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Posts Tagged ‘project mighty me’

think fast!

I need to figure out what I want for a karate icon.

My trial period is over; I’ve decided to join the dojo for real. To that end, I bought myself a pair of gloves, and sparred for the first time yesterday. (I kind of sort of sparred last week, but it was more like a set of sparring drills; when it came time for people to do scored bouts in front of the teachers, I was never called up.) They paired me against one of the black belts — all of whom, from what I’ve seen so far, are good people who understand that nobody benefits if they just wipe the floor with the little baby white belt. I “won” our bout, because she decided my lesson this week should be learning to attack: she launched the occasional strike at me, but mostly baited me forward, luring me into, y’know, doing something.

Which was both familiar and strange. I’ve sparred in fencing, but bare-handed combat is new to me. It’s a lot closer-range than I’m used to; the black belt kept beckoning me in, while I floated out at something more like blade length. On the other hand, since I don’t have to control a heavy piece of metal — and if you think rapiers aren’t heavy, you haven’t tried to wave one around for very long; they gain a pound with every passing minute, I swear — I was able to follow through much more cleanly when I saw an opening. Which my sparring partner even praised after class: the fencing experience means I do see openings. (I see them in fencing, too, but when I try to exploit them my point goes haring off god knows where, because my wrist strength crapped out three passes into the bout.)

Now, if I can get more than basic punches and some half-assed what-block-was-that stunts into my repertoire, I might get somewhere.

I also need to learn to kiai. Since apparently a point doesn’t count if you don’t yell when it lands. Just wait until I start doing this in fencing: the peril of pursuing two martial arts at once.

Wednesday . . . is gonna hurt. Because if I try to come down into the straddle splits from above, the way we do in class, it strains my hips without actually stretching me, so yesterday I did it the way I used to in dance: start on the floor, then roll forward into it. Their way, I’m a foot and a half off the floor; my way, maybe four inches. But it isn’t a method that lets you ease gradually into anything, so I fully expect my inner thighs to stage a violent protest come tomorrow.

When I will make them do it all over again.

The Littlest White Belt

I was good about going to the gym in 2007. In 2008, not so much. I managed it some of the time for the first four months; then I was out of the country for May (albeit on trips that involved much walking), and then it was the summer, with the moving and all, and I really didn’t have the time or energy for much of anything in the way of exercise.

Since last Monday, I’ve been to four karate classes and a fencing practice.

To quote my Scandinavian heritage — uff da.

I didn’t plan to dive in headfirst. It’s just that in karate, you pay by the month, not by the lesson, so it behooves me to go to all three practices each week if I can (and I really don’t have much excuse to say I can’t). And I’ve been trying to get my butt up to the city for fencing practice these last two months, so when it turned out I was actually going to manage it this week, well, “but I’ve already worked out a lot lately” didn’t seem like a very good reason to stay home.

Sheer bloody exhaustion might count, though.

On the other hand, if I can keep this up, I’m going to be fit in no time flat. Karate may be only an hour each time, but it’s all-levels, which means that tonight I was chased across the floor in sparring by a brown belt and three black belts. (Retreating is something I’m very good at.) And fencing is technically only for an hour, but if last Sunday is any example, I don’t have to worry much about the heavy fighters showing up and kicking us out of our field; I think it goes until people quit. All of it very acceptable as cardio work, too. Four or more hours of that a week? Yeah, I call that working out.

(Just don’t ask whether I’m really thinking about eventually taking up kobudo — weapons — twice a week, too.)

I am (not so) mighty; hear me roar

Back to the gym today, for the first time in . . . a while. Man, I’ve been really bad about it, this last month or two.

Interesting article, snurched from Neil Gaiman, regarding the genesis of the notion that fat is bad for you. As he says, the most interesting thing about it is the insight into how people think and behave — the whole “informational cascade” thing. The actual discussion of nutrition is less compelling to me, except inasmuch as it helps me not flip out about what I’m eating. On the whole, my views on the matter remain unchanged: I figure I should eat more whole grains and more vegetables, and think twice about dessert.

And, of course, exercise. Hence going back today. I haven’t slipped as much as I feared, which is good. But I can tell I’ve gotten softer around the middle — all that candy and rich food will, indeed, get to you.

But I’d still rather focus on working out than what I’m eating.

informative linkage

Since it seems like half the people around me have gone on some kind of health kick since the beginning of the year, I thought I should pass along this link I just came across, to a post analyzing studies of weight-loss dieting.

Money shot: “the more you diet, the harder losing weight becomes over the long term, and the harder your body will fight to retain fat.”

Mind you, I have issues with that post. First and foremost is that the writer doesn’t define what s/he means by “weight-loss dieting” — which lack of clarity makes it easy to hit the end of that post and believe that there’s nothing we can ever do to significantly change our body weight over a long period of time, and even if we do succeed all we’ve accomplished is to increase our risk of mortality.

I doubt that.

I’m going to presume that, by “weight-loss dieting,” the writer means restricted-calorie diets, and/or diets focusing on eating very restricted sorts of foods. (Grapefruit diets, etc.) There’s some good stuff further down about the idea that fat people overeat, and skinny people eat “normally;” I’d love to see a proper statistical analysis on a cross-section of the American population, but the attempted weight-gain study (or rather, its failure) was interesting. Short form is, I’m willing to buy the idea that overweight people are not necessarily overweight because of overeating, and therefore that restricting their eating is not and never will be a successful strategy.

I’m also going to presume that the writer doesn’t mean this information to refer to what we might otherwise call “a healthy diet.” Whether or not reducing refined foods and eating more fruits and vegetables will induce substantial weight loss, I’ve got to believe it’s a good idea for health reasons. Otherwise, we might as well fire the entire medical and nutritional professions en masse, and all go out for ice cream.

My final presumption is that the data there does not apply to an exercise-based weight-loss program. Do you suffer increased risk of heart disease if you lost your twenty pounds by walking more and driving less, or going to the gym three times a week? It doesn’t make sense to me that you would, but even if that’s the case, I will bet that the statistics and charts and graphs would be different than the ones for simple dieting. Are you more likely to lose weight and keep it off if you do it via exercise? If not, then there really isn’t anything a person can do to successfully and healthily shift their weight downward. Again, we need different statistics for that. I don’t expect the diet stats to apply there.

Because if weight loss is actually that bad for you, regardless of whether you do it by calorie restriction or healthy eating or exercise, then we’re even more screwed than we knew.

Anyway, there’s been a million discussions in my social circle about dieting and the Bad Idea-ness thereof, so I wanted to link to something that cited actual studies, complete with a bibliography of peer-reviewed articles at the end. Short form is, I stand by what I’ve said all along: eat better food, not less food, and get thee to a gym.

If somebody knows a reason why that’s a bad idea, please share.

yay water!

Yesterday I went swimming for the first time this summer. I was in London when the pool here at my complex opened, and then I was busy, and then it was closed, and then I was busy, and then it was closed . . . but we went and swam for about half an hour or so last night, and it was glorious.

A few observations, in no particular order:

1) If you need goggles, get thee to a specialty store or look online and get yourself some Barracudas. To quote the jargon from the website I turned up, they’re a positive-pressure seal instead of a negative-pressure one, i.e. they don’t operate by glomming onto your face with suction, which makes them much more comfortable than Speedo’s product. The frame is molded to fit the eye orbit more closely, and the foam on mine has held up for over a decade; only now are they starting to leak a bit, leading me to decide that it’s time to get some new ones.

2) My form on various strokes has undoubtedly degenerated, but a lot of it came back very quickly. (Though it did take me most of that half-hour to remember I was doing the wrong breast-stroke kick. Oh well; now that I’m not competing, I’ll go back to the one that doesn’t make my hips and knees hurt.) I think I can still justifiably call myself a strong swimmer.

3) I can still do fly!!! In fact, despite the loss of form, I probably swim butterfly better now than I did when I was fourteen, on account of having some actual upper body muscle. I may consider adding a once-weekly swim session to my exercise routine, because if you want gorgeous shoulders and back, ain’t nothin’ like swimming fly to give it to you. And I like swimming a lot better than running, even on an elliptical.

4) Did I mention I love the water?

5) I think I made almost this exact post (minus the commentary on Barracudas) a couple of years ago, after another long hiatus of not swimming. But most of you weren’t reading this journal then, so I can pretend it counts as new content, right?

Swimming good. I just wish I didn’t have to go to so much work to keep my hair from becoming chlorine-damaged. Otherwise I’d be in the water every day, like I was when I was nine.


Anent a conversation with kniedzw last night, today I decided to run a mile.

I’ve been doing cardio workouts since the end of January, but that has involved running on an elliptical machine. It’s easier on my joints, which is always appreciated, and the machine tells me interesting things like my heart rate and how many calories I’ve burned. Working out on that, I’ve often done two, two and a half miles, maybe a little more. But that doesn’t translate directly when running on a track, so I decided to see what happens when I run a mile there.

I don’t like it, is what happens.

That was a miserable experience. Jarring and a little painful at first; soon I was breathing much harder than usual (I’m still coughing a bit now), and I became desperately thirsty (having left my water bottle next to the track entrance, since I would splash it all over myself if I tried to drink while running). By the last of my five laps, I was feeling sick to my stomach. I kept myself going through an alternating pattern of carrot and stick: “Come on, you wimp. When you pass that post, you’ll be seventy percent of the way done. It’s only a mile; a mile is nothing. One more lap! Dude, you suck. Your characters are so much harder than you are.” (Yes, I really did goad myself on with that. Mirage, I decided, was entirely an unfair comparison, so I told myself Deven could kick my ass, which is true.)

The last time I ran a timed mile would have been in seventh or eighth grade, i.e. the last time I was forced to do it for P.E. I don’t remember what the fitness standard was for a girl of my age — it might have been as high as fifteen minutes for a mile, or as low as twelve; something in that range — but whatever it was, I scraped through at something like four seconds under the time limit.

So I can say with confidence that I have now run the fastest mile of my life, at a spectacular (<– sarcasm) 10:39.

I’m not going to make a habit of doing that. I may, however, use it as an occasional litmus test of my fitness. Maybe try again in a few months and see if I can do it in less than ten. (kniedzw, for the record, has me thoroughly beat; he does an eight and a half-minute mile. Some of that difference is his length of leg, but not all, by any means.) I know now that I can actually run a mile, for values of “run” including “jog;” back in junior high I know I walked at least part of that time. The next step (hah) will be to see if I can do it a bit more quickly.

But not any time soon. Because that wasn’t fun.

three months in

I don’t always exhibit this kind of good sense, but I’ve excused myself from going to the gym this week on account of the move. Next week is still open to debate, and I’ll be out of the country for a week later this month, so May is going to wreak havoc with my usual schedule.

But it seems like a good time to post about what progress I’ve made in the three months or so since I started working out at the gym.

Mid-February, my numbers looked like this:

  • Bench press: 2 x 12-15, 12 lbs.
  • Shoulder press: 2 x 15, 12 lbs.
  • Row: 2 x 15, 5 lbs.
  • Lat pulldown: 2 x 15, 30 lbs.
  • Back hyperextensions: 2 x 12, no weight.
  • Crunches: 2 x 15, no weight.

Here’s what I’m doing now:

  • Bench press: 2 x 12, 15 lbs.
  • Shoulder press: 2 x 12, 15 lbs.
  • Row: 2 x 15, 12.5 lbs.
  • Upright row: 2 x 15, 12 lbs.
  • Lat pulldown: 2 x 15, 45 lbs.
  • Modified pulldown: 2 x 15, 45 lbs.
  • Back hyperextensions: 2 x 12, no weight.
  • Crunches: 2 x 15, no weight.
  • Peggy spins: 32 cts. each side, 9 lbs.

As you can see, I’ve added a couple of things, substantially upped my weight on a couple of things, minorly upped my weight on a few more, and changed nothing whatsoever about the back extensions and crunches. Can you tell my core muscles are weak?

I’m also doing 30 min. or so of cardio on the elliptical twice a week, with interval training instead on Saturdays. And I’m stretching: I can put myself on the floor again in the side splits (provided I approach it slowly), though on a good day I’m still four or five inches from the wall, which means we are not in walkover territory yet. Oddly, my front splits are making slower progress than the sides are, which I would not have predicted.

It is progress. I am not G.I. Jane-era Demi Moore yet; I cannot do a one-armed pushup like she’s doing in my icon. I may never be there. But at least I can take some small satisfaction in watching my numbers go up.

who feels like a lazy slob?

On the heels of yesterday’s failure of a workout, I read this article about the training the actors and stunt crew of 300 went through for the film.

It’s pretty awesome.

And now I feel like a lazy slob.

Under no circumstances would I want to be in the gym 10-12 hours a day, five days a week for four months . . . but it does make me feel pretty pathetic about my own workouts. I would make a very bad Spartan. I do give a big thumbs-up, though, to a training regimen that, in both physical and social terms, seems pretty well-designed to produce modern-day Spartans. I’ve talked with any number of people about how the cast of Firefly used to hang out in the galley of the set when they weren’t filming, and it shows; they’re comfortable there, and have a camraderie with each other, that you only get by such means. Similar idea here. Blood, sweat, and tears, and at the end of it you’ve got Spartans.



Exercising today was kind of a bust.

Strength training: this went fine. A woman already had the hand-weight I use for one exercise, so I made myself step up to the next one. Had to lower my reps a bit, but other than that I was fine. So that’s an achievement.

Cardio: things started going wrong. The balls of my feet hurt for some reason, from the moment I stepped onto the elliptical. Not hurt badly, but enough that I quit a third of the way into my usual workout. Grrr.

Stretching: now, I’ve stretched for flexibility before. I know how it works. If I stretch two days after the previous session, it will hurt. I understand this. But there’s hurting, and there’s today, when my muscles told me in no uncertain terms where to shove it. Quit this one partway through, too, and when I got up the soreness took too long to go away.

Is some planet in retrograde that has to do with physical fitness? Because it sure felt like it.

Screw it. I’m going to eat girl scout cookies and forget about health for a day.


Well, I made it through about three weeks of working out before doing something overly enthusiastic. That has to count for something, right?

In case you were wondering, interval training (alternating between sprinting and walking) may be great for fat loss, but it also kicks your ass six ways from Sunday. And should you decide to give it a shot, I recommend starting out with, oh, twenty minutes of it. Not half an hour.

If you need me, I’ll be on the floor, moaning and feeling sorry for myself.