and do the rest of the day? Second, what does ‘blurry’ really mean, at no point is explained that ‘blurry’=bad, that’s insinuated. The intention is good and you can learn from it and be inspired but again…be critical about what they show you and read up about it.

Meat

Regarding The Game Changer and What the Health, i was even more triggered to rethink the way i look at and deal with meat and other animal products (although i was already skipping all cow-products). So i tried looking at it from a few angles:

  • Ethical: what is the impact of the meat/animal industry on the environment and how does that effect me, my family and the world;
  • General Nutritional Value: does meat or other animals products have nutritional value (beside protein) that is usefull;
  • Do i need it: this is more about if there are enough (tasty) alternatives for meat and if they can support me with staying healthy and fit.

To make it short: i value people who produce food very highly but they are a big part of the solution regarding environmental and (drink) water issues, that is mostly because by (lazy) consumer behaviour. We live in a mass consumer/producer world which we need to change for the better otherwise our world will be a lot less ‘friendly’. And since most changes start with yourself, we decided to reduce our meat-intake and eat meatless at least 3-4 times week. Alternatives like Tofu, Tempeh, meatless meat are on the rise and get better all the time. My kids still have to get used to a selfmade chickpeas, blackbeans burger but i’ll get there.

Regarding the other dimensions, i won’t skip meat all together. I like it too much, it has nutritional value and and the foodindustry can be changed into a more ethical and conscientiousness industry….but that takes time, lots of discussions and patience. Luckily there is also hope from scientific research into things like meat from stemcells (and 1) and from companies Beyond Meat and Burger King to even convince the carnivors amongst us to give the alternative a try. I know i don’t need it for staying healhy, there are enough alternatives do create a diverse diet and i integrate them more and more so maybe in a few years we will be meatless up to 6 times a week.

Eggs

At one point i got crazy about if eggs are good or bad for you, seems like half of the world is pro and the other anti. My brother, who also watched ‘What the Health’ is skipping eggs all together. I like eggs and as far as i can tell, just as with everything, if your moderate with your intake (3 to 4 eggs a week), you’re good. I like this quote from an article about egg-research:

“The main message for the public is not to select a single type of food as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but to evaluate your total diet in terms of variety and amount.”

https://www.statnews.com/2019/03/15/are-eggs-good-or-bad-for-you-new-research-rekindles-the-debate/

Final Note

These type of documentaries can be inspiring and informative but if you take what they show and tell at face value without a critical thought than you delude yourself. Always try to look at them from different angels, try to find some criticism and decide for yourself on what is true and how you want to proceed. Nevertheless, always try to learn from others and try things out. Eating less meat and more plants, less cheese and more nuts&seeds, never hurt anyone….i think.

I intend to watch some more documentaries like Fork over Knifes and The Magic Pill just to get other perspectives and educate myself on these topics. Try one of them yourself, never stop learning.

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 4

In my previous blogs [1, 2 and 3] i wrote about my battle from a personal perspective, and also with the idea that it might help some people recognize symptoms and/or have a kindred spirit. This blog is an extension of my journey but focussed more on what i did (and still doing) to fight of the disease. It’s not a ‘you must do this as well’-blog, just a story about what i did and what got me to do it.

The Thyroid Connection

After my second encounter with Graves i was disappointed that my work hadn’t paid of but still believed there were other ways which i hadn’t tried or known about. One book in particulair got me on a new path: Amy Myers’ The Thyroid Connection. Although it’s a typical american style book with lots of marketing, it did lay out a few things regarding the disease and health, and specifically the ‘gut’. The most intriguing aspect was about the health of the microbiome in the gut in combination with molecular mimicry and the relation to auto-immune diseases. Here’s a quote from her book:

There are several other food proteins, such as casein in dairy, that have a similar molecular structure to gluten. Because of this molecular mimicry, when you eat dairy your body can get confused and think you just ate a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction.

So basically gluten can cause a leaky gut which allows foodmolecules into your bloodstream and specifically gluten and casein proteins are similair in sequence to thyriod tissue so your auto-immune system gets fooled and reacts in a wrong way. It’s a theory but i found multiple resources explaining this process so there is something to it. Based on this book and some other resources i wanted to test a few things.

Getting into testmodus

I did the following tests:

  • Do i have Celiac diseas (Coeliakie): negative;
  • Do i have a vitamine B12 deficiency anemia in combination with a problem with the intrinsic factor: negative & negative. I did this one because my B12 measurements always declined after a while. Even the last measurement showed a decline so i’m taking B12 shots every other month again;
  • Do i have any food allergies/intolerance: the result was that i had a ‘medium’ level of intolerance for grains & cowdairy (and black pepper);
  • How is the microbiome in my gut’ by means of a stool-test: the result was pretty bad.

In the meanwhile i also consulted a dietician (who helped me with the food allergy test) and decided to go ‘cold-turkey’ on gluten and dairy, sort of an elimination-diet. And then you find out how many products that stuff is in :-(. Anyways, the idea of that diet is to eliminate any obvious culprits from your diet, see how you react and then after a while, 1 by 1 add types of food you eliminated and see how you react for each added foodtype.

Based on the stool-test she also advised prebiotics and probiotics to support the gut. For prebiotics i took acaciafibers. I started this way of eating and supplementing in april of 2019 and, as of today, have followed it quite strictly (although have downgraded the pre and probiotics in december):

  • make my own lunch during weekdays, usually something with vegetables, rice, sweetpotato, fish (tuna);
  • when i eat at a restaurant i always ask if they support my diet, and most do very well;
  • make my own snacks (e.g. banana or applesauce cake/bread);
  • no more cookies, sweets, chocolate, most chips or anything that you used to nibble on at home or at parties;
  • look for recipies to mix it up like glutenfree pancakes or selfmade pizza;
  • replaced ingredients with glutenfree variants such as pasta (although that was disappointing), couscous and oatmeal.

I’m still trying to vary and look for new things, sometimes it’s a bit hard but overall the transition was quite smooth. I do miss a good pizza or pasta or a croissant (which i had to do without during our last vacation in France) but the number of glutenfree products has increased immensly and, although more expensive, are not too bad.

The Effect

Almost within a week i started noticing a difference, especially in the gut which used to be ‘active’ and noisy. But that (mostly) went away after a short period. I also used to have a mild form of acne on my face and that also (almost) vanished. Another aspect was that i started to get a bit leaner because i lost some bodyfat. I think mostly from not eating dairy products and cookies/chips/etc.. Off to a good start but that still didn’t mean i solved Graves disease, the thing is though, you can never really know untill you die and never had it again.

As measuring is knowing, i wanted to do a few more tests. 1 Test, which my dietician advised, was to check for antibodies TSH receptors. Lots of thyroid-diseases are caused by auto-antibodies. They are created when the immunesystem accidentally sees thyroidcells as ‘alien’ to your body and starts creating antibodies to destroy these cells. So a high count is bad, low count is good. I did take some convincing the endicrinologist, most likely an insurance thing, but she eventually agreed. I took this test on the first of august. As you can see below the 2 measurements before my diet where above the norm, the last measurement was very low which is a good thing.

Now to be clear, you still can’t say with certainty that the diet caused this, but frankly i don’t know what else did. Too bad you can’t A/B-test yourself.

After the summer vacation i also did another stool-test, it showed quite some improvements but not as good as we hoped. So we upped to dosage for pre and probiotics. Unfortunatly these stooltest are not insured and you have to pay for them yourself. They cost about 150 euro, so i’m not eager to do it again but it does give you a good status about the microbiome in your gut.

When starting the diet the idea was to start adding stuff back. The only thing i’ve experimented with was goat-cheese. It’s hard to really blame that product but everytime i took it my gut was ‘off’ a few days. Still have to experiment a bit but gluten and dairyproducts won’t come back anytime soon.

Stopping the Medication

After summer we also decided to stop with the medication. I was on the lowest possible dosage of strumazol and the results were good. In the pictures below you can see my test results for the 2 things they usually test for, TSH and Free T4 (vrij T4). One thing to note is that on 19-10-2018 my free T4 was very low, almost having the effect of a too slow thyroid which is the opposite. To my surpise i was not called by anyone, most likely because it still falls within the 9-25 category, but this was (again) disappointing. I called them myself and based on that i lowered the dosage.

The last 2 measurements were a bit ‘scary’ to me. The free T4 was up 1.3 from the last measurement but still in the middle. The thing that worried me a bit was the TSH which went down significantly and was grazing the lower boundary. The good thing is that both measurements were stable but i’m hoping the next one shows a bit higher TSH value.

Based on the last measurement we agreed that the next measurement will be done in february (2020), so fingers crossed.

Gypsywort

In november and december i didn’t feel too well, i didn’t sleep well and my energy was very low. I also lost a bit of weight (from 99 to 95/6) so i was stressed that Graves was rearing it’s ugly head. But the measurement from end of november was ‘good’ and my weight was sort of steady at 95. It could still be that things were moving a bit too fast but not fast enough for the ‘norm. And that could be a result of my body still adapting to no medication (woman who just a child still feel the effects of hormones up to a year later).

I still wanted to have a chat with the orthomoleculair doctor and get his perspective. His view was is that you have to listen to the patient, if the patients isn’t feeling well then there’s something wrong, even when the results are good (or not bad). Another patient of his for a few years had the same thing i had and was prescribed the same supplements. But what he also added was something called Gypsywort (wolfspoot) which according to some sources can help with thyriod problems and it helped that patient for a few years (or at least kept Graves away). I’m not a big believer in the homeopathic way but nonetheless it seems that some people are helped by it (or at least believe that it helps) and i do believe in the power of (some) plants. So i thought i’d give it a try.

I have been taking it for a week and a half, and it’s hard to tell but i do feel a bit better. But it can also be the extended vacation i’m taking to get some rest from work and time for myself. So the jury is still out on this one.

(Bad) Experience

This journey has been very expensive, i think i have spent about 2500-3500 euros in the last 2 years on supplements, (blood/stool/allergy) tests, visits to non or-partly insured practitioners. Has it been worth it…..i’ll tell you when i’m dead…..at 100 years old 🙂

The experience with the medical world has been disappointing so far. If you break a leg they are the first ones to go to, but if you have something like an auto-immune disease they might help get rid of some lifethreatening symptoms, but actually healing you is out of their league. The seem to be restricted by their education and just follow a protocol and/or insurence related aspect. I’m not saying it’s that way for all doctors and have read stories that also show the opposite but this is my experience. My advice is to be critical and read up on stuff and, you are the patients and it’s your body and life!

What’s next

One thing that i want to do more with is ‘stress’, which can also lead to several (auto-immune) diseases. Things like mindfulness, meditation, even if it’s just 10-15 a few times a week. I’ve tried it a few times the last months and it feels more relaxed afterwards.

Lastly, i have to deal with Graves for the rest of my life. Period. And whatever i do i won’t know if it works. I will know if it doesn’t, what specifically didn’t work then or why….no one can really explain. But i want to keep my thyroid intact. So i will continue to search and measure and in a few months will write about the results.