Being a Fat Athlete

I was doing some research on swimming and sore abs because… Well, I went for a good swim today and my abs are sore! Look, don’t you Google every damn thing you go through? You don’t. Fine. I’m a weirdo. Deal.

Anyway, as I was maundering around the Internet and avoiding finishing my last article for today (but I did send out a good query for AT THE FOOT OF THE THRONE three days early thnxsomuch!), I ran across Fat Girl on a Bike.

This chick made me ashamed of myself and face how damn’ vain and shallow I can be.

Vain? Yeah. You see, I’m fat. No, it’s not a value judgement. I am.

But I’m also an athlete, dammit. I never called myself that because I’ve always felt I “wasn’t there yet”. I played soccer, but I wasn’t great it at. So, I wasn’t really an athlete. I was a martial artist but I never earned a black belt, so I’m not really an athlete. I’m fat, so I’m not really an athlete.

This woman, who is doing triathelons not to “get skinny” or any other damn reason than she bloody well wants to compete in triathlons puts me and my scale stepping to shame. I’ve actually had to psyche myself out to go to the pool and swim, which I love because I didn’t feel like I really belonged in the pool with all the real athletes. It’s idiotic. Like you don’t deserve to claim a love of movement, which I do have, unless you’re committed to “getting skinny”. That’s gotta me more important than loving the movement for itself.

Now, I know swimming is good for me. How I feel after a good workout (and the sustained good mood for many hours) is a powerful motivator to get me moving. Yes, yes, yes, I’m all for the increased health benefits of being active.

But I swim because I love to swim. It feels good. I lift weights because I love to do it. I adore moving heavy stuff. When I was a martial artist, the love of having the guy a foot and a half taller than I am go THWACK! on the mat was immensely satisfying, and so was being knocked flying. (Hey, you know I’m a weirdo). Anything that requires finesse of physical control excites me.abbyestockton2.jpg

Will I get stronger and more fit the more I do it? Of course. But I don’t have to have goal of looking like Pudgy Stockton (I know, not fashionable, but I really, really like the way she looked) to just enjoy the workout for its own damn sake.

Just total randomness

I’m choosing to be a little lazy and swimming later in the morning today, instead of getting my butt in the pool first thing. I had an idea that I wanted to put in some notes on right away. So I did.

I’m kinda stuck for an idea for a Misanthrope column for next week. Honest, it’s no joke trying to find a weekly topic on the theme of “Don’t be a fucking idiot”.

I got a pasta machine for Christmas, and I’ve been using it a lot. I’ve been doing an experiment with whole wheat pasta, and you know? It’s pretty good.

I need to think about sprouting some herbs soon, actually. I prefer fresh herbs in cooking and haven’t had an herb garden of any sort since the summer 2005 (which wound up being my “pesto year” as my basil went out of control). I’ve got dirt. I have a sunny, south-facing window. It’s no trick to get a seed try and germinate a few plants. I’ll even get myself a bukkit, and I’ll have a nice, portable herb garden for my porch this summer.

Has anyone had much success growing fresh herbs indoors? I do have a room where a philodendron, a Boston fern, a Christmas cactus, several spider plants and a calendiva are pretty happy. Would this be a place where herbs would do well? I’ve only ever cultivated them outside and in the summer.

I also want a bukkit for some mint. I’ve been yearning for a good mint julep lately.

What to do on a snow day? Swim!

I didn’t go swimming at 5:30 this morning.  It’s snowing and I don’t like driving in the snow.  I’ll walk to the gym later today when and swim then.

School is closed, so I’ll be taking my son with me.  Yeah, just the “snow day” treat — a long swim!

If I’d had somewhere I had to be later in the day, I probably would have gone ahead and gone swimming early this morning, but I don’t.    I usually get up early to get in my swim just because if I get it done, I’m up and going for the day, better.  Still, it’s nice when I don’t have to!

Got some site work to do.

I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re a user of MS Office, I really encourage you to try One Note.  I find it a fantastic planning tool.

I’ve been collecting a book list for the Polyamorous Misanthrope recommended reading page, but it’s going to be very different from the usual Polyamory “recommended reading”.  It’s not that the poly books aren’t good.  Many of them are excellent.  But I’m going to be dealing a lot more with historical example of social dynamics (why yes, the Oneida Community among others), and modern practices in negotiation and interaction.  I’m increasingly of the opinion that the new business model for interaction works very well indeed in poly situations.  Yeah, I’ve got a Misanthrope article brewing on that, too.

I’m also looking at the shambles that is That Damned Book and wondering where to go with it.  I had it all plotted out and when I read what I’ve written, individual scenes are kinda keen.  But as a flow of plot and events, It Just Won’t Soar, Dammit.  I’ve been working on That Damned Book intensely for two years now.  (And have been noodling with it for more like twelve years).  Maybe I oughta just let it go.  I wrote At the Foot of the Throne, which is a much better story as far as plot and pacing, in about seven months.

Oh, for you writers?  If you really enjoy novel writing software, I encourage you to check out yWriter.  I do use and enjoy it.  It can’t solve my problems for me, but golly does it help with planning and plotting!

Getting Things The Fuck Done

Getting Things the Fuck DoneI said I would stick to my goals, so I have not planned to swim today. Original plan was to swim 900 yards every week day until the end of the month, so that’s what I am going to do.  I may cheat and use the hot tub, though. <grin>

This does not mean, of course, that I do not have a metric assload of things to do.

  • I want to write a timeline for getting stuff done for the PolyWorks Fund group to tear apart. I’ve been procrastinating horribly on this, and I’m not entirely sure why. Must… Get… Done… Today…
  • I want to write a much better query for At the Foot of the Throne and find another publisher to whom to send it.  My book let me show you it.
  • I’ve got some projects I wanna bid on.
  • I need to re-do my Polyamorous Misanthrope dragon image to clean up the header.  Write a whole new theme for the blog would be favorite!  Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with that, as I’ve tweaked the present theme all to hell instead of creating theme independent widgets.
  • I’ve gotta write a new page for the Polyamorous Misanthrope  that links to books and stuff I think are poly-useful.  I have a feeling some people are gonna take exception to some of my ideas. (At least, I hope so <EG>)
  • Must write more on That Damned Book.  I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas and imagery for it on my morning swims.  I think that while listening to audiobooks to try to kill off lap boredom is useful, there’s a lot to be said for using that time to let my mind roam free.
  • Gotta record greetings for a couple of listings on my advice line.
  • I really want to get the house cleaned up.  It could  use some Loving Care, maybe even mop the kitchen floor.  I’ve been working downstairs, so the clutter in the bedroom is not giving me the visual reactive cue of “Clean me up, dammit!”

I’m finding myself listing all this stuff I need/want to do, and I’m really having to discipline myself to make sure they’re congruent with January’s Goals.   If they’re not, I just make a note for next month to decide what February will look like and will these things lead me to the final accomplishment of Goals 2008?  I know it sounds goofy, but I’m good at getting excited and sidetracked, so this really helps.

Did it for this week

Well, I did manage to hit the pool every weekday this week since I’ve decided to get stern with myself about the exercise.

I live in a relatively small town, but it was a bit of a surprise this morning to share a lane with my family doctor. I’m not sure if he recognized me1. I never would have pegged him as a swimmer. He seems more the runner type, but I suppose cross-training ain’t all that unusual.

I’m trying to decide if I should just stick to my original goal of swimming 900 yards every weekday this month, or if I should up the yardage. Since my original fitness goal was to swim at least four miles this month, I think I’m gonna just stick with the 900 yards deal. At 4500 yards a week, I’ll have swum considerably more than miles by the end of the month.

I’m noticing a problem I have with getting to goals, and I need to address it. I’ll go all hard core on a goal then burn out, rather than go slow and steady — looking to the long term. It’s why my goals for this year were relatively modest. I’m having to restrain myself from going hammer and tongs at the things that interest me. I have a good plan for the year and need to stick to the “slow and steady” version if I want to ensure I get there.  I’m glad I wrote everything down, let me tell you.  Having the original goal written down as a referent makes it a lot easier to say, “Woah, slow down there, Hoss.  You’ll get there if you stick to it slow and steady.”  I’m already finding great value in having that yearly goal, then breaking it down by month, week and day!

It’s so easy to get sidetracked.  As I was swimming, I was trying to plan how to get my weights workout in. I started all these plans about spending hours in the gym, blah, blah, blah. As I was coming home, I started laughing at myself. Just sticking to the original plan will be fine. I don’t need to go harder. It’s even possible that I shouldn’t go harder.  Accomplishing exactly what I set out to do for the year will be a good year enjoyed and well-spent.

1One does not chat in a swimming lane at 5:30 in the morning.

I can has work and I swimmed!

Ya! Got some freelance writing work. This makes me happy.

Every dollar I earn from my writin’ chair is worth two (emotionally) dollars earned leaving the house. Yeah, I know, I’m a weirdo.

I was also a Good GirlTM and swam this morning. It felt good. Thing is, I’m still having a hard time getting over being the heaviest woman in the gym at a given time. Early mornings are harder because it’s all the sleek athletes and hard-cores in then. Then here’s me. I know I need to bloody well get over myself and be done with it. No-one really cares but me and I know that, too.

I’m thinking about saving up to get my life guard certification, or possibly even my WSI. I’ve checked over the requirements, and I’m plenty capable of passing them, though it’s been over twenty years since I was last certified. I actually did use my training once, about ten years after I’d gotten my certification.

A mother with two kids (all of whom were inexpert swimmers) got into rough surf I would hesitate to swim in. As a matter of fact, I’d just been griping about the dangerous surf red flags and the fact I’d be spending the day on the sand instead of in the water.

The mom was playing in the surf with the kids, holding their hands, and lost a grip of one of them. He was being pulled out. I was nearby and charged in to grab the kid. The lifeguard was about six seconds behind me and according to my parents, was shouting at me (I couldn’t hear it. I was busy) when she saw me use a standard lifesaving technique to get the kid in — the reach and grab. It’s a method of getting someone without getting too close to a panicked person who can drown you, but is a very firm hold. The guard got the mom and the other kid in and started chewing her out for getting in the water during red flag surf. (You really should stay on shore when the red flags are flying). The guard thanked me and told me that even though she was glad I was able to get the child in, I should be careful with that sort of thing. Well, okay, she was right. I’m not ocean rescue trained.  That’s some specific and rigorous skills and I know it! Still, the kid was being swept away, the mother and other kid were in trouble and the lifeguard would have had to choose who to help.

I hope I would have had the sense not to try to swim out after the kid if we both got swept off our feet and out into the deep water.  And that’s why ocean rescue is a different sort of training than your standard Red Cross Pool lifeguarding.  Conditions are harsher and change a whole bunch faster.  The reach and grab in a pool when you’re on deck and there’s someone flipping out within your reach?  No biggie.  You’re on steady ground, there’s no current or waves to deal with, and you can focus on getting the person out of the pool.  In the ocean?  Different story by far!   Waves are a lot stronger than people, and you can be knocked down while you’re trying to use that very simple technique.   Combine that with rough surf, a lot of wind and an outgoing tide (the exact conditions of that particular day), and things change fast.

When I was a kid my dad told me something that I’m not sure if he actually knew the stats on or not, but I’ve never forgotten it:  Strong swimmers drown more often.  Why?  They get cocky and take dumb risks.  I don’t know if this was to caution a little girl quite prone to get cocky about her own physical skills or if it was a real statistic.   But I figure the caution is fairly useful.

I swimmed

I was a “good girl” and swam today.

I think I may wind up being a little sorry tomorrow. I’ve been lazy for the last few weeks and I swam half a mile this morning.1

Still, it felt good.

I find that swimming early in the morning does have several positive effects. I get exercise out of the way early, so I start the day feeling like I’ve accomplished something. Because I go so very early (pool opens at 5:30 AM) I’ve worked out, am showered, dressed and ready for my coffee by the time the rest of the house gets up. I can accomplish more between 6:30 in the morning and eleven than I can the whole of the rest of the day. Being up that early kind of gets me going better.

But, boy oh boy, can I tell I’ve been slacking. Usually I’m not creaky or sore until the next day when I’ve worked out well. Today? I’m feeling it good and proper — especially in my butt.

Common theory is that swimming isn’t so hot for the legs because it’s not a weight-bearing exercise. It’s one of those fuzzy things. You do work your muscles in your legs just fine, swimming. What it’s not good for is preventing osteoporosis. You really do, no kidding, need to do weight bearing exercise to keep up the bone strength. Walking, running, standing calisthenics, free weights2… But building muscle? Hell yeah, swimming does just fine. Do a few hundred yards of kicking drills. You’ll feel it all through your legs if you’re doing it right.

I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to fit in lifting if I’m going to swim every morning. I don’t know that I really wanna go back to the gym most evenings to do my weights. I may go back to dumbbells for that, though a bench with a squat rack is starting to look attractive…

1 Yeah, yeah, you hard cores can roll your eyes and tell me that’s really a warm up!

2 I say free weights specifically, because you have to exclude any machine where your weight is being supported if you’re looking for the bone-building benefit. Nothing where you’re sitting down will be good for this specific need. That throws out leg extension machines and those things for the supine hamstring curls. Yes, they’re useful for strength, but they’re not what you need for bone-building.

Intelligent Goal Setting

Multi-talented people (which I would bet money includes most of you reading this), because they can do anything sometimes feel that they should do everything.

You wanna find yourself spinning your wheels and not getting much useful done, this is the way to do it.

I’m doing an experiment this year. I’ve got four basic year-long goals. If an activity does not apply to one of those goals, it does not belong on my to-do list.

This is not to mean that I am not allowed to do things that don’t apply to my goals. What this means is that I’m not allowed to do things that do not apply to my goals first.

My goals for 2008 are to lose 2 lbs a month, triple my monthly income doing what I love (less impressive than it sounds. I’m still waaayyy in the early stages of my business), make sure my friends/family understand I love and appreciate them, and get the PolyWorks Fund fully up and running with a specific goal dollar amount as our first year’s giving. Hardly onerous, but certainly a solid, productive year.

This is easy to break down into monthly, weekly and daily goals. At the beginning of each month, I decide what I want accomplished by the end of it. At the beginning of each week, same. This helps me set appropriate daily goals, which is where the real work is done. Other than planning sessions, I do my best to keep myself focused on the day at hand. I probably won’t give December 31, 2008 another thought until sometime next December. I know where I want to be, and the steps to get there. The steps are the important part now.

Notice “declutter the house” is not on the list at all. Does this mean my house will fall to rack and ruin in 2008? No. If it were in danger of doing so, I’d’ve had a housekeeping goal for this year and dropped one of the other ones. What it means is that unless I’ve accomplished what I set out to do for the day, I’m not to be cleaning out closets. If I get a wild hare across my butt to do so after I’ve accomplished my daily goals, that’s all good. I’m just not allowing myself to spend a lot of time on things that have nothing to do with what I’ve decided to accomplish. (Obviously, there is cleaning and organizing that does directly relate to getting my work done. Gotta maintain the files, etc. These things do make my to-do list).

I try to keep my to-do lists relatively short, too. Before I put it in Outlook (yes, I use Outlook as my task-tracker, etc.) I ask myself is this really productive, or is it make-work? I’ve noticed the very, very busy seem to be just awfully proud of being busy rather than actually accomplishing stuff. Anyone who has worked for someone who likes busy for the sake of busy knows what I am talking about! It’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re self-employed and feel guilty that someone might think you’re being “lazy”.

I know all this planning sounds like wheel spinning. I find that it is not at all. Every hour I spend doing it seems to save me about two when it comes to getting stuff bloody well done.

Just Because I Impress Myself

I said this in reply to someone on another group talking about working out of a black mood hole:

You are in control of your actions.

You can influence your emotions by your choice of actions.

You can make choices of actions that influence you in itty, bitty positive ways. Consistently choosing small things to influence your mood for good will start to snowball — VERY slowly at first, but it’s like lifting weights. At first you struggle to life ten pounds. By going and trying a little bit consistently, you get stronger and a year later, you’re tossing around 100 lbs like it was nothing. Then people who haven’t tried it get mad at you and say you’re just “naturally strong” and don’t understand what it’s like to find it hard to lift ten pounds.


In Praise of Dumbbells

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

The gym was closed today, and it’s weights day today.

Being a holiday, of course I can choose to skip a workout.  I chose to skip one earlier in the week due to sleep deprivation1, so on a day I was well-rested, not all that busy and the weather being gray and gloomy, I did want to go ahead and get in the mood enhancement of a short workout anyway.

When I started lifting, I started with a set of adjustable dumbbells.  I made great progress and was happy with them.  I figured though, since I’d “graduated” to a big ole macho gym workout that today would be light.

HA!  I had a wonderful, sweat pouring off me workout quite as good as any I get in the gym.

Friends, if you cannot afford a gym membership and want to lift, do save up and treat yourself to a cheap set of adjustable dumbbells, no kidding.     Mine are a set of Athletic Works that come in a case with 40 lbs of plates in the set, but each bar can take closer to 75lbs if you have the plates for it.  I don’t, nor do I need them yet!  (The heaviest weight I put on them is about 35 lbs for a total of 70 lbs for  dumbbell squats).  The original set cost me about $30, and I may have spent an additional $30 on more plates.  Plates are relatively cheap.

Now, do I like the gym?  Good lord yes!   The feedback and the motivation is wonderful, and exploring all the neat gadgets, machines and whatnot is all kinds of fun.  But they’re not necessary.  If I’m in a situation where I can’t afford a gym membership any more, my good friends the dumbbells will always be there for me.

And if you don’t believe me, check this out:

All Dumbbells, All The Time!
Dumbbell Exercises
The Complete Dumbbell Workout

1Up with a child having an asthmatic attack. He’s fine now, thank goodness!