Inner Hippie

Since I’ve got the wood stove going, I’m making black bean soup on it.  I’ve also got an old camping teakettle on the stove warming up to have perpetual hot water for my tea.   God, that’s so nice.

I’d been keeping the house at 60F with the oil heat.  I’m going to have to say the difference between 60F and 65F is an amazing one for physical comfort.  I have a fan in the window between the jungle room where the wood stove is and the living area of the house.  I thought I was going to want to be working in the jungle room while heating with the wood stove, but the air transfer means that the living room with my writin’ chair is perfectly comfortable.

I love heating with wood, cooking over fire, all that smack.  Don’t get me wrong, not having the option of a gas or electric range, or heat that didn’t depend on so much work would be a big, fat pain in the ass.  I like the option of modern conveniences very much!  Still, on days like today when I’m working at home, tending the fire when I take a break, and getting up to stir the beans soaking, or pouring myself a cup of tea from the kettle sitting on the wood stove is immensely satisfying.  The smell of wood smoke has always meant comfort and home to me.  Yes, yes, I grew up in surburbia.  Still, we heated with wood.

My mother made the occasional soup on our wood stove when I was growing up, but I think didn’t do it as often as she might because my brother and I were not particularly soup fans at the time (Sorry, Mom!).  I suspect I’ll be doing a lot more of that because my son is nowhere near the jerk my brother and I were and finds homemade soup a perfectly fine dinner.  I’m using the pork bones from last night’s ribs to make a stock.  I have the beans soaking on the stove right now.  So, when the stock is ready later this afternoon, I’ll drain the beans, transfer them to the stock and add some veggies and spices, maybe toss in a little bacon.   Then it can just sit there till dinner time.  I love stuff like that.  I think it’s really the only time I let my inner hippie come out to play.

Freelancing, Parkour and a Tu'penny Upright

I just plain did not feel like swimming today.  Not sure why, but since the goal is to do cardio on Tuesdays, I just did something else that I think I am going to start referring to as my Tu’penny Upright Cardio[1]: 20 minutes on the elliptical.  Anything to keep myself amused and motivated.  I wanted to share this with the gym, but since I work there I figured I’d be a little more professional about it.  With my luck, someone there reads this and I’m gonna hear it next time I’m there.

I’m beginning to feel like a dork for driving to work when I work in the gym.  I live a half a mile from the place.  Thing is, I go there at 0-my-god-it’s-early and I’m not sure that walking there in the dark is exactly being Ms. Safety – even if I do live in a small and not too terribly crime-ridden town.  Still, driving a half a mile that I’m physically capable of walking quite comfortably offends my sensibilities.  Besides, I kinda like getting in that little extra bit of walking.  God knows why, but I’ll walk to get somewhere and rather like doing it, but rarely just “take a walk”.  When the snow starts getting nasty here, I probably will start walking to the gym cause I hate driving in snow, the sidewalks are safe, I have good boots and I figure that people tend not to be arsed to get out in bad weather to commit crimes.  I should probably look up that last and see if there’s any stats on it rather than bet my safety on idle speculation, huh?

I have some work to finish today, which is good.  I also really need to sit my butt down and make a specific reading plan for my school.  While I love a self-directed study, it is self-directed, which means I have to plan what I’m doing.  I’m just not at home to doing it frantically right before the deadline.  I could throw something adequate together and it’d probably look better than a lot of what my advisor gets.  There are advantages to studying and writing for a living!  But, the idea is to turn in stuff that’s as good as anything I’d hand a client.  ‘Cause, well, you know… The whole Proud as Lucifer thing.

In the interests of trying to start leaning Parkour[2] I’ve been making a point to jump more often.  You know, down a minimal amount of steps, over small obstacles.   Mostly at this point I really am trying to get my courage back about my knee.  Two years out of ACL repair surgery is plenty.  The knee is as strong as it is ever going to get, I lift weights, so the supporting muscles are fine.  I jumped off the stepstool we use at the gym because our files are too high for the short people.  It’s goofy.  It’s small.  But I’m starting from nothing.  Goofy and small works.  Also been practicing my rolls, but that’s just fun.   I did forget to ask if the gym stocked mats for the third floor where the basketball courts and stuff are.  The aerobics room has ‘em, but I’ll want room.  I suppose I can always drag ‘em upstairs.

[1] My usual cardio is lying down, for longer duration and at a slightly slower pace.  Do I really have to draw you guys a picture?

[2] And you kids in the peanut gallery can stop laughing at a fat old lady even attempting it!

Earning your workout

I’m psycho busy this week.  That’s a good thing, mind.  Not busy means no money to a bum without a “real job”.

Because my work is very much a feast or famine sort of deal, during one of the famine periods, I got a job at a gym.  It’s less than five hours most weeks, but I did it to make absolutely sure I could afford my gym fees.  Well, okay, if you’re an employee at the gym where I work, you can use the facilities for free.   In fact, if you work there, they really wanna see you working out there, too. The little extra encouragement doesn’t hurt.

Because I’m so psycho busy, I almost blew off my workout today.  I was in the locker room where I’d stored my gym bag almost ready to say, “Screw it” when I had this little conversation with myself.

Me: What time did you get up this morning?

Myself:  4:30.  You know that.  What’s your point?

Me: And you did that why?

Myself:  Cause I hadda open the gym!

Me: Well, why have that job?  I mean, come on, you’re a morning person and all, but that’s an evil time to get up, and you earn more writing when you get the work.

Myself: I wanted to be sure I’d have access to the gym… Oh, stop looking so damn smug.  I’ll do my damn swim.  Happy?

As I was swimming, I realized that in my case, I kinda earn my workouts.  That gives a real different perspective to how I value them.  Instead of a chore I have to do, it’s something I’ve worked to be able to do.  Then I got to thinking more1.  Anyone in that gym has really earned their workouts as much as I did.  I mean, how do you get the money to pay for something?  You earn it one way or another.

So, when you’re a gym member, give some thought to how many hours you had to work to earn the right to be there. At that point, do you want to cheat yourself out of that workout you earned?

Didn’t think so.

1That’ll happen in a pool. When you’re swimming laps, your mind wanders.

Squats v. Leg Press and Variety

Today was leg day. My joints have been hurting like crazy and for some reason lunges have been making my knees feel bad. Yes, yes, I’m sure form has something to do with it. I should probably book a session with one of the trainers to review form. I do it in front of a mirror, but back when I was rehabbing my ACL, my PT did say that I have a tendency to bad form in lunges.

So, since it hurt when I did that, I stopped doing that.

But, I like to have a couple of exercise per muscle group, and no power on earth is gonna get me to do open chain exercises for my quads like leg extensions[1]. So, the next best option was the leg press <hawk/ptui!>

Now, in reality, the leg press is not bad. Really it’s not. If you have back trouble, balance issues or what have you, the leg press is a far safer alternative to the squats that still gives you a challenging lift. I think where the leg press contempt sometimes comes in among some weight trainers is when people try to brag about what they can do on the leg press and think it compares to a back squat.

Friends, it doesn’t!

In my workout today, I was squatting four sets of eight reps with seventy-five pounds on my back. That got me sweaty, heart pounding and gasping for air (real bodybuilders feel free to laugh, ya smug jerks!). When I got to the leg press, I was using 185lbs for the same reps and sets. I possibly could have actually done my body weight, but I was tired and in the interests of Rule One, chose not to.

The leg press numbers look more impressive, but they’re apples and oranges. The lifts are meant to do accomplish two different goals. Squatting is for “real world” application. It’s a motion we humans perform all the time, from sitting in a chair to squatting down to pick up something[2].  Challenging those muscles and performing that range of motions help you in your daily routine.  However, spot work is a good supplement to round out a workout.  I like free weights, compound exercises and Olympic lifts best, I really do.  But mixing it up is good training.

And can help prevent injury.

[1] (Open chain exercises hurt my delicate widdle knees).

[2] You do squat down rather than bend over, right?  Please tell me you do.  It protects your back.

Doing What You Can

Today was just a bad workout day.  I slept in and had to talk myself into going to the gym.  Okay, I did go.   But I was tired and weak, and in pain.

I think Fall is hell on a lot of people with chronic pain issues.  My knee was really hurting yesterday.  I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do my clean and presses without hurting it, so I was surprised to find that it seemed to make my knee feel better.  Weird, but I’ll take that.

However, I seem to have overchallenged my left shoulder.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  Hadda remove some plates and do the sets for fewer reps.  I hate doing that, but Rule One1 and all.  Injuring yourself so you’re sidelined from an excess of macho isn’t actually cool.  Just means you broke Rule One.

This is where doing what you can is important.  Sure, sure, unless you’re paralyzed you can do something.  And yes, you should be doing something.  But no-one but you can judge what that something is.  I remember when I had my ACL repair,  I fretted a lot until I could get back in the pool.  My PT told me that while it was great I wanted to get back to swimming and I was lucky it would be soon, what I really needed was to focus on activating the muscles in the leg that’d been sliced open with a knife so that they’d work again.   While it didn’t feel as cool as the workouts I was doing, it was indeed exercise, necessary exercise and it was what I could do.

For the record, I find stuff I know is gonna heal a lot easier to cope with.  I knew I was going to get off the crutches.  The arthritis stays, dammit.

Sometimes doing what you can feels discouraging, especially when “can” changes from day to day.  You might feel like you’re making crap for progress.  You might question whether or not you’re slacking or looking for excuses. You know, screw that.  Unless you’re training for an athletic competition or something, sometimes showing up and going through the motions really is a good thing.

Here’s a great post about doing what you can and working movement into your day from Living at ~400 Lbs.  She changed her commute to get herself walking more.

1Don’t be a fucking idiot.

Starting the Day with Iron and Electrons

I’ve got more work than I know what to do with… Well, okay, that’s not quite fair.  I have a lot of work, but I know what to do with it.  Finish it on time.  See, not that complex!

When I quit working for an employer, I had several income streams figured out, and I approached it with the idea I’d do most anything legal and reasonable to bring in some cash.   Clean houses, babysit, be a Virtual Assistant, have a phone advice line, temp… I didn’t care as long as I was working for myself.  As wonderful as the job I left was (and I really did work with some great people in a fantastic environment), I Just Don’t Like Office Work.  I didn’t leave to flee the Job from Hell, but because I needed a change and needed to be working for myself.

I am actually a little surprised that writing has become a big enough part of my income (most of it, these days) that I’m not thinking so much in terms of finding multiple income streams doing radically different things as I am thinking in terms of being a full-time freelance writer.   Not all of my income is from writing.  I teach computer applications, too.  But, I’m almost at the point where I could quit that if I wanted to and only write.

Here’s the cool part.  The teaching?  I’m doing that because it’s fun.  How cool is that?  I wouldn’t give it up. If I had a J.K. Rowling-style success at fiction (and none of my income comes from fiction), I’d still want to teach.  I don’t think I’d love it full time like I do writing nearly full time.  I’d burn out.  But a few classes a month? Bring it on!

I’m feeling slow today.  I can’t believe I got my lazy butt to the gym this morning.  You know those workouts when you’re having a great time, the blood is pumping and you feel like a God?  Yeah, well, today wasn’t one of ’em.  The best I can say is that I did what I planned I would do.   I saw a woman in the gym today that was monster strong.  I saw her at the squat rack with an empty bar and though, “No way did she get muscle development on her legs like that squatting 45lbs!”

I was right.  That was her warmup set.  She was doing pyramids and when I left she was squatting something like 155lbs. (She was teeny, too.  ‘Bout my height, but with very little body fat).  I commented to a trainer there, “Someday.”

“Yeah, she’s really strong,” quoth he.

It made me feel good, because he knew immediately I was envying the strength more than anything.   You have no idea how much I enjoy being in a gym where strength and fitness in women is considered a great goal without pushing skinny, skinny, skinny all the time.