Noël’s Apple Leek Pork Medallions

 

  • 1 lb(s), Pork – Fresh, loin, tenderloin, cooked, broiled
  • 1 Chopped 89gr, Leek Raw
  • 1 tbsp(s), Garlic – Raw
  • 2 tbsp(s), Oil – Olive
  • 1 Apple Medium, Granny Smith Apple
  • 0.25 cup(s), Wine – Table, red

Cut pork into medallions and sauté in olive oil on high until flesh is just brown. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until garlic becomes aromatic Add apples and sauté until tender, then add wine and lower heat. Cook for about five minutes and serve with another vegetable.

Excellent with broccoli.

Concern V. Concern Trolling

This article is part of a project to write 750 words a day for 100 days without breaking the chain. Today is my 100th day.

So, I can achieve goals. This is a happy thing, and it’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the difference between concern and concern trolling.

I have, a couple of times after a workout, been asked if I was okay. To put this in perspective. I am short. I am fat. I wear about a size 22 (US) in clothes. I am fair-skinned, which means that if I am working out hard my face gets red, yes, even in a pool. That’s never going to change no matter how much weight I lose or how athletic I become. It’s the way I am built. But, it becomes a big deal when someone assumes that the fat lady working out is a walking heart attack. As an aside, I just took my pulse. 66bpm. Lowish end of normal. Haven’t taken my blood pressure recently, but it was never high. I’m a swimmer, for pity’s sake. We tend to have lower blood pressure when we’re not trying to kill ourselves in endurance events.

A few weeks ago, I had someone (who I don’t know and haven’t seen in the gym since) say after my workout while I was drying my hair, “Are you okay? You know, maybe you’re pushing yourself too much. You ought to be careful about that.”

It got under my fingernails, and I can only say if you don’t believe fat people have self-control, keep in mind that I did simply say that I was fine and even smiled while I did it.

The reason it got under my fingernails is contrasted strongly by someone asking if I was okay after my workout today.

As some background, I hit the gym quite under slept. For whatever reason, I could NOT fall asleep early enough to get in my usual sleep ration and woke early even in spite of that. But I was feeling more zombie than chipper and I did kind of plod into the pool to get in my swim.

Normally when I swim, my pace is very steady throughout a set. My sets have specific patterns, and I work hard on good stroke technique throughout them.

Today wasn’t like that. I kept forgetting where I was in the middle of sets, my stroke form was off, I even inhaled some water and had to cough it out. Instead of jumping out of the pool and getting on with my day after my swim, I lingered in the water for a bit, rubbing my sleepy eyes and wishing I could just float for a while.

More background. This particular lifeguard is incredibly observant. She knows workout patterns, stroke styles, lane preferences, and even typical workout lengths for all of the swimming regulars. (This is way above and beyond what’s needed for a lifeguard, by the way. It’s more like what you’d look for in a coach). She *knew* what my normal workout looked like, and knew that today was a struggle.

When she asked me if I was okay, that wasn’t concern trolling. She knew what my swims looked like and could see that I was off today.

This is NOTHING like some stranger coming up to the fattest woman in the locker room who happens to still be a bit red in the face to give her advice on a workout she hasn’t seen.

Prickly as I am, I actually do appreciate concern. I really do. It felt nice to know that the lifeguard knew my workout patterns and was concerned enough to comment on a variation.

But the difference between concern and concern trolling in my mind has a lot to do with whether or not the person is qualified through expertise and observation to make that judgment. Even if that person in the locker room were a cardiologist (and don’t think she is, as I work at the hospital and know most of them on sight), she would not have had sufficient data on my workout patterns, heart rate, blood pressure or other factors to be able to make any sort of decent judgment about that. She saw a fat chick who was red in the face (I was no longer breathing hard, having showered and dressed) and decided to put in her two cents.

Concern is great, but for concern trolling, I wish those people would keep their yaps shut.

Goals, Strokes and Intervals

I’ve got a goal this year of reducing my swimming time from around a mile in 56 minutes to a mile in 40 minutes. I’m doing it because you should be able to do that comfortably in a pool before you start doing open water swims.

Swim workouts, like any workout with athletic improvement in mind, need to have some changing up component to it to keep the body challenged. If you do the same thing every time, it becomes a lot easier. Easy is often a legitimate goal, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not my particular goal.

So, I do some things to ensure changing up. Swimming sees its best improvement when you swim intervals. This means you’ll swim a distance as hard as you can, then another distance at an easier pace, switching things up throughout the workout. Yes, even marathon swimmers do this to train, even if steady is the goal when they get out on the open water.

For the past couple of weeks, my workout was either 1,000 yards or 1,200 yards swum in units of 100 yards with a length of breaststroke up, then swimming crawl back, then breaststroke up, then backstroke back. I’d sprint for the crawl because it’s a fast stroke.

As an aside, no the stroke is not actually freestyle, even if people often call it that now. Freestyle is an event in a swim meet, not a stroke. It is called freestyle because you are free to swim any stroke you wish. Most people choose the front crawl because it is the fastest stroke.

This was brought home to me when I was about six or seven at a swim meet. The event was the 16-18 year old men’s freestyle. We were swimming against a team that wasn’t quite as competitive as we were, and the Romagnoli boy swam the event *gasp* butterfly! The younger kids, including me, were freaking out, thinking that he’d be DQ’ed (disqualified) for swimming the wrong stroke even if he DID come in first, when the coach laughed and pointed out that freestyle means you can swim any stroke you want. Butterfly was a bit of a risk for the event, but he was very strong fly swimmer. Why not go for a challenge?

So, the stroke that you think of as freestyle is really the front crawl, ‘kay? And it’s a LOT faster than other strokes.

Those sets I was swimming, breast, free,* breast, back?

Today I decided to switch it up and swam free, breast, free, back. Instead of half my distance being breast stroke, half my distance became the front crawl. That 56:30 mile I’ve been side-eyeing? Today it was a 52:11 minute mile. (That was my pace, mind. I didn’t swim a whole mile).

So, why not just switch entirely to freestyle, right?

Wrong.

I could, but it wouldn’t be a great idea. That’s asking for a shoulder injury, and I’m not just doing this to get faster. The real reason my butt is in the pool is to get an efficient workout (swimming is good for cardio and full-body strength), and switching up the strokes means I work different muscle groups.

The other reason? That’s a little more embarrassing. I can do about 100 yards of the crawl before I get tired. The plan is to start working up to longer and longer distances of a single stroke as I get in better shape. My sets will stop being essentially a length of a particular stroke as I work up.

But there’s a lot to be said for essentially sprinting a length, then swimming another a slower stroke and alternating. That’s good, solid interval training, after all.

SwimgoalI also reached a goal today. I’d decided to try to swim ten miles in thirty days, and reached it about seven days early. I think my next goal needs to be a tad more ambitious. Since I swim a bit over half a mile a day, I think I’m going to make it a goal to swim 15 miles in the next thirty days. That’s more or less presuming I stick to my usual schedule, and a little bit over, so that I am going to have an impetus to bump up my yardage per workout in the next week or so.

Anyone else have any goals — fitness or not? I’m curious what people are challenging themselves with!
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* Yes, see, I think of it that way, too!

We’ve Got a Long Way to Go

Swam 1200 yards in 38:17 today.

This is slightly disheartening. I need to be swimming 1800 yards in that amount of time by around August 2016. And in the short term, I’m really not getting any faster. In fact, I seem to be getting slower rather than faster.

I keep pointing out to myself that the reality is that I need to be in the pool moving for half an hour five days a week. That’s the baseline and what I need for my health. Any sort of open water swim or anything like that is only useful if it’s going to keep me motivated and interested. If it gets me not working out, or burning me out, it’s not useful. It’s actually detrimental.

That said, I do want to do the Alcatraz swim. It sounds cool. I’ve been reading some open water swimmer accounts — things like accounts of swimming the English Channel. They’re pretty cool, but I am wondering how much good reading these accounts is really doing me. A Channel swimmer is the elite of the elite, my friends. It’s like the Everest of swimming. In point of fact, considerably more people have successfully reached the summit of Everest than have successfully crossed the Channel swimming. (I think it’s like a factor of five to one)

So, comparing myself to these people and their training could be inspiring, but it could also be unrealistically discouraging.

I’m a solid, strong swimmer. No doubt about that. Compared to the general population, I’m pretty damn good. But to do the Alcatraz swim, I can’t be comparing myself to the general population. I need to be reasonably good even by competitive swimmer standards.

The reality?

I’m slow as hell. That’s a problem when you’re dealing with tides, currents and other things that you cope with in open water swimming. I don’t mean like, a problem where the pace boat and crew are going to get bored type of problem. I mean like an “It can kill you” problem.

So yeah, looking at my increasingly slower times over the past couple of weeks does have me wondering if I can even DO this. Should I be dropping back to just swimming for half an hour every weekday morning and leaving it alone?

I could. I really could. There would be nothing wrong with that. I’d be getting the exercise my body needs, which is the whole point of me getting up at five in the morning to head to the pool.

And…

I don’t want to do that. I totally don’t. A mile and a damn half, even if it is in cold, open water with strong currents seems too damn doable for me to be able to let go of that. I doubt like hell I’d ever make a Channel swimmer, and that’s okay. It’s just that this seems too logically reasonable to let go of.

Then I look at my swimming pace times and wince and wince and wince.

It’s so early in the training, though. I mean, I just decided I wanted to do this a month ago, and I gave myself two blasted years to train for it. Maybe next year, if I haven’t improved enough to be reasonable, I could consider giving up, but it’d be silly to do so now.

What I’m really hoping is sometime in October 2015, I’m going to look at this entry and laugh my head off at how silly I was to be discouraged in a small backwards blip in the data. But the only way I can get there is to keep going.

That doesn’t entirely stop me from growling at my watch right now, or pushing to keep up with the lean, surfboard of a guy wearing flippers in the lane next to me, or wondering if I should be pumping iron to get my strength up, or feeling jealous of the dolphinlike grace of the kids doing their swim team workout in the lane on my other side.

I’m not even thinking about the cold showers and baths I’m going to have to start taking to get acclimated to cold water. I blot out the thought of marine life and possibly being attacked by a shark or seal.

I’m not even at a point where I need to even think about such things. I need to keep my eyes on 1800 yards in 40:00 minutes.

And in the words of Li Sheng, “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Harder than Heroic Effort

I’m not good at what I can only call a “tedious slog.” Short-term heroic effort? Hell yeah. Got that down and buddy it can be impressive.

There’s a downside to that. You’re either going all out, or you’re… Well, not. Going, that is.

What I am generally not good at, though I am trying very hard to learn, and getting better at, is patient dailyness. I can do the Big Huge Thing towards goals, but doing a little bit every day is much, much harder.

The problem is that over time, that little bit accomplishes much more than the periodic heroic efforts. The person who goes from no exercise at all to a marathon isn’t actually in better shape, long-term than the person who takes a walk every day. The person whose house goes from complete chaos to sparkling clean and staged for a real estate agent to show isn’t going to have a neater home, overall, than someone who does a little bit every day. The student who pulls the all-nighter doesn’t write a better paper than the student that breaks that up into increments, does a bit of writing every day and then goes on to do a bit of editing every day until the job is done.

I was in my late thirties before I really got started with the continual small effort thing v. Heroic Effort. It started with housework, which is really a fantastic place to start. I wanted a neat house, but nothing outrageous was really riding on it. Totally low-risk, which was perfect for this. I did a little bit every day, and forbade myself to put heroic effort into it. Over time, yes, my house is rarely more than fifteen minutes to a half an hour away from being okay with guests, and I wouldn’t die of embarrassment at any drop ins. When spaces get cluttered (a home is a dynamic process, not a showpiece, after all) I really do dedicate small amounts of time over a period of days to take care of them.

Where I am trying to apply this now is exercise. That’s a whole lot harder. For all that I am hardly slender, I do get interested gaining physical skills. You only have to look at a list of the physical things I’ve been into to realize that I’m all about the technical and easy to obsess about — dance, martial arts, swimming… They’re all activities that have a high level of technique, and experts at these activities really do dedicate hours a day to it.

But while the technical aspects are enough to keep me interested, my real goal isn’t mastering X skill. My real goal, as it pertains to exercise, is just to DO it for a half an hour to an hour a day five days a week. That’s IT.

I was thinking about it this morning when I was trying to decide if I wanted to swim today. I already did my M-F swims, but I was wondering what a mile would feel like and thinking, “Yeah, I have time today, I oughta try that!”

In reality? No, I shouldn’t. Not because it would be bad for me to swim a mile today. It totally wouldn’t. But it would be bad for me to give in to the obsession only to become tired of it next year. I need to be in the pool next year, too. This isn’t something like getting obsessed with Tudor history or lace knitting where I can put it down any time another shiny obsession takes my fancy. Working out can’t really be a hobby for me. For physical maintenance, I need to damn well be active for half an hour a day five days a week. I don’t even have to put Heroic Effort into it. I just have to show up and move.

Which circles back around to the consistent, daily effort. There is another thing that’s helping me learn that. You notice that I’m posting a lot more to my blog than I used to. I don’t post every day, but I do many days a week.

The reason I do is another small, daily practice. I write seven hundred fifty words a day as an exercise to keep my writing skills up. Some of those writing sessions are really more stream of consciousness pieces to write SOMETHING to get in my word count. But notice that as I do it consistently, the more valuable essays and stories actually happen.

It is the small, consistent, daily practice that builds up better into a lifetime of worthwhile work if you can make yourself do it.

Whoda thunk that it’d be harder than Heroic Effort?

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

I was checking out my swim times today. I had sworn I wasn’t going to be doing this, and that just getting in the half hour a day would be dandy.

And then I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to swim from Alcatraz Island to shore? It’s only a mile and a half, why not?”

It isn’t that insane of a swim. People do it all the time. There’s even a triathlon based around it.

But for me, it might be a bit of a challenge. The recommendation is that you should be able to swim a mile in 40 minutes comfortably in the pool before you attempt the swim. This makes sense. Tides are very strong, and you need to be a very strong swimmer to cope.

This morning I swam .68 of a mile in 37:36. That puts me at about a mile in 55:18.

Friends, I have to shave over fifteen minutes off my time before that Alcatraz swim is anything but a really dangerous pipe dream.

Thing is, getting to be able to swim faster isn’t all of it. I need to get a wetsuit, and then train for distance in 55-60F water. Yes, people do the swim without wetsuits sometimes. I’m not all that interested in becoming the next Lynne Cox and am wimping out on the fun of conditioning myself to cold water swimming without one.

Thing is, that does add to the training. First I need to get strong enough in my comfortable 78F pool, then I need to train for the actual conditions of the swim.

I am not an open water swimmer by any means. Not because of any real limitation, but simply from lack of training. So, I am going to be spending the next winter getting my speed up on my workouts, then will be spending the year after that training for cold water, and open water.

Seems kinda goofy to spend two years training for a mile and a half swim, but I’ve spent my entire life in and about the water. I knew before I was potty trained that the beautiful, wonderful pool out there past the sand was a LOT stronger than I am, and that you had to respect it. Not hyperbole. I was sitting in my grandmother’s lap as a toddler on the shore when an unexpected wave knocked us rolling. Fortunately my grandmother was comfortable in the water and made it an adventure rather than something scary. A lifetime of incidents large and small have given me a deep respect for water.

While I’m spending this year getting my swimming up to scratch, I am also going to be studying open water swimming in general, what people do to prepare and trying to find a team of people to work with — probably a local swim coach, if I can find someone with some open water experience. I’ve already Lynne Cox’s book on open water swimming and it has some good stuff in it. I’m glad I have read it so early into my toying with the idea of an Alcatraz swim. I figured that all it would take would be to get into shape and some conversations with some locals. While it’s not going to take the preparation an English Channel swim would take, I’m still going to need to do more research than I thought.

Could I dive in and swim a mile and a half in open water to save my life? Probably. Do I want to create an unnecessary emergency situation? God no!

And it’s entirely possible that when it comes down to it, I lose interest in swimming in the SF Bay. It could happen. I could chicken out, or decide I want to spend money on something else (this isn’t going to be cheap, even though my husband is thrilled at the idea of going out to San Francisco in the next couple of years), or any of a number of things.

But at this stage? I can see no down side at all to training for this. So I spend a lot of time trying to swim faster. This isn’t going to hurt me, or have any real negative price. So even if it turns out to be a pipe dream, I do benefit from chasing it at least a little.

I think in general, that’s what this kind of crazy stuff is for. It gets you up and moving even if it doesn’t work out.

Inspiration and Looking Good on a Cereal Box

If you’re into an activity, you probably have people you look up to. You know, role models. And, of course for swimming, I do.

…pOne of them, I do have a hard time really calling a role model. No, not because of anything bad. I grew up around the corner from him, and he’s a little younger than me, so I mentally tagged him as a kid until well into high school when he got a LOT taller than I am! Jeff Rouse went to the Olympics a few times in the 1990s and won several medals.

I remember him as a skinny little kid regularly winning at backstroke in the Ferry Farm pool. We were on the same swim team, but I was never a particularly fast swimmer (I got a second place ribbon in back stroke once) and gave up the sport after a couple of years. Jeff went on to be a highly successful competitive swimmer. And that’s not the impression that I was left with, either.

Jeff taught me that you didn’t have to be a jerk to be a successful competitive athlete. Even when other people were being horrible to me, Jeff was always gentle and kind.

And he’s the sort of athletic role model you see often in the magazines.

The next swimmer who really caught my attention was not an Olympic athlete, and wasn’t Martin Strelsomeone young and hot that they’d use to sell cereal and razor blades. He caught my attention in the spring of 2007 because of the swim he was going to attempt.

He was going to swim the length of the Amazon River.

Friends, Martin Strel is insane.

He’s a distance swimmer. He didn’t exactly start with the Amazon, but he did a lot of crazy, long-distance swims before he did this one. He survived, but just barely. There were many days when he was doing his Amazon swim that when I was faced with a workout I didn’t want to do, I’d be telling myself, “Woah, Strel is swimming with piranha and goodness knows what else in the hot sun from dawn to dusk. I can take twenty minutes on my lunch break and knock out 800 yards, for pity’s sake!”

He also made me realize that being physical wasn’t just the province of people who wanted to look like models, nor is being active going to automagically make you look like one. There are other reasons than wanting a specific appearance to be physical, and they’re just as valid as the ones you see in magazines trying to make you feel insecure enough to buy their crap.

Lynne_CoxThe person I look to most these days as a swimming role model swam the English Channel several times, swam the Bering Strait during the Cold War, swam a mile in Antarctica, and survived swimming in below-freezing waters in Greenland. Lynne Cox a freak of nature in terms of cold water survival, and I have no real intentions of trying to reproduce any of her accomplishments. (Well, *maybe* the Channel swim, if I do the Alcatraz swim and don’t chicken out due to fear of the marine wildlife. I have a great imagination and visualizing sharks and seals bumping into me in the damn pool is bad enough!)

Again, she’s another athlete no-one’s putting on cereal boxes even though what she does is so hard-core and scary that few people can even SURVIVE what she’s done. She’s taken swims in waters so dangerous that fishermen in the area don’t even carry life preservers because once you’re in the water, you’ll die of hypothermia before you can be fished out.

I’ll certainly never win an Olympic gold, swim the Amazon or swim in Antarctica. Honestly, I don’t even want to. But in the case of each of the people I’ve mentioned, they got to where they did and accomplished what they did from steady perseverance. Jeff had some serious disappointments before he got that backstroke gold. Strel trained for three years to do the Amazon swim and nearly had a heart attack towards the end. Cox kept going in Cook Strait even though storms slowed her down enough that she was swimming in shark territory in twilight* to get it done.

Honestly? I don’t have that level of sticktoitiveness. For my own modest goals, I don’t even need it. But do I ever say to myself, “Lynne Cox kept swimming during shark feeding time. You can get up and get in the safe, warm pool for half an hour today, can’t you?”

You bet I do.

 

 

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* Sharks tend to feed at dawn and dusk

Seven Hundred Fifty Words

Today’s practice isn’t going to be fiction. That’s mostly because I don’t think I’m at the point where I’m up for writing a short story a day. I think one a week is really about the extent of what I’m up for. So, I need to come up with some ideas for one for next Saturday. I choose Saturday because I feel like I can take more time over it.

I bought one of those Timex Ironman watches — not because I am even vaguely interested in doing a triathlon (well, MAYBE one of those sprint distance one… Maybe. but probably not) but because I wanted a waterproof watch that could keep track of laps. I’m always concerned my time is inaccurate and that I’m fooling myself because I’m losing count of laps and stuff.

Nope. Even looking at the clock when I start and stop a swim has been pretty accurate. Even so, the watch is nice, as I can time my intervals and get a better idea of how I’m doing in my workout as I am going along without stopping to squint at a clock.

I’m going to be cutting out a corset today. Believe it or not, they’re not too hard to make once you get the measurements down. The Elizabethan Custom Corset Pattern Generator  works amazingly well to create a pretty serviceable, simple corset, as long as your measurements are accurate.The real issue is deciding where to put the boning and getting the edging neat. All you really do is make a canvas shell with channels in which to put the boning, sew the fashion fabric to the shell, use some sort of edge binding (I use quilting binding) around the edges, hammer in the grommets if you don’t care about period (I don’t), or make buttonholes for the lacing if you do care, and go. It really is something I’d use to teach someone who was interested in costuming to sew on. Yes, I really would.

I am hoping to finish the corset this week, and then get started on some steampunk garb for my husband. Though, because I am a big ole meanie, he’s going to be cutting out the fabric and lining himself. (Hates cutting out patterns we does. We hates it).

We’re going to be actors in a live-action Steampunk RPG at Carnage Con. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve actually never done anything like this before, so I hope it’ll work out well. I’m thinking mostly Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson for my Steampunk ideas, though until I see the script, I can’t be sure.

AgathaportraitYes, I’m making an Elizabethan corset as part of a Steampunk (which is usually late Victorian) costume. My argument is mostly that if Agatha Heterodyne, who is the quintessence of a female steampunk archetype, can wear what is essentially a renfair bodice during labwork, I should be good with a corset of slightly the wrong shape as long as I pair it with a skirt with the right shape bustle and a more Victorian look to a jacket and hat.

The thing with costuming of this sort is that I actually DO know something about period costuming, and I need to turn that off for this. Steampunk might take its inspiration from the late Victorian era, but from what I’ve found on the web, inspiration is really all it is.

Which is also fine. You really don’t see all that much period clothing at renfaires, or many historical reenactments, either. It’s like historical fiction. At a certain point you do have to pick and choose to decide how you want to present something.

For that matter, I wouldn’t want to wear an actual Victorian outfit with all the proper underpinnings anyway. That would be deucedly uncomfortable unless we were looking at some sort of Pre-Raphaelite reform dress, anyway. Which would totally not work in for a Steampunk costume, or I’d be doing it.

Still need to think about an idea for another story. I’d do a slice of life, but I can’t…

Never mind. Oh yes, I can.

You know, for someone who doesn’t read much horror at all, I really do come up with some creepy-ass ideas for stories. I wonder how many authors don’t read much of the genre they actually write. I’ve gotten advice that said to write what you like to read, but it seems I just don’t do that.

I can see it now, I’m going to be releasing this book of feminist horror stories. *facepalm* It would totally work.

What is the purpose of your practice?

I’ve been posting more on this blog lately. It’s not really because I like to talk about working out, though yeah, I do like to do that some. What’s really happening is that I am using 750Words.com to get in a certain amount of free-writing a day, and they’re starting to evolve into halfway reasonable blog posts rather than just personal rants.

While I will use the format for personal rants from time to time, I don’t think my writing practice is being improved by the stream of consciousness so much any more and I’m trying to write about specific subjects to write actual essays.

It’s actually a lot harder than you might think to write to a specific word count on a specific subject. Sure, sure, you can pound out a target word count of ranting in fifteen minutes or so if you’re a fast typist. But if you’re actually trying to write a coherent piece? That takes more time.

In my case, that’s okay. I’m a writer. Spending time writing is kind of like a pianist doing scales or an athlete doing drills on the basics of her sport. You do that to keep your skills up.

In fact, I’d recommend to anyone who wants to improve their writing to start just by committing to a certain word count of writing every day and then just plain doing the free-write. You really do get better at writing by writing, and you will get better just by that alone.

So, when do you jump from free-write to trying to write to a specific topic or drilling on technique? You do it when the free-write gets too easy. If you’re hitting your word count in fewer than twenty minutes on a regular basis chances are good you need something else to motivate you and keep you challenged.

There are lots of writing drills you can use to hone your skills. Blogging and essay writing is kind of my thing because I enjoy a good topic-specific piece, but it’s hardly the only thing available to you.

Do you like fiction? Challenging yourself to write fanfiction really is an amazing way to hone your skills. When my son was starting to think about his SATs and was worried about the writing portion of them, I told him that since one of his major forms of entertainment was to come up with cross-fiction stories about characters he liked and act them out in his room, what he could do is write them down. He has a running series now that he works on, though I think it’s jumped from fanfic to original fiction. His English grades definitely improved — not only the composition portion, but the literary analysis areas. So yeah, I’m in favor of fanfic as a writing exercise, even if I don’t read it.

I have a friend who challenged himself to write a short story a week for a year. He’s since turned it into a book, and it’s quite good. This is also a great exercise to hone your writing if you like to write fiction.

I think a lot of it does depend on what you want to do with your writing. I mean, professionally, I’m a tech writer. Over my lifetime of writing fiction I’ve made enough money to buy a couple of pizzas, and that’s it, so clearly I really need to work on my fiction skills over my tech writing skills. I love writing fiction. I just… well, I don’t think I’m all that good at it. Doesn’t stop me from writing it, mind. Sometimes, it’s a good and valid thing to write just for the fun of it after all.

But as I am writing this, something occurs to me. I don’t practice writing fiction nearly as much as I practice writing essays. I put out all these blog entries, and I write manuals and I write instructional pieces. That fills my writing time. Certainly anyone who knows my writing is more likely to follow blogs I write rather than any fiction I do.

Since I do have a personal Life Dream in terms of fiction, me sitting here and writing this essay as my daily writing practice is kind of silly when you think about it, isn’t it? I’m practicing essays, not fiction.

You get good at what you drill on a regular basis, after all, so the intelligent thing for me to do would be to start some sort of regular practice drilling on specific fictional techniques.

Fitness, Exercise and Intersection

I didn’t actually ponder a great deal in the pool today. At least, nothing that is worth writing down. I thought about work and the way I’d like to teach some classes, and how happy I am that there seems to be a serious excitement about them. That was cool.

I even tried to come up with some subject to chew on so that I could write about it this morning, and totally didn’t. I’m okay with that. My goal isn’t to come up with neat ideas in the pool, common as it is and nifty as it is when it happens. My goal is to swim for 30-40 minutes and then get on with my day.

Swam a 1200 today, just because it seemed to be going well and I figured if I went over on time, I didn’t have to spend all that much time in the locker room. I am off today, so I can go home with a wet head.

It took 35 minutes, so that was all good. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to swim a mile in a half an hour or not, but it doesn’t really matter. The 35 minutes mattered.

I’m trying to decide on what to do for strength training. Sure, sure, I’m getting some upper body strength back in the pool — no doubt!     It’s awesome and it makes me happy. But in terms of preventing osteoporosis, swimming ain’t it. The things that make it wonderful for me in terms of getting in a workout without hurting joints in my legs are the very things I need to keep up bone density.

Well, sort of.

Studies are showing that it’s not only the impact that helps build and keep bone density. Weight training provides about the same benefit. Surprise, surprise, chickadees! Weight training is actually low impact. I’m sure that’s a lot of why I like it so much.

And that’s also a reason I’m trying to decide how to get back into it. I plain like it. Running can be good for you, too, and notice I’ve no plans in the world to start that up!

I wish that people that promoted exercise more did place more emphasis on finding something you like. And “like” can be really intersectional. I mean, I can think of someone who really likes to run, has plantar fasciitis, and just ain’t gonna be running because that’s a big nope now. Like does need to include “can” as well.

That’s where it gets hard. Just to run around saying, “Get your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day!” is fine for a lot of the population. I’m in that category now, myself, and believe you me, I’m glad I can.

But sometimes, it’s, “Sure, I can work out. But I’m going to have to get an extra three hours of sleep a night to do it. Gonna take over my job for me while I do that?” I went through a period of that about 18 months ago. It was terrifying. No doctor had anything for me on that. For a while, all I did was work and sleep. Then I started to get better, and I didn’t know why or how. I spent a fortune on tests that told me nothing. That’s some scary crap, let me tell you what. You want willpower? I was getting by on willpower.

I didn’t start feeling better because I started working out. I started working out when I started feeling better enough to do it, and it sure as hell wasn’t about losing weight, because I started to feel better after I’d gained some, and I’m not exactly slender. (No, I don’t think that’s what caused it. Correlation ain’t causation!)

So while I really do, no kidding, believe in being active and all that smack, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a universal prescription. Yeah, I’ll push swimming for people with mobility issues, because I know how beautifully it works for me, but nope, it wouldn’t work for everyone.

I wish health professionals would think about this instead of assuming people with baffling conditions are lazy liars. I find it incredibly frustrating to deal with, and I think it’s causing some serious issues with health care in general. Then again, the state of health care is another rant that’s going to take more than a blog post, so it would probably be better to leave that off for another day.

So, I leave with this question: What place does exercise have in your life, and why?

Not Aspiring. Writing