Wood stove

We’re gearing up for winter here and got a load of firewood.  I was chuckling as I was helping to stack it that I was experiencing some flashbacks.

I recall the energy crunch of the 1970s pretty clearly even though I was a little kid.  My parents built a house with electric heat and after a $400 heating bill (remember this was the 1970s.  The dollar was larger), Daddy got a wood stove.

We didn’t buy firewood.  There was a lot of building going on back then, and we’d follow behind loggers clearing land to get the laps — tops of the trees that were too narrow to be useful in logging, but certainly big enough to burn.  At the time, it was free for the taking. We’d just take our station wagon out into the woods, Daddy with his chainsaw and Mom, my brother and I would work together to get the logs into the back of Clyde (We named the station wagon after the camel in the song Ahab the Arab).  God, did my brother and I whine and complain about those trips.  We lived in a neighborhood where most of the Daddies had government jobs just like ours did.  We were the only kids we knew of that were hauling wood and we were indignant.  Dad would usually retort, “You like going to the beach and Disney World, don’t you?  This is how we can afford it!”  That didn’t silence us nearly as well as it should have.  Why I never internalized that I was doing real work that contributed to those things, I do not know.  If I had, I’d’ve been as proud of it as any of the other things I bought with money I’d earned myself, I think.   Obviously my parents looked at it that way, or Daddy wouldn’t have made such a retort in a moment of irritation.

Daddy would always try to get logs less than nine inches in diameter.   That would fit into the stove and he wouldn’t have to split much wood.   We didn’t have powered log splitter, but used a modified heavy axe with two levers on either side called a Chopper.  There’s a video at the site that shows how it works. It’s quite clever.  The site says it has been around since 1977, so we must have bought one of the the first ones made.  I was in my mid-teens before I was strong enough to be able to split a log using it, and was pretty stoked when I managed it.

After the wood was cut and split, my brother and I stacked it.  Yes, there was whining and complaining about this, too.  Not only did we have to stack wood, it had to be stacked neat and pretty.  Yes, yes, a neatly-stacked woodpile is safer and more stable.  My brother and I were convinced that it was more because of my mother’s sense of aesthetics.

We did not bring the wood through a door into the house, tracking dirt and stuff everywhere.  Nope, not in my mother’s house!  The wood stove was in the laundry room in the basement where Daddy had rigged a vent system with a thermostat and air blower to send warm air around the rest of the house.  The room in the basement had a window.  When the woodbox needed filling, my brother or I (or more likely both if we were being especial pains in the ass) went outside after dinner to push logs through the window to either Mom or Daddy to stack and fill the woodbox.  As we got old enough to stack the wood well downstairs, we’d usually fight over who got to stay inside and stack the wood that was passed through that window.

When I started dating, it was not unusual for boyfriends to be helping with this…

Questions I've Been Asked

I’m a woman and started lifting about six weeks ago.  My trainer told me to stop lifting weights because they are making me fat. What should I do?

Fire your trainer.  Weight training doesn’t make you fat.  You’re a woman. Without steroids it’s not even going to make you bigger.  Find someone who knows what she’s doing.

Should I work out when I’m sick?

The usual rule is that the symptoms are above the neck (sneezing, runny nose, et cetera) then it’s okay to work out.  If the symptoms are below the neck (chills, muscle aches, sore throat, fever), then just stay home.  In fact, go to bed and get lots of fluids.

And for the love of Blind Io, please don’t go to the gym when you’re horking up lung butter.  It doesn’t make you look hardcore.  It makes you look like an insensitive jerk who wants to spread your illness around.

My trainer focuses the entire workout around fat burning and calories.  That’s not what I want.

Make a list of your fitness goals.  Hand it to the trainer and help him with the big wor^h^h^h okay, that was obnoxious.  There are trainers out there with excellent educations.  A credentials check might be in order.

If your trainer’s education and certs are better than EZ Training and Fitness, put the list of goals in his face and explain very careful-like that what’s on the list is what you want to be working on.  If he doesn’t get it, fire him and get another.  The woods are full of trainers, friends.

My doctor said that since my family has a history of bone loss, I have to start lifting weights. WTF?

Darlin’ send your doctor flowers.  Any exercise that places a stress load on the skeletal frame does help to prevent osteoperosis.  Check out Strong Women Stay Young, too!  You can get started a lot less hard core than you think to get the benefits.

TTFN.  I’m gonna brave an elliptical today.  Hopefully I won’t get laughed at.

Why do you do it?

Today was a swimming day for me.  It went smoothly enough, but it was one of those times when I got out of the pool thinking I’d just crossed something off my to-do list rather than feel Godlike afterwards.

When I got out, I took a second to look over the people in the pool.  There were a couple of competitive swimmers — one using a pull buoy to practice arm technique, another with a kickboard, an elderly lady doing her slow, steady laps (she had that look of someone for whom this has been a routine for decades), another gentleman who’s rehabbing a knee injury, and a woman who joined recently who was worried about whether or not she’d fit in or be welcome because she loved to swim but didn’t exactly have the body of a competitive swimmer.  She’s been a dedicated regular since she joined.  The characteristic arm and shoulder development you get from swimming is starting to show on her, but I’m not sure if commenting would be productive or not. I wish I’d noticed her skill level when she started, ’cause I’d certainly feel like commenting on improvements there would be okay.

I’ve been working a lot on ScrewSkinny in the afternoons and I’m finding myself wincing as I write this.  You see, so many books about health and fitness as they relate to exercise talk about how wonderful exercise is and how you’ll love being all active and stuff.  I state right in the intro that I don’t particularly love being active.  I’m a geek and a writer and most of what I love to do is pretty damn sedentary.  I work out because if I don’t, the atrophy of my body will effect my brain more than I’m willing to accept.  Sure, being able to move well and with power feels very, very good.  But it hasn’t gotten me climbing mountains.  There are physical things I like well enough (get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m talking about dancing!) that I’ll do them from time to time but they’re hardly passions.  I’ll always find philosphical debate over a cup of something tasty more fun than ‘most anything.  Put me in a room with people who have interesting stories to tell and I’m in Heaven.

For me, exercise is time away from writing or learning new stuff.  It’s no accident that most of what I do physically is very technical, so to do it, I have to learn new stuff.  It’s certainly no accident that I write a lot about it.  I was thinking that once I’ve mastered the flip turn hurdle and go on to Butterfly as a stroke I regularly incorporate into my workout, I’ll probably move on to a new form of dance, or finally get into something that involves projectiles and aiming (something I’m notoriously bad at.  Fortunately racketball is physically demanding) so that I’ll have something to learn again.

This last paragraph just hit me as a chapter I need to add.  It’ll talk about finding something that exercise can give you that’s in harmony with your natural tastes an inclinations.

So my fitness book is not about convincing people they need to love being athletes.  Oh if someone gets active and decides they love that, cool.  But not everyone will.  If there was a pill that gave all the benefits of exercise, I’d take it and spend a lot more time writing and reading things.

What's Your Rhythm?

I’m up between 4:30 and 5:15 most weekday mornings.  No, not claiming some early morning virtue here.  I do that for three reasons.  A couple of mornings a week, I open the local gym before my workout.  The rest of the time, I figure I might as well have my body used to getting up that early.  Since I’m up, it’s easiest just to get that workout out of the way then so I don’t have it hanging over my head all day.

The biggest reason is sheer laziness.  Yep, laziness.  If I have an article to write for a client, it takes me about a quarter of the time if I do it before noon that it would take me if I tried to do it after noon.  It’s weird that the difference in how well my brain works and when is so dramatic, but it is.

Since I work to the job instead of by the hour, getting up and getting going right away is the most cost-effective way for me to work.

Not everyone is a morning person, of course.  There are people whose brains simply do not turn on until late afternoon.

The question I have is:  Do you know when your brain is sharpest and do you schedule your life in harmony with that?  Do you know what environmental factors help this?

For instance, my brain is sharpest after a really hard workout.  Yet, I used to date a guy who found that heavy physical labor sapped his mental capacity, so he rarely chose to exercise anywhere near time to do work requiring clear thought.

This isn’t just for self-employed people by the way.  When I used to work in an office, I tried to schedule the “brain” tasks for before lunch and routine stuff for after lunch.  I also learned that coming home from an office to try to do webdev type work after dinner Just Wasn’t Going to Happen.  I think that one of the reasons that the freelance writing profession is overwhelmingly represented by night owls has a lot to do with the fact that it was the night owls who were able to work a day job and work at night until they were established as writers.  That this happened to ole up-with-the-chickens Noël is a bit of luck and a whole bunch of audacity.

Do you know your own rhythm?

It's About the Brains

If I ever do a course on how to be self-employed  I think I’m going to make it a rule that people have to exercise regularly to be allowed to take it.

No, stop looking at me like that.  I don’t mean the 1984 style physical jerks.  I mean for whatever level of fitness that you have at the moment.  Might mean a half hour shuffle around the  block or a 5K run. (My faithful readers should be aware that I’m closer to that shuffle around the block than a 5K run!)

I’m writing this after having worked out and finished my quota for my contract work today. No, I’m not done for the day.  I don’t spend all my time on contract work.   Gotta do marketing, too, ya know.


The reason I mention exercise is that I’m finding that if I’m up and have worked out early in the morning, my brain is in gear to the point where writing just flows, even when it’s not my favorite topic in the world to be working on.  The quality of the writing is superior and I don’t get that “pulling teeth” sensation that hits me if I put off writing till the afternoon, try to write without having worked out, or try to write at night.

This is not to say that I think people should necessarily be morning people.  If a workout in the afternoon and working all night is where your brain is on fire and sharpest, I think it’s fine to go with that. I do think there’s a great benefit in treating the exercise as non-negotiable.

I’m not saying that one has to be a hotshot athlete, either.  There are pics of me in this blog.  I’m hardly a model of physical fitness.   My true asset is my brain.  If exercise did not help me think better, I assure you I would not bother.  I am saying that regularly getting all sweaty and red in the face does have great benefits for how well you think.  Screw the other stuff.  Clearing the pathways in the brain is important.

Yes, yes, yes, the human body is an integrated system.  That’s rather the point.

Soreness and Recovery

I’m still painfully sore from leg day on Monday.  No, let me rephrase that.  I’m more sore today than I’ve been since I did the workout.

That’s okay and I expected it.  I had a good lie-down in the sauna after my weights today (upper body), but I also know that today is likely the worse of it.   I also chose a restaurant within walking distance of my house to meet a friend for lunch today, because I knew that I needed to force myself to take a small walk and get the blood flowing a bit.   Thankfully tomorrow is cardio, so I’ll be swimming.  I think I’m gonna need it.  I’m wondering if I am going to be too sore to do leg day on Friday or not.  Sure hope not.

I’m a little worried, also, about my upper body workout.  I did a pretty intense upper body workout today and I’m wondering how I’m gonna be able to do swimming.  I’m already starting to feel that torso tightness that feels like I’m wearing a well-laced bodice.

My son is growing out of his sweaters, so I’m starting a new one for him today. He wants another Transformer’s sweater, but this one is just going to be an Autobots one. Maybe after I’m done, if he wants one, I’ll make a Decepticon one, too. I want to make myself a sweater, but don’t really need one just yet.  As far as wardrobing, what I think I’m going to be needing for winter is a couple of wool skirts and a couple of pairs of wool pants.  Not as cheap as the cotton I’ve made, but these outfits are pretty interseason, what with the jackets and all, and I have sweaters that go with them.

Goals and Self-Care

Yesterday, I did a lot of bending over and squatting down to keep my joints from siezing up.  Yes, I’m quite sore, but not in a “not able to move” kind of way.

I think several things helped prevent it.  I hit the hot tub after I lifted yesterday, and I made sure to move through a range of motion in my legs quite frequently and got up from my desk to walk around a lot.

Today was a swimming day, and I got in a good workout.  I also soaked in the hot tub after I swam.  I think the frequent soaks will help prevent enough soreness to interfere with range of motion even if it doesn’t prevent it entirely.  That works for me.  I don’t like not being able to move well, but a little pain is all right.

I’ve dropped back from the longer, slower swims to the shorter, more intense swims.   I think my goal for swimming this winter is to try to get that mile in, but do it in less than half an hour.  So basically, I’m going to be pushing at a fast pace and keep adding distance to keep my workout at about a half an hour for swimming.  It seems to work out well for me.  I can do a mile in 40 minutes now.  Shaving off ten minutes in eight months is a lot, but we’ll see.  It’ll be fun to try, anyway, and certainly it’ll do my body good.  It’ll also keep me interested, which is definately the important thing.

I love it when I can work out right after working at the gym.  I can’t always do that — teaching and such.  But when I can, it’s great.   All that’s out of the way and the day is hardly touched.  Today’s a planning day at my real job, and I’ve got a buttload of proposals to write.

Heh… I just called freelance writing my real job.  I guess I’ve arrived!  That feels pretty good.


Today was leg day.

I always done a full body workout three times a week as my weights workout, but something’s been niggling at me to start doing splits instead.  This means that you only work upper or lower body, and you’ll do more exercises per body part.

I’m a bit nervous about how my legs are going to feel tomorrow, as I got out of that workout shaking so hard it was difficult for me to get on my bathing suit.  After a workout like that, you bet I soaked in the hottub before I showered and dressed in street clothes.  Places hurt that ordinarily don’t, which means there were muscles I wasn’t working.  The axillary exercises I’ve added are gonna add up.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not much of a fan of what they call “spot work”.  You really do want to treat your body as the integrated system that it is.  This means big compound exercises.  But your body adapts to any stress you put on it, so if you do something different, that means you’re doing something you’re not adapted to.

There are people on both sides of the strength training fence that like to jump up and down about their exercise being the best.  “Free weights are for sissy poseurs who are only working out for cosmetic reasons. For functional strength,  you’ll need to do body weight exercises.”  or “Body weight exercises only take you so far.  After you get to a certain level of strength, pushups and other body weight exercises are really only cardio.”

A)  Anything is better than nothing.  Never get so damn bogged down in the idea of the perfect workout that you don’t move your butt.  That’s always the really important thing.

B)  Bodies adapt to a specific stress.   If you go real hard core with bodyweight strength training, you bet you’re going to be better at it than a weightlifter who doesn’t do much bodyweight stuff.   There are few (non-triathlete) runners who can keep up with me swimming.  It’s because I swim a lot. My body knows what to do, my muscles are trained for that specific movement, and I do it often enough that I’ve adapted to it. Even though I swim well enough that I’m considered pretty good and reasonably fast by almost any standard, I can’t translate that into running. I never run.  If you’re worried about all-around adaptation, go for the Crossfit stuff.  It’s pretty good.

I’m already starting to feel creaky in the thighs and butt. I find myself glad that tomorrow is a swimming day.





Did I mention I was sore?

Did you know when you cough or sneeze your abdominal muscles flex?  Yeah, that kind of sore.

Because I had a lot of work to do, I was considering blowing off my swim in favor of a walk that would take less time.  After waking up this morning there isn’t a chance in hell I’ll do that.   I don’t care how damn busy I am. I’m all hurty and need some soothing water.   I think, however, I went a little too light on the legs, as my legs aren’t really all that sore.  Not really complaining, as a whole body soreness isn’t my favorite sensation in the world.  I’ll go heavy on legs the next time I work out and maybe ease up on the upper body.

I’ve finally figured out what I do the up and down thing so much when I get to exercising (work out hard, then quit for awhile).  I like a challenge.  I like to have a goal.  I like to progress.

Thing is, my goals really don’t include being a competitive athlete or anything like that.  While I want to be healthy, my real goals are about finishing my degree, growing my business and improving my writing skills.  If I’ve the physical stamina to work hard on those goals, that’s really all I need.

Maintenance of physical fitness is kinda dull, though.  Years ago, I used to say if I was taking a half hour walk a day, doing some stretching and body weight exercises, why, I’d call it good.  I didn’t because I couldn’t keep interested in it.  Would that have been enough?  For health purposes, yeah, it would.  If you’re getting your heart rate up to about 70% of its max for about 20-30 minutes 5-7 days a week, your CV system is really all good.  Anything more you do is a hobby, friends.   Yes, bodybuilding is a hobby, not about health.  Flame away, my dears, but you don’t need to go to those lengths to be healthy.  In fact, at competition levels, it is decidedly unhealthy.

But back to the actual point.  I find maintenance dull.  I challenge myself a lot because challenges are interesting. Oddly enough, they also kinda work against me.  I prefer, for instance, that male partners be physically stronger than I am.  Right now, the average healthy male is (I’m only 5’2″, after all).  As I challenge myself in the weight room, that won’t necessarily be so.  Finding the balance — keeping myself interested enough to be healthy, but not working against myself, can be a real pain in the butt.


I finally hit the weight room again after an embarrassingly long hiatus.

There’s a hunger I get sometimes if I’ve worked out really hard weightlifting, and it feels better than other hungers.

Much is made of the nutrition that brackets a workout for the weight lifter, as well one should!  You can’t out-train a crappy diet.  (God knows I try.  You’d think I’d do better since I know better.  Ah well…)

While all meals should have some protein and some carbs, the pre-workout meal should be slightly higher in carbs.  I don’t mean like a bunch of bread.  I mean like a bowl of porridge or something.  I suppose the Celtic blood I have shows when it comes to good pinhead oatmeal, because that really, really is a good, tasty breakfast.  (I often have an egg with this.  Protein, you know).

But my favorite meal, the meal that is viscerally satisfying, that makes me feel good emotionally, and that I’m most hungry for is the post workout meal.  It’s always simple — just meat and veggies.  If I have time I usually just chop everything up and saute it with some soy sauce in a pan with a dribble of olive oil.

I sometimes wonder if that meal feels good in a way that might be wired into the hindbrain.  God knows I’m mostly primitive, and perhaps heavy exertion before a meal with meat satisfies the hunter programming in my brain, even if truth be told, I’m no hunter and would likely starve if dropped in the woods to survive.

I bribed myself into the weight room today, and said if I was a Very Good Girl and worked out, I could soak in the hot tub afterwards.  To be honest, while it’s a pleasure and I’d do it just for that, it’s also to prevent what I know is going to be a very sore morning tomorrow.  Because of the hiatus, I was lifting about 20 lbs less than I had been at the top of my game.  Rule One, you know.  I’m really too busy to be benched by stupid.  Even though I was lifting less, I was still shaking after the workout, so I got the right amount of physical challenge.

Instead of doing the long swims, as much as I love to say I’m swimming a mile, I’m doing shorter, more intense workouts.  They do better for body-changing, and I really do want to take off a bit of adipose tissue.

I think, though, I’m still going to indulge in the hot tub after swimming, too.

Hedonist, that’s me.