I hate re-habbing after an illness or injury, I really do.

Thing is, I wind up having to do it from time to time.  Last year this time, I was flying high from being allowed to walk after an ACL and medial meniscus repair.   God, being able to go where I wanted without the crutches felt so damn good, especially after the tedium of the endless leg strengthening exercises I had to do every damn hour.  I’m lazy.  Gimme a good hour in the weight room three times a week any time over that nonsense!

I’m rehabbing right now.  I had the flu last week and didn’t work out because, well…

The flu?  Not “bad cold” but the flu?  You go down and you stay down until you can get up without feeling dizzy.  If you can work out, it’s probably a nasty cold.  The flu knocks you on your ass.

I was able to swim half a mile Saturday.  That’s okay.

I swam 1000 today.   Wednesday, it’ll be 1100, and on until I’m up to a mile again.  Yes, I’m rehabbing a little slow, but I’m weaker than American coffee right now.  I could beat myself into the ground, but I’m not going to.  If I were training for something specific I’d consider it.  If my energy levels bounce back sooner, why, I’ll be swimming that mile sooner.  That’s okay, too.

The only serious thing I’m doing is making sure I push myself some at each workout — enough so I get a benefit, but not so much so I’ll hate it and quit.  It’s the not quitting part that’s important.  It’s the not letting a break in routine cause my natural sedentary tendecies to win out and let me get depressed and weak and ill again.  It’s real easy for me to talk myself into not working out, I’m sorry to say.

I know there are plenty of people who want to be all hard core.  That’s cool.  They should, and enjoy it.  But you don’t have to do that to get fit.  You just have to be consistent and push yourself some more each time — not necessarily a whole lot, but some.
I’m trying to decide what the weights should look like tomorrow.  I know I won’t be able to do what I’d been doing before I got sick, but I’ve no idea how much I really should scale back.  I’m swimming half the distance, but I don’t think I really need to go back to half the weight I’d been using.

I’ve got to work on a project that’s due next Monday.  It’s going really well.   I was reviewing it and realized I’d put more into it than I thought I had.  This made me really happy!  So, it’s really a matter of writing a section, getting some pics for it, then going over it with my Editor Eye.

Heh… It’s amazing how a few workouts improve the mood.   If I owned a drug company, I swear I’d do everything in my power to discourage working out, ’cause it’d likely put me out of business.

Martian Death Flu

You know how working out is supposed to boost your immune system, and make you strong and all that smack?

I have a case of the Martian Death Flu.  You know the one, where air molecules  bumping against your skin hurt like crazy and your joints are on fire and you have a hacking cough and a fever that trips up and down teasing you so that you think it’s gone away until you get the shivvering chills again and your head aches and the idea of food is appalling and you feel yourself getting weaker by the hour and…

Yeah, that one.

I don’t get sick often so this is getting on my nerves.  I want to train, but… Well, Rule One.  I’m weak enough I’m not sure I could squat with an empty bar and keep my balance.  So, I wait.

Not only that, I think it would be a bit inconsiderate to go to the gym and pass this along to other people.

But I’m feeling cranky and ill and moody and want a mood lift.

And I have work to complete for a client.  Thank God I’m disciplined about research and outlines.   But writing when your think is broken and you can’t brane?  I know there’s this famous idea of people turning to writing when they weren’t well enough for other work, but I guess I’m a crap writer.   I write best when I’m well.

Oh, and open message to all you macho assholes who go to the gym and train while dripping snot into tissues and horking lung butter into your hands:


It’s really inconsiderate.  Just sayin’.  Use a mask if you’ve just gotta train, please? (You wanna hurt your own body, go for it.  It’s spreading your illness around to other people that’s my concern).  I’m right up the road from a fancy, schmancy research hospital that’d be delighted to give you a mask if you ask for one.  Really.  But you can buy ’em cheap in drug stores, too.  I know they’re dorky lookin’.  But I’d respect it.  Honest.

The Myth of the Fear of Getting "Too Big"

I did a rather informal poll on my Livejournal to check on something.

Just about every site I see on women’s weight training is shouting out, “No, no, you don’t need to be afraid of getting too big!”


The poll asked if the women who read my LJ strength trained. If they did, what sort did they do. If they did not, did they feel like they should, didn’t because they weren’t interested, didn’t because they were afraid of getting too big, or if they had a medical condition that contraindicated it. (Yes, there are some).

About 45% the women who responded do strength train.

Of the 65% that did not, about 65% of those felt like they really should, a the rest said they weren’t interested with one for whom it’s medically contradindicated.

Not one person expressed a fear of getting too big as a reason not to strength train!

It might be that my results are skewed. My LJ readers are mostly an erudite lot, and few of them buy into what I’d call the classical “Cosmo” stereotypes.

Still, it’s interesting that on most sites about women’s weight/strength training, there’s the obligatory explanation that women don’t have enough testosterone to build big muscles. I’ve never run across anyone in the gym telling me not to lift heavy because I “might get too big”, though I’m already fat, so maybe that’s it. In fact, if there’s more than five people in the weight room, chances are good that I’m not the only woman. One of my fellow swimmers is also a faithful weight lifter. I do mostly see very fit women (fit as opposed to necessarily lean. I mean strong and good muscle tone) in the weight room, but not always. Sometimes a woman will come in with a trainer and once it was even a woman who had to use a walker. Well, she used to use a walker, anyway. She’s stopped. I figure she was rehabbing some injury or surgery.

But there are definitely plenty of women who are weight training – call it 40% of the people I see in the weight room.

Now, the spinning classes and the cardio room seems to be much more popular, but it’s entirely possible that plenty of the women who lift just are on an opposite cycle from me and lift on days I’m in the pool, so I’m not seeing them.

When Iron is a Friend

I had something a little weird happen in the gym today — was totally internal, and I couldn’t tell you what prompted it, necessarily.

I was working out very hard and just something inside cracked open emotionally and I just wanted to cry. Not in a bad way, but sort of “release” type crying. I’ve had that happen before, but not from working out alone. Usually it’s dancing or sex or a rather intimate sparring match that will do it (yes, sparring can be a very intimate form of communication). It startled the hell out of me, and I would have given in to it were I not in a weight room. That’s just not the place, you know.

It wasn’t that the workout was bad — rather the opposite. It was hard, but a good hard. Maybe that’s what triggered it. I dunno. I’ve never considered weights any sort of self-expression or communication the way dance or sex or martial arts can be, so it just seemed weird.

Maybe it’s the utter lack of pretense or mask that does it. When you have that bar across your shoulders, or are straining to move a weight, it’s impossible to pretend anything. You can either do it, or you can’t. Henry Rollins talks in his famous essay, The Iron, about the inherent honesty of the weight.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

Maybe at that moment, I was getting into a very deep communication with myself. I get what Rollins is talking about, that the Iron is your friend, and a very honest one.

Building Habits

I worked out every day I taught this week.

I know, to those of you who manage full-time office jobs and still work out every day and have great self-discipline, it sounds corny.  Though for the record, I tended to find it easier to get in my swim when I did work in an office a block from a pool.  Just hit the pool every day on my lunch break!  I don’t have that option when I teach, so I must choose some other option.  I chose getting up at “Oh my God, it’s early!” and getting it out of the way before I have a chance to make excuses about how I’m “too tired”.

I’m trying to get my mind into a “No Excuses” mentality for working out.  This doesn’t mean I’d try to squats on a broken ankle or swim the crawl with a torn rotator cuff.  That would be breaking Rule One in new, appalling and exciting ways.

But honestly?  I’ve been working out hard for the month before I had my teaching week.  The result: I am simply not in agony at the end of the teaching day now.   That’s become a big motivator for me.  It got me into the pool this morning, boy howdy, let me tell you!  While I’m a morning person, I’m a morning person.  At 5:30 it’s still night at this time of year, dammit, and I can’t bounce out of bed singing Zip-a-dee-do-dah until the sun starts coming up.  I’ve often blown off working out the week I’m teaching.  You know, “I’m tired” and “Dammit, I’m doing enough today!” and all sorts of other excuses.

This week has been a real eye opener for me about how the excuses are shooting myself in the foot.  Well, more like creating a situation where I feel like a scalpel is scraping the inside of my hip joint, and some uncouth soul is stabbing at my ankles with a pike, but you get my drift.   Oh sure, I’m tired at the end of the day. I’m an active, animated teacher.  I don’t care how damn fit I get, I’ll be tired at the end of a day.

But “tired” and “shaking from fatigue and limping from pain from being on my feet all day” are two different things.    The simple and direct benefit means a lot to me, and it’s really motivating me to keep it up in a way that “you need to exercise to get skinny” never could.

If you have pain issues, ask your doc if he thinks it’d work out for you to try a couple of months of strength building.  Might help.   No, it doesn’t erase the pain, dammit, but for those of you who live with this crap you know the difference between “contant ache” and “Kill me now!”

Pushing Back "Can't"

There are days when I work out when I feel immortal, invincible, strong.

Today was not one of those days.

Oh sure, I got in my swim. Did a good one, too. I’m glad I did it and even feel slightly smug I got my lazy butt up at 5:30 in the morning to do it. (Normally, I don’t have to do this, but I’m teaching all day today).

I don’t feel all godlike and rarin’ to go. Nope. I feel creaky from being on my feet all day yesterday. I feel achy ’cause today is Arthritis Hell (sleet, cold… blergh). Nearly scalded myself trying to get the shower hot enough to have the heat seep into my bones and joints a bit.

Today’s workout is the bleak reminder of the “negative” reasons why I work out. Oh there are plenty of positives. It often feels great. Many days after a workout, I feel all tough and energized and all that smack. But a lot of why I do work out is to postpone the day when I can’t.

I’ve had arthritis and creaky joints and all that crap since I was quite young. A wheelchair by the time I’m fifty would have been a very real proposition if I didn’t work out and stretch and what have you.

And then I think how lucky, how astonishingly and amazingly lucky I am. I have something I can do something about. I don’t have a disease where I can’t move. I have never had an injury that couldn’t be fixed. Yeah, I hurt an awful lot of the time. But I can still swim. I can still lift. I remember the mind-boggling frustration of being on crutches for six measly weeks when my got my ACL and a meniscus repaired, and what that did to my outlook for that short time. If that had been permanent? I don’t know if I’m mentally tough enough to handle that with any level of grace. I used to think I was, but after actually experiencing a relatively minor incapacitation for a short time, I’m not so sure.

So every yard I swim and every pound I lift pushes back that day when “can’t” becomes a reality. I don’t like to think about that. It’s a scary proposition. But it’s also rather real.

Writing, Books and Marketing

There’s a fantasy writer who has put out a series of courses on how to write, get published — the whole round of business stuff.  Her name is Holly Lisle.

I’ve found her work valuable.  (Thanks Holly!) I’ve never managed to do what I’d like with my fiction, but her advice and the stuff she’s put out there has definitely been instrumental in me being able to earn a large percentage of my living as a freelance writer.  Since many of my favorite writers got their starts as journalists, I can only hope the the rigors of producing good copy to a tight deadline will hone other skills and improve my fiction.

She mentioned in one of her Q&A emails (one you have to sign up to get and can unsubscribe from!) that she’s come under criticism for mentioning her own work as examples for stuff she’s talking about and shame on her for “advertising”.

Sure, there are times when promotion becomes irritating and probably isn’t going to get you a customer.  Joining an internet discussion board that has a social or community aspect to it only to discuss a book you just wrote might irritate people.  But I think it’s unrealistic to assume that a writer who is spending time teaching about the craft would refrain from mentioning her own work in a newsletter she writes and owns.  It’s very clear from her site that she’s interested in making money from writing and from teaching about writing.   And what in the name of God is the matter with that?

This rant comes from two places for me.  I make part of my living as a writer, and part of it as a teacher.  Developing a course, even a minor one, takes time and energy.  If you have a quick example that will prove your point about something quick to hand, that’s what you’ll use.  It would be inefficient not to.

The writer part.  There are writers who don’t promote their work.  You’ve never heard of them because… they don’t promote their work.   See, making a living as a writer isn’t just about sitting at the keyboard pounding words out in a flood of prose — though those moments do feel a bit godlike.  Which, I suspect, is why many of us do it.   It’s about research, it’s    about development.  It’s about finding someone who’ll pay you to do it, and that’s no trivial task.   Of course you’re going to mention your work!  If you don’t, you stop having work.

Have I ever been irritated by someone promoting their work?  Yep.  The poly community, ferinstance, is loaded with people who write a book, then join online communities for the basic purpose of promoting that work.  They’ve forgotten a very basic premise of networking.   You have to have an established relationship — you know, maybe made friends before that sort of informal marketing works well.  Otherwise it’s gonna backfire.

But if someone owns a site, has a mailing list for which on can sign up for, and then you do?   Yeah, it’s only reasonable to expect the person is gonna mention his work!  That’s not crass.  It’s only sensible.

I Want Muscle

I actually have a contract to do a fitness book. No, not Screw Skinny, Get Fit! This is something else.

But it does give me a professionally justifiable reason to surf the net reading fitness sites and articles!

I woke up this morning feeling better than I have all week. Ya! I can tell this damned cold is going away.

I’m going to get to the gym earlier again (weights today) and avoid the Beefy Idiots Social Club. That seems to work for me. I’m gonna shower at the gym, though. I notice that procrastinating about my shower and getting into non-gym clothes is a way I often cut into my own work time. Bad Freelancer! No Monies!

Okay, to all your female personal trainers who (correctly) believe that women need to pump some iron, especially if you’re figure competitors yourselves:

Please stop calling women in their mid thirties “girls”. While you’re at it, the use of the word “ladies” to build camaraderie is kind of goofy. God, you sound like a cheerleader! Stoppit with the diminutive. You can squat 200 lbs. You’re bench pressing around 150. You’re stronger than a lot of guys. It’s okay. You can be a woman and be better than a guy at something, really. It’s really sounding like overcompensation or that you’re apologizing for it. The guys aren’t apologizing for being better than you at something. Step up to the plate and be a grown-up, dammit. Set a good example. I know you want to convince women that they’re not going to grow a penis and get a deep voice if they lift weights. I get that part, but there is such a thing as going overboard, ‘kay? For God’s sakes, don’t sneer at the pink dumbbells and then turn around a create a new version of the pink dumbbells mentality to attract customers…

Oh wait.

Okay, sorry. I get it. My bad. Carry on.

Active Recovery

If you don’t feel well, you shouldn’t work out, right?

Well, yes and no. (Surprised?)

If you’re coughing up green lung butter, are on antibiotics, or your doctor told you not to work out, get your butt on the sofa, have some chicken soup and get well. If you’ve got an injury where it hurts to do that; for goodness sake stop doing that and recover!

Active recovery is for other situations. Lets say you have a bit of a cold and congestion and feel a little run down. That is not the time to do speed interval training or start trying for a personal best in the squat cage. It might be the time to do a much smaller workout.

As an example, I broke Rule One yesterday and lifted far, far too hard. There’s been a cold running around, and being stupid is bad for the immune system. I woke up with the beginning symptoms of a mild cold. Today’s cardio day for me. Did I go swim my mile? Nope.

But I was hurting from overlifting. One of the worst things you can do when you’re experiencing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is to sit in a chair for 12 hours writing. And what is Noël’s job, boys and girls? Heh, right.

Fortunately swimming is the King of active recovery exercises when done right.   I walked (slowly!) to the gym, got in the pool and swam about half the distance I usually do in about three quarters of the time.    This stretched out my muscles and got the blood flowing without taxing anything much.

That’s what active recovery is for — to prevent issues from lack of use.

I actually learned this back when I was recovering from ACL surgery.  You heal better when you’re moving gently within your fitness level.  Note what I said — within your fitness level.  My active recovery workout today, that gentle light workout, was a hard-core badassed swim a little over a year ago.  My hard-core badassed swim now might very will be a nice active recovery workout in another couple of years.   Back when I was really sedentary, a good active recovery workout would have been some gentle stretching or a slow walk around the block.   It’s all about perspective, and not breaking Rule One.

I’d say a good active recovery workout is about 40-60% of  your usual workout and is pretty subjective.  However, if you know you’re not entirely well, but start feeling great when you’re working out, you’re working too hard.  That’s the endorphins talking, so slow that Mustang down, Sally.

And try not to break Rule One.

From the Outside

I have something of a love/hate relationship with fitness literature — especially bodybuilding.

On the one hand I like to look for information.

On the other? It can be discouraging.

When I see articles about how someone’s life has become so much better since they got thin and look great in a bikini I want to scream, “You’re missing the point!” I mean Jesus Christ, I’m poly. Of course I want to be found attractive. But ya know, that’s a lot of work to go to get approbation from the outside. And the idea of finding life validation in terms of how sexy I’m seen is kinda scary to me, because it puts my life worth in someone else’s hands. No thanks. See, when I work out, I do it to be stronger. Would I like to look hot in a bikini? Sure. But honestly that’s years away if it ever happens and isn’t much of a motivator to get my ass into the pool or a bar loaded across my shoulders. At this stage it’s the energy to do my day. It’s having physical options. It’s not to waste some inconvenient surgery I got (ACL repair) last year.

It’s not about what I get from the outside that gets my ass in the water. It’s what I feel on the inside that does it. It’s about challenging myself to do something difficult. It’s about the joy of movement. Swimming a mile isn’t for “someday when I’m skinny”. It’s for now. It feels good now. I’ve lost lots of weight before, and no compliment, no flirting, nothing ever felt as good as knowing that I could swim that mile, lift a heavier weight, or the security that I could handle myself physically in an emergency situation.

When I was 17 I got my greenbelt, and part of the test was to do 75 pushups. Oh the greenbelt felt great. (So did the celebration after class my boyfriend and I indulged in!). But ya know, the solid knowledge that I could do 75 pushups, the sheer solitary accomplishment of it, was what felt best.

I dunno, maybe that makes me a cold fish. But it is the way I feel.

I actually got asked what I was training for today in the pool1. I said, “The Not Dying of a Heart Attack Century Marathon”.

1I woke up grumpy as shit today, and when that happens, there’s nothing for it but to put on the sexiest, dirtiest music you can load onto an iPod and swim a mile and revel in the sheer sensual physicality of the water and the movement. I swam hard, my friends!