Monday, December 31, 2012

new year?

I've not been a fan of New Year's crap for awhile.  Part of it is that it's an arbitrary system: there's nothing special about January 1 (on the Gregorian calendar), such that life will magically change up on its passing.  The other part is as I mentioned before: resolutions are about as arbitrary as the day and typically occur under duress.

I wish that this year flipping over could usher a change for me.  While there are things from the twelve months past that I am glad of, there's also been a ridiculous amount of frustration and setbacks.  I would like to pretend that there's a clean slate for me to write upon, as opposed to something scratched and pock-marked from prior abuse.  The idealistic notion of "living in the moment" is a great thought, but can only ever remain a notion.  Realistically, my past has an impact upon my present, and likewise my concerns for the future may dictate my actions now.

While I might try to slough off the mistakes I've made and the opportunities I've lost, I'm still carrying the luggage from them;  sometimes in literal weight (like my jiggling belly), but even more burdensome is the loss of trust and faith in myself to do better than I have before.

I can't promise that the bullshit of life won't stop me from getting to the gym or eating well or sleeping enough.  Quite the contrary, I know that it will.  I can only hope that the bullshit and setbacks and failures are temporary, and that somewhere I'll find the will to keep on trying and pushing and doing better.

Failing that, there's the next New Year's celebration in about 40 days.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions.  It's because they so typically (in my hands, at least) are "inspired" by a calendar schedule and thus often rushed notions without any particular plan of execution.  A recipe which essentially dooms the resolution to failure within very short order.  I always felt like the beginning of September was a better time for resolutions, which I'd guess is notion shared by most people who were schooled outside the home.  New school year, new classes, new notebooks and pens, and if not a new attitude, at least a refreshment of the old.

That all being said, I also find that as much as part of me resists the beginning of a year as a time for change, the late December holidays invariably disrupt normal life and routines to an extent that it's difficult not to align the termination of the holiday season that comes with January 1st with the attempt to resume or initiate good habits and better routines.

This year brought a total disruption to my normal mode of living and working.  First a time course, then a ridiculously heavy work week (still trying to squeeze some useful information out of that experiment, incidentally), then... what?  disruption of normal climbing and lifting days thanks to gym closures, fatigue, inclement weather, pet-sitting, and now a cold.  I'm frustrated, but too tired to really give a crap.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to clean up my life and get back on schedule and I'll do something like go to the climbing gym, but of course absence begets weakness, which begets frustration and kills motivation, which begets absence.  So I tell myself that still the holidays are disrupting everything and maybe once this is all over I can get back on schedule.  We'll see how next week looks, yeah?

One thing that I am determined to do is to get more sleep.  I was running through all the crap that one should do to get a little leaner and a little stronger and trying to figure out where I was failing.  Diet: not stunning, but pretty decent: no processed food, fairly low on carbs, almost completely free of blood glucose spiking carbs, not ridiculous amounts of calories...  I should probably increase the vegetable content, and maybe double-check the fat.  Exercise, again not very impressive lately, but not horrendous:  need to be more consistent, maybe get some cardio in there (or stab myself in the eye because that's almost as fun), push myself a little harder, especially when climbing.  Sleep.... oh.  whoops.

I used to typically get 6 hours a night.  It never felt like enough, but I was totally functional on it.  Then I started to get treatment for the Graves disease and while I still was getting 6 hours or so a night, it felt hellish, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get up and get going in the morning.  I was starting to sleep through alarms.  More recently, I might be getting somewhere around 7 hours on an average weeknight these days, but that drops precipitously on the weekends where I feel like I can stay up later because I can sleep in, but then I completely fail to sleep in.  It's still a struggle to get up and get going the morning.  I'm always tired, but that's not really different than any other phase of my life since I stopped being a slack-assed teenager.  We all know that getting insufficient sleep increased stress and cortisol and all sorts of other nasty things, so I'm not going to explain it all and link to good articles (although feel free to share some of your favourites, if they're from or informed by solid peer-reviewed research).  Suffice it to say that sleep is an obvious weak link for me and a little effort is probably going to go a lot further than my weighing my morning yogurt.

So.  I'm going to try to get more sleep.  No more late-night web surfing or Netflix, even if I'm trying to settle after getting in from climbing, that fluorescent-light emitting screen has got to be off by 11! ... er... midnight?  at the latest? know, after New Years...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Never Enough Caffeine

I'm sitting here in a bit of a haze.

I've had a stressful chunk of time at work.  Right now, I'm waiting on seeing if the past three days, (aka, 40 work-hours and over $2000 of reagents) are successful or not.  When you're trying something new in the lab, it takes longer than it should.  When you're doing something that has a lot of money and data riding on it, it takes longer still.  I have about 39 more hours to wait until I have a good idea if this all worked, but in about an hour I'll have a crude notion.

Before I started all this, I was coming off an experiment which had me in the lab at 2 am for 4 nights running.  Sleep hasn't been something I've been doing enough of this week.

I'm trying to remind myself that it's ok that I've only been to the gym once this week, because lifting hunks of metal when  even a coffee cup feels heavy is probably not sensible.

The good news, of course, is that I've been so preoccupied with this lab crap that I'm not really thinking about how blubbery I've been feeling.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Needing Encouragement Again

Last week I was all psyched and excited to be lifting again, and I was enthusiastic about climbing (yet didn't manage to do it at all that week), and right now at this moment part of my brain is curled up in a corner whimpering.

I had a crappy day of climbing on Tuesday, and not much better last night.  The joke amongst climbers is that it's a "high gravity day" because it feels like every move is harder than it should be.  Like your bones have turned to lead when you weren't looking.

While I avoid weighing myself as a general rule, I have regular dates with an endocrinologist and hopping on the scale seems to be part of the deal.  This means that since I've been dutifully medicating for my Graves' disease, I've got to watch my weight creep up and up and up.  I've been in laundry crisis this week and thus discovered that some formerly baggy pants are now tight enough on the waistband to be uncomfortable and essentially unwearable.  Despite getting overheated I've stopped wearing tank tops to the climbing gym because they don't hide my flab well enough.  I skulk from the shower to locker in the Uni gym with a towel clutched in front of my ballooning belly.  My body and I are not getting along well.

I don't have the best diet in the world, but it doesn't suck.  My carbs are fairly limited, and I don't do processed food.  The dietician was complimenting my eating habits last time she was looking at my food log.  I kind of am at  loss as to what more I can cut out without getting all bingey (and I will binge if I try to restrict my eating).  I could probably make an effort to sleep more (but I have a hard time going to bed the moment I'm home from the lab).  I could do cardio (although I hate it beyond words, and when the hell do I have time?!)  I'm feeling a little stuck.

I feel like I can still lift, so that's good (although maybe I ought not have goals that are related to body weight because at this rate I'll never keep up), but I'm having problems climbing.  I'm worried for my fingers like I've never been before.  I'm getting new pains in one of my already bad fingers, and I jarred one of pinkies a long time ago and it won't heal... I actually had to tape it up last night.  I'm starting to tape my bad fingers when I lift, too.  While I know I need to work on my finger strength really badly of late, I'm scared that I've already put too much stress on them and that any more will put me over the edge.  Climbing is something that keeps me sane in the way nothing else I've ever found does.  Climbing poorly, as I've been doing for over a year now since moving is a slow heartbreak, and while I keep working on trying to regain just the joy of climbing and have phases of doing that, I don't think I could keep at it indefinitely if I stalled here forever.  I'm starting to think that maybe I'm too old for this.

I'm having a really hard time now that I've let doubt slip in and take hold.  I think it was inevitable with the steady increase in weight and pain I've been having.  I don't really know how to hold the dark cloud back anymore.

You must all think I'm bipolar or flighty or something.  I'm typically not.  Maybe it's just exhaustion because it's been a couple of crazy weeks at the lab again (including something that has me here babysitting cells in the middle of the night for the next few days).  Maybe it was an excess of caffeine when I was feeling good.  Whatever it is, I need a little kind and sweet kick in the ass or something.  ...and some more tape for my fingers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Left Hanging

On a related note, I've been climbing more regularly for two or three weeks now.  My climbing was also shut down considerably during the work-related insanity.  I'm not going to the gym tonight, though.  Some of it is that I got delayed at work, some of it is that it's been snowing all day and the roads might get nasty by the time I'm driving home, and some of it is that my fingers are hurting more than usual today.  I have some problem fingers (chronic overuse injury, but I've never had them diagnosed), and while they normally might be mildly achey when I clench a fist the day after climbing, one of them has been ow-y all of yesterday and today as well, and with little provocation.  Sensibly, I know I should rest it.  Honestly, though, I don't want to.

I am stoked to go climbing like I haven't been in a long, long time.  I remember this feeling of vague and constant excitement, like a diluted version of how I felt the day before my birthday when I was a little kid.  I used to feel like this all the time when I was new to climbing, and it's come back at points where I felt like I was making noticeable progress or had projects that inspired me.  I've found some new projects in Lincoln Woods which have captured my imagination lately, and one of them is hard enough and fun enough that it will probably hold my attention for a year or more.  I am loving how I'm feeling.  It's been so long.  It's invigorating.  I've been needing this.


Yesterday I went back to the gym for the first time in a long time.  Some of the strength I used to have was gone, but not as much as I anticipated.  Part of it was the usual exercise in frustration and seething hatred for undergrads here.  I waited so long for equipment that I only managed to get through half my routine before I had to bail to make a lab meeting.  It would have normally had me pissy beyond belief, but it was a leg day and I had already pushed hard through squats and deadlifts and what I did get done seemed to be enough to give me a very subtle high.  It's been a long time since I had that exercise high.  I keep forgetting that I'm susceptible to it, and keep forgetting how much I like it.  Someone remind me next time I'm acting ambivalent about lifting heavier or lead climbing overhangs until I fall too far to get back on the wall.

Also my ass is sore.  I find that post-exercise pain will evolve for me.  Most of the time it comes on slowly (and with climbing I'm pretty much guaranteed a day of grace before I start hurting), and sometimes it'll move.  So while my hamstrings were sort this morning, my pain has now settled into my sizeable bum and inner thighs.

It feels really good getting back in the gym.  I was not expecting this.  I was expecting reluctance and apprehension and self-recrimination and the heartbreak of starting all over again.  Instead I feel like I'm sliding into a warm comforting bath... the kind that makes your ass hurt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bite Me, UCrap

Yesterday I finally steeled myself and went back into the gym.  I kept telling myself not to worry about numbers, and by patient with myself, but it was still a little nerve-wracking.  I wasn't sure how I'd handle myself.  I needn't have worried.  I didn't lift well or anything like that, but I forgot how much I hate the gym crowded with undergrads, so the slow-simmering rage kept be distracted from myself.

The rage got worse when my mentally patting myself on the back for walking into the gym and my narrative about how I was going to work hard was put to an abrupt stop:

Seriously.  The place is closed all of next week.  The hell.  Fine that this University lets all the children bugger off for the full week, but closing down everything else is just asshole business.

So now I've got another wrench in my aim to create a new normal that I can live with.  I'm worried that I'll lose the little bit of momentum I have.  The boss is gone this week and next, so part of what I was hoping for was to use the freedom to establish a habit where I break up the day with a gym trip instead of saving it for after the lab (that was part of how it got pushed out to begin with: who wants to go to the gym after an 11 hour work day? or cook, or launder clothing, or do anything else for that matter?).

Aside from the fretting, how was the first day back?  Well, there was the aforementioned rage.  The crowding of the place really gets to me, because I am just not happy having to wait for a piece of space or a bit of a machine or something.  I get especially peeved when someone is claiming more than they need, like if they're parked in a squat rack to do their deadlifts or they've stockpiled dumbbells at their feet from their previous sets or if they don't clean off a bar, or if they're parked in the middle of the room to muck with their hair.  I know that expecting some 19-year-old boy to clean up after himself is asking far far far too much, but I can dream, can't I?  Lifting just might succeed where climbing has failed and get me to get up earlier in the morning.  Ha.  I shiver just thinking about it.  I'm more likely to become gregarious.

Right now my pecs are a little sore, but it's that good sore of having tried to bench more than I should have, rather than the full-body ache of nascent depression I was starting to get a couple of weeks ago, or that worrying stiff ache of my hands the day after some hard climbing.  It's a sore I am sort of looking forward to becoming reacquainted with.

The question is, how do I keep up the motivation for now, and what can I do in my own time and space to keep from returning to the world of overworked sloth?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Part of the Club

On Tuesday I went to my climbing gym.  I did some bouldering and discovered that more than being weaker (which I am), I am less trusting of myself and my body.  I experienced this after coming back from breaking my ankle and it's the hardest thing to deal with.  Losing faith in my own strength and abilities is hard, and the faith comes back so much slower than the strength.

It was so good being back, however.  I was reminded how much I really love the regulars there, I got into a conversation about virology with one of the regulars (there's a small contingent of science grad students from neighbouring universities), shared some chili that someone made, and bouldered with one of my favourite people there.  I adore the guy because he's Mr.  Enthusiastic:  alway psyched, energetic, positive, and having fun.  He's the sort of guy you feel you could tell anything to and he'd never be taken aback or judge against you.  If he was a lot older or I was a lot younger, I'd be seriously crushed out on the guy.

He was wearing a simple bracelet of 5 mm cordalette sealed to itself at the ends.  I noticed one of his other close friends at the gym was sporting an identical one, and so I commented and joked that I wanted to be part of the club, too.  At the end of the night Mr. E brought in some cord and a lighter from his car and set me up.  It's a simple thing, but at the time it really amused me.

The next day we traded some text messages and Mr. E said:

Just remember, on those days that you are feeling down, look at your bracelet and remember that you got people that care a lot about you and got your back no matter what :)

It's just a cute sentiment, but it meant a lot to me.  I've been struggling with a lot of stressors lately, and it even though it seems like such a na├»ve thing that a few centimetres of nylon can carry weight, I do find myself seeing it every so often and feeling a little settled in the world.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Molecular Biology Blues

I've been in a pit lately.

I can't recall when it started...  A month ago?  Two months?  It's irrelevant.  Basically I've been experiencing a marked increase in the pressure I've been receiving from the boss in terms of how much work I'm getting done.  Additionally, he's been getting almost shrill in his complaints (bolstered to a large degree by confirmation bias) about how much people are working in general.  He says "Every time I leave my office, I look to see if the lights are on in the lab and they're always off, nobody ever works late."  The most recent time he said this to me I snapped at him that it was total crap because excluding the night I left early (8:00 pm) to do laundry, I was in late every night that week.

This is not hyperbole... I'm working late almost every night, I'm coming in at least one day on the weekend, sometimes both.  Excluding a few late-evening beers with friends, a few hours of errands,  a brief visit with my parents and friends in Canada, and a hurricane-induced day off, I've been doing nothing but coming to this lab for the past couple of months.

I haven't been climbing.

I haven't been lifting.

And hence, I'm sinking into a pit.

While I was doing my PhD, I learned that climbing regularly did a massive amount of good to keep me mentally and emotionally healthy.  Truthfully, I don't think I'd have ever made it through the degree without that outlet.  I think it's not just the physical release (although it really does a lot more good for me than I'd ever have predicted), but while I'm climbing I'm having a nano-vacation from work in that at the moment I'm climbing, I really can't be thinking about anything else.  I have also been suspecting that I was getting a comparable thing when doing my heaviest lifts (although I know that my need for focus is more tenuous when I'm doing lower-weight reps).

So now I don't have these releases thanks to work pressure.  I could scream about how the students here are putting in far less time and effort that I am (true), and that it's completely ridiculous that so much is resting on my shoulders (probably true), and the boss is being an unfair asshole judging me by the standards he chooses to apply to his own overweight, high-blood-pressured, high-cholesterolled, pre-diabetic self (just whining now), but the screaming isn't going to get me anywhere better.

My old-school coping mechanisms of drinking excessively and stress-eating are also not going to get me anywhere better.

What I have to do is just simply dig my heels in and go climbing and go lifting whether the boss bloody well likes it or not.  I had every intention of doing that starting today (!!!), but of course, just as I was sorting out my gym gear so I could go lift, the boss wandered into the lab to chat with me about what I was doing and now I'm staying late again and waiting on one of the students who needs me to help him do stuff he's not familiar with.  I'm also guessing that by the time I'm done here (after an 11 hour day), I won't have the energy to go into the evening gym crowd to fight for a squat rack.  Heck, I've barely got the energy to wait on the student anymore.

But seriously.... I feel like crap.  I'm tired, my lungs are lousy, I'm dipping into lowers moods at increasing frequency, and I'm losing faith in myself.

I know this is just a big self-pity dump, and I can completely understand people having zero patience for this sort of thing, but I needed to bleat for a bit.  I also need, really badly, a little encouragement to get back into the gym.  I'm scared that all the progress I've made has completely wasted away and that I'll have to start from zero all over again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diet Woes

One of the good things about getting the diabetes diagnosis is that I've got access to a dietician, and my insurance pays for it.  Both the dietician and the diabetes nurse (who I met before during the whole dexcom thing) are seriously interesting and awesome women, and I keep running my appointments overtime just out of enjoying talking with them.  But getting back to the dietician...  The other day I had my appointment with her to determine my resting metabolic rate and draft a meal plan.

A bit of recap.  I'm not happy with the amount of fat I've got on me.  It may not be a lot in terms of numbers or compared to other people, and it might well be more the result of socialisation by my constantly-dieting mother than the result of knowing what's healthy, but it's still more fat than I want.  I've got crappy self-control in terms of food (not a sweets fan, but I love to eat and drink), and the thought of counting my calories or macros makes me want to throw a tempter tantrum like a 3-year-old denied ice cream.  Since I've been on medication for my Graves' disease I have put on about 4 or 5 kg, and I've been feeling like a complete lard ass.

I know, in a logical way, that carbs are not inherently evil.  I also know that diabetics should be eating carbs, albeit those with a lower glycemic index and load (carbs are not evil, but bagels are the antichrist with a hole in the middle).  I know these things in a logical way, but my mind is not free from the influence of people who talk about how much weight their cutting by avoiding carbs, or how I have to watch out that I don't eat too much bread, or how grains are poison.

As the dietician was going through a meal plan and comparing it with the food log I gave her a few months ago, she was looking for ways to add more carbs:  "What about fruit? How about you have an apple or something here...  Let's put some beans into that salad, beans are great..."

"I could do that",  I say.  Meanwhile I'm thinking about how I was told not to eat fruit more than once a day at most because of all that terrible sugar by one diet advisor, and how all the paleo proponents I know are convinced that legumes contain "anti-nutrients".  I find myself immediately deciding that I'll just skip the fruit.  Also in the conversation I'm relieved to find out that Greek yogurt and milk are counted as carbs, so my latte will do as a carb serving, and I can have yogurt before bread rather than more fruit.

I feel ridiculous as I watch myself react and think this way, how I'm already balking at the meal plan for being too carb-heavy.  I'm also wondering where the hell I've been going wrong since this plan (minus all the wanton carbs) so closely resembles how I've been eating yet I'm still gaining weight.  Additionally, I'm noticing that I still feel panicked and trapped by this meal plan even though there's no massive difference between it and my recent diet.

I'm having a really hard time resolving all this or knowing what it is I should be doing or eating.  I'm also now hating myself for eating anything as I watch the numbers on the scale at my endocrinologist's office creep upward.

The worst part is my metabolic rate.  Apparently 1500 calories is my basal need.  How can I justify eating 1900 (which I argued down from 2100)?  Surely I'm not lifting or climbing that hard.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wherein I am Judgmental

I'm usually not the judgmental sort.  I'm not saying this as a boast or anything, I just notice that a lot of things don't phase me, and I've had other people (including my own sister, who I don't particularly get along well with) tell me they value my lack of judgement.

There, of course, some subjects in regards to which my neutrality goes right out the window.  These include the obvious such as bigotry, charlatans of all description (and often those who buy into them), folks who say "nucular", etc.  Another one of these subjects is willful ignorance.

The other day I'm in the pharmacy, waiting patiently to get my anti-leukotreines before the places closes.  There's a guy at the counter engaged with one of the pharmacists.  He looks to be in his 50s.  He's got the beer gut, and ball cap, and there's obviously some issue.  As near as I can tell, there's a big bag of pharmaceuticals with his name on them, but he's not actually prepared to buy all of them.  The pharmacist has actually resorted to tearing the bag open, and is going though the bottles and canisters one by one to determine what the guy is going to take.  It amuses me at first, because rather notably the pharmacist is speaking in normal volume about all this personal medical crap, except when she says the phrase "stool softener".  So apparently it's ok that we can piece together this guy's medical issues, but it's embarrassing that he's a little constipated?  It's this amusing thing that gets my attention so moments later I'm completely eavesdropping on the pharmacist's side of the conversation (I can't hear the dude talking).

The pharmacist is pulling bottles out of the torn bag and telling they guy what's in them: Tradjenta, Lipitor, Advair, Dylacor...  She's giving him simple descriptions of what the medications are for "It's to lower your cholesterol... It's an inhaler, for your lungs, to help you breathe..."  This is where the judgement starts.  I'm amazed that this guy is taking all these things, but doesn't actually know what they do or why he's taking them.  Doesn't he think?  Isn't he interested in his own health?  Then I start to notice how very full the bag is and how many of these drugs are for things such as cholesterol and blood sugar.  I look at the guy's big belly, and then the judgement really flies, "What the fuck, dude..." I'm thinking, "You know you could ditch half that stuff if you just got up off your ass every now and again."

I'm not really proud of this, but I'm not exactly ashamed of it either.  I know that health issue such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are multifactorial problems and that those who suffer from them are not at fault.  I also know that for many people, these things can be mitigated by diet, exercise, and lifestyle.  Looking at this guy it's clear he's got not got much of a handle on these things.  Yes, cleaning up your health is damn hard (I certainly have issues with it), but can't you make some kind of effort?  Even just a little moderation and movement can make a difference.  I see people like this chowing on some greasy fast food with the extra-ginormous fries in their pick-up trucks (with the engine running), and I just wonder: How can they not know?  How is it they don't understand what they're doing to themselves?  Or more importantly, how is it they know, but they're doing nothing to change? Are they too lazy?  Are they too stubborn?  Have they given up?  Have they chosen not to care?

It's so very frustrating to me to see people who choose not to take an interest and become and active participant in their own health and well-being.  It is a form of willful ignorance to know that your lifestyle is having a detriment, but to continue living the same way.  I have no sympathy for such a lack of involvement.  Am I alone in this, or do other people get frustrated in seeing it as well?

Friday, August 31, 2012

What's Eating Me?

This is the second post I'm writing about my present issues, and this is the non-self-pity one.  I'm aiming for blunt right now.

In late April, bloodwork for a routine physical showed some anomalies.  A bunch of weeks and diagnostic tests later, it seems I have Graves' disease (autoimmune hyperthydrosis).  At the time, I found the news somewhat perturbing, but fundamentally, if you have to choose a chronic disease (not that you would), thyroid issues are a relatively good pick because they are relatively straight-forward to treat.  I know that the symptoms can be hellish, but I was asymptomatic, so I can't speak to that.  I can say I felt like absolute crap for a few weeks after starting treatment, and I actually took a couple of weeks off from lifting.

A month ago was the follow-up appointment for the Graves', and my endocrinologist tells me he suspects I have type I diabetes as well (this is the autoimmune never get better one, not the lose some weight one).  That news I found somewhat tougher to deal with and, rather oddly, I fell into an ice cream bender and a phase of eating poorly.  I know many people live full and healthy lives with type I diabetes.  I know a few people who are examples of this.  I also know that living those full and healthy lives means a lot of vigilance and discipline, and around the time of this appointment, I felt that I was already running on fumes in terms of discipline.

Throw in some work-related stress and stir.

Yesterday was another appointment with the endocrinologist.  Type I diabetes diagnosis has been confirmed, but I'm still in the "honeymoon phase" wherein my body is using up the insulin it has left and I don't need to start supplementing yet.  Typical honeymoon is 3 to 9 months, but longer is not uncommon.  I want ice cream very badly, but I've also gained weight in the last month (although this could also be because of the treatment for the Graves').

I also seem to be aiming for a triumverate of autoimmune disease, and we'll see if my adrenal glands are joining in the party that my thyroid and pancreas have started.

The other day I was about ready to throw up my hands in disgust and give up on being healthy.  Two weeks ago I missed a lifting session because I forgot my gym card, and then failed to make up the time elsewhere.  Last week I missed all but one session because of more work-related stress, and odd gym hour reductions and closures.  Then work got in the way of yet another session at the beginning of this week, and mid-week I was genuinely on the cusp of swapping out beer for a prime time annoyingly crowded gym session with all the undergrads who've just returned to the Uni.  I did the lifting, though, and felt better for it, and I'm going to try to get to the gym this afternoon and make up the missed session tomorrow.  I am also going to get disciplined with my eating again, and go to bed at a decent hour most nights instead of staying up late for no good reason.

I might, however, have a little ice cream tonight.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sorry Folks

Yes I've been missing for a long time.

It's not like I didn't have things to write, it's just that I got distracted by my own stupid stresses.  I'm planning to remedy that.  Not the stresses.  They are, for the most part, things I cannot completely control.  I just would prefer that I don't let that stuff continue to distract me from writing.

Part of the gap is that about a month ago I did write a post about what has been going on, but I rather intelligently didn't publish it right away.  At the time I had intended to go back and edit a bit, but when I did go back, I felt that I was coming across as overly whiney and self-pitying.  While whiney and self-pitying is something I think we all do on occasion (even those of us who are loathe to admit it), it's not an accurate reflection of who I am anymore.  That portion of my personality has been excised with my early twenties, and I don't really want to become that person again.

Despite these sentiments, I'm lately thinking that this blog shouldn't be exclusively about what I am physically doing, but also my mental journeys as well.  As a result, there might be a little whining from time-to-time, but I'll try to keep that checked in my head as well as in my blog.

If I've not lost my entire readership (both of you) already, and you're reading this:  I'm sorry.  I miss you.  I'll do better.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Does Experience Affect Aesthetics?

Please excuse the lofty title.  While it does accurately reflect what's been on my mind recently, I feel a title like that would be better served by the writing of Feminist Figure Girl than myself.  Indeed, she's probably already written it, but I was far too lazy to go look.  For the time-being you are stuck with my pedantic and undereducated musing.

I've been thinking about this, while watching a guy doing dumbbell flyes at the gym awhile back.  Yes, I watch people in the gym, although not in a pervy way, but just to get ideas about form.  This is stuff I learned from climbing.  One can get a lot better at climbing by watching better climbers.  Sometimes consciously, and more often unconsciously, the style and moves and subtleties of other climbers will inform one's own climbing, so I naturally have adopted the same ploy in lifting.

But back to the flye guy...  One of the things that I was thinking when looking at him was sort of a vague notion of, "What's wrong with his forearms?"  I followed this thought and realised that what I was noticing was that I thought his forearms were disproportionately skinny compared with his big biceps.  I looked around at some of the other men in the room (not really any women to look at, that day), and determined that everyone seemed to have forearms that were slender in comparison to their biceps.  I then looked at my own arms, which I think are not disproportionate in the same way, and I figured out what was going on.

I wasn't particularly active, until I started to climb.  The majority of fit people/athletic types I've been looking at since then have been other climbers.  Climbers use their fingers to keep their body on the wall or help them move up it, and as such the muscles that control our fingers (which are predominantly housed in the forearm) get bigger.  Climbers have well-developed forearms with a fairly distinctive silhouette; ask any of them to flex and see for yourself.  I've become accustomed to these sort of forearms as being the norm. Not everyone in an average gym, I'm guessing, thinks about training their grip and finger strength as they might for any other part of their bodies.  The result is that someone like myself, interprets this as disproportionately skinny forearms.

It gets me thinking about what else I have become accustomed to seeing in a climbing gym and thus internalised as "normal".  Big backs, for sure.  Climbers almost invariably develop their backs far more than their chests and thus develop somewhat rounded shoulders (sometimes referred to as turtlebacks).  I rarely notice this on anyone.  I think the only reason that big chests don't surprise me is that they tend to be featured in the media, but even then, I can sometimes be taken aback by well-worked chest in real life.  Climbers in general tend to be more slender overall, and it's actually unusual to see one with the triangular sort of torso that is favoured in body building and fitness magazines.  In a manner of speaking, you see more Dave Grahams than Chris Sharmas (no links, you can look them up if you're that fascinated).  It also reminds me of hearing a friend tell of a coworker who came to his house-warming and commented that there were "a lot of really, really fit people" present.  The comment had to be explained to me:  the coworker was observing the climbers, whereas I would have never applied the same description, because to me, climbers are within the range of normal.

Of course, all this leads to thoughts about how what one perceives as "average" can be affected or manipulated by one's surroundings.  While I don't want to get into an argument about methodology, it also hearkens back to a rather controversial article describing how obesity can be "contagious", and why that article simultaneously seemed to make sense to a lot of people upon initial reading, while outraging others.  A thinking person can't help but to wonder how trustworthy their own understanding of aesthetic "normality" could possibly be, and how this aesthetic might affect their behaviour.  We've become accustomed to blaming popular media for contributing to body dysmorphic disorder in women, but I don't think we question how the look of our colleagues, social groups, or cohorts might have an impact as well.

I can't claim to have come to any conclusions about all of this, although I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on the matter.  Have you noticed your own perceptions changing depending on who you have been socialising with or living amongst?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where the Hell Have I Been?

um.... er....  ???

Where the hell have I been?  I'm not really sure.  I can tell you I've been reading your blogs (if you've got one you've told me about), despite not having blogged myself.  Before anything else, I do want to extend a huge congratulations to an awesome woman for her very first powerlifting meet!  I'm freaking impressed... Hauling over twice your bodyweight off the floor is something you should be damn proud of.  I bloody well would be!

I went to Rumney and climbed with Lola again, a week after the first time.  I want to extend congratulations to her as well (even though she doesn't read this), for doing her first 5.7 sport lead.  And, might I add, she cruised it like it was part of her morning routine rather than the hardest lead she's done to date.  I have got to say for Lola, she gets into the zone.  I am awed and humbled by her ability to focus.  I just do not have that talent, nor do I have any idea how to create it.  I think about midway through the climb I stopped shouting encouragement at her, because I realised that she wasn't even aware I was talking, let alone what I was saying.  Lola also did her first onsight (climbing a route clean on lead despite never having tried it or watching anyone else on it before), but that was so way below her normal climbing ability it's not worth writing more about.  Lola's been good about pushing me to get on at least one 5.10 every time I've got to go out with her, but honestly, that weekend was a relatively weak one for me, so I won't bore you with the details.  I also won't bore anyone with the details of my day climbing at Farley this past weekend, because again, I was climbing poorly.

I also haven't been to the climbing gym for about 2 weeks, which is something I'm pretty pissed at myself about.  I have no reasonable excuse.  I've been keeping up with the lifting, though, so I'm not a total loser.

I think the past few weeks (even time preceding, and between, Rumney trips) have had work-related stress.  The boss is anxious and intermittently pissed off at the lack of work that has been getting done in the lab of late.  I've been chasing after non-existant orders and arguing with financial people and sales reps and doing a lot of hurry-up-and-wait kind of work where I can't show off successes.  Other people, well, I don't want to speak for them, but suffice it to say I share some of the boss' anger.  Oddly, this work stress just makes me quiet, and hence, so is my blog.  No worries, though, there's verbiage a-brewing, and in the meantime I'll leave a photo of myself looking pensive (were one to crop it appropriately) from my first weekend in Rumney, shortly after my very awesome lead fall.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Double Sessions

In my last post I talked about some of my intentions with regards to climbing.  What's still lacking is the plan.  I really don't know jack about training for climbing or anything else.  That's not entirely true:  I know a little rudimentary stuff about training for climbing, but all of it seems to be dependent upon having a training partner, or at the very least, three or more days a week in the climbing gym.

Climbing is one of those unusual sports in that the very best thing you can do with your time, if you want to get better at climbing, is to to climb more.  No amount of chin-ups, lat pulldowns, or barbell curls, and certainly not squats, will help you climb better if you're doing that sort of thing in lieu of climbing.

So one thing is clear.  I have got to start getting back into the climbing gym at least two weeknights a week.  I keep falling into this trap where there isn't a really convenient time to sneak away from work and do my lifting.  That means it gets put off to the end of the day, which pretty much guarantees I'm not out in time to visit the climbing gym (it's a long drive and I have this odd rule wherein I have to be climbing for more time than it takes to drive there and back in order to make the trip worthwhile).

I also need to improve my finger strength, so I really have got to create and maintain a weekly fingerboard session.  That'll be a challenge, given that most of the time I'm completely worn out by the time I get home.  I have a nasty habit of working late if I don't have something else time-sensitive planned like climbing or laundry.

Finally there's the challenge I don't really like thinking about... I don't climb as hard as I might if I've been lifting earlier the same day.  This isn't just when I have a back and biceps day, shoulders, chest, and triceps all make me a little bit weaker on the wall, and legs just makes me want to surf the couch all evening.  I don't want to feel like lifting and climbing are clashing.  I want both at the moment, but if I have to choose, climbing will be it.  It keeps me sane.  I can't afford to give it up at this time.  And I love it and don't want to give it up.

So what's the advice out there for double-sessioning?  If the term is unusual, it's pretty self-explanatory and will crop up in the climbing community to reference the act of having two climbing sessions in a day.  This typically only happens in certain circumstances, like if the person went outside for the afternoon, then decided after dinner, or when the rain started or whatever that they wanted to climb some more and thus went indoors.  Or sometimes you get your climb on in the afternoon at the gym then find yourself persuaded outside in the evening, or more likely back to they gym because that guy you like climbing with said he was going to be there.  There's no secret to how to do this.  You just tend to comparatively suck at the second session. Do people do this sort of thing with lifting?  I mean, they must do something like that if they're training for power lifting competitions, mustn't they?  So how does one do it?  How can I regain energy and strength for that later session?  How do you regain your strength and energy if you need it later in the day?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pondering Climbing

warning: this post contains references to forms of climbing and climbing grades, which for the sake of brevity and flow of writing will not be defined herein.  Feel free to ask, however, and I will explain as best I can.

This past weekend I drove 3 hours to meet a new friend face-to-face for the first time and to climb outside with her.  She's a friend of a couple  I absolutely adore and admire, so I knew she'd be cool when I first approached her for a potential climbing partnership.  "Lola" absolutely lived up to my expectations, and I hope to spend many more weekends with her before she moves across the country in 2 months time.  We are both hoping that these next 2 months will provide an opportunity to improve our climbing and to push past our present experiences and (though I hate the phrase) "comfort zones".

I know that Lola already has her hopes come true. Previously she's only attempted a single 5.9 climb in the area on a toprope, but didn't finish it.  On our very first day together I had her working and finishing both a 5.9 and a 5.10a on toprope.  I also put her on a 5.5 lead, and that would be the first lead she didn't redpoint on toprope first.  I have every intention of seeing her lead 5.8 by the end of August, and have at minimum one 5.9 climbed clean.  She doesn't know this, but if she hasn't had an outdoor lead fall yet, I'm planning on seeing that, too.

I can't learn a lot of technical stuff from Lola*.  But I also have enthusiasm for the partnership and believe I will make gains from it.  Given that I am the stronger climber, I will have to lead pretty much anything and everything I want to attempt to climb.  I have always said I wanted to learn how to work things on lead, and this will absolutely force me to do it.  I will have to get braver and more confident and I'll have to fall.  I'll probably have to fall a lot, and will suffer a great number of cuts, bruises, abrasions, and ego injuries.  I already started that on the first day as I fell completely unexpectedly on a 5.10a lead.  I think I surprised Lola and her friends because after I safely came to a stop I whooped with delight "That was awesome!"

It was awesome, and awful.  It was sobering and emotionally hard falling on a 5.10a, because I used to be able to climb that with ease, but it was invigorating (as lead climbs often are), and it reminded me that falling is not necessarily a bad thing.  I gouged my knee and surfed the wave of the endorphin flood (giggling while being borderline weepy and shivering a little).  I was also reminded, and it was reinforced by Lola's perspective, that I climb better on outdoor 5.10s than I do on things with lower grades (I find the routes so much easier to read).

This means I have a little better idea of what I can possibly do with myself in terms of goals, or at least make promises of what I will try...

  • I will attempt 5.10s, ideally a minimum of one every day I'm outdoor climbing.  
  • I will stop "taking" on climbs 5.8 and easier, even if I get lost or pumped.  
  • I will climb 5.11a (albeit maybe not cleanly) by the end of August.  
  • For each new grade I climb cleanly (or sub-grade as I'm talking 5.10a, 5.10b, etc)  I will reward myself with a new quickdraw, and I will not cry when I have to abandon gear because I can't finish a climb.  
  • In the unlikely event I climb something in the 5.11 range cleanly on my very first attempt (at all),  I will reward myself with my own rope.
  • I will attempt at least one 5.12 by the end of August (toprope acceptable)
  • I will lead 5.6 and 5.7 trad before the end of the August (more difficult if I keep going out only to sport crags, but I'll do it anyway)
  • For each new grade 5.8 and above I climb cleanly on trad, I will give myself a piece of trad gear (again unlikely given my preference for sport, but why not?)

I will also, and perhaps most importantly, revel in every new success that Lola meets as though it is my own.

* Yes.  I know that many people will tell me about how the teacher can learn form the student et cetera, but my experience is that while I initially did learn things from people who didn't climb as well as me (not so much about how to climb, but more about how to observe my own climbing), that's petered out significantly.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I've been thinking a little about goals.  Mostly, that I don't have any.

Richard Wiseman has written about goals, and what works and what doesn't work in terms of setting and achieving them.  One apparently does need to have a fairly concrete goal in mind and have it broken down into milestones.  This is what I'm lacking more than anything else.

It's been pointed out to me before when I was looking for a little climbing coaching that my goal of "climbing better" is too esoteric, because how can I know what to focus on if I can't define what climbing better actually means.  Revising it to "climbing harder stuff" wasn't that much use either, or even "climbing harder stuff successfully".   Shame, that.  Maybe this is why I am still not a very good climber.   One could also argue that my career is going nowhere for the same basic reasons.

Not surprisingly, I also have no concrete goals in terms of lifting; "get stronger" probably doesn't help Tara devise a program for me (sorry Tara!).

I started lifting for a number of reasons including dissatisfaction with myself and how weak and fat I felt after climbing-related setbacks, some very friendly encouragement (thanks Tara!), and just straight out admiration for one individual I know personally (that's you, Leenie, if you ever read this) and via the blogosphere.  Lifting, I felt, was a way to kick my own ass back into shape, and simultaneously  (and ideally) getting stronger and thinner, while not hating my life as much as if I had attempted to start running again.  Another secret reason (one that I've not verbally expressed before now), is that I'm getting older and I've a couple of fingers with the signs and symptoms of overuse injuries and I don't get to choose where I live for awhile... all of which means that I may not be able to climb to a level of my satisfaction indefinitely.  I need something else to be there, when the climbing goes.

Lifting, thankfully, is becoming a thing for me in its own right.  It will theoretically remain a secondary thing as long as I can keep climbing, but I'm starting to realise that I might want to set some goals to this some day.  I have no idea what those goals should be.  I'm leery about setting looks-related goals, as they may lead me to hate my body and fear mirrors more than I do.  I'm not sure I could set lift goals, because what's reasonable, and what will require lifting to become the thing, over climbing (which is not what I want just yet).

So what are reasonable goals?

This weekend I'm off to Rumney to climb.  There, I'm going to be thinking about setting some climbing-specific goals... concrete ones this time.  Things I can aim for.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I'm completely abraded at the moment.  I feel like it's been weeks of work stress and medical appointments and trying to cram too much into too few hours.  That's annoying, but it's not beyond what I cold normally manage.  I am sleep-deprived but again, it should be within the confines of my version of "normal" or at least "manageable".

What's alarming to me is that I'm keep making stupid little mistakes.  Like neglecting to do something important at work, even though doing it is rote, or leaving my wallet somewhere (I'm hoping at home), or completely forgetting to do something I told someone I would.  It's driving me nuts.  I'm not the more scheduled and organised person in the world, and I'm fine with that.  My desk is a mess, but I can usually find what I'm looking for very quickly.  I may not be able to tell you until a half hour in advance when I'll be at the gym, but I'll be mentally juggling a number of experiments and protocols, some of which take days.

I'm hoping that this is all temporary.  That it's just that I need a vacation, not a massive life overhaul.  That it's part of normal cycling, rather than a new normal.

That's it.  Nothing more to say.  Just needed a few moments of whining.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Satisfy Curiosity

Today is day 5 of 7 days with a new little toy:

That pod stuck to my back is called a Dexcom.  It is sampling the glucose in my interstitial fluid every 5 minutes and is sending the readings to a receiver which is about the size of a cell phone that I've been toting around on me.  Every 12 hours I do a fingerprick blood glucose test and enter it into the receiver for calibration purposes.

Why am I doing this? Well, in blood tests for a routine physical awhile ago, my fasting blood glucose was almost as high as a diabetic's.  Given my family history and current shape, it's virtually inconceivable that I could actually be prediabetic.  My dietician said something I really liked.  She said, "You know what would be cool..." and thus a couple of weeks later I was back in the office with a nurse implanting the sensor and teaching me how to use the blood glucose meter.  What fun!

Of course I am fascinated and running the batteries down on the receiver by looking at what my blood glucose is doing.  I've learned that fruit, potatoes, and white rice make my blood sugar shoot up (big surprise there), and that doing physical activity like climbing, lifting, or even just warming up for those things causes my blood sugar to plummet back down (again, no eureka).  I'm also finding that after 5 days of having this thing attached to me as I climb, lift, sweat, shower, swim, and lol about bed is taking it's toll and I really need to buy some tape or something so it doesn't prematurely detach.  Finally, I've learned that I eat a shit-tonne of carbs.  Not so much on the bread; my craving has passed and I've only eaten it a few times the last week as a convenient vector for almond butter after climbing.  But rice!  Oh, rice...  80% carbs bastard that you are.  During my lean grad school days I lived on a very Indian diet of lots of legumes, vegetables, and mounds of rice.  While I'm marginally less destitute now, it's still so firmly ensconced in my diet that I have no idea how I'll manage to disentangle myself.  How does one ever feel sated after dinner if there is no rice?!  Obviously I've got a major hurdle on the belly issue.  I don't even know where to begin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


A few words about the physique of Hamishzadeh (previously Hamishopoulos, but it seems he’s Iranian, so I felt it appropriate to adjust the nickname):  he is not tall (although he thinks he is), but he is very large.  As I said, he’s got the physique of a caber-tosser, which is to say he’s extremely muscular, but not particularly cut.  There’s mass, but little definition.  If you put him in a suit, he’d probably just look pudgy. 

Just last night I was hanging out with him in a social setting, and at one point he leaned back and put his hands behind his head.  Suddenly, I had a moment of recognition, particularly, recognition of self.  Looking at the shape his big upper arms took; I caught a glimpse of the shape of my own arms:  the way that when I raise them, they look meaty, instead of just fat.

It was kind of a quietly startling moment.  I tend to judge myself harshly.  I have little patience for my own fuck-ups, and I won’t forgive things in myself that I’ll readily have patience for in others.  When I look at my arms, I think one thing, but there I was looking at comparable arms on someone else and I saw something familiar, but my interpretation was a new one. 

It reminded me of the lack of capacity that many of us have to view ourselves objectively.  If I can’t haul a certain weight one day, I don’t think that I’m having just a bad day, or remind myself of all the other lifts I just did targeting the same muscle group.  I think I’m weak and not trying hard enough.  I look at my own belly and get angry at my lack of will power, but I see another woman with more generous curves and I’ll think she’s sexy.  I’m trying to learn how to divorce myself emotionally from self-reflection, to treat myself with a little more patience and compassion, but I’m at a loss of how to do this.  Is there any easy way to take a step back from oneself?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thus Far

I mentioned I was starting a new lifting program.  It's been a week and thus far...  hmm...  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  It's a lot, but it's good because I need it.  But it's a lot of reps and a lot of sets for some lifts and that's frustrating for me because in my ignorant state it doesn't feel like I'm doing myself as much good if I've got the weight down low enough that I can finish a total of 51 squats in 5 sets.  That said, I have absolute trust that Tara knows what she's doing.  I have a lot to learn about how lifting works, and I'm willing at this time to just have faith that there's a master plan in the works.

On Friday after my session I felt weak and pathetic and woefully clumsy and lamented that I was always going to be flabby.

On Saturday after my session I had a tiny bit of a high, and wasn't really worried that I was flopping around like a goldfish on the carpet while trying to do v-ups.

I don't think anything really changed from one day to the next.  I think, like in climbing, you have strong days and weak days and sometimes you feel good and sometimes bad, and often these things have little to do with one-another.

Perhaps not exciting, but it's only been a week.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mental Deterioration

I'm mad about yesterday.  It was one of those days wherein I was constantly tempted to just give up and go back to bed.  It started with a world of smugness in which, despite sleeping through my first 2 alarms, I still managed to pack food for the day and make it to my optometrist appointment early.  That's when I locked my keys in the car.  It just stayed on that shitty track for the rest of the day, and I just wanted to smack myself in the face when I had to skip my workout because I was apparently too stupid to pack my gym shoes into my bag.  I'm hoping today is an improvement.  I'm moving my shoulders and abs to Saturday, and will do my back and biceps mayhem today.  I packed my shoes. I'm pretty sure...  YES!  Yes.  cool.

Has anyone else embarking on a new life of fitness found that their eating has changed?  I don't just mean the guzzling of whey powder or getting into weighing their chicken.   I mean, the internal aspects of eating.  What you crave?  How you feel hunger and when and satiety?

I've not started a serious diet yet (although I'm pondering it for August), but I'm trying at least thinking I should be eating more protein and have seriously cut down on my fruit intake.  I find in the last couple of months I've developed a mad craving for bread.  I used to rarely eat bread, and have only adopted it to some degree in the last few months because it's easy packaging for avocados and tomatoes.  Now I want it all the time.  I'm getting giddy just thinking about the bagels the boss bought us.  Also the other day I was pondering that I should eat my sandwich soon because of when I was going to the gym, and then I thought, "I'm not really hungry, though, maybe I should just save it for tomorrow."  Then 15 minutes later I was suddenly ravenous and crammed that sandwich into me like I was trying to win a bet.  Bizarre.  And hungry in the morning?  When did that change over for just eating breakfast because it kept me from fading out midday?

Of course all this food-related craziness just makes me worry that I'm going to get fatter, which makes me worry even more about it.  Do all people with allegedly healthy eating habits fret this way?

Monday, June 11, 2012


Nothing?  No comments on my waistline pudge at all?  I am so disappointed.  I had hoped my readership might have wanted to say something whether it be "you go, girl" or "hahaha, you so fat"  Then again, given that my regular readership is maybe two people on a good day,  I suppose I shouldn't be so needy for external validation.

So today I'm starting a new lifting program, written up just for me by the wonderful Tara.  I'll not go into details just yet, although be prepared that I might start writing up potentially dull and mildly embarrassing updates as to what I'm lifting on this blog.  I showed the program to Hamishopoulos (who seems to have integrated himself as my occasional gym partner) and the first thing he said was, "5 sets?! How are you supposed to get big on this?!"  He's a little bulk-oriented at the moment and needs to be reminded that we don't all share the same goals.  Meanwhile I added up the number of squats and lunges I'm doing and thought, "She is trying to make me cry."  Then noted the berserker-rage version of  back and biceps day and the abdominal brutalisation and added the thought, "She is trying to turn me into a beast."

Overall, I'm nervous that I won't be able to get through a workout, or that it'll take me twice as long as it's supposed to, but I'm steeled to dive in and do my best.

Has anyone else ever had the experience of standing on the precipice of a new workout or other challenge and greeted it with eagerness and anxiety?  Any words of advice or stories to share?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Buddha Belly

Awhile ago I had a routine physical.  This of course included a fasting blood draw and all the usual screening of said blood.  Poking through the results Dr. Rosemary raved about my excellent cholesterol levels, but said that my fasting blood glucose put me well into the "pre diabetic" range.  I can go into detail as to why this is odd, but without a full medical history, just accept that I'm probably not diabetic or pre diabetic.  Anyway, the dietician gets a referral for me, and again avoiding exhaustive detail about our telephone tag and the full dialogue of my conversation, she agrees I'm eating and living well yadda yadda, we're still waiting on an appointment with an endocrinologist.

I bring all this up to mention one of the things the dietician mentions to me:  a recent increase in belly fat can lead to high fasting glucose levels and pre diabetes, "Did you gain a lot of belly fat recently?"

Thus, here is my belly:

Yep.  My belly in all it's embarrassing glory.  Definitely fat going on there, but I don't think it's all that recent, sadly.

I know there are a lot of people out there with a lot more belly fat than me.  I know there are a lot of people with a lot less.  Sorry, folks, this is my blog and so it's all about me and my fat belly, not you and yours.

So there is my fat belly.  Rub it for good luck.  I hate that fucking thing.  That belly is part of the reason why I don't sleep with people, go to a beach, or look in full length mirrors.  That belly is laughing at me every time I put on a snug t-shirt, fail to sit up straight, shower, get dressed, climb, or attempt running.  I want the fat belly gone and dead.

You are welcome to consider this a before photo (because in the now 6 weeks of lifting I've been doing that damn thing hasn't changed in the slightest).  I really hope one day I can post up a progress photo that is something more like the bellies of those gorgeous women I linked to some time ago.  Also know that a part of me is burning with shame, throwing this out on a public forum, but another part is burning with intensity and the desire to change this thing.

This is what my lardy 24.4% fat body looks like.  Within the medically "recommended" range which can kiss my fat ass (I have one of those, too) because this is not fighting weight, and I'm not ready to make truce with age and gravity just yet.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Dance

I skipped the gym yesterday.... work and laziness and climbing plans conspired against me, and I just didn't get a chance.  Then I went to the climbing gym in the evening, and I swear, sometimes it feels like I'm making negative progress.

But this is not what this is about!  See the title?  It says "Happy Dance", not "Self-Pitying Shuffle"

This post is about the fact that I did do my workout today, and I did chest and triceps (which I was supposed to do yesterday).  Given my bench press devirginisation last week, I was determined that I was going to add them into this week, but instead of doing them after all my other chest lift, I was going to pack them in there, almost at the very start.  So just before the last set of my push ups, I saw Hamishopoulos (yes, he's getting called that because none of you slackers gave me any better suggestions) and he said he'd spot me for the presses if I wanted.  Groovy.

I got settled under the bar, and did a couple of presses, adjusted a little according to Ham's directions, did another...  I was thinking that it didn't feel too bad at that point, but that last time I seemed to be going strong before absolute meltdown.  I did more... I did a total of 10!  10 bench presses!  Ham asked how many it was.  "It was 10!"  I told him, "And honestly, it felt like I might've been able to do more."

So we put two teeny little weights on the bar (I think a startling 5 lbs total... oooooh).  And then I banged off another 10.  And final set of another 10!

Yes, the weight is small, but given it's all still fresh to me, I feel like a superstar.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


The other day, just before I went away for the weekend I bumped into the potentially caber-tossing Mediterranean (I need a nickname for him...  I was thinking Hamishopoulos, but am open to suggestions) at the gym and he showed me upright barbell rows.  I was doing the lift and he was explaining to me how it was good for developing my shoulders and he poked at me to illustrate some point.  The he recoiled and said, "Your shoulders are hard!  I wasn't expecting that."  I told him to poke some more to make sure he wasn't just jabbing some bone, but he confirmed it was muscle.

Of course, I take this as a compliment and I'm all delighted, but today I was thinking about it and had to laugh at myself.  I'm all excited over the most minute of compliments, but really, these are infinitesimally small baby steps.  You take a look at some of the other weightlifting women on the internet posting photos of their gorgeous bods, and you come to realise my weenie little boasts are the product of a pathetic mind grappling for some affirmation.

That said, I'm not discouraged.  I admire the women I'm looking at, in a large part because in most cases it's not their job to lift and look awesome.  It gives me hope that in a year or two  I won't be sporting a jello belly and I can wear a bathing suit without embarrassment.

This might be vain hope, given that I eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little; but there's still some hope.  It's pretty awesome, really.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Last night I got back from a long weekend away camping at Acadia National Park.  I spent the weekend meeting new people and getting to know others a little better, learning that my head is completely unwilling to adapt to outdoor rope climbing this year, and eating and quaffing beer like a 17-year-old boy... in other words, indiscriminately and to excess.

I often wonder and worry about how much work can be annihilated with one wanton evening or weekend.  In general I eat fairly clean, although I'm still working on better meal timing and portion control.  I've never been much of a sugar fiend, and after some finger-waggling from Tara I dramatically cut down on my fruit intake.  I do have a nasty tendency to enjoy a bit of beer or wine, but I try to keep a that limited as well.

One weekend of over-indulgence is equivalent to how many weeks of decent eating and lifting?  Do we ever get to a point where the daily good practices are more than a match for a decedent evening of a wine and cheese and a big meal with dessert?  Is being healthy a Sisyphean challenge where every slip will be indelibly marked on one's body?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bench Press

I did my very first bench press today!  Actually I did 5 of them... 3 sets of 5 of them!  Number 6 invariably involved me going about a third of the way up and completely stalling.  Sadly, these were all done with the bar alone.  No weight.

But hey!  It's a new lift!  Yippee!

The caber-tosser was there (Actually, he looks more Mediterranean, but has the body of a caber-tosser, you know?), and I asked if he'd teach me how to bench press.  He was stunned that I'd never tried it before, and when I pointed out I've only been lifting for 4 weeks he said, "Really?  You look like you've been working out all your life."

So not only did I do bench presses, but I got complimented, too...  Kick Ass!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gym Conversations

The other day I was at the gym and this guy who looked like he ought to be wearing a kilt and a beard and heaving cabers said do me, "You sure love your squats, don't you?  Every time I see you here, you're doing squats."

It made me smile, because in all truth, I am growing to love the squat.  The first time I did them I felt clumsy and intimidated and actually pestered a total stranger (who was apparently already teaching a couple of other people some lifts), if he could give me a hand.  That guy was kind enough to show me how to set up the squat cage and was there to spot me, so that helped a great deal, but afterward when I was on my own I felt clumsy and intimidated again.  Then I read the Cookie Monster's amazing post on squatting and things seemed to come together a little better.  Now, I'm still squatting weenie little weights, and still getting a little snagged at the beginning of the ascent for my last rep or two, but I'm enjoying it and eager to push harder and lift more.

I don't know what's next?  I've actually not yet tried a deadlift, or bench press, but I'm looking forward to it.  Do you have a favourite lift, or a lift you've started to love after you finally "got it"?

Monday, May 21, 2012

4 weeks

I was shocked to realise the other day that I've been now been lifting for 4 weeks.

Brief recap with added details:  I started this blog sort of as a record of my feeble attempts at self-improvement but it all started with starting to lift weights.  I'd say "bodybuilding", but that connotes images of large beefy people who are devoted to the gym and eating clean and otherwise better caretakers for the temple of their body than I think I could ever be.  That all said, for a variety of reasons I decided that I needed to getter fitter, and that lifting was the way to do it.  More than anything else I've been inspired by Feminist Figure Girl (aka Lianne McTavish), who, if you've not yet discovered, is an amazing academic bodybuilder who keeps a virtually addictive blog.  Lianne has in turn led me to Tara (or maybe I should say Tara led me to herself, by leaving comments on Lianne's blog), who give me that gentle, but firm boot in the butt that got me started.  Tara also keeps a blog and is a personal trainer who is remarkably generous with her time and knowledge, and so wonderfully accessible.

I started lifting with the "LiveFit" program.  I can't give it thumbs up or down as I don't have enough knowledge or experience to yet be opinionated, but I do encourage everyone to read Tara's post on the topic, but not just for the post, but for all the comments as well.  Astoundingly helpful!  After some discussion with Tara, I decided the do the workouts from the first two phases of the program, and to adopt some of the eating habits advocated, and afterwards to get a personalised program.  Without getting into detail, I'm altering this plan.

At any rate, I've realised I'm 4 weeks in.  I'm surprised, since it doesn't seem like so much time has elapsed.  I wish I could post photos of the excellent results I'm seeing, but I don't think there's anything to see just yet.  I do, however want to pat myself on the back about the whole thing.  I can't make a guess as to how long I need to be doing this before it becomes part of me, and not something I'm trying out, but still, 4 weeks don't suck. Yay, me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Am I Bitching

I had an interesting conversation this morning with someone... my hair guy, actually.  He is an artist with the sheers, and more than worth the half hour (one way) drive and hefty price.  Normally on the attitude front he's a little too woo for my likes, but today he tapped on to something that got me thinking.

We were doing the catch-up chattiness and somehow we got on to the topic of my work.  I did a very minor rage against one of the students and his dispute with the boss.  My brilliant hair guy listened to my gripe and commented (and I'm paraphrasing for the sake of brevity, I admit), "One really does most vilify the attributes of others which they most hate in themselves, don't they?"  I did originally type out the details of the issue, but I deleted them realising that what the student is or is not doing is not the point of the post, but the hair guy's read of the situation.

The comment was not directed to me or my griping at the time, but nonetheless it promptly got me thinking what is it that I most hate in other people, and what does that say about me?  I loathe egotism, but if anything I backlash against it by being extra-hard on myself and almost never even recognising my accomplishments let alone inflating them.  So I thought more about it and used my gripe against the student as my launching point.  It wasn't disrespect (see above, I think it's related to egotism).  And then I realised... in this case, and probably many others, it's laziness.  The student isn't doing his work, and taking advantage of the fact that he can get away with it at the moment.  It makes me mad.  Not just the taking advantage part (which does burn me), but just how the student has to my eyes more of less been coasting on past accomplishments for at least a year now.  I want to think that I couldn't live with myself if I had been doing that.  I want to think that I'd never milk an opportunity in that way.  I want to think that I work hard.

I want to think all those things, but damn am I ever concerned that it's not true.

Why, for example, am I blogging right now instead of going to the gym, or isolating DNA, or streaking plates, or mating cells, or uploading sequences into a database? I can't call it a coffeebreak for more than fifteen minutes, can I?  After so many months can I really continue to blame my lousy climbing on time off and injury?  Am I not a totally lazy person myself, and shouldn't I be doing more to fix that, than griping about others being lazy too?

What trait do you have that you think you avoid fixing by getting angry at others for having?