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.

Wild Times

Okay, taking a break before diving back in to work.

I didn’t make myself a bento for today and was regretting it, but disciplined myself to make a nice, veggie-stuffed wrap for lunch rather than grab something — not that I have much in the way of bags of easy-to-grab food in the house but fruit, anyway.  (Confession:  Bento are at least in part laziness.  I prefer to make it easy to eat properly).

It’s warmed up nicely outside, and it feels like summer.  But it does make me want to be lazy and take a nap.  Unfortunately, I have way the devil too much work to do and really shouldn’t even be writing this entry.  I’m doing it to reboot my brain.   All I can say is that I’m happy that my projects are on relatively interesting subjects.

My cat is trying to inform me that I’m deficient in my petting duties by sitting on the arm of my chair and looking pitiful.  I suppose I should not whine too much about work.  I’m not in a cube farm, fergossake, and I doubt many offices would permit me that most necessary of writing materials, a cat to paw at your hand when it wants love or curl up at your feet while working.

Ahh, the exciting times of the self-employed writer.

Being Down on Yourself

I’ve come to the conclusion that beating yourself up, being down on yourself, hating yourself and all that smack isn’t quite what it seems.

It’s not this hopeless condition from being treated badly when you were a child.

Nope. It’s being lazy. It’s procrastinating[1]. It’s spending time on something that is so non-productive, nay, damaging that it hardly bears thinking about.

And yes, I know that there are going to be people who read that and think, “Oh great, another reason why I suck. Gee, thanks.”

But think about it the time and energy you might be putting into it. Isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing? I’m not saying that you have to be super-productive here, but hell, going outside and drawing with chalk on the sidewalk would be a far, far better use of your time.

What if, every time you felt down on yourself, you thought, “Yep, thinking that again. I’d rather do something else. I’m gonna go finger paint[2].”

Notice that you acknowledge the thought without harsh judgment. Don’t look for yet another excuse to beat yourself up. The point is to STOPPIT. You look at it with dispassionate eyes and coolly choose to do something, anything[3] else.

It doesn’t have to fix whatever you’re down on yourself about. I mean, sure, if that’s what you want to do and it’s even something that’s fixable, cool. But chances are good that the habit of being negative to yourself is actually the more damaging issue.

[1] Think about it, how often do you feel down on yourself that you don’t feel like there’s something you “should” be doing, but aren’t. (Dieting, cleaning the house, earning more money, managing the money you have better, being more social…).

[2] Or read a book, or look up absurd trivia on Wikipedia, or whatever. Washing dishes is better than feeling down on yourself, you know? Okay, marginally. <grin> At least you get clean dishes out of it.

[3] Okay, don’t go around hurting people. If you deliberately choose to hurt people rather than being down on yourself you really do suck.

You Can Choose Not To

I don’t usually discuss something as personal as a dream publicly, but this one I really wanted to share.

I had a quasi-nightmare last night. There was this virus that turned you into this ugly, violent creature (probably inspired by zombie stories, NIght of the Comet, I Am Legend, and the reavers from Firefly). The people that had been turned were mostly big, powerfully built men at first. It was their job to spread this virus to other people.

I was in this large building with a huge meeting hall and several smaller rooms intended for other purposes. The one I was in was a basic meeting room with another refugee I’d never met before. She and I got caught by the creature and injected with the virus. We ran, thinking that at least we could get out before we were given instructions or turned into tools.

As we were running my companion was starting to turn. A greenish warty substance started snaking a line down her face, showing the change. She was really scared, and looked at me as we ran.

“You’re not turning!” she said, out of breath.

“Oh, that,” I said, as if I’d just remembered. “Well, you can choose not to.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, and her face cleared up.

I woke up after that.

But I found it a pretty powerful dream.

Looking for the mouse

Believe it or not, this video has given me a far greater understanding of and sympathy to fanfic.

Thing is, it’s not about fanfic at all, but about an amazing cognitive shift. Please do watch it. It’s fantastic.


This is gonna talk about body, weight and weight loss issues. Stop reading now if that stuff offends you.

I’m thinking about this because I’m feeling unmotivated to go to the gym. One day, more or less, really doesn’t make a big difference in health or fitness or weight loss. I’m going to do it anyway because I’m interested in keeping my habits strong. It may be a real slacker workout. Who knows. But it’ll be a workout, by damn.

I’m in a funny place body-wise right now. While I am, indeed, trying to take off some excess adipose tissue, I don’t look in the mirror and hate what I see. I look fine. I’m using the clinical term because it’s not too terribly emotionally charged.

I don’t look at my eating habits with any disgust. I’ve switched to doing No S and ya know, it’s a nice, sustainable and sane way to eat. It contains excess, is non-invasive, and I can have treats on weekends if I want them. I’ve been losing about a pound a week, which is about as fast as I care to do so. (Much faster and you’re risking losing muscle. I run my thumb over the calluses on my palms and shudder that the work might be wasted. No thanks).

So where is the funny coming from?

Well, I’m writing a book about getting fit without getting too caught up in the weight loss aspects. I almost feel like I shouldn’t lose weight because of the book. On the one hand, I’m saying, “Look, you can get fit without being focused on getting skinny/thin/whatever.” and on the other? Well, while I’m changing my eating patterns about as moderately as is humanly possible, that change is causing a loss of adipose tissue, and that’s kind of why I chose to do it.

Am I thinking about getting thin when I’m working out? Not at all. If I’m in the weight room, I’m thinking about form. I’m doing the arithmetic twice to make sure I’m lifting the correct amount of weight for my workout. If I’m walking, I’m probably listening to music and thinking about what I’m going to be writing next. In the pool, I’m probably also mentally composing something I’ll be writing — a Misanthrope article, making notes about how the workout is making me feel to talk about motivation to get fit, working out a scene in Stoneflower.

Does, “This will help you lose weight” get me into the gym? No. Not even a little. I have a fair idea of the calories burned by my workouts and they’re not high enough to be a great immediate motivator. (Exercise is important, but it’s not the big calorie burner people think it is). I’m actually feeling unmotivated today. I’m visualizing how much I liked the feeling of accomplishment after a great set of bench presses. I’m running my thumb over the calluses in my hands with a certain measure of pride. I’m thinking about how cool it feels to have Dream Theater’s “Learning to Live” playing on my iPod while I’m doing squats, and the anticipatory rush I feel as I hear the keyboard intro, flip my ponytail over the bar and load the iron on my shoulders. (I have a “weights” playlist and for some reason my iPod will trip to “Learning to Live” when I start my squat set about 80% of the time).

If I feel unmotivated to swim, I visualize the moments where it felt good. I imagine being an Orca, moving sleekly through the water. I think about how I love the blue of the water and the way the light plays off the ripples when I’m doing breaststroke. I think about how the water feels moving past my body. I visualize the stroke technique and the way the stretch and reach feels good when I get the crawl correct. I think about the sense of accomplishment I feel when I haul my exhausted butt out of the water after completing a mile. I think about sensation of my hair coming down with a hot slap on my back when I pull off my cap — and the feeling of pride at how hard I had to work out for my hair to be hot in the cool water.

That is what motivates me on a daily basis, even if I have other long-term effects. The scale? It’s a number. Body shape? I only spend about a few minutes a day in front of a mirror. Doing? Ahhhh, that does feel good.

Getting my Courage Back

I tore my left ACL (knee ligament) in the early summer of 2004 attempting a flying side kick.  Yes, yes, that wasn’t the wisest of things for an overfat woman in her mid thirties to try.   I know, I know.

I didn’t even realize the ligament was ruptured until the lack of stability was causing me problems a couple of years later.   I got an MRI and was cautioned that surgery would indeed help and probably solve my stability issues, but that it wouldn’t solve any issues of pain I might have — in fact, I might have more trouble in that area.

Pain, I’m used to.  The lack of stability was not something I’m okay with.  So I got the surgery and wound up having the medial meniscus repaired at the same time.  (We didn’t know it’d been torn until they opened my knee up).  Lack of mobility freaks me out, and recovery from the surgery has to rank up there with the scariest experiences in my life after a couple of incidents where my children were severely ill or injured.

It’s been a year on since I’ve had the repair done.

I still never do anything much that requires jumping or torque on my knee, even though that ligament is probably stronger than the one I was born with.   Because I’d had to spend so much time being cautious on stairs and uneven ground, it’s become an ingrained habit.  In the winter, I walk on ice as if I were in my eighties rather than half that.

I’m starting to plod rather than leap.  I’m not light on my feet.   This isn’t a weight issue.  I’ve been quite light on my feet at considerably heavier than I am now  –probably not as strong, either!   Hell, I’m not even doing dance moves that I used to.

I’ve been playing a little with plyometrics and doing (careful!) jumping exercises on my stairs.   Thing is, it’s a hit or miss, catch as catch can type of thing.  I think it would be useful to develop a definite program with gentle progression and make it a habit.

If I get used to certain moves, maybe I’ll be getting my physical courage and faith in my body back.

The Power of Habit

I’ve been hitting the gym consistently for about six weeks now.

I’m getting to the point where I don’t even really give it a lot of thought, I just go.

Yesterday, I did my workout and all. Last evening a friend came over and she’d had a stressful day. She wanted to go for a walk instead of having a martini and growling about the troubles, so we did.

I was a little sore the next day, and my joints were a bit creaky. (Walking a lot does that to me. There’s a reason I’m a dedicated swimmer). But, I didn’t even consider blowing off my swim with the excuse I’d already gotten in some extra cardio. I had kind of an excuse — a photo shoot during my normal swim time. Yet, when I got home from the shoot, I packed up my gym bag and just headed to the pool without giving it a second thought.

That’s the power of habit. I didn’t spend time making a decision about whether or not to work out. I just did it because that’s what I do every day. Utterly without thought. Went to the gym and because it’s Wednesday, I swam my mile.

I only got to thinking about it while I was enjoying the fact that getting the blood pumping with no stress on my joints was making my joints feel better. It amused me1.  It also got me to thinking about habit in general and how it works for you or not.

I think the cool thing is that you can make it work for you. We talk “Bad Habits” all the time because they seem like chains that bind us.  The thing is, we don’t honor the good habits we have as the wonderful safety harness that they are.  I think that’s a mistake.  I also think it’s a mistake to look at habit changes in terms of the negative.  You know “breaking” a bad habit?   Because when you’re trying to change a habit, you’re also trying to build a good habit.

I find for myself I’m a lot more successful at going to than running from.  The exercise habit is a good example, but there are others.  I’ve developed mental habits over the years that are not as big and obvious, but my goodness they’ve been wonderfully productive.  In each case, they’ve been a case of “going to” rather than giving a lot of energy to the old, negative habit.  Instead, in the instances where I’ve been successful, I’ve had a replacement positive I was trying to build.  Focusing on that works a lot better for me.

Specific and measurable also works a lot better for me as well.

So, instead of “quit being disorganized”, you’d look at it as, “I spend five minutes every evening putting everything that’s collected on the counter by the entrance to the house in its proper place.”  At first you’ll concentrate on it.  At first you’ll get excited about racking up your string of successes.  And this is good.

But at some point, it’s just what you do and you kind of forget about it.

1 For the record, I don’t recommend laughing when you’re trying to take a breath doing the crawl. Just a little tip.

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.

Why I Do It

Just got back from my swim for today.

I skipped yesterday because I was going to be on my feet all day teaching and I figured I didn’t want to be too tired.

Feh. I’m sorry I chose that. Not that it’s not possible to get too tired. It is. Not that is it not sometimes wise to pick and choose daily activities to keep from overtaxing yourself. It is. But I was tired and spazzed last night, and I think that if I’d gotten up and taken my swim, I just would have been tired.

The simple fact of the matter is that when I swim most days, I am clearer-headed and have calmer energy throughout the day.

I don’t swim to get skinny. I’ve been swimming for a year and a half and I ain’t skinny, nor even “not overweight”.

I swim because A) It feels good and B) I’m clear-headed and relaxed after one.

I did have a long and exhausting day yesterday, and had promised myself I was going to work from bed all day, only leaving it to swim.

Changed my mind and moved to my writin’ chair after my swim today. It’s a sunny day, my living room has lots of windows and I propose to enjoy it while I work. Also, wanna bake some bread and I’d rather be working where I can actually hear the kitchen timer. I think it felt like some sort of mental dissonance to be working in bed once I got dressed.