This blog provides encouragement to people who are beginning training, returning to training, going through physical therapy, or recovering from injury. I'm not selling anything here, I just like giving, and getting, encouragement!

Brain trauma: from hallucinations to optical illusions

As someone who will spending the rest of my life recovering from brain trauma, I realize that things aren't always what they seem. Fifteen years ago I hallucinated freely, and can vividly remember it, and even nowadays I get "optical illusions", which are common to everyone, but still worry me a little bit.

Without going into any gory detail, my damage was to my cerebellum. That's the "little brain" that sits under your big brain, which is called the cerebrum. The cerebrum is where you store information, like the names of Civil War Generals, and how to use software, which I never lost for an instant. Unfortunately, everything has to go through the little brain, and that's what causes the confusion, which is often resolved very quickly, sometimes in just a heartbeat. But it's a disconcerting heartbeat!

In Intensive Care I know that I was hallucinating. I distinctly remember a little girl, dressed in an 19th century gown, crouching next to my bed. I suppose my brain imagined that it was a ghost. I definitely remember thinking that it wasn't very professional for a nice big fancy hospital to allow 19th century little girls (who I believe was black-and-white) to be in the room. There were also demonic images on the TV. I asked a friend of mine why in the world they would be showing these horrible images on the TV, and he assured me that it was just nice scenery. But I saw the monsters, who formed in the landscapes. Of course I knew that it couldn't be true, but at the time my brain insisted on it.

When I was a kid I enjoyed looking at optical illusions. I loved that my brain could be so quickly fooled into believing that there was a polar bear in a photo by a swimming pool, even though intellectually I knew that it couldn't be true. And it's because your brain is in a big hurry to understand. And those snap judgements can be way wrong. Mostly they're corrected in an instant, sometimes it takes a while. The longer it takes to resolve an optical illusion, the more your cerebellum doesn't want to give up to your cerebrum. That is, your emotional brain wants to argue with your intellectual brain. Polar bears by the swimming pool? Really?

You don't have to be in Intensive Care to suffer brain damage. Your brain, like the rest of your body, suffers from fatigue. I'm not saying that you'll begin to hallucinate if you don't get enough rest, but the amount of optical illusions will increase. There are people who enjoy this sensation, which can be amplified with alcohol, and drugs. Personally, I dislike it, and I struggle to stay away from optical illusions. I've seen enough.

Why you should do resistance training, not weight lifting

There's a difference between weight lifting and resistance training. And choosing one over the other has to do with your goals. I'll see if I can explain.

To be fair, weight lifting is a form of resistance training. That is, you're resisting the force of gravity by picking up heavy stuff. Most guys just love doing this. They love the feeling of accomplishment when something heavy breaks free of the earth and begins to rise. Watch guys doing deadlifts, and you'll see what I mean. If your first thought is, "Why don't they just use a forklift?", well, you're missing the point. That's weight lifting. Heck, I've even known people who love to pick up really heavy rocks. I had a friend in High School who enjoyed grabbing a fender of a car and lifting up (back to the car, and it can be done, depending on which wheel you're at, and what type of car it is).

Weight lifting is a very satisfying feeling. You go from barely being able to moving a weight, and you keep at it, and at some point it moves. Then it gets easy, and you attack a heavier weight. It's about strength. And it's why guys ask each other "What do you bench?" because it's a way to measure strength. It's all about the numbers.

Resistance training, which is what I do, is different. It mostly looks the same when you see me at the gym, but the goal isn't pure raw strength, it's muscle. If it seems strange to you, it just has to do with how muscle is formed on your body. It's formed by placing demands. And yes, of course you'll develop muscle by doing weight lifting, but not nearly as much as by doing resistance training.

If you're still confused, consider this: a weight lifter will find the most efficient way to lift a weight. Someone who is resistance training will find the least efficient way. Resistance training puts your body at odd angles in order to target a particular muscle.

The gym where I workout is a Fitness Center at my Community College. It's wonderful for resistance training, but not so good for weight lifting. There's a separate gym with heavy metal, which is used mostly by the football team. Football players don't just need to be muscular, they need to be strong.

If your goal is to lose weight and build muscle, I recommend resistance training. Resistance training builds a "Hollywood Body". If you go to a gym and someone starts talking about weight lifting, and asking how much you bench, just smile and walk away from them. Their goals are different from yours.

Why black and dark grey clothing is so popular nowadays

As of this writing, black and dark grey clothing is VERY popular, very much in fashion, and very much in style.

The reason for this is that it really is true that black clothing is slimming. Black and dark grey clothing shows less of unsightly bulges, which a lot of people have. And black will look great on you, whether you're fat or slim, and especially if you're fat.

It's no secret that people have been getting fatter in the last few years. And I'm not talking about being terribly overweight, I just mean that more and more people are what my Grandmother used to call "pleasingly plump". And light colored clothing just makes these people look plumper, and it also tends to show off bulges, like round bellies, more.

I noticed the amount of black, dark grey, and other dark colors in my wardrobe recently because I've been thinking more about visibility on my recumbent trike. And since I've been getting lighter and brighter-colored clothing, I notice that it does make me look fatter (even though I'm not particularly fat). And it does make me seem out of step with fashion.

At the Fitness Center today I made mental notes of the amount of black being worn by people. The younger and more athletic people tended to wear brighter colors, but by far most of the people wore black and grey. Two people walked past me, on their way to an office, and they were both wearing black shirts and black pants. In any other color combination they would have looked kinda silly, as if they were on the same team, but with black being so popular it didn't seem strange at all.

Personally, I've decided to redesign my casual wardrobe around my school colors, which are maroon and gold. I noticed that most of the clothing offered for men, even with my school logo on it, are mostly grey, and black. The maroon and gold is just added on, or it's it's mostly maroon, which is a dark reddish purple. I bought a gold shirt with the logo on it yesterday and it's bright! I also have a gold hat, with the logo on it. They're available, but most people prefer black and grey.

When I had a corporate job I wore a shirt and tie. My suits were either grey or dark blue. My shirts were usually white. The only splash of color that men were allowed was in the tie, and even then it really couldn't be too colorful. But a black and grey world just seems kinda sad. It's as if everyone just wants to fade into the background. When the Ford Model T was first introduced, it was only offered in Black. Chevrolet started offering colors, and they were a hit!

So if you're brave enough to wear some color, go for it. In the grey world around you, you won't have to be all that colorful to really stand out. And color really shows off a fit body, you know!