Water Workouts

Normally when I do my swim, I’m fixated on getting a certain yardage in.  Today I tossed that and went for time rather than distance.  You see, I have a bad habit of swimming mostly with my arms, kicking mostly for balance and not getting the propulsion I could if I used my kicks properly.

So, I did some kickboard drills for the first time in at least 30 years and am beginning to see why the woman who passed me on my lifeguard cert all those many moons ago made me promise I’d work on my legs.   No wonder I am such a slow swimmer!

Do I really need to bother with this, what with being a lap swimmer rather than a competitive swimmer?  Well, no, not really.   All I’m really worried about at the end of the day is challenging myself a bit physically and getting an endorphin fix so I’m as mild-mannered as a little lamb.

On the other hand, there’s no harm in drilling to become a more balanced swimmer and getting the benefits of a proper full-body workout.  I do get my heart rate up kicking!

There were several aqua-joggers in the pool today — from a woman recovering from a marathon last weekend to a woman stubbornly resisting having to use a cane due to arthritis.   I find the range of fitness levels in the pool and the different fitness goals incredibly comforting.   To me, it’s cool what you can get out of a water workout.

I’m wondering, though, if anyone else does something that’s as flexible as water workouts on dry land, and how do you like them?

Secret Gym Initiation

I lifted weights for about eighteen months before I got up the guts to step into the free weight room.  I had been reading a lot on the Internet with posts of people (mostly men) sneering at women whose bodies did not meet their criteria.  I was afraid of being mistreated or people acting like I didn’t belong there.

I was thinking about that this morning when I was lifting.  I was having a hard time with something, and was offered help.  Now, I work at the gym in the mornings, so I knew every one of the guys up there in the free weight room.  I like ’em.  They’re decent people.

The thing is, these people were plenty nice to me long before I worked at the gym.  (I went there for about a year before I got to cheap to pay for a membership and started working there instead).

I say this because if you like lifting or are interested in trying it out, don’t let fear of not belonging  stop you.  I’m even going to get myself in trouble and give you the Secret Gym Rat Initiation to the Cool Kids Club:

  1. Go to a gym.
  2. Go into the weight room.
  3. Pick up something that feels kinda heavy to you.
  4. Put it down.
  5. Pick it up again until you feel a little tired.

That’s it.  You’re done.  You belong and are One of Us.

Nutrition. UR DOIN IT RONG

Maki over at JustBento has written a great article on ready-made food and how it’s used in bento in Japan.  Basically it blows a hole in the idea that all Japanese mothers get up at five in the morning to craft perfectly healthy and perfectly beautiful lunchboxes for their families, made from scratch and at the peak of nutritional balance. A busy mother scrambling to feed her kids is going to behave like any busy mother scrambling to feed her kids.  This may include pre-packaged food!  If you find Bento interesting, do check out the site, by the way.  She’s not into charaben (character bento), but is more into bento as a way to have healthy meals on the go.

I have used pre-packaged food in a bento once or twice – a prime example being my Bad Mama Bento at the end of school last year for my son.  It’s not something I personally do often, as at least part of my bento motivation is to get away from too many preservatives and go for a better nutritional balance in at least some of the meals we eat.

A bento with hamburger, corn muffin, strawberries, cucumbers and kumquatsBut it’s hardly like my own bento are the pictures of nutritional perfection.  This bento has two itty bitty hamburger patties (ooohhh!!  Scawwwy evil  fat in ground beef) and a corn muffin.  Corn=Evil in some minds.  I’ll point out that HFCS and CORN are two different products.   (Though the muffin was home-made, so no weird ingredients I can’t pronounce).   You can find something to criticize  in almost anything if you want to.

That’s probably why a lot of people throw up their hands about nutrition and eating well.  You’re constantly bombarded with the message that whatever you’re doing is WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Breakfast Bento

Breakfast BentoThis is a breakfast bento I did for tomorrow.   I’m opening the gym, so I’ll be up very early.  I also need to get in my weight training before I teach, so I won’t have a lot of time between that and getting to the place where I’m teaching a class.  Sure, the class has pastries and stuff, but I’m No-Sing and I hate teaching on a sugar high.  Hence the bento.

The bento case is actually supposed to be an onigiri case.  Yes, onigiri for breakfast is also pretty tasty, but I wanted eggs.  So the lower case has two hard-boiled eggs and some grape tomatoes.  The other half has some sliced kumquats, a cucumber slice divider, and some sliced strawberries.  All in all, a nice breakfast.

It’s not that one couldn’t pack a meal that pays no attention to aesthetics.  But I’ve always liked food to look kinda nifty.  When I was a Brownie scout, the handbook had a recipe that was basically a fruit salad in the shape of a clown.  I thought it was awesome.   I used to make a fruit salad with an apple base, where the apple was scooped out and the salad served in the hollow of the apple.  (I probably haven’t made that in 30 years, Lord knows why…)

And as goofy as it sounds, an attractive meal is somehow more satisfying.

The Big, Dumb Beast

I came pretty close to blowing off my lifting this morning.  Rather, I started telling myself that I would justs go home and lift with dumbbells “later”.  I had opened the gym, was feeling sick of being there, but I had my workout clothes with me.

Now, in Noël’s World, “later” generally doesn’t happen.  When I give myself an excuse like this, chances are very good I’m trying to wiggle out of whatever is going on.   When I realized what I was doing, I just told myself, “For pity’s sake!  Just go lift and shower.  You’ll still get home quite early in the morning in time to get your other work done.  If you blow it off,  you’ll be blowing things off all day in procrastination.”

I try very hard to optimize my life so that it’ll be easier and make more sense to do the productive thing.  You know, like packing one’s gym bag the night before, setting up the crock pot to cook dinner and having housework routines.  I don’t how much time it saves in the real world, but it does save mental effort and Stuff Gets Done.

The author of The No-S Diet, Reinhard Engels, likens habit to a large and powerful beast that you can domesticate and use the energy to suit your purposes.  I think this is true.  ‘Course bad habits are as powerful and dumb as the good ones!

How do you replace a bad habit with a good one, or get rid of a bad habit?

Steroids, Swimming and Solar Power

I have felt just chilled to the bone lately.  No, it’s not especially cold outside.  In fact, it’s a balmy 40F outside right now.  It’s the damp, and I know it.

Damp, raw chill is probably my least favorite weather.  Even the swimming pool felt really cold to me before I began my laps today, and they keep that pool pretty warm – usually around 75F.  I usually stay pretty warm for several hours after a good workout, but not today.

I’m working snuggled under my slanket today with a rice-filled warmer at my feet and drinking a hot cup of tea.   Tea is more warming to me than coffee.  I’m not sure why.

I saw an interesting question the other day about swimming.  “Will swimming make my shoulders  broad?”

Interesting question.  The real answer is that yes swimming will most certainly aid in shoulder development.  Whether or not you find that desirable is your call.  I will point out that you’re not going to look like a member of the East German 1970s women’s swim team without two things A) Steroids and B) Their training schedule.  Good luck with that.  Me? If I put in three miles of laps in a week, I’m all good.

Which, in this rambling post, brings up another point about steroid use.  While not in favor of chemical performance enhancers, meeself, I sometimes think people have a rather unclear idea of how these things work.  No-one takes steroids then sits on their butt playing video games and expects to win athletic contests.  It’s the drugs and incredibly grueling workouts that do it.  It’s not a magic pill (or shot).

And in the interests of even more rambling, I’m noticing I really do respond well to playing video games that feature bright, sunny weather with blue water and sand.  I have not wanted to hibernate nearly as badly as I often do on gray, wet days when I spend my coffee break on WuHu Island.  I think that surrounding myself with sunny, tropical images is probably a positive thing.   I sometimes wonder if Nanny constantly burning things on icky days was a similar thing.  I think I get my solar-powered tendencies from her.  We might love water, but it’s the combination of water and sun that’s the thing.  The only time I’d want to visit the far North or the far South would be sometime around the Summer solstice, I think.   I’m hoping for more sunshine than this spring.  Last year’s spring and summer were reminiscent of that Bradbury story “All Summer in a Day” and I think another one like it will send me buggy.

And speaking of coffee breaks, mine is over and I need to get back to work.

What Do You Like?

I actually used the weight room rather than do body weight stuff today.

For all that I’m in favor of body weight exercises and really think that there are dozens of paths to fitness, I gotta say I like freeweights better.   Oh yes, body weight exercises travel well, what with only needing about six feet of floor and no equipment.  But having that bar across your shoulders is cool.  Well, it’s cool to me.

That’s important.  What do you like to do?

I think that in our chasing fitness (or sometimes just waving cheerfully from our chairs and getting on with our blogging), we get too into the perfect workout, or what we thinking we “should” be doing.

If you’ve decided being more active is important to you, finding something that makes you feel good is important.  I don’t swim and use free weights because they’re The Ultimate Exercise.  I swim and use free weights because that’s what I’ll do.  Sure, sure, I can come up with a million reasons why I’m Right to Do What I Do in terms of great exercise and Why People Who Do It Different Are Wrong. But,  I have a friend who hates exercise for the sake of exercise.  Oh, she’ll paddle twenty miles in a kayak.  Show her a mountain and she’ll hike on up it chattering cheerfully all the way.  Don’t try to put her in a gym.  She’d be miserable.  And I’m sure if it were her way, she could come up with a million reasons why she is Right to Do What She Does and Why People Who Do It Differently Are Wrong.

Both of us would be wrong, too.

So, if you’re into being active, what do you like?

How to Sell More Flour

My son came home from school with four pounds of flour, a bowl scraper and a package of yeast.  Apparently King Arthur Flour has this Life Skills Bread Baking program.

So there was this assembly where the kids learned the process of baking bread.  Then they were given the flour and some yeast so that they could do a baking of bread — one to keep and one to send in to school to be donated to charity.

Now let me make this clear.  I am a King Arthur Flour customer.  I was a King Arthur Flour customer many years before I moved to within 10 miles of their factory.   Its basic grade flour is better bread flour than many basic grades of national brands.

Still, I couldn’t help but think that the real reason they’re doing this is… <drum roll> to create more bread bakers to sell more flour.  I know, DUH!

We are going to do a baking of bread this weekend, and I’ll even use the recipe they gave us.  But I’ll be using my Kitchen Aid and my dough hook rather than kneading by hand as they say to.

My son thought the whole, “Teach people to bake bread” thing was very funny.  He thought all grownups knew how.  I’ve had to explain to him that while my skills do not stack up against a professionally-trained chef, for a layman, I’m a relatively skilled cook, as well as a pretty decent baker.

Whose Job is the Housework?

“The guys just don’t feel the same way we do about the house. They don’t have the guilt that eats away at them.” Flylady in an answer to a letter about the Husband’s clutter.

Oh boy…

Here’s the problem.  Do you know why men don’t feel guilty if the house looks like shit?  It’s because quite often they feel it’s the woman’s job to clean the house.  You can’t feel guilty about something you feel isn’t your responsibility!

Now, as it happens, I am the one who takes charge of how the house looks.  There are several reasons, and yes, one of the reasons is that I’m the one who cares the most about it and I’ve made some life choices that give me the time.  But you know what?  If I had something else I was doing that I considered important[1], I would consider that the important thing to do.  I will, have and do react incredibly badly to the automatic assumption that having a uterus means that I’m the one who should automagically be in charge of how the house looks.  Lack of help cleaning up after dinner would have me quite disinclined to cook another single meal.   I haven’t the slightest problem with asking people to pick up after themselves, and consistent refusal to do so is definitely a relationship-killer with me.

But the guilt thing?  Friends, that’s some sexist socialization there.  Partnerships and equitability are one thing, but you wouldn’t establish a business partnership with the relationship  and responsibilities unexamined.  Why shoot yourself in the foot with your life partners?

[1] A book deadline, for instance, would mean that instead of me doing the lion’s share of the household chores, we’d be splitting housework up in thirds Or There Would Be Serious Trouble.


The Internet is Socially Isolating? NAH!

One of the popular things that writers discuss when they decide to Decry The Modern World is how the Internet has made us more isolated and how we don’t have Real Friends.


How many of you reading this have made a friend on the internet, then travelled more than 500 miles to visit that person?  That’s not real?

Then my family growing up wasn’t a real family!  We traveled to Minnesota from Virginia for my brother to be a ring bearer in a 1st cousin once removed’s wedding.  We went to Georgia to see a great aunt.   We regularly traveled an hour or two to see (and often help out) cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and so on.

How does this count, yet when I do the same thing to visit friends I’ve met through a computer, there is this idea that these friendships aren’t real friendships?  And don’t get me started on the “blood is thicker than water” canard.  I am lucky enough that I have blood relations that are indeed close and mutually supportive, but I have blood relations that aren’t, too.  It’s about the same range as friendships I’ve made.  It’s more to do with the people involved than the accidents of birth.

What? Face to face time?

I was comparing how often I saw people in person before I was connected to the Internet to now.   You know what?  I interact face to face in a non-business environment about as often as I did.  In fact, I tend to see people socially a bit more now.


The Internet.  It offers better opportunity for me to meet people that I actually have something in common with!  Sure, I’m cool with helping shovel Mrs. Next Door’s driveway, or driving Senora Across the Street to the grocery store.  But I’m unlikely to be talking politics, science or philosophy with ‘em[1].  So in my case, I have considerably more friends, both in simple quantity and in satisfaction levels, from being able to communicate across distance.

I think people that say the Internet makes them socially isolated might be unskilled in their appropriate use of technology.  We hear about people texting all through face to face social gatherings.  Now, I spent the weekend with some friends of mine who are even geekier than I am.   When we went out to dinner, we talked.  Phones stayed in purses, and there was no texting going on.  We… talked.  Just like people did before the Internet.

[1] In Sra. Across the Street’s case, that’s mostly a language issue. Neither her English nor my Spanish is up to that.