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What I learned from my recent appendectomy

Happy Saturday my friends! I hope you had an amazing week thus far and your weekend is even greater! My weekend? Let’s just say it has had a unique start. I underwent an appendectomy!

I was chuckling during this pre-operation selfie. I told the surgical team, “thanks for protecting my beautiful head full of hair.” (I’m nearly bald for those who didn’t know.)

No matter how big or small, I always try to find a lesson in each of life’s circumstances. So what could I have possibly learned from an appendectomy? Well, the first thing I learned is that seeing a medical professional early on can make a huge difference. This was the first time in my life that I did not attempt to “tough it out.” The medical professionals were able to fix the issue in the early stages (before the infection in my appendix worsened and rupturing became a threat). But there was a larger life lesson.

The life lesson: We must quickly address life’s hurts and pains.

Let’s backtrack for a second: I woke up this past Thursday feeling normal. I went through my morning routine and showed up at the gym at 6 am for my one hour Yoga session. Such a relaxing start to the day ☺️. As the morning progressed, I began to feel a small pain/discomfort in my stomach. I initially thought it was nothing more than gas (sorry if that is TMI 😬), but I wasn’t so sure anymore by the time I arrived at work. It was getting worse throughout the day, but I was reluctant to express this feeling to my peers. After all, they probably already assumed it was COVID, so I did not want to cause alarm. There was no hiding it, because I am always jovial; striving to be the one to bring brightness to the room. Contrarily, I was quiet, withdrawn, and exhausted. One of my colleagues even said, “Are you ok?…You look like you are really hurting.”

Luckily, I was responsible for picking my son up from school that day, so I had an excuse to leave early. When I made it home, I laid on the couch and slept. I tossed. I turned. I tried lying upside down. I took Tums… Anything to relieve what I thought was simply “trapped gas.” That evening, I told my wife the words that let her know I was actually in pain, “I am going to the doctor in the morning to see what is wrong.” She knows I HATE hospitals, so she knew it must have been serious.

I arrived at the hospital Friday morning, still playing the tough guy role. I imagined they would hand me something to quickly relieve the pressure in my stomach and allow me to go home. At this point, I just wanted to “rule out appendicitis.” I mean seriously, my phone was on 40%, and I left my charger in my vehicle; I just knew this visit would be short! I was wrong.

After reviewing the Computed tomography (CT) scan, the surgical team came into the room to confirm I had appendicitis (a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus, causing pain. Source: Mayo Clinic). Thankfully, I sought help early enough to avoid a rupture. The surgical team presented me with two options:

1. Take antibiotics to “hopefully” reduce the inflammation.

2. Remove the appendix to eliminate the chance of reinfection.

I chose the latter, and the rest is history.

Why did I share that entire story?

I was able to identify several parallels between my life and my recent experience.

1. Pain is an indication of something more serious. Sometimes we become so accustomed to emotional hurt and pain that we ignore it. We consider ourselves “lone wolves.” We “tough it out” because we do not want to look weak. We mask our pain. We pretend we are ok. We attempt to become numb to the pain. We ignore it in hopes that it will go away. The downside is it does not go away; it just intensifies. Then, we find ourselves attempting to treat the symptoms with things that may cause the pain to temporarily subside only to find that the pain only increases–requiring more temporary treatment measures. We focus more on covering/treating the pain than identifying the root cause.

2. Though they can see straight through our ruse, we attempt to hide our pain from others. I knew I needed to bounce back after the first time my colleague asked, “are you ok?” So I ran to the store and grabbed tums and ginger ale. After about 30 minutes I said, “I feel much better after my Tums, ginger ale, and [lightly salted] veggie chips!” I said it in such a way that I even started to believe it. I told an occasional joke or two to throw him off. Meanwhile, the pain was worsening, and he wasn’t fooled. How often do we do this? Instead of admitting we are in pain and seeking help (or allowing others to help), we attempt to hide it. “I’ll be ok.” “I was built for this!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body, right?” Those are just a few of my go-to quotes. What are yours? Regardless, no one is falling for it anyway, so why not just get the help we need?

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.

J.K. Rowling

3. I got the help I needed. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I challenged myself to do something different this time. I decided I would get help instead of self-medicating. I am so glad I did. The surgical team informed me that my case was worse than they originally assessed via CT scan. Meaning, had I not gotten it taken care of, I risked rupturing my appendix (potentially fatal). We should normalize seeking professional help. Attempting to self-medicate our problems tend to make things worse. I learned this from previous injuries, and I am encouraging you to do the same. Do not try to do this on your own. Stop trying to hide or mask the pain and get the help you need to remove the root cause. Which moves to my last point:

4. You must address the root cause. When the surgical team presented me with options, I felt the answer was obvious. To me, Option A was: The surgical team would immediately treat the symptoms in hopes that the problem would not resurface. Option B was: The surgical team would remove the root cause which will immediately hurt more but has a greater chance of preventing future pain (reinfection). I chose the latter because that option addressed the root cause–my infected appendix. Simply reducing inflammation would have led to temporary relief. Chances are I would have returned to the hospital with the same pain in the future. So yes, I exposed myself to risks and pain associated with surgical removal, but in the long term, I do not have to worry about my appendix becoming reinfected… Because it is gone. Addressing the root of the pain was the right answer for me, and I believe it is the right answer for all of us. Healing and recovery may hurt and take time, but I will confidently endure knowing I made the best long-term decision for my health.

I know facing hurt and pain is a challenge for all of us. It can be scary and make feel vulnerable and weak. However, we must address the root cause of our pains if we want to live a healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Today is your day. This is your sign. Allow me to be your friend today who is pointing you towards seeking help. We can do this together. I believe in you!

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling author

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Captain O’s Pull-up Program

How to increase your pull-ups and upper-body strength in 30 days!

**Disclaimers: 1. I am not a trainer. I am just sharing what worked for me. 2. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.**

We Marines love our pull-ups! Every year we do a Physical Fitness Test (PFT), and one of the three events is the dead hang pull-up. The number of required pull-ups for the maximum score is based upon your age. At my age, you have to do 23 correct repetitions (reps) to get a perfect score on this portion of the PFT. I usually can comfortably do anywhere between 30-40 reps.

This is the program I used to go from 7 pull-ups to 30-40 pull-ups! (Not in 30 days, but over time). You should expect to increase somewhere between 3-8 pull-ups in the next 30 days. Everyone’s body is different.

This guy could only do 7 pull-ups! πŸ‘‡πŸΎ

(I took this picture and made this “magazine cover” as a freshman in college… I do not know why. Don’t judge me! πŸ˜«πŸ˜‚)

I designed this 4-week pull-up program for a Marine that was getting between 12-16 reps with the goal of getting him to 23! Although I absolutely love the gym, he had very few weights and mostly resistance bands. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! So, I designed this moderate-advanced workout with those factors in mind.

You do not have to be a Marine to do pull-ups (or complete my program). In fact, pull-ups are an excellent upper body exercise if done right! Remember, physical toughness is one of our Pillars of Fortitude. Enough talking…

Welcome to my gym! Get Ready to BRING IT! πŸ’ͺ🏾

I will introduce to you the first four weeks of this workout plan. Here are some general rules to remember throughout:

*Do not use negative words in my gym… ESPECIALLY the word “can’t!” You can, and you will! You are mentally, spiritually, and physically strong.

*Work your core every other day. Strong core muscles are critical to doing a proper pull-up! I personally like doing 3 rounds of 3 sets of 15-20 reps of my favorite core exercises.

*As required, do 10 second weighted negative pull-ups to reach rep count. I get it! Your muscles are super tired. You just need to go shower, lie on the couch, and binge watch your favorite show. Not today! Finish every set! If you feel like you have maxed out on the amount of reps you can do, start doing “negatives.” Meaning, start off at the top of the pull-up, and slowly lower yourself down. Click here for more tips on negative pull-ups.

*Pause reps are done at the “top” of the motion unless otherwise indicated. Squeeze the targeted muscle group.

*Always engage core during pullups.

*Slow and smooth reps. Think “jazz” not “heavy metal.”

*I use the term “pull-up” very loosely. I want you to do CHEST ups! None of that “chin barely going above the bar” stuff.

*Warm up, cool down, remain hydrated, fuel your body with the proper nutrition, and have fun!

*Record your max reps before starting the program and after finishing the program.

*I recommend adding at least 3 cardio sessions for at least 30 mins a day. Also, I recommend adding a recovery day between each of the below workout days.

Let’s Get to Work!

Shoulder Day (Day 1):

1. Endurance set:

–2 sets of Max reps–2 min ammo can/military press (90 sec break in between sets). For reference, a military ammo can is normally 30-50 lbs. You can use a sandbag, gallon of water, whatever you’d like.

2. Front raises (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).

— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

3. Upright row (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).

— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

4. Close grip (6 inches or less between hands) underhand pullups (bar to upper chest). (2 second pause rep at the top)

— 4 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

5. Lat Raises (2 sec pause with resistance bands)

–4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)

Arm Day (Day 2):

1. Endurance set:

–2 sets of Max reps 2 min close grip pushups (90 sec break between sets)

2. Bicep curl:

–5 sets of 8-10 reps (3 sec pause rep with resistance bands or dumbbells).

3. Underhand pullups (12 inches between hands–bar to upper chest). (2 sec pause rep at the bottom)

–5 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

4. Superset!

4a. Deep Weighted chair dips (1 sec pause rep at top)

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

4b. Tennis ball grip squeezes (5 sec rep pauses–closed fist). I use “Captains of Crush Grippers).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

5. Tricep kick back (3 sec pause rep with resistance band or dumbbells).

–4 sets of 8-10 reps

*Bonus burnout!! πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ 60 sec (or max time) underhand flexed arm hang.

Back Day (Day 3):

1. Endurance set:

–Round 1: 6 reps of 15 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(60 second break)

–Round 2: 5 reps of 10 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(80 sec break)

–Round 3: 4 reps of 5 sec overhand Pull-up negatives

(90 sec break)

2. Superset!

2a. Overhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

2b. Underhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

3. Weighted wide grip overhand pullups (I use the plate carrier… With plates of course) *HEAVY, evenly distributed weight can be added.

*Try squeezing sandbag or other heavy weight between feet

— 6 sets of 6-8 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)

4. W Superman holds (3 sec pause reps)

–5 sets of 10-12 reps

(60-80 sec breaks between sets)

*Bonus Burnout!!: πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ Still got more in your tank??!

–3 sets of Max reps overhand pullups.

(90-120 sec breaks between sets)

That’s it! Like, comment, share, let me know what you think. Stay motivated! πŸ’ͺ🏾

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